Beat them with kindness

Published 10:42 am Monday, October 14, 2013

Question: I’m in the 4th grade. I am tired of being told I am fat and ugly. I don’t know what to say back. My mom tells me not to let it bother me and to ignore it, but I can’t. They won’t stop. Please help me make them stop.

Answer: How do you know how to add? Because someone showed you how. How do you know how to write? Because someone showed you how. How do you know how to read? Because someone showed you how. In fact, our ability to do most anything, including our ability to say nice things or not, is only learned once someone shows us how to do it. With this explanation, it is easy to see that those kids who are calling you fat have not been taught or shown how to be nice, but obviously have been taught how to be mean. Until they have been exposed to a lesson on how to be nice, they will continue to be mean to you because that is all they know how to do. Since nobody else has shown them how to be nice, it is unfortunately going to be up to you to fill in as their substitute teacher.

I have had to fill in as a substitute teacher many times for people who only knew how to act mean. One specific instance was when I lived in California. There was a lady who worked at a nearby coffee shop. Sometimes she refused to make my drink and even said hurtful things about the way I looked. Eventually I stopped going to that shop. One day I finally realized by running away from her I was letting her win. I didn’t want to let her win, so I decided to take action.

I went back to her coffee shop. When she wouldn’t fix my drink or said something mean, I would smile and say, “Okay, I understand and am sorry you feel that way. I never meant to be an inconvenience,” and go to the coffee shop down the street. I refused to give up. One day I even took her flowers, told her I was thinking about her, and wished her a nice day. The next week when I found out her husband had cancer I wrote him a poem and attached it to a “Thinking About You” card.

At first it was not easy to be nice, especially when she was still being mean. Eventually being nice came naturally and her mean attacks no longer hurt or bothered me. Then one day it happened. She smiled at me for the first time ever! I thought I was dreaming. Over the next couple of weeks, she began to greet me and stopped refusing to serve me. After another couple of weeks, she started giving me hugs and telling me how glad she was to see me. I finally felt like my job as a substitute teacher had been a success.

When you are ready to accept the job of substitute teacher for the mean kids attacking you, remember their meanness is not their fault. This fact will help you stay focused on your lesson plan and help you maintain control of your classroom. Refuse to let any of your students run over you or get you upset. If they do, they will be winning and you cannot let that happen. This is your battle to win. It will be hard at first to be nice to them, but the more you practice being nice the easier it will get. With persistence and a commitment to never give up, their mean attacks will start to slow and eventually go away. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake along the way. Nobody is perfect.

If you ever feel physically threatened by a mean kid’s attack, go immediately to a school official and let them know. I have included a summary of your lesson plan for reference. I have no doubt you will be successful teacher!

Lesson Plan

Mean + Mean = Trouble

Mean + Nice = Hope

Nice + Nice = Peace

ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to