I got this little guy, Elijah here (on the left- that's a Really Big Guy on the right):
He's my nephew and he's 6 years old.
He's having a hard time at school and he's chronically in the "yellow" or the "red" at the end of his Kindergarten day. Because he goes "off task". (You know, like a rat in a lab maze.)
The other day, my sister-in-law took him to school a little late. When they got there, Elijah was immediately greeted by another little boy who started insulting and badgering him- that's right, with his Mama Bear right there. Bold.
But the teacher would step in at some point, right? Not so much. She didn't even say 'hello' to Elijah.
My SIL was so freaked out! She had the urge to shuttle him right back out of there, but you know: jail. So.
This is what he was showing up to every day? No wonder E is having such a hard time.
You see, his teacher (and school, on the whole) has a 'No Tattling" policy. FOR KINDERGARTENERS. The fuck?!
Aunty Bear is in the house.
I need to say, I don't get to see Elijah very much, and so I painfully admit I don't know him deeply well. But I know this little guy in this second picture (On the top- that's a Very Little Fish on the bottom):
That's my little bro- who grew up to be the lovely, giant man in the top picture. I know, hard to believe, but true.
And I remember when he was Elijah's age. Him, I did know deeply well. He was really big for his size, just like E, and he struggled in school too. People thought he should act older than he was and he came home defeated at the end of the day. A lot. He was bullied in our housing projects by other kids his age, and he was drilled by others on being "tough" all the time. Stop being sensitive, use his size and "whoop some ass" they said.
Then he came to my bed when he was scared at night and I told him stories about Mickey Mouse to help him sleep. I did not need or want him to be "tough". I wanted him to be himself.
So, I know, just like my sister-in-law knows, there's a soft little six year-old person there. Not a miniature man who needs to buck up. He's been going to school and being harassed and prodded by another (maybe more than one) other boy, and no one is helping him. He doesn't tell or ask for help. Because it's not allowed.
I have heard of these "No Tattling" rules before at schools and have wanted to write about it. Now I'm all sorts of cats-in-a-bag pissed so I probably am not being clear. Mostly I feel a resounding desire to say this: Any school or teacher who has a "No Tattling Policy" is a lazy, bad, teacher or school. What a terrible, terrible message to send little kids "Shut up and put up". Great. "Sort things out on their own".
Six year-olds have not learned anything close to the skills they need to "sort out" complex social situations like bullying. The only way they can deal with it is to react. This puts them in "yellow" or the "red" that serves the purposed of leading them down a very well-defined path of fractured self-esteem and disregulation. Period. Thanks, "No Tattling" policy. You're an asshole.
I mean, I get not being a hover-mother every time kids are playing. Even at two, they need to start working out sharing trains and taking turns, yes. The key word is "start". They need guidance to learn all this stuff. But that's what we're here for. I am sorry, teacher with a "No Tattling" Policy if you are busy and overworked, but teaching social and emotional skills is a huge part of your job. Buck UP, right? Fat lot of good it will do if we churn kids out of school with a few higher numbers on the math tests when they cannot even get along with other humans.
Okay, I'm obviously fired up. But this is important! When you tell a child "No Tattling" instead of teach them what they need to start working on versus what they should always come to a grown-up for, you are setting them up for real harm. You are setting a lot of young people up for a lot of real harm.
I shudder ( I mean, my skin actually crawls) when I imagine the things kids who are constantly told "no tattling" might not actually tattle about. Barfhatekill. I'm so mad.
I hope my sister-in-law wasn't ever told "no tattling" because I want her to tattle. She has enough finesse to deal with the situation the right way, no doubt. But so many parents would feel intimidated, or not ever have the chance to see this damaging dynamic in play like she did.
I hug you, kids in "No Tattling" classes. You can tattle to me any time you want.