Am I ever guilty?
And if I am, is it justified by the ends?
I'm sitting at the kitchen table, big mug of tea, the sun's not up, everyone is asleep. Good time to think.
I'LL COUNT TO TEN
Suppose a foster child crosses a line; calls me an unacceptable word.
I know his past, I know why he gets angry. I know the harm that's been done to him.
Nobody previously fought on behalf of him and his heart; he never experienced justice coming to his defence. He is victim of a thousand wrongs, mostly inflicted by the adult heads of the house or older brothers and sisters.
I've been to enough training to know he's not calling me a bad name.
"A stupid b***h"
He's transferred his anger from his parents to me. He's calling his mother a name. He did it because it somehow made him feel better.
Sitting here in my kitchen I'm full of resolve that next time something like that happens I'll use Plan A; count to ten and say, in a calm and neutral voice;
"I know you don't mean that, please try not to let your anger out in that way"
or change the subject and say;
"Would you like a lolly before tea?'
SAINT OR CHICKEN?
But it seems wrong, it feels wrong. It feels like I'm chickening out of doing my job, like I'm not showing myself proper respect, not maintaining my essential authority which as head of the house is pretty essential.
So. What am I doing if Plan B comes out;
"That's it mister! You're grounded! No pocket money on Saturday and the wi-fi is off every night for a week!"
Is that bullying? Well...think about it...
- I'm doing it because I can (Tick).
- My peer group (rest of the family) say he had it coming (Tick).
- I don't think it's bullying (Tick).
- He feels bullied (Tick).
- There's some emotional hurt in me which is coming out in what I'm doing (Tick)
- My justification is that he's got to fall in line. (Tick) This last one is the complicated one. I tell myself it's all about him behaving as I want, which is what bullies want. Maybe I'm aiming for a noble outcome, but am I going about it hypocritically? Are my sanctions really justifiable inducements to improve behaviour? Or is there an element of retribution?
The answer is easy. Dress my reaction up any way you want, I'm guilty of inflicting inconvenience, theft, even a form of imprisonment. No room for appeal, my word is God.
I'm doing it partly because it somehow makes me feel a bit better.
There is an element of bullying about Plan B.
If a child of mine used bad words against me I'd be similarly incensed. But a foster child is a different proposition. If I go into heavy mode, I'm transforming myself into another of the big people who used to impose unfairness on him, in their case for no good reason. If nothing else I'm storing up trouble for myself.
SUCK IT UP
We have to suck it up, along with all the other little things we normally call "bad behaviour" and keep an eye out for slow but sure improvement. It always happens in the end, in my experience.
I've found that thinking about fostering during Anti-Bullying Week has been useful, and I'm better for it.
Mind you, next time I'm up to my ears in a pan of boiled dry spaghetti, the school's just rung to say someone didn't show up today, the dog's been ill on the doormat because I didn't let it out when it wanted, my innards are flushed and someone's just called me a bad word; I may have to count to more than ten.
How many is a 'google' again?