By Wanda Parker
I was recently at a KidTrek Associate Afterschool Center and witnessed the following.
The kids were divided into two teams to do a study on the history of Thanksgiving. Their assignment was to individually read the history and then the Center Director would alternate asking each team a question about what they had read. The team was to work together to come up with one correct answer. They could refer back to their papers to find the answer. The 5th and 6th graders had three pages to read, the 2nd – 4th graders had one sheet to read. The teams each had mixed ages.
I was amazed as the room became quiet and every kid was intent on reading and studying.
Then it was time to get into the game. Javier, a sixth grader, got his team pulled together and they were excited to be ready for the second question. Team A answered their question readily. Now it was Javier’s team’s turn. He yelled out an answer – but it was incorrect.
Javier immediately shut down. “This is a stupid game. I don’t want to do this. I won’t do this.” He completely disengaged and went into his own world. His only interaction from that point on was to make snide comments.
Javier was in control – in his own mind that is.
Javier is used to winning. He is great at most games. He is a macho kid. He is academically capable – when he tries. He is likeable and the younger kids look up to him. I’ve seen him go to the aid of a second grader with a bruised ego one moment and then in the next moment lash out at a fifth grader, for no apparent reason. He is a kid full of anger and terrified of failure.
Javier has three main coping skills – he lashes out, at times physically; he shuts down and disengages; he verbally denies interest.
Because Javier has had a Secondary Nurturer who is walking with he and his parents through life there have been huge changes in his behavior. He isn’t as violent as he was a year ago. Today if he hits someone he will come to Mr. Robert and say, “I hit so-and-so.” That is huge – he is wanting to change that behavior.
The purpose of each coping skill is self-protection, it is his way to maintain control. You can read it in his eyes, “If I pretend to not like this then it doesn’t matter what the outcome is.” If he is allowed to continue in this faulty-reasoning he is going to end up becoming another sad statistic.
His father used to be abusive. His father has very high expectations and we suspect is still verbally abusive when Javier doesn’t perform to expectations. The father’s expectations are faulty. The father is respectful of the Secondary Nurturer and wants Robert in his son’s life, but he isn’t yet open to receive direction for himself in regard to parenting. The mother is open and does ask for direction.
My question to you the reader – do you have any suggestions for this Secondary Nurturer? How can Javier be shown his faulty-reasoning? How do the adults in his life set-up consequences in his life so that shutting down, being cynicle is more costly than going through the pain of not being the best? Please brainstorm with us on this by leaving a comment below.