Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Geoff's teacher emailed me yesterday and said that he's having a rough time using appropriate language. Not in the "subject verb agreement" sort of way, but word choices and attitude.

He's been argumentative, disrespectful. He has been writing swear words on his hands and flashing them to other boys. She has found that every day she has to ride him to get him to do the littlest things, things that she should just ask once and have done, things that in the past he never gave push back on. She asked me to intervene and have a talk with him because she's at her wit's end.

It sounds familiar... I have the same problem with him a lot lately.

For example, I asked him to take a shower yesterday morning. He had already gotten himself dressed for school, at like 6am before I was out of bed. Having to shower meant he'd have to undress. And he didn't like that. All of a sudden I was treating him like a baby, not allowing him to make his own decisions, ruling and ruining his life. It was a disaster of epic proportions. All over a shower. It wasn't like I was beating him or making him do horrible things. It was a shower. A simple request.

Dude, stop. Just go take a shower. Gah.

When I got home last night we had to have a huge sit down and have a huge talk. I find that when I sit with him and hash things out, find out what his side of the story is, sometimes he has a good answer which is reasonable and understandable. Sometimes he spews forth sheer gibberish and goofiness. Last night was a good example of a heart to heart that worked out well.

Geoff's trying to be "cool" with the other guys. He's finding that swearing gets a laugh, gets acknowledgment... and getting in trouble makes him a punk, and he enjoys that to some extent. By "dissin'" his teacher, he feels he gets power and recognition. Problem is, it's the wrong kind of recognition, and it is false power.

How to reach him on a level he'd understand... Hmmm. We've been over this a million times this year. Respect, Kindness, Politeness. His teacher isn't there to be dissed. She's there to teach. The more dissin' that you throw at her, the less teachin' she can get done.

I had to bring up Boy Scouts, because to be honest friends... that just ain't how a Boy Scout rolls.

We got out his handbook and had him recite the Boy Scout Oath.

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

He has that memorized. I pointed out the Scout Law part and asked him to tell me what that is. He knew a few of the elements, but doesn't have them memorized. I asked him how can you obey it if you don't know what it is?

For the record, for those who don't know it, the Scout Law is:

A Boy Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

I broke it down to the "Clean" part. I asked Geoff specifically if he knew what they meant by "Clean."

"Do they mean Clean in a physical or metaphorical sense?" he asked me.

I actually tried not to laugh. This kid is too much sometimes with questions like that... but he knew where I was going with this.

Clean. In both the physical and metaphorical senses.

The Boy Scout handbook talks about how you can't avoid getting dirty when working hard or hiking, but that is the kind of dirt that washes off. But there is dirt that doesn't wash off, and that is the kind that comes from foul language and inappropriate thoughts.

We discussed foul language isn't just swear words. Foul language consists of "dissin' the teacher" and fighting with words when there isn't a need or reason to fight.

"Well, out of all of those those eleven things, I think I can be about nine of them. I don't know if I can be all eleven all the time."

Nine is a start buddy. Let's make sure "Clean" is one that you work towards immediately, and add "Obedient" to the list too. That'll make the day at school go so much better. For you and your teacher.

We spent about an hour going over all of the elements of the Scout Law. He decided he can't be thrifty because he has no money. I said that he should build a philosophy of savings when he has no money, so that when he does he knows what to do with it. I told him that there are things he needs to grow into, and having a strong and firm base or foundation is hugely important. You can't just BE an Eagle Scout... You have to start at the bottom and build.

Being a Tenderfoot is like being a foundation to a house. It is the rough part that has to be dug deep and fortified before a structure can be built up over it.

You can't plop a finished roof on a bunch of skimpy poles and think that it will stand.

We went in our basement and looked at the foundation of our house... the humongous boulders and rocks that someone put there in 1774 when this house was built. These are the original stones that hold up this house. I asked him to touch them, really think about the foundation he's building.

Make it a good and firm one. Learn now. Build later.

We went over the Boy Scout Slogan (to clarify, there is a motto, a slogan, an oath and a law. Four things they need to know. I just thought "Be Prepared" was all that was entailed. I was a girl scout, so this is all new to me...) which is "Do a Good Turn Daily."

A good turn is like "pay it forward." It is like spreading good karma. It is the Golden Rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is be kind for kindness' sake and no other reason. Be brave to help others, not to glorify yourself. Be helpful because you CAN be helpful...

I asked if he'd done a good turn that day and he told me that the teacher asked them all to clean up the floor of the class because it had gotten out of hand.

"Did you argue with her?"

"No. I did it when she asked. Some of it was my mess but most of it was not."

"Did you only clean up your portion?"

"No, there was a lot to clean up so I helped clean up a lot."

"Did you ask for money or praise?"

"No. That didn't cross my mind."

Good. That's a good turn. Keep it up.

Hopefully this will stick, this long discussion and these concepts. He's a really good, fine kid... he's just trying to find his way. Is it the way of the Boy Scout or the way of the punk ass?

We can encourage and guide, but in the end... it's his choice.

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