Recess… November 8, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2061)

children playgroundThe bell rang. Time for recess.

I looked around the room into the faces of twenty-nine other young souls like myself, in Mrs. Arnold’s third grade class and realized that the ringing meant different things to each and every one.

Some were smiling, wiggling in anticipation. Others seemed resigned, as if bored with the prospect. And there were those who were terrified–fully aware that in a few short minutes they would be out on the playground with their peers, trying to compete and falling short of the glory of childhood acceptance.

  • There would be interaction.
  • There would be competition.
  • There would be challenges.
  • There would be ridicule.

It is part of the process. And as we pursue a much-needed campaign against the brutality of bullying, we must be careful not to hamper the interaction among younger folks when they are separated from grown-ups–an exposure that brings about the necessary evolution toward character, confidence and realization.

For when you discuss “peer,” there are three different categories. If you think that each and every time children fuss, argue and fight, it is wrong–bullying–you are disrupting the human jungle that DOES provide a great barometer for cleaning out abnormalities and setting apart better paths.

For instance, I failed to be called a “fat boy” enough in school to rid myself of obesity. I was TOO well-liked, too personable and in some ways, too talented to be challenged over a weakness that has now plagued me my whole life. It should have been taken care of by:

1. Peer presence.

This is just the blending of kids getting together to discover solutions on the best way to get along. It is characterized by talking. This is why sometimes it’s stupid in school, to tell kids to be quiet. They are trying to find a way to blend with each other. Not everything can be solved by an adult guidance counselor. We need our friends to talk with, to blend with and to discover solutions. And sometimes this leads to:

2. Peer pressure.

It is essential in the human race that we learn how to bend. We must discover our differences and even be willing to argue about them in order to produce adequate compromises. Too many teachers think that because kids are arguing, it’s a sign of severe difficulty. The truth is, peer pressure teaches us to bend, acknowledge our differences, and if necessary, fuss our way through them.

I certainly agree that peer pressure can go too far and can lead to the promotion of violent behavior. But I will also tell you there is no person who appears to the youngster to be old, who can intervene and produce the results that they can hammer out, on their own, together.

When you live in the adult world, the only power you have over the young is to teach them right, wrong, manners and gentleness. Then they must go out in the midst of peer pressure and work out the specifics. Occasionally this can get carried away and lead to:

3. Peer persecution.

Some kids feel compelled to bind other children by bullying them.  How can you identify what’s bullying and what is viable peer pressure?

Bullying is when the arguing stops, one person ceases to speak and becomes the target of the other one, who dominates.

That’s right. If two kids are arguing, give them a chance to work it out. But if you come across two kids and only one of them is yelling, ridiculing the other child, who is standing there, without speech, just taking it–you have just come across bullying.

It is a mistake for people who are no longer in school, no longer youthful and no longer understand the playground, to try to come in and make things right for everybody by keeping things calm and on an even keel. You are just making matters worse. Learn the difference.

  • The young students in our country need peer presence. They must be given a human mixer to blend, discovering solutions.
  • Sometimes this leads to peer pressure, where kids will argue, trying to bend to one another’s inclinations, and in the process, uncover differences which eventually are included in the flow.
  • But we should never let it go into peer persecution, where one kid binds another one up with bullying. This is easily identified by the absence of the persecuted child offering any verbal defense.

I recently heard about a young man who felt he was being bullied, so he committed suicide. Here’s my problem with that: why wasn’t there a climate where this young man could express to his parents, family or teachers his need for assistance?

And why are we attacking the very delicate procedure of peer interaction, trying to eliminate anything WE would consider negative, just because in this case, the system failed one young man?

I am saddened by his death, but alerted to the fact that the problem here was not just bullying. It was a fellow who didn’t think he could argue back to the peer pressure, and also did not feel that anybody outside the playground would either hear or have the power to change his circumstances.

We need peer presence. Students must learn to blend.

I think we need some peer pressure, to bend, where kids have the chance to produce some of their own solutions through argument.

What we do need to stop is peer persecution, binding, where one person is silenced as the others continue to rail against him or her.

Can we make these distinctions? If we can’t, we need to stop calling ourselves parents, teachers and leaders.

Our society is overwrought. Some things are necessary to create the cultural revolution in each generation that progresses the idea of humanity instead of trying to keep everything calm, but stalled.

I know it is possible. I did it with all six of the sons I raised. I let them blend and I let them bend. Only when they began to bind each other with persecution did I step in. Because of that, I think each one of them has grown up with a better understanding of who he is and how he fits in.

Bullying–it’s when one person stops talking and runs for cover, only to be chased by an assailant.

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