The Red Light Experience

Last January, Ryder started pre-school at a nice little Montessori school.  He loved school, his friends, teachers, and all that went with the experience.   As his parents, we were thrilled with his love of school.  We also liked that we could logon and watch him at school. We called it Ryder TV.  Invariably, I would take my lunch to my desk and watch a few minutes of the kids learning and playing. As an aside, I became a huge fan of Montessori philosophies during that time. 
One afternoon, I logged in and saw the group in a circle around the teacher, but Ry was off in a corner, arms crossed in anger, chest moving up and down powerfully, and alligator tears dropping from his cheeks.  I started feeling his pain as my chest started pounding. Then I saw the catalyst for his emotions- a classmate was sitting behind the teacher antagonizing Ryder.  In a blink, my sweet little guy launched at the other boy and kicked him!
I was out the door of the office and running towards my car. The school was 2.2 miles away- with 4 stoplights between me and the school.  The first three were green- and by the time I could feel my entry into the school approaching,  my adreneline and planned speech for the teachers and director of the school were illiciting a romanticized scene of daddy to the rescue.  Then something happened.

The fourth light was red. 

As my heart rate slowed, and my wits returned to me, I realized that I was all wrong in my daddy to the rescue plan. 

If I went in with anger and a lack of control, I would merely be reinforcing that the way he behaved is acceptable because I would be modeling the same behavior. Also, I would alienate the teachers to whom my son was entrusted every day for 6 hours a day.

The red light gave me a chance to change my approach to one that would be supportive of both Ryder and the school.

When I walked in, the director asked if I had seen the video-I told her I did with a smile. Then calm as can be, I poked my head into his room and waved him over. Tears in his eyes, and a bit afraid, he wavered over to me. I picked him up and put him on my knee. I explained that I happened to be near the school and wanted to say hello. I asked if everything was okay, and he told me it was and how he was having fun at school.

I gave him a hug, smiled at the teacher and said good-bye. I then asked the director to let me know what I could do at home to reinforce anything they were doing at school to help kids learn from these incidents. I then walked out the door.

As I was leaving, I played the scene differently in my head. What if that light had been green? How many conversations with parents occur when there is no red light to let reason supercede emotion? This thought is always foremost in my mind when I have an emotional parent in my office or on the phone. I empathize because I saw myself do the same thing in my mind, but the red light prevented the behavior from manifesting itself in reality.


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