As noted in a previous post I have been assigned the job of head chauffeur for my grand daughter in middle school. Her parents moved out of State and she stayed behind to finish the school year. She lives with her grandmother. Enough of that – I pick her up every day from school and drive her home. I usually give two or three other young ladies a ride at the same time. Teen age girls can be brutal as they teach social skills to each other. I will use a moniker to protect the identity of my grand daughter, maybe some thing appropriate, like Lucifer.
Today I went to the school at the assigned time. One of the young ladies came out and got in my car, saying, “They said that Lucifer left early today.” That caught me off guard, Lucifer is always responsible about letting me know what is happening. So I called her cell phone and was transferred to her message center. I called her grandmother at work – she reported she knew nothing of Lucifer leaving school early. I dropped the young lady at her home about eight blocks from the school and turned around to head back to the school. It was time to talk to the school administrators about Lucifer leaving early without notice to me or grandma.
As I pulled into the school drive there she was, waiting with two other friends. They climbed in and one of them said, “Why did you come back?”
“You saw me hear earlier? Why didn’t you get in the car?”
“We were in a class room, we were not outside.”
“Your other friend said that she heard that Lucifer had left early today. What was that about?”
The girls were quiet for just a minute. Then one said, “Lucifer, we have to tell your grandpa so he will know what to do next time.” She turned to me, “That other girl was being mean today so we told her that Lucifer left early so she would have to walk home. Then we hid in a class room until the other girl was gone. Then we saw you pick her up and take her home. Why did you come back?”
“I came back to track Lucifer down. I was going to talk to the School Principle.” The girls got a big laugh out of that. They did not have a clue that perhaps they had acted inappropriately. I looked at Lucifer and she seemed to know what I was thinking. She did not smile or encourage the conversation. As we drove on one of the girls said, “OK,” talking to me, “next time just wait until that girl walks home, then come and get us.”
Pheeewwww! What to do? I said, as simply as I could, “No thanks. This car has a sign on top that says ‘Taxi.’ Taxi drivers know to mind their own business. I will not play that game.”
The car was silent. I dropped the other girls at their homes and I could see that my grand daughter was ready for the talk we were about to have. Most of the time I mind my own business – those girls do not want to hear any advice from this old man. But this time I ventured on to the thin ice of adolescent world views.
“Lucifer,” I said, “You learned a couple of things today. One thing you learned is that if you do not do as the crowd wants you will be left behind. You will be excluded. Others will play tricks on you. Is that right?”
She is a wonderful child and is very different when away from her friends. “Yes,” she said.
“The other thing I suspect you learned is that playing tricks on others to teach them a lesson does not feel good to you. Is that right?”
She is a sensitive and caring person, “Yes,” she said again.
I could not resist a short lecture; I don’t think it was a real lecture, just a grandpa explaining communications to an attentive grand daughter. She does listen, and affirms my talk with body language, nodding her head or smiling or frowning, or turning away from me. I defined for Lucifer four forms of communications: Aggressive, Passive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive.
I asked, “Have you ever seen people in a physical fight at school? Like two boys punching at each other?”
That is aggressive behavior. If someone does something you find offensive, just punch them in the face. They will learn to be less offensive. That is the idea of the aggressive person.
But what is the option, let them run all over you? Let people abuse you, be offensive, and do nothing? The do nothing attitude is passive. Not many people like this option – but many do not know what else to do.
“The most used style of social lesson teaching is passive-aggressive, especially with teen age children. That is what you girls did today to your friend. While she may be hurt and learn to stop offensive behavior, it does not feel good to her or to you. Is that right?”
A sheepish, “Yes.”
“The best approach is called being assertive. It is difficult but with some practice it is the option that defends self while being kind to others. An assertive person in your situation today might have just said to the offensive friend, ‘I feel hurt and irritated when you act like that and I wish you would just stop.’ The communication is clear. An assertive response does not point a finger at the person, but at the behavior. There is no judgment cast.”
Lucifer seemed to be pondering the idea. But I am careful not to expect too much from a thirteen year old girl. I left the message in her lap. That was good enough. Perhaps one day in the future it will make sense to her.
We shall see.