It’s not always happy days here in the Devereaux household.
A boy has been picking on our Master7. Our young man is usually pretty unflappable, but this time the wind was well and truly taken out of his sails.
“He told me I had hands like his grandmothers,” Master7 explained as we all sat around him in the lounge room trying to work out what the problem was. I was waiting for more but this was it.
“Let me see,” I told him, reaching out for his hand. “What rot! They’re the hands of a teenager, tops.”
He pulled them back. Nothing about his demeanor had changed. Usually he’d be making a funny by now and laughing.
But fortunately, I wasn’t the only family member trying to cheer him up. Even the younger kids were trying to help. Miss3 was patting his arm and telling him it was ‘awight’.
But it was Miss5’s contribution which had me raising my eyebrows. She gave him the thumbs down and, in her best no nonsense nurse voice, told him, “You are being weak. Be cool.”
I looked at Tracey and mouthed, “What the hell?” I was at a bit of a loss as to what was going on.
“It’s a thing from school” Tracey explained to me.”It’s to do with bullying.”
It didn’t make much sense to me. I turned to my daughter. “Who do you say ‘you are weak’ to?”
“Weak people,” she explained. “Like him!” She pointed at my upset boy and he cringed a bit.
Again I looked to Tracey for an explanation. “So, I’m confused,” I murmured. “Is this weak thing about teaching them to bully or what? It doesn’t seem especially supportive.”
“It’s teaching them how to handle being bullied,” Tracey explained to me. “When people bully you, don’t get aggro. You have to stay cool and not be weak.” Her words were accompanied by giving me a fist, the thumbs up and thumbs down.
“Yeah,” agreed Miss5, who had clearly been listening. “This is aggro.” She showed me her fist and all her teeth. “This is cool.” She gave me the thumbs up. “And this is weak.” I got the thumbs down sign. “Josh is being weak.” Master7 got the thumbs down sign with her bared teeth thrown in for good measure.
Actually the concept seems quite sound, I just think something was lost in the translation between the teacher to our five year old.
In a nutshell, being cool (thumbs up) means staying calm, speaking nicely, ignoring the bully and feeling okay about yourself. Being weak, which is to be avoided by being cool, is defined as crying, sulking, looking down or feeling upset. And being aggro is fighting back or yelling or feeling angry.
Hugging my boy, I decided to steer things away from the hand signals and back to my preferred method of dealing with things – make them smile.
“Why don’t you just make a joke?” I suggested. Master7 is the funniest of all our kids. He cracks me up daily, and his smile is infectious.
He wanted to know what I had in mind.
“Maybe tell the kid his breath stinks of poo cause he’s an ass,” I suggested. I had my own hand signal for this one, waving my hand in front of my screwed up face. “I think that would be pretty funny.”
I could tell from Tracey’s face, she didn’t. But it did elicit the first smile from Master7 we’d seen all night.
“Can I say that?” he wanted to know.
“Yes!” I assured him.
“No!” Tracey countered at the same time.
“Your mum’s right. Maybe this boy wouldn’t think that was funny. How about you try ‘did you poo your pants or do you always smell that bad?'” I looked at Tracey for approval but wasn’t seeing a lot of it on her face. What I was getting was more her ‘you’re not helping’ face.
“We’re not trying to get him beat up,” she told me.
But by now Master7 was laughing. Toilet humour: gets them every time.
“How about you just walk away and play with someone else?” suggested Tracey.
“Can I kick him in the nuts?” asked Master7, brightening up even further.
You’ll be pleased to know this time we both said ‘No!’. Even Miss5 chipped in.
“Don’t be aggro, Josh,” she said, pumping her fist in front of his face before changing it to a thumbs up. “Be cool.”
I feel like getting her a leather jacket and teaching her to say, ‘ayyyyy’.
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