As soon as TJ opened the front door yesterday afternoon, I could tell something was wrong. He was on the verge of tears. I asked him what was wrong, and it spilled out of him in a torrent as we hunkered down on the couch together.
“I know I should have told you this six days ago, Mommy…” he started. There was a minor incident on the bus last week. His troubles always relate back to the bus, it seems. One boy kept trying to take another boy’s hat, and TJ tried to stop him. When his words were ineffectual, he hit the boy with his gloves. (I’m envisioning old-fashioned duels that started with one man taking off his white gloves and slapping the other man in the face with them.) It turns out the two other boys were just fooling around, but TJ thought one of them was being wronged. TJ “can’t remember” if his hands were still in the gloves, nor where he hit the boy with them. Since I didn’t get a call or a letter sent home and I’m only hearing of this because TJ wasn’t happy about the fallout, there was clearly no injury.
All of the kids on the bus had their seats reassigned, and TJ ended up sitting in the front seat next to the kid he hit with his gloves to get him to stop stealing the other boy’s hat. (For the record, the kid whose hat was being stolen was the boy who got TJ into trouble on the bus last year, who I requested be kept far away from my son.) So instead of sitting with his two best friends, TJ is now forced to sit with a boy he doesn’t like for a 45-minute bus ride.
I understand why he was so upset.
I was able to get through to him through the shouting and the tears to ask him a few questions. He knows he should not have hit the boy with his gloves; he should have told the bus driver what was going on instead. It seems we will have to keep reinforcing the idea that it is not his job to stop kids from doing things they shouldn’t be doing; it’s the job of the adults in charge. I’d rather him be a tattler than a pint-sized vigilante.
After ensuring he knew that he made a mistake – he wishes he could turn back time and make a better decision, and I told him everyone wishes that sometime or another – I suggested a way he could redirect his anger into action. I suggested writing a letter to his bus driver. I asked for his permission to share this with you, because I’m very proud of how he put his thoughts and feelings into polite words. I feel it was very mature for my second grader:
Dear Bus Driver,
I am really really sorry about what happened. I know it was wrong. I understand why you put me in the front. It made me super duper mad and sad. I want to sit with Jack and Ryan again. Would you please let them sit with me or closer to me so we can talk again? I don’t get along with Aiden. Would you please keep Aiden in the front and move Chase farther from me so I can stay out of trouble? It would mean a lot to me if I could sit with my friends again. I will try super hard to be good.
How to React as a Parent When Your Child is Angry
One of the hardest things to do as a parent can be keeping your own cool when your child is angry. Depending on the situation, you may become angry on their behalf because of an injustice, you may become angry at them for something they said or did, or it may be some strange combination of both. I didn’t get angry at TJ over this, but I was a little upset that he didn’t tell me about it sooner. I didn’t focus on that, though, because I had to meet him where he was. We can discuss the timeliness of his admission later when he’s calm again.
Helping TJ take control of his feelings was my first priority. I didn’t try to make him feel “all better” right away. His feelings were justified, and I didn’t want to invalidate that. I just talked to him in a soothing voice until he was able to stop sobbing and talking in a strangled shout enough that he could hear me and listen to what I was saying.
Recommend a constructive course of action. You can’t fix everything for your kids, but you can help them advocate for themselves. Writing this letter will show his bus driver several things: how much the seat change has upset him, that he knows what he did was wrong, what he would like to have happen, and that he’s willing to try “super hard” to be good in the future. Without the letter, the bus driver has no way of knowing these things, aside from the mini-meltdown it sounds like he had on the bus following the seat change.
Remind your kids that things won’t always go their way. I told TJ that writing his letter may not get him what he wants. He might not be allowed to sit with his friends again, at least not right away. But instead of feeling helpless about the situation that was causing him such distress, I helped him find a mature way to possibly bring about the change he wants. I’m hoping the bus driver will take his gesture into consideration. Unfortunately, “life is unfair” is a lesson our kids need to learn eventually, so even if the bus driver sticks to her guns over the seating arrangements, this was still an important exercise. I’ve asked him to try not to get too upset if things don’t go his way, because handling disappointment is the requisite followup to the unfairness of life lesson.
We’ll see how this goes. For now, I’m proud of TJ for fessing up to me and composing such a mature response.
Update: TJ gave the letter to his bus driver, and she said she would see what she could do about Jack and Ryan. It sounds like he’ll be able to sit with his friends again!
Tags: anger, behavior, kids, school bus