Friday, May 04, 2007

Strategies for poor children (?!?!)

I received the following from an educational listserv I'm on that sends out different discipline and classroom tips every week. I have gotten something out of almost every email he has sent, but I am completely offended by this one!!! Although I agree with most of the strategies he proposes at the end, he makes some awful judgment calls and assumptions that seem to be completely out of ignorance!!

I plan to respond to him...hopefully in a much cooler, calmer, and collected way...and would be very interested in some of your reactions.

1. I doubt that most of us will understand Generational Poverty….I’ve worked with it for over 20 years, I still am puzzled by the challenge of families to overcome it.

I first met generational poverty at the Nashville Union Rescue Mission. I worked and spoke with men—men were the primary homeless ones a few years ago. Now it’s entire families. Carl Resoner taught me to believe that given enough skill, training and hope, any family could pull out of poverty. I still believe that is true.

Why do the Poor Resist Change?

Generational poverty is like an old shoe. It works, feels comfortable and the fear of breaking free from the known is challenging. Even if it doesn’t exactly fit, it is a normal kind of pain. And they have done it for years.

Some Poverty Rationales:
1. If I work more, my spouse will work less.
He may quit his job. Answer: Everyone should have the skills to support themselves. As you become older, you don’t know they will be there to support you.

2. The kids need me, I can’t work.
Answer: When all of your kids are in school you have about 6 hours per day when you can be away from them developing yourself—and to work.

3. My feet hurt, I can’t work.
Answer: Physical problems may limit where you can work, but there are places for almost anyone who wants to work.

4. I’m getting an education on-line.
Answer: There are some good places to get an education, but human interaction and learning to deal with all types of people is a real education. That education helps you in the workplace.

Some of the things that still puzzle me about it are:
1. The lack of skills that kids have … This year I’ve struggled with many kids with bathroom issues; Controlling and handling these problems independently. Many use these problems to gain adult attention and to find their identity.

One need of kids in families of poverty is: Healthy Attention: Getting attention for being productive. The kids follow these predictive Roles:

Sometimes that identity as a LOST CHILD; the kid that is known by simply being out there, but so quiet that no one knows they exist. They find themselves in music, books and on-line. They are simply invisible in many of our classrooms.

Sometimes it’s the Class Clown Role: Oops I’ve pooped in my pants again. OH MAN, How could I do that? I must be so silly. Well that’s just the way I am.

Then there is the Scapegoat Role: OH Man Why Are YOU blaming me? I can’t help it. Shut up and leave me alone.

Whatever the Role: Bathroom Problems on a Regular Basis can Challenge an Entire School

The Child Denies it- “No I didn’t do that”; Then the teacher demands that the child go and change their clothes or get help. Some things can be ignored, these can’t.

[Yes I am well aware that bathroom issues can be related to sexual abuse and yes you should rule that out.] But for many kids of poverty; it’s simply an issue of:
1) Lack of Training—the expectation and the skill are missing;
2) A way to keep their power—you can’t tell me what to eat, when to eat or when to eliminate. That’s my choice! Try and make me do it your way.
3) An Oppositional Reaction to and adult’s demands: They try and make them, they resist.

2. I must go home now!—We always study the Payoff of the Behavior. What does the child get out of it? That is more important than what’s done. Getting to go home when they have problems is not usually a good option.

Some kids will do anything to go home, including bathroom problems.

Bumper Sticker I saw: A Bad Day at Home is Better Than a Good Day at School. Need I say more?

So the question is: What’s your response or non-response to the behavior?
1. It should be a planned, predictable response.
2. It should include everyone that deals with the child
…so there is no gap in information.
3. It should include a therapeutic response—by that I mean it should make the child responsible without shaming or blaming.

Give Up ON… Knee Jerk Reactions:
1. Trying to make them go to the restroom on your schedule. Power struggle to follow, stay tuned.
2. Bribing them; This is a power issue; you’ll look weak if you bribe them.

Instead Try: Offering Choices You can Accept!
1) Making the parent accountable. They will usually dodge that role with a passion. They must provide clothes for the child; while encouraging them to stay in school.
2) Avoid any element of shame or blame for the child. Any element of shame or blame will likely stop behavioral change.
3) Show that accountability and taking charge—offers the child increased responsibility and power. Eating, sleeping and eliminating, all are power issues. Show that behavioral change equals more personal power…it’s sold. Here’s how to buy these choices.

Let the child help make the plan…with all power issues; the Child must be part of the plan from square one. You can define the boundaries, but the child must see it as his/her plan.

What are your reactions?
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