Photo credit: ferrantraite / iStock / 360 / Getty Images
Third-graders at Mill Plain Elementary school in Vancouver, Washington, are learning the hard way the importance of budgeting their income. A hard enough way that a couple students have wet their pants at school.
An embarrassing lesson
The students earn play money through various classroom duties and behaviors, and that money can be spent on things such as snacks and bathroom breaks. Out of money? No bathroom break. According to Gawker, one little girl told her mother, "I didn't want to be left out. I wanted to have popcorn with my friends." But the pain of "holding it" was too much… she wet her pants in front of all her friends at school.
Part of me wants to applaud the creativity of the teacher. As a person who struggles with money management myself, I wonder if such a traumatic incident would have scared me into a life of careful budgeting. And really, it's a good mirror of what grown-up life looks like: You spend your hard-earned dollars on fun stuff because you want to keep up with everyone else, but then you don't have dollars left for the things you really need, which is pretty humiliating.
They're just kids
However, these are third-graders. Eight-year-old kids. They have a lifetime of hard-learned lessons ahead of them. Why rush things?
Why do we feel the need to push our children harder and harder to be little adults? We hurry them into walking, eating, learning Spanish… if it's something we can rush them into, we generally do. Well I, for one, am not interested in competing with the rest of you. I do my best to expose my kids to new experiences and ways of thinking, because they enjoy it. But I'm in no hurry for them to grow up, to master the things they try or to learn painful lessons. Elementary school should not be a place where a child must perform or be humiliated. In fact, why should we use humiliation to teach lessons at all? I see parents do it all the time. It seems like it’s in style right now to bully kids into submission on social media.
Let's model respect
I think it's time for us to wake up and see that if we continue to bully and shame our kids, we will be the ones learning a tough lesson. We are raising a generation that will use those same (learned) tactics to get the behavior they want from their peers. Their spouses. Our grandkids. Probably even us.
Maybe the Golden Rule can apply to the parent-child relationship, too. Maybe if we don't like being humiliated by our elders, we shouldn't be elders who humiliate. Maybe there are better, gentler ways of teaching a third-grader about responsibility than allowing her to wet her pants. I believe we can do better. I believe we need to leave shame as a discipline tactic behind us. Let's be more thoughtful and respectful when dealing with our children. They will learn from what we do, so let's do our lives in a way that we'd feel good about our kids mirroring.