Forget The P’s and Q’s, Watch Your Forks and Spoons

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How do sensible people get strangled by these little, only in America “Catch 22” situations?

Our 11-year old was complaining that she had to eat all her lunch with a spoon. Her school cafeteria was nearly out of forks and, until they got more, they were using spoons only. What was this about?

“The kids keep throwing them away,” chimed in our our waiting-to-get-in-the-drivers-seat 15-year-old. “It’s worse at the high school. They have a sign that says ‘Don’t throw away forks!’ but kids keep doing it.”

I thought about this odd problem they had introduced to me. “Someone needs to go through the trash,” I said naively.

“Right, Mom, like anyone is going to want to go through the lunchtime trash. You should see the messes kids make and the stuff they throw away!” she pulled me from my dream world.

“I think I’d be posting a monitor by the trash bins for a couple weeks,” I stressed again, “and, if anyone threw in the school’s utensils, they would have to go through the trash and remove all the flatware that went in.”

“You couldn’t do that, Mom,” she said, “some parent would sue the school for making their kid do that!”

She was probably right. Trouble is, where should the disciplinary buck stop? If we aren’t going to be allowed to discipline kids and make a consequence that fits the crime, so to speak, we are leaving a much needed lesson out of the system. Shouldn’t this be part of what the educational process is supposed to accomplish – teaching what is acceptable, what isn’t, and the consequences?

A parent who comes to the defense of their guilty child because they don’t want their kid to go through the school trash, should teach the kid what belongs in the trash in the first place. If it’s school property – cafeteria forks – it should be respected as such even if they are bent up and seem unimportant.

Kids know what’s going on. They’ll test the controls at every turn. Here, instead of students fearing a disciplinary consequences, it’s the authority of the school that fears to administer discipline. What’s wrong with this picture?

We need a way to teach parents that it’s OK if their kids make mistakes and that consequences are a necessary part of the learning process. Although we know that buying off bad behavior is a part of the real world, we should be teaching our kids that they’ve got to watch their forks because life may not always feed them from a silver spoon.

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