DEAR AMY: I’d appreciate your take on this and your advice about what to do. A relative of mine keeps calling my son and her son (both adolescents) “Stupid 1 and Stupid 2” for their antics together. She even introduces them this way.
She gets angry when I correct her by saying, “No, we are re-branding them now as Smart 1 and Smart 2.” She and her family also use the words “retard” and “retarded” in making fun of one another. How to handle without hurting her feelings? -- Sleepless and Sad
DEAR SLEEPLESS: Don’t worry about your relative’s feelings. Not to put too fine a point on it, but she doesn’t sound like the most sensitive person on the planet. You should say, “You know, I really don’t like this whole ‘Stupid’ thing, and calling any person ‘retarded’ is just wrong.”
Mainly, your efforts should be directed toward your son. You cannot control what other adults say, but you can use this as an opportunity to talk to him about this sort of pejorative language.
Ask your son, “How do you feel when she calls you this? You know she thinks this is funny, right?” Does your son think it’s funny? If he doesn’t, invite him to say so.
The word “retard” is a modern-day slur. It is deliberately insulting and offensive, and even if family members use this term, you should simply tell your son that it is offensive and unacceptable.
DEAR AMY: I am an assistant teacher in a preschool. (I have held the position of lead teacher as well.) We recently celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week.
The children and their parents showered us with homemade gifts, store-purchased gifts and gift cards. Different gifts were given to different teachers, all individual and most signed and colored by the children. You could see the absolute pride in the children’s eyes and smiles as they delivered a different gift each day to the teachers.
My dilemma is that while I took care to accurately catalogue the gifts and givers all week, my lead teacher and the other assistant in the classroom did not.
I spent last weekend handwriting notes addressed to each child thanking them specifically for each gift. Of course the parents knew that the thank-you was also addressed to them too.
When I brought the notes to school, the other teachers were upset that I took the time to do this. They claimed, “It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and we are entitled to the gifts, and there is no need for a thank-you.”
Then the real reason came out when they wanted me to rewrite the thank-you notes in a generic form, from all of us, to each kid and parent. I told them no.
I believe that a child and parent deserve a special, personalized thank-you. What do you think? -- Feeling Appreciated
DEAR FEELING: One of the most important jobs preschool teachers have is to model pro-social behavior to their students. This means everything from using your “inside voice” to accepting responsibility for your actions, admitting when you’ve made a mistake, saying “please” and “thank you,” and basically behaving like an orderly, respectful and responsible person.
You know you were right to model an attitude of gratitude to your young pupils. Children are so thrilled to give — and to be recognized and thanked — that it is somewhat amazing how often these important early productive and affirmative feelings descend into the grouchy and entitled behavior exhibited later in life.
The only thing that went badly here is that you “schooled” your co-teachers in how a good teacher should behave (remarkably like a good human being, in fact), and they have reacted poorly.
I hope you become “lead teacher” very soon.
DEAR AMY: Wow, your response to “Sad Sister” — about excluding her sister from family outings — hit me straight in the heart. I have been the excluded sister for years, and I accept that. However, as you said, you can’t exclude someone and then blame her for not fitting in. -- Finally Happy
DEAR FINALLY: There is true freedom in letting go.