By Scarlette Quille
I live in the United States. I am not a member of law enforcement or a government agency. I am like most of you reading this. I am a mom, a daughter, a sister, someone who likes a cold drink and good laughs. I am also a teacher — just like you.
You may not get paid for your role in shaping youth as I do. You may not even particularly like kids. Heck, you may not have signed up for this shit. Like it or not, as an adult living in a community you are a teacher. You are a lesson to those around you. I think somehow as a society we have forgotten this. We say, “Oh, thank God he/she doesn’t have kids,” when another adult is caught doing something unsavory in the community. Somehow, the choice to not bear children softens the severity of deplorable or unsafe behavior. Getting a DUI is bad, but it is somehow worse if you have kids? Wearing revealing clothes is OK, unless you are a parent. Right?
Wrong. Adults, we are all teachers, every single one of us, and we are doing a piss-poor job of teaching our children, the future of our country, how to peacefully exist within a community. We set the example. We are horrified about teen suicide, smartphone usage and social media misuse, but we participate. We sling insults and point the finger of blame in the other direction. We rant, we bully, we don’t put down our phones. That’s the example we are setting for our kids. Is it surprising that they feel angry? Confused? You could be the best parent in the world, but sooner or later your kid is exposed to the outside world and other adults, and guess what? Your children are paying attention to those adults. That dude down the street with the sweet truck and revolving door of girlfriends, he seems a lot cooler than dad. Maybe he is cooler than dad, maybe he always says “hi” or lets your kid walk his dog. You won’t even let your kid have a dog.
You see where I am going? We are all teachers — passive teachers in some cases, but teachers just the same. And if you have forgotten this, you need to take a look at what and who you might be teaching. We all do. The good news, passive teachers, is that you have a very simple subject to teach: no standardized tests, and the curriculum has not changed for hundreds of years. What is this lesson?
DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE.
It’s simple. It works. I use it in my classroom, I use it with my kids, I try my best to hold myself to this rule. I understand all of you folks out there who love to make rules to control other people’s behavior will struggle with a one-rule concept, but hear me out. Once you understand that most rules and laws are developed to curb, slow down, or consequence asshole behavior, it becomes easier to follow them.
Time for an example. Once my daughter came home from school a hot mess. She had gotten a “refocus,” or pink slip at school, for running up the slide. She broke a rule, and she was in tears. I said, “OK, you broke a rule, you finished your consequence. Are you going to do it again?” She had to think on that one (apparently running up the slide is quite fun when you are seven), but ultimately she agreed it wasn’t in her best interest. Now had she reacted differently — let’s say the teacher said “stop running up the slide” and my daughter had responded with a “f*** you” — I would have given her a very difficult and time-consuming consequence, including a handwritten apology. For what? You guessed it: being an asshole. However, she had accepted her consequence and done her time without resorting to asshole tactics like blaming others for her behavior, and so her consequence was done.
Keeping to a few simple but important rules makes running a household or even a business meeting more efficient. The kids who spend time at my house or in my classroom know my rule, and although I may have changed my language slightly for different age groups or a professional atmosphere, the gist is always, “Don’t be an asshole.” This works because it gives the adults the power to teach and decide what asshole behavior is. We can’t make enough rules to address the myriad of ridiculous shit that our children can and will think of doing. It takes away arguments like: There is no rule specifically forbidding me sticking a paintbrush in a light socket. How many times have we heard adults in our lives looking for a specific loophole because there was not a rule expressly forbidding a common sense no-no? Our courtrooms are bogged down with people suing each other, when most of the time, one or both of the parties are just being assholes.
Rules and laws are weird and arbitrary, and we adults break them all the time. I have broken the speed limit. I have worn open-toed shoes to work when I wasn’t supposed to. Teaching kids that breaking a rule while breaking a rule is confusing. It’s hard to explain to a kid why they are not allowed to wear certain clothes to school, or why they can’t pee in the pool. It’s all arbitrary. The important lesson in life is that consistently being an asshole, will ruin your relationships, your community and keep you from reaching your potential. Think about it: Most of the bad things in our lives happened because someone was being an asshole, and that someone was you at least half the time.
Parents, I challenge you to try this. I encourage you to empower the other adults around you, and help them teach your children. Start with something easy: I asked you to do the dishes, three times, you are still playing Xbox. Not listening when people talk to you is asshole behavior, thus you have earned yourself a consequence. As parents we need to stop protecting our kids from the consequence of being an asshole. If your single neighbor calls you up and says, “Little Timmy keeps throwing rocks at my dog,” say thank you for taking the time to tell you that, “Timmy is being an asshole.” Don’t get defensive and blame the neighbor for not understanding your parenting hardships. Get off the phone and handle your child’s asshole behavior. It’s really that simple. If you see a kid or adult being an asshole, tell them to stop.
It’s time we try something different, because the old standard — The Golden Rule’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — just doesn’t cut it this day and age. Conceptually, the Golden Rule sounds great, but in theory it leaves to much room for interpretation. Like, maybe if I am walking through Yoke’s, and I spot Matthew McConaughey in the produce section, I grab his face and kiss him on the mouth, right?
No. We need to simplify our lives and rules. Don’t be an asshole. Let’s just stick with that for now. It starts with you.
Keep safe, keep warm, and love each other.
A teacher just like you.