Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I often state that the only difference between many of us adults and my sixth grade students is height. So often, I see the behaviors that we consider “childish” reflected in plenty of adults. One of the advantages of seeing certain behaviors displayed regularly amongst my sixth graders is that it helps me understand what is going on in the motivations of the adult who behaves in a similar manner. Somehow it is just easier to spot in a sixth grader.
For example, here is a behavior that is exhibited regularly by some of my sixth graders. “Joey” is caught doing something he should not be doing. If it is a regularly occurring behavior, I will usually take him into the hall to talk to him about it. At this point, what Joey SHOULD BE is repentant. He SHOULD apologize. He SHOULD be giving me some game plan about how he is going to do better in the future. Instead, 99 times out of 100 I get:
“Well Jimmy was doing it too! Why aren’t you saying anything to him about it?!”
Or, if Joey doesn’t have an immediate co-conspirator, he will reach back into the vague past:
“Well Sabina did it last month and you never said anything to her!!”
This is a complete abdication of responsibility on the part of Joey. It is a diversionary tactic to take the focus off of his behavior and put the crux of the issue somewhere else. In most cases, I do not believe this is calculated. It is a defense mechanism to protect the ego. This reaction is instinctive.
At this point, discussing the situation with Joey in any format is almost useless. He will continue to build his defenses layer after layer until he sees himself purely as the victim. The most I can do is keep him out of the scenario where the bad behavior is occurring. Joey will never see himself as being in the wrong.
So how does this relate to adults? We see this behavior in ourselves all the time. I often catch myself doing it. Watch for it the next time you are reading a conversation on a blog or watching a panel discussion on the news. Team B critiques an issue concerning someone on Team A. If Team A acknowledges the issue at all it would be surprising; usually Team A will simply throw out some similar behavior committed by someone in Team B. Everyone protects their egos… their team… and the real issue is never dealt with.
And so the dance goes on….
Posted by Andrew at 3:46 PM