Responding in anger? Never a good role model

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 4, 2012 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara
My daughter came home from school today telling me that some little girl was making fun of her teeth. The thing is that that's not even the problem, she went and told the bus driver what was going on and she called her a tattle teller and when my daughter got of the bus, she yelled it out the window again. It made me very angry and I called the bus transportation. Should I say something to her face to face? The thing is I'm very angry.

From: Lupita, Baytown, TX


Hi Lupita,

That behavior by the driver is inexcusable, and I don't blame you for being angry. I also don't blame you for calling the company, or the school, or for saying something to the driver, as long as you do it when you're no longer angry.

Good for you for knowing enough to stop yourself. Frankly, I wish more people could do that.

It's not just that an angry parent would have come across to the driver as irrational; it's also that you would have come across as a crazy person to your own child and to every child on the bus. Because chances are this exchange would only have escalated -- an adult who would say something like that to a child in the first place probably doesn't have much impulse control.

We all want to raise our children to successful and effective in society, and to have the respect of their peers. Our actions in moments like this are powerful role models, whether we intend for them to be or not. They also tend to be what children remember. You likely saved yourself from becoming "the lady who got crazy on the bus driver," and you saved your child from being the daughter of that lady.

What you do once your anger is under control is a different story. Then you can calmly but firmly tell the company and/or the school that what happened is not appropriate. You might even be able to say that to the driver. Then the model you present to your child is of a person who not only knows how to stand up for herself respectfully but also can do it in a way that respects others.

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8 comments so far...
  1. is anyone else confused about this? Did the busdriver call her daughter a tatle tale or did the little girl who was making fun of her teeth call her a tattletale? I didn't think it was very clear. If it was the little girl who made fun of her, you can't blame the bus driver, and calling the bus company would do nothing. The bus driver maybe could have taken better control of the situation, but at the same time, the driver's number 1 concern is safely driving the bus, not stopping little kids from calling ech other names.

    If the bus driver called her a tattletale infront of the whole bus, then yes i would absolutely call the bus company. That is totally imappropriate behavior for an adult who is charge in that situation to do. Good job not screaming at the bus driver infront of the kids, but this issue needs to be addressed.

    I found this letter confusing.

    Posted by Mollinator April 4, 12 10:51 AM
  1. People need to learn how to express anger--not hot blazing fury but controlled, measured, "righteous" anger in a constructive way. This idea that good people never express a negative emotion, that raising one's voice beyond a conversational tone no matter how awful the circumstances is the moral equivalent of violence...it's a bit much. I'm glad she didn't blow up at the bus driver, but there is a time and place for let's say, forceful or sharp words on the spot, words and tone that address solving the problem without cussing or insult. Not "Mommy needs a time out to cool off then ask oh so nicely using her asking words" namby-pamby nonsense. You don't see a lot of men being told that expressing anger is in itself wrong.

    Posted by di April 4, 12 02:27 PM
  1. I disagree. I can't help think but that as a small child it would have been nice to see either of my parents confront someone on my behalf. (Something that never happened to my knowledge) It models standing up for yourself, and it demonstrates to the child that their parent cares and believes them,, in a very personal fashion, about how their child is treated.

    If the situation escalates because of the bus driver's reaction, it's on the bus driver. Shirking conflict just because someone, somewhere, might think it's unseemly seems like it's being overly concerned about what others might think. If you know what's right and feel it, then do it.

    Posted by steve April 4, 12 05:10 PM
  1. This letter lacks key information: age of the child and whether Mom herself witnessed the bus driver's actions (sometimes children embellish stories or just misunderstand a comment). If the mother did not directly witnessed the driver's actions, she should ask the bus driver for her version. But Mom also needs to realize that bus drivers are not trained in child behavior management. For this reason, it is important to explore other ways of handling a teaser. Move to a different seat? Pop in a set of headphones? Let a teacher know the next day? The ultimate goal is to raise a child who can manage the inevitable and occasional "rough and tumble" of school life for herself.

    Posted by Gail April 4, 12 06:31 PM
  1. Ditto to Gail. She hit this one out of the park! (And today is opening day!)

    Posted by Dad April 5, 12 07:59 AM
  1. tuff on the bus should be treated like stuff that happens at school. The bus is an extension of the school property. Child trying to get a bus driver to "do something" that didn't involve safety isn't great idea but very typical of young children. Bus driver should have told child that she needs to talk to mum or her teacher at school about the comment. I sort of feel for the bus driver because this child could have been the 50th kid who came up to her with some sort of "Johnny is making farting noises with his armpit" issue. Parent should tell bus company to instruct their drivers to remind children that that their main jobs are driving and passenger safetly and bus drivers should only be asked to be part of those activities. Parent should also tell child that dealing with teasing is not a bus driver's job and that she needs to tell teachers (if it is about the trip to school) and parent (both ways).

    Posted by Lain April 5, 12 09:07 AM
  1. Don't tell the bus driver, tell the SCHOOL.

    Bus drivers have never had any chance of managing the behavior of the 40 kids behind them.

    Posted by TF April 5, 12 05:38 PM
  1. Lain - So if a fight breaks out on the bus or if a student is threatened, then it's the bus driver's perogative to not pull the bus over and attempt to resolve the situation (either on their own or by calling authorities)? And it's OK for a bus driver to insult a small child for anything else? There are a thousand better ways that the driver could have handled this. Calling a kid a "tattle teller" and yelling at them as though THEY were a child themselves is not one of them.

    Posted by Phe April 6, 12 09:10 AM
 
8 comments so far...
  1. is anyone else confused about this? Did the busdriver call her daughter a tatle tale or did the little girl who was making fun of her teeth call her a tattletale? I didn't think it was very clear. If it was the little girl who made fun of her, you can't blame the bus driver, and calling the bus company would do nothing. The bus driver maybe could have taken better control of the situation, but at the same time, the driver's number 1 concern is safely driving the bus, not stopping little kids from calling ech other names.

    If the bus driver called her a tattletale infront of the whole bus, then yes i would absolutely call the bus company. That is totally imappropriate behavior for an adult who is charge in that situation to do. Good job not screaming at the bus driver infront of the kids, but this issue needs to be addressed.

    I found this letter confusing.

    Posted by Mollinator April 4, 12 10:51 AM
  1. People need to learn how to express anger--not hot blazing fury but controlled, measured, "righteous" anger in a constructive way. This idea that good people never express a negative emotion, that raising one's voice beyond a conversational tone no matter how awful the circumstances is the moral equivalent of violence...it's a bit much. I'm glad she didn't blow up at the bus driver, but there is a time and place for let's say, forceful or sharp words on the spot, words and tone that address solving the problem without cussing or insult. Not "Mommy needs a time out to cool off then ask oh so nicely using her asking words" namby-pamby nonsense. You don't see a lot of men being told that expressing anger is in itself wrong.

    Posted by di April 4, 12 02:27 PM
  1. I disagree. I can't help think but that as a small child it would have been nice to see either of my parents confront someone on my behalf. (Something that never happened to my knowledge) It models standing up for yourself, and it demonstrates to the child that their parent cares and believes them,, in a very personal fashion, about how their child is treated.

    If the situation escalates because of the bus driver's reaction, it's on the bus driver. Shirking conflict just because someone, somewhere, might think it's unseemly seems like it's being overly concerned about what others might think. If you know what's right and feel it, then do it.

    Posted by steve April 4, 12 05:10 PM
  1. This letter lacks key information: age of the child and whether Mom herself witnessed the bus driver's actions (sometimes children embellish stories or just misunderstand a comment). If the mother did not directly witnessed the driver's actions, she should ask the bus driver for her version. But Mom also needs to realize that bus drivers are not trained in child behavior management. For this reason, it is important to explore other ways of handling a teaser. Move to a different seat? Pop in a set of headphones? Let a teacher know the next day? The ultimate goal is to raise a child who can manage the inevitable and occasional "rough and tumble" of school life for herself.

    Posted by Gail April 4, 12 06:31 PM
  1. Ditto to Gail. She hit this one out of the park! (And today is opening day!)

    Posted by Dad April 5, 12 07:59 AM
  1. tuff on the bus should be treated like stuff that happens at school. The bus is an extension of the school property. Child trying to get a bus driver to "do something" that didn't involve safety isn't great idea but very typical of young children. Bus driver should have told child that she needs to talk to mum or her teacher at school about the comment. I sort of feel for the bus driver because this child could have been the 50th kid who came up to her with some sort of "Johnny is making farting noises with his armpit" issue. Parent should tell bus company to instruct their drivers to remind children that that their main jobs are driving and passenger safetly and bus drivers should only be asked to be part of those activities. Parent should also tell child that dealing with teasing is not a bus driver's job and that she needs to tell teachers (if it is about the trip to school) and parent (both ways).

    Posted by Lain April 5, 12 09:07 AM
  1. Don't tell the bus driver, tell the SCHOOL.

    Bus drivers have never had any chance of managing the behavior of the 40 kids behind them.

    Posted by TF April 5, 12 05:38 PM
  1. Lain - So if a fight breaks out on the bus or if a student is threatened, then it's the bus driver's perogative to not pull the bus over and attempt to resolve the situation (either on their own or by calling authorities)? And it's OK for a bus driver to insult a small child for anything else? There are a thousand better ways that the driver could have handled this. Calling a kid a "tattle teller" and yelling at them as though THEY were a child themselves is not one of them.

    Posted by Phe April 6, 12 09:10 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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