4 Reasons All Kids Deserve Compassion
As a teacher of both general and special education students, I had many emotionally challenged students pass through my doors. Often, I received kids other teachers didn’t want in their classroom.
You know those kids, the ones who struggle to learn and manage their own behaviors. These kids are angry, self-destructive, disrupt others’ learning, and generally cause trouble.
Michael was one of those kids. He entered my third-grade class September 1998. He was smart as a whip, athletic, and strikingly handsome. However, within the first few weeks, I noticed his explosive temper and lack of focus.
I called his foster parents in for a conference. At this point, Michael had only been with them a few months. During our conference, they explained their lack of surprise with his behavior because of all he had been through. They agreed to share my concerns with his therapist.
In hindsight, I should’ve inquired about the details of his story. But, I did not.
His story became clear to me one December morning. While reading a front page newspaper article, I saw a picture of a woman who had to be Michael’s biological mom. The likeness was uncanny.
My heart raced as I read about Veronica’s murder conviction. I read on to learn that both of Michael’s parents were convicted of the murder and torture of his 4-year-old cousin, Genny. The horrendous nature of the crime led to Ivan and Veronica Gonzales becoming the first married couple sentenced to death row in California history.
Michael and his five siblings witnessed months of horrific child abuse and the murder of Genny. In addition, he and his older brother testified against their parents.
Looking back, I’m amazed at Michael’s resiliency. Despite incomprehensible trauma, he completed third grade in my class with more than passing grades. Sometime in fourth grade, he was placed in a different foster home and a different school. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to Michael. I can only hope he landed in a home where he found the love and stability he deserved.
Although challenging at the time, I was blessed to be Michael’s teacher. He taught me to respect and honor others’ stories, no matter how hard they may push me to judgment and anger. It’s difficult to determine the underlying cause of a child’s anger, moodiness, or withdrawal.
Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~John Watson
Those kids who spend a lot of time in the principal’s office, hurt their friends, cry uncontrollably, cannot explain their feelings, don’t complete homework, can’t focus on their work, push others away, and steal food are sometimes difficult to love. But they are worthy of it, nonetheless.
Michael’s story is extreme. However, everyone has a story. Do you remember growing up and thinking everyone else’s family must be like yours?
Kids do not have the ability to separate themselves from their environment. They struggle to understand why they sometimes feel out of control. Most of the time, it’s simply the result of a deep desire to feel loved and safe.
Remember the following when a child has frayed your last nerve.
- Children have little control over their environment. Many are abused and neglected. According to a CDC/Kaiser study, show these surprisingly high percentages: physical abuse 28.3; sexual abuse 20.7; emotional abuse 10.6; physical neglect 9.9; and emotional neglect 14.8.
- Children who are traumatized do not necessarily look different than children living in healthy environments. Child victims come from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. You cannot tell a child is in trouble just by looking at him or her.
- Children do not have the advantage of perspective. Even with a lifetime of experience, many adults struggle to communicate their feelings. Imagine how hard if must be for children to make sense of their situation.
- Children trust adults in their life for nurture, guidance, and protection. It’s extremely confusing when this doesn’t happen. This confusion can negatively impact learning and social interactions.
- Children will abide by the code of family secrets. No matter their parents’ sins, they love them. No matter the conditions, it’s highly unlikely that children that children will speak against their parents.
“Those kids” are children who are desperate for love and safety. Michael taught me that children can withstand enormous amounts of trauma with courage and resiliency. Often, though, their fight is misinterpreted.
“Unfortunately, life is unfair and not all babies are brought into the world with the same amount of anticipation and affection, as others. No matter what anyone says; we are really not all given an equal start at life. And so what must children be made up of, to come into a world like this one? Children must be made up of silk. They must be brought up with a serenity in their skin but a bulletproof strength in their souls. This is the new breed of children. Ones that are soft to the touch but are truly unbreakable. And unbreakable in a beautiful way; not in a lost way.” ~C. JoyBell C.
As a society, we must stop misinterpreting fight as simple misbehavior and punishing children without thought. It is our responsibility to look out for the least of these.
What are your experiences with children who act out? Are there suggestions you would like to add to my list of things to remember? Please share in the comment section below.