This is how You Deal with Disrespect and Gain Respect

I want to share this story because it’s important for people to hear, I feel, and it’s about people’s ability to change. It is not about me.

It is about this boy I worked with. I helped him, but he mostly helped himself. We were a team; I am not an angel or a magician. I was the case manager for a 14 year old who already had a rap sheet of petit theft and assault a mile long.

Still wet behind the ears, I asked this boy,

“Don’t you care if you go to jail? Do you want to be locked up in a cage like a dog?”

And this boy shrugged his shoulders and said,

“I don’t care.”

I had to drive him to court an hour away at 6am, just him and me in the car alone together. He called me Stupid White Lady. At first he wouldn’t talk to me at all. But I stood up in court every month and told the judge what I thought: Dante is a very smart boy. He’s very kind to his sisters. He keeps his room very clean and is attentive about his chores. Dante struggles with his temper, but I can see that he is making efforts to control himself.

We’d get in the car and he’d cross his arms like always and stare out the window. But every hearing came, and I always focused on the positive. And one day he started talking to me. He started telling me stories about his abusive childhood. I found out he liked old school R&B songs; he found out I knew a lot more about a lot of different types of music than he thought.

He had been expelled from his school district and had to go to an alternative school, near the courthouse, also an hour away. No bus, so guess who had to drive him every morning at 5am? Yours truly.

And when he started to straighten up a bit, it was me who stood in front of the school board and said,

“This young man deserves to go to your school. He has a talented mind. He is a talented athlete. And he has a generous, considerate spirit that would be a credit to your school.”

I said these words in front of him. The school board allowed him to re-enroll. That wasn’t just because of what I said; it’s because he had improved, too.

One day I asked him what he thought he’d like to do when he grew up. He told me that ever since he was 3 years old, he had wanted to be a firefighter. So I called up the fire station and had a firefighter come to Dante’s group home. The firefighter gave him a hat and a pen from the fire school, let him wear the bunker gear, and we took photos. He was so excited; that was one of the best days in my whole career, seeing him in that firefighter gear. It was fantastic.

This boy is now a 22-year-old man and he sends me–the Stupid White Lady–a card every year on Mother’s Day.

After he turned 16, he never committed another crime. He did go to fire school and is currently completing his EMT program. He doesn’t do drugs, he doesn’t even drink, he doesn’t have a “baby momma”, he’s not running the streets, he’s not fooling around with guns. He’s just a good man. He talks to kids who are currently in foster care and is a motivational speaker.

This is not a story of me bragging on myself. I tell people this story because when I walked in and met Dante the first time, he was dressed like a Blood, hated me, didn’t care about anything, had been expelled, and had no qualms about beating the shit out of anyone who crossed him, male, female, old, young, or otherwise. I was sure that the day he hit 18, I’d see him on the news in an orange jumpsuit. It would have been easy for me to treat him like a criminal, because he was one. But when you’re willing to take the time and have the patience to look below the surface, you get beyond that anger and resentment you feel for some punk-ass kid being shitty to you and other people, and you ask “Why?”. And when you ask “Why?”, that’s when so many positive things can happen.

This is a story about setting expectations and helping people to realize their potential. Goddammit, listen to me: If you treat someone like a dog, they will act like a dog.

If you tell someone, outright or implicitly, that you think they’re yet another ne’er-do-well young black gang-banging fool, they will be that. I refused to be anything but positive with Dante. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give him what-for when he messed up; I did. But at the end of my lecture, it was always,

“You are better than this. YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.”

It would be easy to say that he rose to my expectations, but I don’t believe that. He rose to his own expectations; I just helped him realize what they were. I knew he could be better. Deep down, he knew he could be better. But he needed someone, for once, to say, “I see you. I see you in there. Come out.”

I just wanted to share that with you because this bullshit about going hard and body-slamming disrespectful kids to the ground is just that: bullshit.

This crap about “What kids need now is more whuppins” is bullshit.

I’ve worked with well over a thousand rough kids of every color, every walk of life. White trash kids from trailers (their words not mine, and proudly said, too). Black kids from the projects. Every kind of immigrant you can think of, almost every continent in the world (no polar bears unfortunately). Every mental health disorder you can think of. Going hard is not the answer; it has literally never worked for me.

What these kids need is the voice of a good and loving mother or father: it is stern, it demands respect, but it is not hateful. It is not violent. The voice of a person in love with their child who says they are disappointed will bring some of the roughest children to tears.

Does the story always end like Dante’s? Hell no. But you’re the adult here; you set the tone. Whether they follow or not is their choice, but god help you whatever you do, you don’t treat them like animals and then expect them to be angels.

Choose kindness, not brute authority. Kindness does not mean weak. It doesn’t mean you hand them a trophy for being a special snowflake or you don’t punish them. It means being patient, being respectful, and treating them like individuals. Ten years working with abused children taught me this.

~ by considerthesnail

Source : Reddit

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  1. Awesome! I, too, have worked with kids like Dante, for about 20 years, in various capacities. My stomach turns when I hear adults callously declare the need for corporal punishment to “fix” a broken spirited child. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you so much for this. This is yet one more positive example of how treating another human respectfully AND expecting the best from them pays off. Please do not downplay what your influence over this fine young man has been–it is huge. But I agree that it is the person who ultimately makes those positive changes.

    I used to teach Tae Kwon Do to kids from age 6 to 20, and when they achieved a rank they would always thank me. I told them, “YOU are the one who did all the hard work; YOU did this yourself–and you will go on to do more good work.”

    This is the good news that should be celebrated each and every day. Thank you! 🙂


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