The 8-year-old was asked to sit next to the monster* of the class as a punishment when he told his teacher she took 10 minutes to get her task done. She had told the class she would take 8 minutes and to her, he was defiant to time her and therefore he needed to be punished.
But this is an unusual boy and he was not going to be defeated though he did not know why his classmate was branded the monster the first week of school. He wanted to befriend this 'monster' and prove his teacher wrong.
Because of how this wonderful child was brought up, my son had a friend.
Unlike my son who has poor social skills, JC has great interpersonal
intelligence and is often a hit amongst his peers. When I know his
family better and saw how his mother took time and pain to teach him social skills, I began to understand why and wished I had done more to help my son with his lack of interpersonal skills.
The first time I met JC when he was 9, he stretched out his hand like a gentleman and introduced himself. Every time he answers the telephone, you feel like you are talking to a professionally trained customer service officer. His mother emphasized not only academic excellence (he often top the school and is in the GEP), but also social intelligence. What a wise mother!
Many of us work hard on our children's academic studies,
send our children for abacus classes, tuition in every subject, but we
forget to teach simple social intelligence like reaching out to a
classmate who needs friendship. JC's mother took my son in, taught his
son how to work with mine, and gave my son a best friend for the last 6
years. I owe her much.
It is because JC could get along great
with my son and he has many fans that other friends started to work with and befriended my son.
Slowly, my son's circle of friends grew larger and instead of being
hand held by JC when they were in lower primary, my son started to
venture out on his own. Now, a bigger group of friends are supporting
his social needs.
Of course, my son is still not as socially capable as other kids his age, but this staple group of primary school classmates have given him something money cannot buy, and something no education can give: friendship and camaraderie. Every time I meet this class of students who have now moved to secondary school, I am thankful for the boys and their parents for bringing up their boys so well. I am indebted to every single one of them.
The next time your child come home to tell you he has to sit next to the class monster or a class bully, you can either spend time to teach him to turn this monster around, build your own child's social intelligence or to ostracize another child. We have the power to teach our kid to make this world a better place or worsen it, even when they are just eight.
*I got to know my son was called class monster by the teacher 2 years later, when JC's mom told me how they became good friends. A pity a child has more empathy than an adult educator.
*This and other articles on this site are excerpts from the book "The Gift of Education" by Pamela Lim to be published March 2014.