If you have had any Business Law or Human Resources classes, you know that the ruling principle in harassment cases is “Impact over Intent.” Basically, it does not matter what you intended when you said your co-worker looked great today, if it was perceived as an unwanted compliment, then it qualifies as harassment. Period.
Keep that in mind, and I’m going to switch gears to children. We ran into a family friend the other day whom I know to be very kind. She asked Victoria if she was being good. Vic sort of pulled back a little, so I volunteered, “Oh, she’s been doing great!” Our friend continued, “Oh, Victoria. I know you! You just talk, talk, talk! You are always getting into trouble with your talking. I know you too well!” And with that she turned to talk to someone else and was gone.
I reassured Vic that this lady does not know her as well as she thinks she does and reinforced that Victoria is good. But I know that the damage had already been done. In Vic’s mind, this woman just told the whole world that Vic is a talker who can’t “be good.”
Impact over Intent.
Our children hear and believe everything we say about them. I am amazed at the number of people that I hear disrespecting their children, and then wondering why their children don’t behave. Hello? Really? When mothers threaten “I’ll get you back for that,” or tell their children, “you know you can’t do that right,” I cringe. These people who are saying these words are not looking at these children’s eyes. They don’t see the gaze drop to the floor for a split second. They aren’t paying any attention to the smile that just disappeared. I’m not saying I am not guilty, but I am aware. I know when I have said something uncharacteristically hurtful. And I ask forgiveness from my children for those moments when I go off. Snide remarks that become so common that people don’t even recognize they are saying them are doing serious damage to our youth.
I have changed. I used to see children as little pests. I never said that openly, but it’s true. I saw most kids as show-offs, pop-offs, and rule breakers. I have known some very challenging children. I still know those children. They are still challenging. But I see them differently. I see them as little people just trying to figure out where they fit into everything around them. Now, instead of seeing a kid cross the room toward me and thinking, “Ohhhhhh, here comes trouble,” I actually find myself thinking, “Hey, there’s little Johnny. I wonder if he had a good day today.” And I go ask him. And I find that I love him enough to let him be who he is.
I think Victoria has changed me. She and all the struggles of the past two seasons have altered my way of viewing children. And that wasn’t even a change I had planned, which is usually the best of all!