The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Thursday, January 20, 2011]

Did That Kid Just Give Me the Punk Test?

I was at a Head Start preschool this morning, where I see an adorable little boy.. whose mother is a hooker. Literally. So my little guy, Jeans, had some bruises and scratches, as always, and I asked him what happened. First he said he fell down. Then he said he was fighting with his brother. Another kid, Sweatshirt, piped up to say that he's really strong and a good fighter. They're barely four years old.

I made it clear that fighting is not cool at all, that it does not mean you are strong. Sweatshirt wandered away, and Jeans was interested in continuing the conversation. The fighting at his house (there are 8 kids between the mother and her sister, who is also a hooker--grandma's their pimp) was really getting to him.

While we sat on the floor talking, Sweatshirt walked behind me and pressed down on my right shoulder--not hard but in a way that didn't seem accidental. I gave him a look and said, "Make sure you have nice hands." I went right back to my conversation with Jeans.

About a minute later, Sweatshirt poked a finger into my left arm, HARD. He was standing next to me with a stony expression on his face. I gave him my best I'm-a-teacher-and-I-mean-business look and asked, "Are you having nice hands with me?"

"Huh-uh," he responded, and I could see the challenge in his eyes. This four-year-old was ready to throw down with me!

I gave him a stern talking-to and let him know in no uncertain terms that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable and he cannot treat me that way. The classroom aide (I'm itinerant, just there half an hour a week to work with Jeans) realized that something was up, and she made Sweatshirt sit on the carpet for a while before he could choose a center (play area). He sat there totally unfazed. Then she gave him a talking to. Our words made no impact. This kid has the demeanor of a hardened criminal.

As he was doing his time on the carpet, I realized that pressing on my right shoulder was the punk test... and I had flunked it.

I learned about the punk test from Patrice O'Neal, who plays the warehouse guy on The Office. He explained it on the Opie & Anthony radio show. I can't do the punk test justice like Patrice can, so I don't want to explain it myself.

This show uses foul language--consider yourself warned.


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