My First Hug

I’ve been in my part time job now for a year or so.  I work as admin at a park and see the kids come and go each day.  We get many, many more in the summer.  We get our regulars, the latch key kids who are dropped off and picked up by parents who can’t afford a proper summer camp.  It’s common and most (not all) of these kids have horrid manners.

A few weeks ago, I got a text from a staff who works under me (and directly with the kids activities) who needed help.  One little boy was being horrible, which was not unusual for him.  He would talk back, not clean up, be rude to the staff and an overall pain. My coworker couldn’t handle him that day.  He was at his wits end.  I told him to send the boy my way.

He got to my office and there was a moment of internal panic for me.  What was I going to say? What could I have him do? What would be effective?  I certainly didn’t want to overstep any boundaries and couldn’t make a punishment too light, or else he’d never care about getting sent back my way.  I started by asking him questions.  “Do you know why you’re here?  What do you think the staff are here to do? Do you want to spend your summer in my office, or out there with the other kids?”.  Tears streaming down his face, he answered these for me.  Luckily, I am not a pushover and certainly didn’t let him off the hook because of his emotional display.

By the time I was done asking him questions, I figured out I could make him write standards. “I will listen to and respect the staff” on a lined sheet of paper. A few words were exchanged during this time.  Nothing significant, but friendly.  I sent him on his way with a warning that next time, he’d get a repeat and some additional work to do.  I confirmed he certainly wanted to spend his summer on the playground and not in my office.

Fast forward to the next Monday. He gets to the park, walks into my office and GIVES ME A HUG.  My first hug from any kid in the whole year I’d been working here.  The first kid that felt any connection to me and all I’d done was reprimand him.  Now this kid comes by every day to say hi. We talk about what’s good and not so good about our day.  If he’s around for any longer than 5 minutes, he always asks for a toy or piece of candy, which I give after confirming with the closest recreation leader that he’s been cooperative and respectful.

He seems to be turned around for now, knowing someone has a stake in how his day is going and what tone and words he uses with others.  I guess my Mommellah instincts can expand beyond my own kids in ways I never expected.

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