Here is a story scenario you can use to help teach about the need for Self-Mentoring when you are a victim of name-calling. The way you choose to respond can point to whether you are making a good character choice or bad. Listen to the character choices made by the three seventh-grade boys you will hear about in this next story called “Jesse Needs To Learn To Set Firm Boundaries.”
A. Teacher reads story to the class called “Jesse needs to learn to set firm boundaries.”
B. Story Description: Just like Hyena in the story called “Hyena’s dilemma at a fork in the path,” people have many fork-in-the-road decisions to make throughout the day. Some choices seem to spell out that this is a person of good character. Other choices seem to spell out that these are people who either haven’t made up their mind what kind of character they wish to have, or they are people who are deliberately making choices that they know to be wrong. Listen to the character choices made by the three seventh-grade boys you will hear about in this next story called “Jesse Needs To Learn To Set Firm Boundaries.”
Chapter 1: “Sticks and Stones may break my Bones” and Words sure can Hurt!
Kids and grown-ups have little and big decisions to make about how they plan to conduct their lives. Figuratively speaking, they can come to a fork in the road, a decision point, several times a day. Each time, that person has to decide which road that they will take. Other people can perhaps influence that decision; but ultimately, it is up to the traveler to decide which road he or she will choose.
Let’s take seventh-grader Jesse as an example. In the morning, he wakes up and stretches. His Mom has already gone to work. He and his older sister get up and make breakfast. After his sister, Stephanie, catches the bus to the high school, Jesse comes to his first big fork-in-the-road decision. Since some of the kids at school know how to push his buttons, he finds school a less-than-pleasant place to be. So his first fork-in-the-road decision is, “Do I go to school today, or do I play hooky?” Jesse has never yet chosen that playing hooky road; but today, it feels especially tempting. He has an uncomfortable feeling about the upcoming day. His gut tells him that something bad is going to happen. Afraid of the consequences should he get caught, Jesse once again chooses the road of going to school.
Another example is Wade. Wade wakes up, as he often does, in a bad mood. His mother too is already off at work. That means that Wade has no one to defend him against his two older brothers. His brothers, Will and Wally, love to bully their younger brother every chance they get. They’ve walked down that fork in the road so often, that it feels like the most natural thing in the world to torture seventh-grader Wade in any way that occurs to them.
Sometimes, Will and Wally don’t let Wade have any breakfast. Sometimes, they knock him around. Sometimes, they call him the most horrible names. Sometimes, they lift him up and stick his head in the toilet. They give him wedgies. They trip him and laugh when they see him fall and get hurt. They victimize Wade in every way that they can think of. It makes them feel powerful and tough.
Wade has a big fork-in-the-road decision to make. He faces this decision almost every day. He thinks desperately, “I could tell on them! I SHOULD tell on them! But what if Mom doesn’t believe me? And even if she did, with her off at work twelve hours a day, who will there be to protect me? No one! Plus, they threatened to do even worse stuff to me if I ever tell. No! I just have to tough it out the best I know how. Man! Life sure stinks, and my two big brothers are the biggest stinkers of them all!”
Wade never once has to decide whether he is going to take the road of playing hooky or going to school. He can’t get out the door fast enough to catch that school bus. School is practically the only place he feels safe. No one ever picks on him when he’s at school. He made sure of that a long time ago! Wade may be a victim at home, but he is one of the biggest victimizers there is at school.
Each day, Wade’s fork-in-the-road decision is, “Which kid will I pick on today?” He looks around and spots Jesse. “Yeah! That’s the ticket! I think I’ll pick on Jesse and make trouble for Jimmy at the same time!” Smiling in anticipation of that power surge he is going to get, Wade strides over to have a little talk with Jimmy.
As for seventh-grader Jimmy, he too has come to a fork in the road. He longs to be popular. Each day, he tries to make decisions that will help him accomplish that goal. First, he spent a long time mowing lawns and helping to paint houses over the summer so that he could afford to buy the kind of clothes the popular kids wear. Only, wearing the ‘right clothes’ didn’t seem to be good enough.
Then Jimmy decided, “I know! Maybe if I can get in good with some of the more popular kids, they could help me fit in. I could be popular too, if I had some popular friends. Yeah! That just might work!” Jimmy was optimistic and hopeful about this plan working. So when cool and popular Wade walked over in his direction, Jimmy got really excited. He thought, “At last! A popular kid is coming over to talk to me! Great! Maybe I’m gonna get my chance to be popular after all.”
Wade strides over and chats with Jimmy a bit. Finally, Wade bragged, “You want to see me get a rise out of Jesse?!”
Jimmy thought Jesse was an okay guy; however, Jesse was not popular and Wade was. Jimmy longed to be accepted by Wade and the crowd he ran around with. So Jimmy quickly made his decision and said, “Sure, go ahead.”
Later, Jimmy wished like anything that he had asked for specific details about what Wade was going to say. He thought in dismay, “I never would have guessed in a million years that Wade would have lied about me like that. Man! Am I ever in trouble now!”
What did Wade do? What was his lie? Wade had swaggered over to Jesse and said, “Hey, Jesse?!”
Jesse turned around warily and said, “Yeah, what?”
As convincingly as he could, Wade lied, “Jimmy said that you are trailer trash. He says that all your clothes are from Good Will or the Salvation Army. He knows you got your shoes out of a dumpster. Plus, he told me that your sister and you are, shall we say, real chummy – if you know what I mean.”
Jimmy’s mouth had fallen open with shock. He wanted to quickly rush over to Jesse and explain that he had never said that. But he also didn’t want to lose the positive attention he was getting from Wade. So Jimmy closed his mouth and stood by helplessly.
As for Jesse, he glared over at Jimmy and then stomped away.
Wade had then swaggered back to Jimmy and said, “Pretty funny, huh?”
Jimmy smiled weakly and said nothing. He was thinking, “Man, I never knew how cruel Wade could be! And dangerous! What if Wade decided to try the same thing on me? Then I would never have a chance to be popular!” Jimmy forced himself to laugh a bit. Just then, he happened to glance up and saw Jesse looking at him. Feeling guilty for laughing, Jimmy turned away. Suddenly, the bell rang.
Wade rushed off to join some of his other friends. He was having a great day. It didn’t bother him if he happened to hurt Jesse’s feelings or messed up Jimmy’s reputation. He felt really powerful when he was able to shake somebody up with his words. Of course, at home, as you know, Wade felt just the opposite. He didn’t know why his older brothers got a kick out of brutalizing him the way they did. Perhaps it had something to do with their father who left when he was just a baby. Maybe his Dad had done some bad things to them. He wasn’t sure, but his gut told him that was the case.
Of course, Wade had the fork-in-the-road choice to stop that Victim-Victimizer Cycle before it carried on to the next generation. But so far, Wade just kept on doing what he was doing. Would he ever make a different choice? Perhaps yes and perhaps no. The choice is totally up to him.
In the meantime, Jimmy looked around for Jesse. Seeing him walking by himself, Jimmy sidled over and said, “I never said that, Jesse! Wade was just playing around.” Then Jimmy looked pleadingly at Jesse and asked hopefully, “No hard feelings?”
Jesse said nothing. He showed absolutely no expression in his eyes. He simply turned and walked away. Jimmy thought, “I wonder if Jesse even heard my apology?”
Jesse had heard all right; however, he did not believe. The words that Wade said had gone so deep inside and hurt so badly, that he didn’t think he could ever wipe the memory away. Once again, Jesse had a choice. He could choose to Self Mentor, or he could choose to hold on to those hurt feelings. By default, Jesse chose to hold on to those angry and hurt feelings. Almost numb with the pain, he walked to homeroom, feeling like a zombie.
Jesse went from class to class during the day, barely hearing the words that each teacher said. If the teacher said, “Open your book,” he opened his book. However, the words looked all blurry. If the teacher said, “Get out a sheet of paper,” Jesse got out a sheet of paper. However, what he wrote made absolutely no sense. Jesse was simply going through the motions and praying for the day to end.
Now it was seventh period. Jimmy and Jesse were in the same class. Jimmy glanced over at Jesse. Jesse was sitting there very silently, very quietly, very still. Yet it was clear, by looking at his eyes, that something was very wrong. Jimmy thought he knew what it was. Just in case he was mistaken, he decided to risk asking.
Quietly, so the teacher would not hear, Jimmy whispered, “Hey, Jesse. What’s the matter?”
Jesse started as if he had just been woken up. Jesse thought, “I can’t believe Jimmy, the dimwit, dared to ask ME what’s wrong!!! What does he think? He knows exactly what’s wrong!” A burning rage surged through Jesse’s entire body. Looking around to make certain the teacher could not overhear, he let Jimmy have it with his words. He snapped, “Get the beep away from me! You are a beepin’ son of a beep!”
Of course, Jesse did not actually use the word beep. He filled in the blank with words that are definitely not appropriate for school. Afterward, he thought, “Now it is Jimmy’s turn to suffer!”
Jimmy fell backwards in his chair as if he had been hit. He felt totally shocked by the venom in Jesse’s voice. What had he done to deserve such treatment? He thought hard. Then he recalled what had happened with Wade and Jesse that morning.
Jimmy was reeling in shock from the mean revenge-words Jesse had said to him. Jimmy thought defensively, “I mean, I know that I was wrong to let Wade claim that I had said those mean things to Jesse. But also, I can’t believe Jesse would say such mean words to me! I don’t deserve that kind of treatment, do I? Well, …, uh, …., I’m not totally sure.” Jimmy felt guilty and shocked and sad. He wondered, “How did I get myself into such a mess?! If I hadn’t been so desperate for Wade’s approval, this might never have happened in the first place. What a mess!”
Chapter 2: Jesse nurses and nurtures his feelings of hurt and betrayal
Jesse thought about the words and labels Wade had reported that Jimmy had said. Bitterly, Jesse said to himself, “It’s true. I am poor. My mother is on Welfare. We do live in a trailer park. But, my sister is just a sister. She has a boyfriend, but then, so do a lot of girls. I have never even hugged her, much less done anything like Wade said Jimmy was suggesting!” Jesse felt ashamed that people were spreading such horrible things about him. Again he thought, “It’s guys like Wade and Jimmy who make me feel like trash. Some of what he said is true but not all of it.” Unfortunately, those labels had seared deep into Jesse’s heart. It would probably take him years to get those horrible memories out. Or at least, that was what he thought at the time.
Over and over, Jesse replayed that scene in his mind. He had the choice to give himself a pep talk or talk to a guidance counselor. But instead, he nursed his feelings of anger and betrayal. Jesse just couldn’t seem to get those cruel words of Wade’s off his mind. When Wade called Jesse those names, those names, labels, and put-downs had the power to stick like glue to Jesse’s heart. Jesse had the power to NOT let those labels touch him but didn’t find that easy since he didn’t have much self-confidence to begin with. He didn’t feel he could argue back, because some of what Wade said was true.
“After all,” Jesse thought again, “I do live in a trailer park. My Mom is on Welfare. I did get some of my clothes from Good Will, but I’ve never gotten any of my clothes from the Salvation Army. Plus, I’ve never ever gotten my shoes out of the dumpster. And no way is that stuff about my sister true either!” But nevertheless, Jesse felt helpless.
Those feelings of helplessness turned into anger, anger at himself, anger at Wade and Jimmy, and anger at his Mom who didn’t even have a high school education. Wistfully, Jesse thought, “If only my Mom had graduated from high school! Maybe then she would have a decent enough job that we didn’t have to live in such poor conditions.” The more Jesse thought about it, the more like a victim he felt. It made him feel a bit better to put Jimmy down. But that power surge only lasted for about five minutes. Then he was back to feeling terrible.
Chapter 3: Demonstrating the Warrior Spirit: Internal Empowerment Regardless of the External Situation
What does that title mean? In other words, no matter what is happening on the outside, you decide to keep feeling good about yourself on the inside.
In reality, Jesse had a few options that would NOT have gotten him in trouble with the principal. He could have calmly but firmly told both Wade and Jimmy, “Hey, it is NOT okay for you to say that stuff about me and my family. It is NOT okay for you to make any comments about my life. You don’t even know me. Besides, you both live in a trailer park too.”
Another fork-in-the-road option for Jesse would be to simply tell himself again and again, “It’s not true. I’m better than that! I’m just as good as them.”
A third and possibly the best choice would have been to respond with humor. When Wade said all that stuff about him, Jesse could have said in a humorous kind of drawn-out way, “Yeah! What’s it to ya!” If his humorous style and confident facial expressions were convincing enough, Wade and Jimmy might have backed down. Or he could have said, “I hear you, but I don’t agree. I’m a lot better than that.” Or he could have said, “Wade, it sounds like you and Jimmy are having a bad day since you’re putting me down. Has somebody been putting you down too? Is that why you’re trying to put me down? You must be feeling powerless at home or with some of the kids here at our school since you’re trying to make me feel bad. That’s pretty sad that the only way you can feel good is to try to make me feel bad. Well, it didn’t work. But nice try!” Then Jesse could have walked away with his head held high.
Indeed, just because someone puts you down, that does not make their words true. When that happens, you have a fork-in-the-road decision to make. You can choose to feel bad and powerless and buy into that whole victim-victimizer cycle. Or you can choose to be happy by Self Mentoring. To Self Mentor effectively, you need to know in your heart that you are better than that. You are just as good as anyone. That’s true of Jesse. That’s true of Jimmy. That’s even true of Wade. And it is especially true of you.
Return to Self-Mentoring Lesson Plan– Jesse needs to learn to set firm boundaries