Something interesting happens this morning. Our club has an event on Saturday, so the kids have been coming to school early to prepare. She is not being so harsh with them now—I think she is less distressed because our relationship is on more solid footing again. But every once in a while, she really criticizes a kid relentlessly, and she frequently also attacks the worth of the whole child when she does this. They are “useless,” when they don’t do what she wants them to do. She also tells them not to have certain feelings, “You’re nervous. Don’t be nervous.” (As though instructing someone to not have a feeling ever works.)

What is happening for me as I watch this is I am seeing the distress of the child as she does this. I see them becoming more anxious, less able to perform, and also less hopeful about the whole endeavor. Sometimes they seem absolutely on the verge of tears. One boy did cry last night.

I have two thoughts about this. One is that she cannot do that dance. She cannot see how to attune to them and work with their emotions to motivate them to do what she wants. A certain degree of negative feedback helps a child improve. They see their shortcomings and want to correct them, but when it is relentless, when it seems hopeless and when it is the whole child who seems to be the problem, then they don’t want to. And she can’t see that. She can’t see that it’s not working for her and it’s not working for the child.

My other thought is that it is happening because the child is unable to be attuned to her, so she feels angry. The child can’t perform the way she wants and she reacts to the attunement failure by punishing the child. Not by helping the child to meet her expectations better, but through verbal abuse. In the end, she does get what she wants, because I am there, and to some extent I step in and shift the pattern of relating so that there is not a total break in the attunement.

That is the pattern that upsets me so much in what she does, it’s that attack on the whole child that serves to create a rupture in the relationship and is counter productive. She is also fighting with what is called the “wet sweeper” here, or maybe he’s the dry sweeper. I can’t remember. Anyway, he does odd jobs, including the preparation of tea. She needs him quite desperately. We all do. He has the keys to everything. She hurt his feelings a few weeks back and now he doesn’t want to do anything for her. He’s a very sensitive man and his response is passive aggressive. Well, she needed the key to our multipurpose hall this morning and he ignored her for quite a long time evidently, pretending not to hear the call. She was complaining to me about him and calling him useless also. Well, it’s her own fault. You don’t fight with the man who makes tea and has the key to everything.

I don’t think she listened to me at all, but I told her several times she needs to make up with him. She has damaged her relationship and she is in a position of dependency. She needs to make nice or she will face frustration the rest of the year.

It’s kind of the same pattern, this tendency to respond to ruptures in relationship by punishing the other person, which ultimately makes things worse.

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