Inaction is Safer Than Wrong Action


Last night our school held its annual Fall Festival, and several middle school students volunteered as helpers.  One of their jobs was to keep the candy prizes stocked from the stash in the storage room.  An adult helper was amused at how the students would hold their empty buckets over the large candy-filled bin and state, “I need more candy.”  “They didn’t see the pile of candy right in front of them!” he exclaimed.

They saw it, all right.  But they are still on the threshold between the worlds of children and adults, and in a child’s world, you can get yelled at for taking the initiative.

In class last week, Abi asked for my closet key so she could securely store her phone.  As she returned the key, I noticed the closet door was standing wide open.  “Abi,” I said, “your phone isn’t very safe if the door isn’t closed.”  “I know,” she said, “but that’s how I found it.”

Middle schoolers appear to have no common sense because what passes as “common sense” to adults is actually wisdom that comes from experience.   For most middle schoolers, it’s safer not to do anything and take the consequences.

A 7th grader was sent to my room by his teacher early in the day.   As my students rose to their feet to pledge to the flag, the 7th grader started to stand up, hesitated, and sat back down.  He was torn between standing – and risking the 8th graders telling him to sit because he’s not part of our class – or sitting and appearing disrespectful. He chose the latter.

Instead of yelling at middle schoolers when they choose not to do something, parents should first ask why, and then use it as a teachable moment.  Abi now knows that security is the best choice, and the 7th grader knows that standing is always respectful.

As far as the candy goes, it doesn’t matter.  It’s long gone!