Often when I’m presenting a program proposal or workshop outline to an institution or interested group, I’m questioned as to some of the extreme situations I’ve found myself in throughout my career…the war stories.
My work with the greater come-unity has spanned from working with pre-k to the Elder population so, it’s often a very difficult question to answer but, when asked recently I was reminded of an experience I had with a young man some years ago that proved to be quite memorable.
I was, at the time, serving as a coordinator of an after-school program in Newark, NJ.
There was a young man there who was dealing with some heavy emotional issues and was thoroughly medicated and easily excited. To protect his identity we’ll call him “Malik”.
He developed a habit of hitting all of my employees. Now, this young man was only 7 years of age……but, a SOLID 7. The child was well fed and had some grown-man power behind his punch!
He bruised one employee’s back, tried to stab another in the eye with a pair of scissors, and kicked another in her shin.
Soon my turn came….
I warned his mother about what would happen if his child attacked me and after a period of misunderstandings and miscommunications she fully understood my perspective and left the emotional/social development of her child up to me as she felt the therapy sessions, and medication had little effect.
I get the call that Malik is “flipping out” and he’s in my office and unable to be brought “back down” by staff.
So, I jog down to my office and just as Malik decides that he’s going to trash my workspace. Malik swipes all the papers off my desk, tries to throw my printer to the ground, and starts kicking at the shelves.
I move over to him and grab him by his shoulders. He screams at me and calls me an “Idiot”.
I then swiftly turn him around and sit down in my chair. I wrap my legs around his and my arms around his in a reverse bear hug. I tell him no matter what he says I’m not going to leave him. I let him know that he’s not an “idiot”. He then yells saying I was “pathetic”. I tell him he’s not pathetic and he’s no idiot. I say, “Malik you’re a genius”. Meanwhile, he’s trying to headbutt me with the back of his head. He calls me a “stupid African man”. I told him it doesn’t matter what people say about me; because “I’m a genius too”.
At this point, other children in the program can hear all of the ruckuses and they begin to converge on my office (Malik’s tantrums were always a crowd drawer). I then pick Malik up and carry him downstairs to the cafeteria of the school, away from his captive audience. He’s still yelling insults, at this point. So, I say, “Malik, we need to get this out….let’s run”. So, I take him by his hand and proceed to run laps around the cafeteria while screaming at the top of my lungs…”AHHHHHHH!!!!”. He starts doing the same…”ahhhhhhh!!”. After about 5 laps his feet begin to drag and his yelling begins to decrease in volume. Soon I’m dragging him. I turn to him and ask if he would like to stop and he says “YES!!!!”. We stop and I pick him up in my arms again and he wraps his arms around my neck and cries.
I told him he’s loved and he’s a wonderful child and deserves respect. He cries harder.
We finally make our way back upstairs. I commissioned him to go clean my office up while I conference with his arriving Mother. I share with her everything that happened. When I told her about the insults; she shares with me that he must have heard those phrases on TV……(yeah OK lady).
After that Malik would come to me whenever he felt a tantrum coming on and we’d either go jog or we’d just talk. He was a beautiful young man but, never had an opportunity to learn any productive tools to fend off the negativity he was surrounded by.
When I left the program his mother asked if I could take him for the weekends and basically be a “weekend father”. My schedule couldn’t accommodate it but, I told her at anytime he needed some support that she was welcome to come by my home with him and we could continue his sessions.
Never heard from her……
When I had him for the short period of time he was able to quit his medication and reduced his therapy sessions from 5 days a week to one.
I later heard that after my departure his issues re-surfaced and was assigned a personal therapist that would stay with him throughout the school day.
Parents: Be mindful of how you talk to/at your children. They are your Ancestors. They deserve respect along with discipline and love to provide the needed balance.
This one goes out to my little man Malik! Hold you head little soldier. It gets better…..AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!