Mommy I'm Not a Rat

'Brown Rat - Rattus norvegicus 1a' photo (c) 2011, Sarah - license:

We are not the kind of parents who wait until report card time to talk with teachers.  We are highly involved because we place great value in education.  Every night, Destruction and Mayhem have to read something. At this point I don’t really care what they are reading, just that they are reading.  Working with Mayhem, I have noticed that he is struggling and so I contacted his teacher to find out where he stood in comparison to other children and what I could do to help him along.  I cannot always go to the school because of my disability, but I can always pick up the phone and call.

In our discussion last night, it was affirmed that my assessment of his reading skills was indeed correct, and so we are going to double our efforts. I did however get some information that I was not expecting. Madame L. told me that Mayhem has one other problem.  Apparently my boy who is never shy about handling his business, refuses to talk to the teacher about any problems he has with other students.  He is very vocal and has no problem saying stop, or I don’t like that, but will not take it a step further to tell.  When she asked him about it, he said quite simply, “I’m not a rat,” and as far as he was concerned, that was the end of the conversation.

When I asked him about this issue later in the day, I got pretty much the same response.  I love that he is independent enough to feel that he can handle whatever comes his way, but I also worry about the idea that he does not feel that he can depend on others.  Telling when someone is not respecting your boundaries is not being a rat.  To be clear, he is not being bullied and there isn’t a specific problem with any child in particular.

There are two ways to look at this situation.  When he is older, there will not be a teacher to tell about someone who is bothering him.  He will have to negotiate whatever situation that occurs on his own.  Learning how to do this at an early age is not a bad thing.  The other side of the equation that we absolutely must consider, is that he may be afraid to tell.  If he is not conversing because he scared then there is a problem.

We have gone through the whole routine of good touch/bad touch with him.  We have already had an incident in which a child exposed himself to Mayhem and he immediately told Destruction, and so I am certain that he will tell someone if he thinks that something is wrong, but if he associates telling with a bad activity, there is no way to be certain what is causing his action.

I think that loyalty and trust are things that are earned and should not automatically be given.  We have gone to great lengths to make it clear that part of our family values involve taking care of each other.  Our boys have an extremely close relationship and can be seen cuddling on a pretty much daily basis.  If one of them is grounded then they are both grounded because they support each other.  I am sure to Mayhem this seems like the natural course of events because we encourage this kind of behaviour and I worry that he is not making a distinction between the kind of trust and love he can share with his brother and other people. 

Perhaps because I am a mother, and Mayhem is my baby, I am over thinking this, and so that is why I am writing this post.  Would you be concerned with a child expressing the idea that telling is ratting and how would you handle this? How have you encouraged children to speak out and what was successful for you?  What societal pressures do you believe create a situation in which telling an adult
can potentially be seen as ratting on your friends?

To be clear, this question is open to all and please know that I welcome the input of non-parents.  I am not one who believes that one has to be a parent to give advice or comment on parenting issues because we all have a role to play and a social obligation when it comes to the welfare of children.

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