Dear Amy: A relative of mine keeps calling my son and her son (both adolescents) "Stupid 1 and Stupid 2" for their antics together. She even introduces them this way.
She gets angry when I correct her by saying, "No, we are re-branding them now as Smart 1 and Smart 2." She and her family also use the words "retard" and "retarded" in making fun of one another.
How to handle without hurting her feelings?
— Sleepless and sad
Dear Sleepless: Don't worry about your relative's feelings. She doesn't sound like the most sensitive person on the planet. You should say, "You know, I really don't like this whole 'Stupid' thing, and calling any person 'retarded' is just wrong."
Mainly, your efforts should be directed toward your son. You can use this as an opportunity to talk to him about this sort of pejorative language.
Ask your son, "How do you feel when she calls you this?" Does your son think it's funny? If he doesn't, invite him to say so.
The word "retard" is a modern-day slur. You should tell your son that it is offensive and unacceptable.
Dear Amy: I am an assistant teacher in a preschool.
We recently celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week.
The children and their parents showered us with gifts.
I took care to accurately catalog the gifts and givers all week, but my lead teacher and the other assistant in the classroom did not.
I spent last weekend handwriting notes to each child thanking them.
When I brought the notes to school, the other teachers were upset that I took the time to do this. They wanted me to rewrite the notes in a generic form, from all of us, to each kid and parent. I told them no.
I believe that a child and parent deserve a special, personalized thank-you. What do you think?
— Feeling appreciated
Dear Feeling: One of the most important jobs preschool teachers have is to model pro-social behavior to their students. You know you were right to model an attitude of gratitude to your young pupils. Children are so thrilled to give — and to be recognized and thanked — that it is somewhat amazing how often these early affirmative feelings descend into the grouchy and entitled behavior exhibited later in life. The only thing that went badly here is that you "schooled" your co-teachers in how a good teacher should behave, and they have reacted poorly.
I hope you become "lead teacher" very soon.