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Knowing who the adult is
makes everyone's job easier.

Who Is the Adult?

448 words


Even a child can tell the difference
by Dianne Roth


There are a few of my words still floating around my old school. They call them “Dianne-isms”.

One of them sounds like this: “There are two kinds of people in this school, adults and children. Which are you?”

I do not use this very often. Mostly I say it when there is blatant and frequent disregard for adult authority in my classroom or in the school. I do not use it in public so the child does not feel like he/she has to make the choice in front of peers. It is enough that the rest of the class will notice the change. And leaving them wondering is an excellent strategy.

Once, on the first day of school, a little fellow announced to me, “You can’t tell me what to do!” My eyebrows went up. He crossed his arms to emphasize his intentions. I pointed at him and began laughing out loud. I laughed all the way across the room, looking back at him with glee.

He was certainly thrown off his message with me, but that did not stop him from facing down other staff and students around the building. After numerous complaints, it was time for a show-down.

I told him to see me at recess.

After all the children were gone, I stood in front of him and said, kindly, “There are two kinds of people here: adults and children. Which are you?”

He made fists, crossed his arms, raised his shoulders, and jutted out his chin.

I walked away, telling him that I would be back when he was ready to talk. A few minutes later, I came back. “So, which are you?”

We do not give up our arsenals easily. We are sure those weapons keep us safe.

The third time I came back he was ready. He dropped his arms, his hands relaxed, his shoulders slumped, and finally, his chin fell to his chest. With a big breath, he admitted, “I’m a kid”.

“I know,” I said with enthusiasm, “and being a kid is a great thing!” I told him that my job as the adult was to tell him what to do and his job as the child was to do what he was told. He nodded his head. I gave him a quick hug and sent him out to recess.
Was he perfectly behaved? No, but child behaviors are far easier to manage than child-trying-to-be-the-adult behaviors.

Here is the secret: It only works if adults know they are the adults. A true adult does not use aggression, humiliation, or harsh punishment to prove adulthood.

Beware, even a child can tell the difference.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on September 16, 2013