The children's school practices "positive discipline." That means that the children who misbehave are given a reflection to write about their poor choices. The form will come home with a statement of behavior at the top, something like, "Took another child's food, chewed it, and put it back on the other child's tray." The reflection which the child must fill out consists of questions, something like, "What happened, who was involved, what did you do, what will you do differently?"
Rocky, who is not a yakker, has filling these forms down to an art form. Part of it is because he has had a tremendous amount of practice, I'm sure. If I don't interfere, the form will go back with these answers, "Ate Nick's food. Nick and me. Ate his food. Don't do it again."
There are two problems with this system. First, the faculty or staff person is supposed to discuss the issue and answers with the child. Notice the "supposed to"--that is because the form somehow vanishes between our kitchen and the school. This may be for the best, as discussing the issue with Rocky can be frustrating--as I can attest. Kind of like pounding myself between the eyes with a tack hammer--the only good that comes of it is that it feels better when I finally stop.
Take the example of Nick and his food. When I asked Rocky the particulars of this situation, he said, "Nick said I could." Then we have the old, old discussion of "If Nick said you could jump off the roof, would you do it?"
Rocky always looks amazed at what is the apparent lack of sense in this question. He replies, "No, because that would be stupid."
Okay...but are you supposed to eat another child's food? No. And what is with the putting the food back on his tray. "Well, those were the beans I didn't chew. I didn't like them."
Apparently, Nick didn't either.
The second issue we have with this type of situation specific discipline is that Rocky doesn't generalize the situation. To him, "Not do it again" means to not eat Nick's food again. This leaves us with plenty of wiggle room, as no mention is made of Dakota's chips or Israel's applesauce or Emma's crackers, or any edibles held by any of the 180 or so upper elementary kids in that lunchroom. Nor is there mention of doing other activities with people's food, such as using Jell-o blocks to construct cities with corn decorations or squeezing juice boxes to shoot fruit punch toward the girls' table. I have to make Rocky add caveats such as "I will not touch anyone else's food." Of course, Rocky will then come home with another reflection and tell me, "Nick's apple rolled away from him today, and I had to sit at the girls' table because I wouldn't pick it up for him, but you said to not touch anyone else's food. Ever."
Pass the tack hammer, please.