My downfall was quick and merciless. One February day, my parents went to the school for what I thought was a routine parent conference. When they came home, they sat me down and my stepfather said, “Listen very closely, because I am only going to say this one time. If between now and the end of the school year a teacher reprimands you for any reason, even a wrong reason, you will repeat the seventh grade.” I remember his words precisely because they changed my life. Then, without further comment, they stood up and walked away.
The next day, I became a boy in a bubble. I sat at my desk, eyes facing either straight ahead at the teacher or straight down at whatever work I was doing. When I raised my hand, it was to answer a question, not crack a joke. When a teacher called on me, I responded like the good brainiac-nerd I had again become. During lunch, several guys approached me and asked what the problem was, so I told them about the previous night’s “conversation” with my parents. They thought that was hilarious; and so, for the rest of the year, they tried their best to get me in trouble. It was only by divine intervention, I’m sure, that I was promoted to the eighth grade.
I remembered this event when some parents recently told me their son had become the class clown. I listened to their description and disagreed. The clown is silly, immature and has very few friends. Their son was a troublemaker, for sure, but he is genuinely funny and has a good number of friends. That describes the class comedian. Both the clown and the comedian are disruptive, but the one needs tough love, while the other just needs tough. Trust me. I have personal experience in this matter.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.