Wednesday, November 11, 2015

When It Comes to Campus Cry-Bullies, Just Say No

You want to know one of my guilty pleasures? British nanny shows. When I have time on my hands and am fantastically bored, I'll often pull up YouTube and start searching for Supernanny clips. There's nothing like watching Jo Frost lay down the law when you're in the mood for some idle entertainment.

Now here's the thing about Frost: Ordinarily, she is incredibly warm and approachable; indeed, in many cases, she ends up counseling overly anxious parents to loosen the hell up and have some fun with their children every once in a while. When a young charge starts misbehaving, however, she flips a different switch. At that moment, she stops tolerating "nonsense," "whinging," and "fapping around" -- and the kids learn to self-regulate. Imagine that.

As you may have guessed, I've been watching the recent disorders at Mizzou and Yale with horrified fascination -- and I can't help but think that what we really need is for a college administrator somewhere to take a page from Frost's book.  The kids are throwing tantrums? Time for the Supernanny approach.

First of all, begin by being open and compassionate. Let these activists know that, should they have a grievance, they will be given a forum to peacefully express their views. At the same time, however, announce at the outset that certain rules will be absolutely nonnegotiable and that behavior that tramples on the civil rights of other members of the student body, the faculty, or the public will not be tolerated. In particular, make it clear that physical aggression of any kind will result in suspension or outright expulsion. Spitting on opponents? Pushing and threatening them? Nope. Frost would give a kid an instant time out for that sort of foolishness -- and so should you.

Secondly, if a dispute escalates, recognize emotional manipulation and don't give in. When a child is disciplined and he starts crying for his mommy, Frost ignores the tears. She knows she's being taken for a ride -- that the kid is trying to weaponize her empathy. Similarly, if campus activists claim that they can't eat, sleep, study, or otherwise function because of the supposedly "oppressive" environment of your school, the best response is to hold firm and refer them to your mental health department for counseling.

Third, if an activist starts screaming and swearing at you, check out of the conversation. Say, "I'm sorry, but I can't understand you when you talk to me like that. Come back when you've calmed down and can speak rationally." Then walk away. Don't give that kind of disrespect an audience. Frost never does; for her, "backchat" warrants consequences, not indulgences.

Of course, if a college administrator actually took this advice to heart, I'd be sorely tempted to check the temperature in Hell. But hey -- a girl can dream.

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