Leave it to Beaver

We have a Roku box and Netflix is one of the choices to stream entertainment through our Roku to our TV. At under the cost of a movie ticket, the Neflix is the best bargain I’ve had in a long time.  We generally have over 150 movie and TV shows stacked up on our list of favorites. We watch something every night.

When I really want to veg, I’ll wind down with an old comedy series like Frasier or Dick Van Dyke. Recently I’ve been watching Leave it to Beaver. Leave it to Beaver

Back in the day when this show aired for the first time, nothing seemed unusual about how people dressed and behaved. Now the show seems quaint at best and misguided by today’s standards.  Mother always has on a skirt and heels, often wears pearls, and her hair is perfect. She is oddly naïve for raising two boys who are in second and eighth grade. For instance, she noticed that her pancake makeup was missing and things were moved on her dressing table. She had no idea who could have done this. She never goes into the boy’s bathroom to discover that they have animals in the tub. Both parents don’t have a clue about missing food or booze.

Anyway, one early episode had Beaver with a black eye given to him by a girl. When this was eventually discovered (it took awhile for Father to ask him what was going on), Beaver said “a kid” socked him.  Today a parent would be up at school in an instant, defending Beaver for being “a perfect kid” and threatening to sue the teacher, the school, and the bully who did the punching.

But Beaver’s dad, Ward Cleaver, decided the very first thing to do was to teach Beaver to “fight the aggressors.” He took Beaver out to the garage and had him practice his jabs.

I can’t remember a time in my recent years of teaching where kids were taught to fight. I certainly don’t think they are taught that this is the first line of defense. We are so polite about these conflicts now. We teach kids to go to an adult when a bully assaults them. We teach them to use words and not fists.  We teach them conflict management or peer mediation. 

The contrast in how we raise our kids and what we feel is acceptable today feels like opposite of  what kids were taught in the 50s and 60s. It was a jolt to see such an obvious change.  Have kids really learned to use their words to resolve conflicts? Has all this training helped? Are kids better able to cope today? Are there fewer bullies? What happens when kids do “take it to the street?”

My gut tells me that we can lead those colts to water but they have to drink for awhile before anything changes. Maturation has to happen. Pre frontal lobes must grow. There has to be some painful cause and effect stuff to take place before any of this carefully crafted teaching soaks in. 

In the meantime, giving kids the verbal tools and the practice to recognize what is going on is helpful. Kids may mock the language like “target,” “ally,” or “victim” but they are using the words and they understand we all know that is going on.  No more sweeping it under the rug. No more “boys will be boys.” No more “Punch the kid. An eye for an eye” (although I’ve been told by a current teacher that mothers tell kids to “hit back if you’ve been hit.”)

In the workplace, when these kids are old enough to have jobs, they will recognize the office bully and also the people who are potential allies. All of them will be empowered to be better employees and employers, husbands, fathers, pastors, teachers, congress people, and citizens.

By the way, Beaver, showing more wisdom than his father, settled his dilemma in the best way.  He went to the little girl’s house and asked her to play with him.  Smart kid. Maybe he’s in the State Department today.