Heallen leaned forward, concerned. “So, what are these ‘I’ statements? What do you use them for?”
Her elder child, Katy inhaled, obviously preparing herself for a speech. “Well, you know how ferals like Daniel like to hurt me and Mark?” She barely waited for her mother’s nod. “Now, instead of me telling the teacher that Daniel hurt me, I’m supposed to say to the teacher, ‘I feel hurt by what Daniel did to me.’ Then Daniel is supposed to feel sorry for what he did, and apologise.”
She raised her eyebrows as if asking a question. When Heallen didn’t immediately respond, Katy rolled her eyes upward. “Mum, what do you think? Would it work? Will Daniel really be sorry?”
She glanced at her younger sibling, sitting in typical silence at the far end of the dining table. Silent communication seemed to flow between them.
Katy turned back to her mother. “Do you think Daniel will stop hurting us?”
Such a big question.
Heallen reached an arm out to each of her children, motioning for them to come closer. They moved to snuggle in to her. She rested her chin on Mark’s soft hair.
“I don’t know. That’s up to Daniel, and Daniel only.”
She shifted so she could eyeball them, her hold on them tightening for a moment. “I’m more interested in how these ‘I’ statements make you two feel.”
Both kids stepped back from their mother, Mark mumbling in response. Katy looked her mother in the eye. “It makes me feel horrible! Like, now I have to cut my heart open every time he hurts me because the teacher says I have to. He’s now allowed to upsize his bullying! He’s laughing at me and Mark. Shiz, Mum, all I really want is a genuine apology.”
Heallen reached for both her children again, and hugged them tight, ignoring her daughter’s cursing.
She silently agreed with Katy. She had opened up several times over the years to tell her husband how His words and actions hurt her, and He’d become angry and defensive, insisting she constantly hurt and tortured Him instead, not the other way around. She always ended those conversations feeling drained, despairing and worthless. No, using an ‘I’ statement did not, and would not, work with Him.
‘I’ statements only worked for people who already cared and could empathise. For those who couldn’t, the technique merely became another weapon in their bullying and abuse arsenal.
“Katy, and Mark,” she held each of their gazes in turn, “No matter what happens at school, or anywhere, your first priority is to look after yourselves. Okay?”
She waited for their nods.
“That means, if you feel unsafe with this new approach, then don’t do it. Tell the teacher instead that you don’t feel comfortable doing this, and so you’re not. Use your ‘I’ statement with her, not with the bully. Okay?”
Katy and Mark nodded again.
“Did you want me to speak to your teachers about this?”
Both kids shook their heads. “Let us try your idea first, please.” Mark’s voice was quiet yet determined.
Heallen hugged her precious children tighter. This was a proud mama moment.
I recorded a video on this topic. You can watch it here.