I'm trying to decide what to do (if anything) about an episode that occurred in my DS's (he is 9) gym class yesterday. He got in trouble because he was walking around swinging a piece of gym equipment around (light and plastic) and accidentally hit another kid in the hand. Kid was totally fine, and DS apologized, but when the gym teacher addressed the issue, DS started slapping himself in the face. He does this when he feels really stupid, and I really hate it. It doesn't happen often anymore though, so I was a little surprised that he did this.
DS told me that the teacher told him that what he was doing was "ridiculous" and "stupid". I made sure to clarify that the teacher called the action stupid, not DS.
So, DS ended up being written up and has to sit out at the next gym class.
DH and I agree that the teacher shouldn't have used the word "stupid", but DH is perfectly fine with letting it go. I'm having a harder time being ok with this, but I also don't want to make a huge deal about it. If I do decide to address it, does anyone have any suggestions on how to politely ask the gym teacher to drop the word "stupid" from his vocabulary when addressing his students?
I can see why you are unhappy with his phrasing, but if DS isn't upset by it, then I wouldn't bring it up. If it becomes a habit and DS starts telling you that the gym teacher actually calls him (or other students) stupid, I do think it you can mention it to the gym teacher. However, for a one-off, I vote for chalking it up to stress.
The thing is, when dealing with behavior that is inappropriate, it's very difficult to address it without using a word that could be hurtful, even if you specifically address the behavior or the choice. For sensitive kids, the negative descriptors will stand out rather than the message (don't do whatever action prompted this).
"That was a bad decision."
"You are behaving immaturely."
"Don't like the garbage can, it's gross."
"It is unacceptable to come in to class ten minutes late."
They'll hear bad, immature, gross, and unacceptable.
If something like this happens again, then I think you should focus on the solution rather than the problem. You and the gym teacher presumably have a common goal: you want DS to behave well in class and to handle the stress of making a mistake without smacking himself. If you notice DS hitting himself more, other teachers bring it up, or he does it again in gym class, then shoot the teacher an email. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Start by summarizing the action that prompted you contacting him, then explain what caused it, then offer a solution that works for you. For instance:
I've noticed that DS has been hitting himself at home lately. I know he's done it in your class before as well. It's his way of dealing with frustration with himself when he makes a mistake. We're working on it at home, so please do let me know if he starts doing it in class again. I know it must be frustrating/stressful to see that happen in class and I imagine it must be disruptive. We find that it's helpful to remind him that everyone makes mistakes/he's already being punished by us and doesn't need to punish himself/ignore it unless it goes on for more than a few seconds/gently tell him to stop/whatever does work. Maybe the same technique will work for you.