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Double Vision Greed

For the past few years I’ve worked at an after-school program for elementary-school-aged kids. For the most part, the kids are very sweet and well-behaved but of course there are always a few exceptions! Luckily, we have a decent system for keeping the kids under control, but nevertheless there are still some issues that need to be worked out. One activity that we haven’t yet found a perfect system for is snack time. Snack time usually consists of two to four counselors handing out food from behind a table while the kids wait in line (usually with a few more counselors for “crowd control”). We take care to make sure every kid gets the same amount of food, and we don’t hand out seconds until everyone has been served “firsts”.

If you’ve ever been in charge of a group of children you know that they’re usually much harder to control when they’re hungry, so the last few minutes before snack are often the toughest of the day! Every day we always end up with at least a few kids trying to cut in line, saying they haven’t been served yet when they have, demanding seconds before everyone has been served, etc. As a result, we try to remember which kids have already been served so we know when someone isn’t telling the truth. (Of course there are so many kids that we can’t always keep track, but like I said it’s not a perfect system!) Once a kid gets called out for lying they usually back down pretty easily.

One day last summer I was working the snack table. During the summers we open in the morning instead of after school, so I was already tired from the extra hours and my patience was running a bit thin to begin with. We also get different kids from week to week during our summer program (many of whom do not come to our after-school center during the year) and my shift had started after we’d done the “getting to know you” games, so I was struggling a bit to learn everyone’s name. I served most of the kids without incident until I got to a kid named “Mikey”. Though it was only Mikey’s first day at the program, I suspected he was a troublemaker because I’d had to discipline him that morning for taking a toy from another child. Sure enough, he told me he hadn’t been served snack when I was certain he had. Like I usually do in this situation, I said, “Nice try, but I remember giving you snack just a few minutes ago! Go sit down and you can have seconds once everyone’s been served.” But he kept protesting, saying, “No, I haven’t gotten any yet! I’ve been in line this whole time!” We went back and forth like that for a little while. I was getting pretty annoyed—hadn’t this kid’s parents taught him any manners? Not only was he lying in order to get his way, he was also holding up the line. Finally, I said to him, “You have two options: you may go sit at the table with the other kids and wait for seconds, or you may stand here and argue with me and not get any seconds at all. Your choice.” He still kept trying to argue with me, and by now was in the early stages of a full-on tantrum. I couldn’t believe it…how could this kid be so greedy? Even for an eight-year-old this seemed like a pretty minor thing to throw a fit (not to mention lie) about.

Just then, I noticed one of my fellow counselors trying to get my attention. I sort of brushed her off. Finally, she came up to me and whispered, “Mikey hasn’t gotten snack yet. You gave snack to his twin brother earlier.” Needless to say, I apologized to Mikey, gave him an extra-large serving, and made sure to remember what color shirt he and his twin were each wearing so I could tell them apart in the future. To make matters worse, it turned out that we had TWO sets of identical twins that week, and I made the same mistake at afternoon snack later that day. 0325-14


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  • Elizabeth March 26, 2014, 8:58 am

    That was an honest mistake, and handled well with apology and a favor of an extra helping.

    Waiting in line is a key skill taugh to children younger than 8. It sounds like this group isn’t very good at standing in line if there is this much confusion over who has and hasn’t been served. Why not ask everyone to get in a single line and a ‘crowd control’ person then gets in line at the very end. This disallows some from re-joining the line before everyone is served.

  • Ripple March 26, 2014, 9:02 am

    I’m surprised “Mikey” didn’t say “No, that was my brother Tommy”. By eight, he would surely be used to people getting them mixed up.

    Suggestion for telling which kids have had “firsts”. Just before snack time, each child gets a poker chip (or some other cheap reusable item not easily destroyed or used to hurt someone). They have to turn this in to get firsts. If they don’t have a chip, then you can pretty well assume they have already had firsts and have to wait for seconds.

    • just4kicks March 26, 2014, 9:57 am

      Pretty much word for word what I was going to say. If he is an identical twin, he must get that all the time. Eight is old enough to realize she must have served his brother.

      • Cat Caillte April 5, 2014, 8:57 pm

        Well there is one problem there….when an identical twin in a situation like that says to the adult “No, you gave a snack to my twin brother Tommy.” The adult usually scoffs and tells them off for lying. Twins know pretty quick that the only way to “prove” this is to actually pull their twin over and show the adult and well sometimes 8 year old brothers can be jerks.

    • The Elf March 26, 2014, 10:06 am

      Good idea, except for the inevitable kid who will take someone else’s poker chip. But as long as the counselors are watching out for it……

      I think OP handled this with as much grace as possible under the circumstances. I especially liked how she apologized to the kid. That sends an important message too.

    • Page March 26, 2014, 11:02 am

      I was going to suggest stamping the kids’ hands after they are served. Anyone who has a stamp has already had firsts.

      • Phitius March 26, 2014, 1:37 pm

        This was my thought. No chance someone losing or having their chip / ticket stolen, yet still allows for easy tracking.

    • Adam March 26, 2014, 2:01 pm

      Except if a kid told you, “it wasn’t me, it was my twin brother” without seeing the two together and without any proof, you’re more likely to think they were lying.

  • Barbarian March 26, 2014, 9:34 am

    Op handled this situation flawlessly given all the distracting elements in an environment with multiple kids.

  • just4kicks March 26, 2014, 10:07 am

    Along those lines, my two middle schoolers have standardized testing this week which affords them extra play time and a different lunch schedule. The lunch ladies do not permit anyone to go to “the snack line” until they have eaten deemed an acceptable portion of their main meal. Yesterday, my daughter was the last in line coming into lunch from the playground. She and a few others were in the lunch line when the ladies closed the doors to the kitchen and said “lunch is over!” My daughter and about five others got no lunch! They were told by the very same ladies (I asked if they had different helpers this week) who police who has eaten enough and now may go purchase a snack if they want. One of the girls said “we haven’t had lunch yet, Miss!” They were told “oh just go get a snack!” Ummm, huh?!? Luckily, the snack area has cereal, yogurt and string cheese among cookies and such. Now, my kid certainly won’t starve missing a meal or eating cereal for lunch, but I was perturbed that the same helpers who won’t let the kids go get cookies until they “eat a few bites” on any other day, wouldn’t go in the kitchen and let the workers know a few kids didn’t get a meal.

    • Huh March 26, 2014, 11:25 am

      Back when my kids still went to their local public school, this happened to them too. One had the latest lunch period of the day, and the cafeteria ran out before serving half the line! They ended up getting served peanut butter and jelly, which costs a lot less to make than what I had to pay everyday for their lunch. Needless to say, I started telling them to forget about “hot” lunch and I’d send something for them instead.

    • lakey March 26, 2014, 1:14 pm

      This is not acceptable, just4kicks. I’d bring it up to the principal. I’ve never heard of school lunch employees closing the kitchen when there were still kids in line waiting for their lunches. It doesn’t matter what time it is, sometimes things come up where they end up getting to the lunchroom late. That usually isn’t the kids’ fault.

      • Calli Arcale March 31, 2014, 3:11 pm

        And if the principal doesn’t sort it out, go on up to the school board. That’s outrageous.

    • emt March 26, 2014, 3:25 pm

      That certainly warrented a call to the principal or higher. Sure your daughter was fine, but even with the snacks availible, what if this happens to a child who doesn’t get regular meals or for whom this is the only hot meal.

      • just4kicks March 26, 2014, 8:31 pm

        Thank you to all three of you for your comments:
        –according to my son, who is two grades above my daughter, said that happens alot
        –I did leave a message with the principal complaining they surely could have given the five students at least a sandwich if the hot lunch ran out
        –and yes, I certainly hope none of the kids who went without, lunch wasn’t their only meal of the day, as you have to have an account or cash to buy any of the snack offerings. If they do get a subsidised (sp?) lunch, they would probably not have had any money to purchase a snack.

  • Cat March 26, 2014, 10:08 am

    I would invest in a cute hand stamp and stamp the kids who get a snack on the hand. Make sure it can be washed off when they wash their hands after the snack.
    I would also consider moving snack time up a bit so that they are not so hungry, and therefore rowdy, before it is time to eat.

  • Lisa March 26, 2014, 10:17 am

    Agree with Ripple, find a better method for handing out snacks. That poor little boy; I know at that age I wouldn’t have had the backbone to stand up for myself. Yes, a good lesson for you, but not necessarily for the child.

    • just4kicks March 26, 2014, 11:09 am

      My daughter is ten, and the one who didn’t get lunch in my prior post. You are absolutely correct that some kids are too shy. I asked my girl why she didn’t tell someone she didn’t get lunch and got an embarrassed shoulder shrug and an “I dunno….”

      • La March 26, 2014, 8:10 pm

        By that age I’d learnt that teachers don’t listen when you stand up for yourself and you just get into more trouble.

    • theOP March 26, 2014, 11:53 pm

      Agreed, but at the same time, it’s hard to give kids the benefit of the doubt in these situations. Pretty much every other time I’ve had to deal with a situation like this it turned out the kid had, in fact, been lying. I was pretty certain he’d already been served (I had, after all, served another kid who literally looked exactly like him), so I had reason to believe he’d already gotten his snack. If we backed down immediately every time a kid insisted they hadn’t been served, we’d end up with a lot of kids getting away with lying and lot of kids who didn’t do anything wrong having to suffer for it.

  • Gamer Girl March 26, 2014, 10:37 am

    When I went to a day camp one summer, eons ago, they had a pretty easy way of telling who had gotten lunch/snack. When we got our food, they gave us a stamp on the back of our hands. Usually nothing more then a star or a smiley face. Just a simple stamp. It was also a fairly dark ink, so washing it off right away wasn’t very easy, and the stamp changed each day.
    I remember it worked really well, and by the second week there weren’t as many kids trying to get seconds before everyone else had gotten their food.

  • Susan March 26, 2014, 10:52 am

    I have 14-year-old identical twin girls. They played basketball and a couple of times, one girl wouldn’t be played because the other one got put into the game twice. 😀 It happens! I’ve even done it myself.

  • Ruby March 26, 2014, 11:05 am

    Is there any way you adults can set the snack up at a table, with assigned seats? Once the food is in place (coffee filters are great containers), allow the kids to sit and eat. When they are finished, they must raise their hands for seconds, which will be brought to them.

    Move that snack time up. They seem to be really hungry.

    • theOP March 27, 2014, 12:01 am

      That’s not a bad idea but I’m not sure if it would work for this purpose. We’re a relatively small program that’s limited on staff members, so we can only have three to four counselors on “snack duty” at a time–the rest look after the kids. Having seconds brought directly to the table without the kids getting impatient would probably require at least a few more staff members, which we don’t have.

      Believe it or not, we serve the first snack of the day about 90 minutes after drop-off! I’m beginning to suspect that not all the kids get a good breakfast beforehand, though. Not entirely sure what we can do about that but it’s certainly an issue.

      • Ruby March 27, 2014, 7:27 pm

        Honestly, if the kids can’t wait patiently for seconds, then it sounds like a behavior issue. There seems to be a lot of that. (I work in special education in a public elementary school! I even have cafeteria duty for 250 kids at a time.)

        It sounds as though there needs to be explicit lessons taught to the kids on expectations and manners. How many kids are in the program having snack at the same time?

  • danmar7 March 26, 2014, 11:30 am

    Do the kids wear name tags every day? (The adhesive type that are discarded each day when they go home.) If so, then 1) kids have to have a name tag to line up for firsts. As they get their serving, their name tags get stamped. 2)Kids with stamped tags have to wait to get back in line. Just make sure once kids have their name tags, they can’t get to the blank tags.

    • theOP March 27, 2014, 7:28 pm

      We do use name tags, but they often fall off or a kid will put a jacket on over the name tag. A hand stamp might work though.

  • Kimberly March 26, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Instead of them having to wait in line, I would get all snacks as ready to go as possible and have them seated. Assuming you have tables for all to sit or they can sit in a circle around the floor.

    You go to them. They do not come to you. You and your fellow teachers start at whatever areas you designate and hand out snacks. No one is allowed to get up during snack time.

    I would think you might be able to keep better track of the kids with them sitting versus standing in line.

    You could also have a few of the kids help out each snack time.

  • LizaJane March 26, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Susan, the players should always be checked in by their numbers. From Indiana, where basketball is serious business. ; )

    • Susan March 27, 2014, 6:59 am

      You’re right! Fortunately the ref didn’t notice. I don’t think the league had much experience with twins.

  • Anonymous March 26, 2014, 1:20 pm

    I like the hand stamp idea. Also, maybe it’d be a good idea to talk to Mikey and Tommy’s parents about maybe encouraging the boys to wear different clothes from one another every day, or getting their hair cut differently, or something, because you had trouble telling them apart. Oh, and Susan, that must be even harder for you and the basketball coach, because identical twins wearing identical basketball uniforms are bound to get mixed up, even with different numbers on the back. There’s actually a pair of identical twin girls on YouTube who make videos about gymnastics, and they attend the same gym, and participate on the same competition team at that gym, where they (of course) wear matching leotards at meets. So, they get around that problem by each wearing a different-coloured hair scrunchie, in their gym’s colours. Have you thought of doing the same thing with your daughters?

    • Susan March 27, 2014, 7:03 am

      They already wore their hair differently. For some reason their teachers and coaches still couldn’t tell them apart. Now that they are in high school, they have different interests. One still plays basketball, the other does cheerleading.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith March 26, 2014, 1:51 pm

    OP- if your kids sit at tables you can call them up one table at a time. You can also have a counselor write down their name. It’s not a small thing to a child to be called a liar in a new environment and to be singled out for negative attention. It’s true that your intentions were the best but the impact from a child’s perspective is greater. You’re a big person. You’re a staffer. You’re a program regular. You’re in charge of whether he eats. Now you’ve called him out for lying and threatened to deny him snack. A minor issue to an adult, a large issue for a young child. Someone thinks he should have mentioned his twin? Maybe he didn’t track his twin’s place in line and was gobsmacked to be met with “no” where he expected to be served without incident. Your fatigue isn’t his issue and any expectation that he should compensate for you is misplaced. He didn’t deserve the label of “troublemaker” for taking a toy. He’s a kid on his first day. After two months or so, if he’s still taking toys and raising a daily ruckus, THEN he’s a troublemaker, maybe. (Depends on family dynamics and exceptional needs labels and his whole context, right?)

  • AS March 26, 2014, 3:36 pm

    OP definitely did a good job trying to apologizing to the child, and giving him a larger serving. But I’d like to add a few comments about OP’s pre-conceived idea that trouble makers are always in for trouble.

    I am not a psychologist. But I have had experiences in my childhood that makes me cringe at OP’s sentence “Though it was only Mikey’s first day at the program, I suspected he was a troublemaker because I’d had to discipline him that morning for taking a toy from another child.” When I was a child, I was a handful. My parents taught me to be obedient, and respectful, but I’d get into trouble mostly because I was very talkative and restless. A lot of teachers just assumed that I was a troublemaker, and I’d be punished for no fault of mine (as Mikey was punished – had the other counselor not come up before in time, Mikey would not have gotten his snack). It didn’t help that I was a tomboy in a very conservative town back in the 80s.
    I can cite several examples, but one that stands out is an incident that happened when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. All of us had to pay to buy something for the next crafts class and the teacher was writing down names of students who paid the money. I have a pretty unusual name, and I was the only one with that name in my grade (ours was a small school; we had about 35 to 40 kids in each class). The teacher was writing the first name, followed by the initial of our last name. She wrote my initial wrong. When I went to get my craft item in the next class, she asked me if my name was “AA”, and I said that no, it was “AS”. She accused me of lying , and said that I hadn’t paid. After about half the class-period went by and all my other friends were doing the craft, she “took pity” on me and gave me, because I was crying and probably throwing a tantrum. The whole class saw. And they gave me a hard time for several days, saying I had cheated. Also, I was very timid (though I didn’t seem timid), and did not tell my parents, who would have questioned the school about a teacher insulting a child in front of her classmates.

    This is just one example, but several such incidences had given me complexes into my teen years and early adulthood. It took me a while to fight the demons, and start to realize where I was actually wrong, and where I was a victim of generalization.

    My point is that if you are going to interact with kids, you’ll have to be careful about what you do to them, because you are going to make an impression. Discipline them if they are being bad. But if you are going to assume that a trouble-maker is going to make trouble at all times, and reprimand them all the time, you’ll be doing bad things to their psyche.

    For starters, the after-school program should come up with a better idea for getting the snacks. Like everyone can stand in a line before you start giving out snacks.

    • Vrinda March 27, 2014, 12:51 am

      I’m sorry you were treated so cruelly. That teacher technically cheated you out of money you rightfully paid for that item. Eventually, she would have found out your real name and realized how stupid she was. As for those nasty classmates of yours, if they accused me of cheating, I would ask them to prove it. Watch their faces turn small then.

    • Susan March 27, 2014, 7:07 am

      In all fairness, teachers are human beings too and they make mistakes. I think we can all think back to a traumatizing moment in our grade school history. Mine was the time I was kept in for recess in the first grade because I took too long to clean my paint brushes. In reality, I was already done with mine and I was helping a friend with hers. I am almost 49 years old and still not “over” that. LOL! I guess what I’m saying is that you sometimes have up to 30 kids at a time to deal with. Sometimes you just don’t have time to show a lot of grace to each individual student, you just need them to fall into line. 🙂

      • theOP March 27, 2014, 7:34 pm

        Exactly. If I’d been in charge of a small group of kids I might have taken him aside to try and work out the situation, but there was a whole long line of kids behind him who also wanted snack and there wasn’t a staff member available to take my place. He didn’t even seem traumatized by it; in fact his reaction was more along the lines of “Oh well, that happens all the time.”

      • AS March 27, 2014, 11:06 pm

        @Susan: I agree that teachers can make mistakes. But mistakes are single occurrences. Generalizations, like the sentence from OP’s story I quoted, is not an honest error (though her not knowing that Mickey has a twin brother is an honest error), but rather is a character trait. I don’t know anything about OP apart from this post. And that sentence did irk me a bit.

        BTW, in my case, quoted an isolated incident, but the generalization was reflected quite often.

  • RC March 26, 2014, 3:39 pm

    I worked at a primary (elementary) school, and often assisted the after-school programme when they were short staffed.
    We had tables in the room, which the kids would sit it, and each kid had a paper napkin in front of them. No one got food until everyone was seated. Then the staff would walk around with the containers of sliced fruit, cookies, and crisps, and place a portion in front of each child. Once everyone had been served, and had time to eat, we distributed seconds to those who had finished and wanted more.
    We were lucky to mostly have very well behaved kids though, and I don’t remember any incident where we had trouble.

  • BMW March 26, 2014, 4:07 pm

    I think the OP was the rude one. Why, if a child refuses (justifiably) to back down, is he considered ill-mannered? The kid should sit down and not eat because the OP is so sure the kid is lying? The whole post rubbed me the wrong way: dubbing the kid a troublemaker for one error on his first day, the assumption the kid is automatically a liar, and then the ungracious assumption that the child is ill-mannered when he stands up for himself and gets legitimately upset because he is in a lose-lose power dynamic where the adult has all the control even when they are wrong.

    What if there were no seconds? The kid doesn’t get to eat. Instead of relying on tired and grumpy adults to recognize faces, maybe they need to update their snack method so kids aren’t treated badly and called liars without evidence. Maybe marking their hand or name tag, a token system, etc.

    • theOP March 27, 2014, 12:26 am

      I did admit my mistake; Mikey was not being ill-mannered. From my perspective, I saw a kid who literally looked identical to him go up to the table and get snack, so of course I assumed he had already been served. I deal with this kind of situation on a near-daily basis and this is the first time I’ve been wrong, so I had no way of knowing this time would be different. From my perspective it really did look like he was blatantly lying. (As much as I wish I could give kids the benefit of the doubt in these situations, I also don’t want to send the message that arguing is a legitimate way to get one’s way.) And of course once I realized I was wrong I apologized and served him snack right away; I wouldn’t have denied him snack for no reason.

      Perhaps “troublemaker” was the wrong word to describe Mikey in this situation, since he turned out not to be (he’s a great kid, in fact). However, we are very wary of bullying (it’s an issue we’ve dealt with a lot in the past) so we try to keep an extra eye on kids who do things like take toys from other children to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on.

      I agree that we need a better system for snack time. As I said in the post, our current system is far from perfect. It’s true that he wouldn’t have gotten anything if there were no seconds, but that’s why we give out seconds in the first place: to make sure every child gets adequately fed.

    • Vrinda March 27, 2014, 12:45 am

      Did you read the entire post?

      The OP found out that Mikey had a twin, and she felt bad about what she did. This is not about deciding who is the rude one.

  • Phoebe161 March 26, 2014, 5:39 pm

    Although the topic deals with snack time, I notice something else, namely knowing the kids’ names. Two words of advice: name tags. Name tags may or may not have helped the snack distribution problem, it’ll make name-learning easier. BTW, love the handstamp idea!

    • Mary Bernard March 26, 2014, 8:43 pm

      Oh my, the OP’s post brought back horrible memories of mean, nasty teachers being mean to kids who did nothing wrong except to try to stand up for themselves. What is a kid to do if he is telling the truth but the mean, nasty teacher/adult insists that he is lying? How would that mean, nasty teacher/adult like it if he was accused of lying when he wasn’t?

      • theOP March 27, 2014, 12:35 am

        Mean and nasty? I wouldn’t say that. Yes, it was absolutely unfair of me to not give the kid snack in the first place but remember, I had no way of knowing he was telling the truth. To me it looked like a kid I’d served just moments before was trying to convince me he hadn’t been served without any legitimate argument for his side. If he’d said something like, “Maybe you served my twin brother and thought it was me? People confuse us all the time”, I would have absolutely believed him. In fact, I’m not sure why he didn’t just say that to begin with–he certainly wasn’t shy. I think it would have been meaner and nastier if I’d just let all the kids get away with lying while the rest of the kids suffered for it.

      • MichelleP March 28, 2014, 12:50 am

        My, what dramatics!!!

  • Anonymous March 26, 2014, 9:18 pm

    For the people who are casting the OP into E-Hell….I don’t think that’s necessary, because the OP already pointed out the wrongdoings on her (his?) part.

    • The Elf March 27, 2014, 7:00 am

      Exactly. When her error was pointed out she immediately made right with the snack and an apology.

      Mistakes happen. It’s how we recover from them that shows character.

    • JO March 27, 2014, 11:50 am

      I agree. I’m sure that has stirred up memories for all of us of times we were treated unfairly as children. These experiences are unpleasant, but also an essential part of learning and growing. And I’m sure if we all thought about it, we would also remember times we realized we were in the wrong, and how bad it felt already, without everyone calling us out on it. Once it was pointed out that OP was wrong, he/she apologized and tried to make amends. What a good lesson for the young man to learn!

  • sillyme March 26, 2014, 10:24 pm

    One comment to OP – please don’t attribute every child’s need for too many snacks as greed and the parents’ failure to convey manners. I have three adopted children, two of whom have been seriously traumatized. My husband and I, and their therapists suspect food deprivation both in their family of origin and at least one of their (multiple) foster homes. Children who have been food deprived learn fast to get all they can, when they can. Also, for traumatized and insecure children, food becomes an easy means of self-medication.

    This is not relevant to the twins issue, I understand. But the story made me think of all the efforts our children have gone to so they can get extra sweets at school, which included lying about not getting meals at home, stealing sweets, etc.

    However, it’s an opportunity to ask the OP, and any readers who work with children to take a minute and look around the room and guess how many of those children go home to abuse, neglect, or food insecurity.

    • Stacey Frith-Smith March 26, 2014, 11:46 pm

      Very well put! It takes a little focus or at least a little bit of being intentional to notice what is going on with another person. If you work or volunteer with children, the elderly, or anyone with a label ranging from Autism to Alzheimer’s- you owe it to common decency to advocate for them. That means making certain that their basic needs are met. Being secure in their environment is one such basic need, and requires being treated respectfully, and being recognized as an individual. The mistake often made in care settings of all kinds is that the individual is the servant of the program. Wrong. The program is there to support and to facilitate the best possible outcomes for the individual client (obviously within the bounds of what is a sustainable excellence in care delivery).

  • theOP March 26, 2014, 11:44 pm

    OP here, thought I should clarify a couple things…

    We ALWAYS make sure that the kids have enough to eat at snack time. We offer seconds and then whatever’s left after that is usually a free-for-all (because there’s usually only a handful of kids who haven’t gone off to play by that point so we don’t have to be as strict with the crowd control). If we run out of food and kids are still hungry we’ll find something in the kitchen for them to eat. This is partially because kids tend to get irritable and stressed out when they’re hungry, and partially because we want to be 100% sure every kid gets their fare share (because clearly, counselors make mistakes!). So fear not, Mikey wouldn’t have gone hungry even if no one had pointed out the twin situation. The issue was more that he wanted his food RIGHT AWAY and wasn’t willing to wait for seconds.

    As for name tags, we do use them but it’s not the most reliable system. They tend to fall off, or sometimes kids will put the name tag on their jacket and then take the jacket off (or put it on their shirt and put a jacket on over it). There’s also been a trend lately where kids will trade name tags with each other and see how long it takes anyone to notice. Kinda funny and pretty cute, I’ll admit, but it makes it difficult to learn names! We’ve also tried the idea of “snack tickets” but that created issues of its own. (Kids saying they hadn’t gotten snack tickets when they had, trying to bribe other kids to give them their tickets, etc.) I like the stamp idea, though! Might bring that up at our next staff meeting. (I don’t run the program so that kind of thing isn’t my call, but I can certainly suggest it.)

    • Stacey Frith-Smith March 27, 2014, 7:49 am

      ” The issue was more that he wanted his food RIGHT AWAY and wasn’t willing to wait for seconds.” Except that in his particular case- he was due his food along with the other children, since he had not yet been served.

      • theOP March 27, 2014, 3:45 pm

        Yes, I know that now! But at the time I didn’t realize he hadn’t already been served, so it seemed as though he was trying to lie/argue his way into getting seconds before anyone else. My point was that he SEEMED to be throwing a fit out of greed, even though looking back on it he totally wasn’t and I was in the wrong. I also wanted to emphasize the fact that he would have eventually gotten snack either way–we never starve our kids no matter how badly they’re misbehaving. (In other words, if he’d actually been lying he still would have gotten to eat, but he might have had to wait longer than the other kids or not be able to sit with his friends while he ate.)

        • Stacey Frith-Smith March 28, 2014, 4:01 pm

          I hear what you’re saying, OP. From your perspective, your actions seemed reasonable, prudent and necessary. Since you were in error, that’s irrelevant. Right? All the rest is window dressing. “Mikey should have said…”, “I was fatigued…”. It’s not a big episode. But you cannot make it into an ehell submission about anyone’s mistake but your own. (In my opinion.) Me? I make mistakes all day long, every day. You’re in good standing there. It’s just that there is a little bit of “I was in a bad position, I did my best, and I couldn’t have been expected to know” in your tale that exceeds “I made a mistake and it was kind of embarrassing…told a poor kid he’d already had snack. Not so much, as it turns out”.

  • Margaret March 27, 2014, 8:22 am

    OP, I commend you for apologizing to Mikey and admitting that you made a mistake. Sure, Mikey could have mentioned that he had a twin – maybe he was tired of being “different.” Not all twins are enamored with being identical to someone else.

    The incidents that stick out in my mind as making me feel devalued are the ones where nobody apologized for making a mistake. Some people have a real problem with apologizing to a child. You get harrumphed at, grudgingly given whatever was due to you, making you feel guilty for having spoken up. That is not a good feeling for anyone.

    Being acknowledged and apologized to ameliorates damage.

    • Thistlebird March 29, 2014, 4:19 pm

      Very good point.

  • Jaxsue March 27, 2014, 9:57 am

    Like other commenters, I was a shy child who wouldn’t stand up for myself even if I were 1000% in the right. Looking back, I get angry with myself and wish I had the spine to do so. *sigh* All that to say that I can understand a child not explaining the situation. I was taught to obey those in authority, to the point that I doubted myself. Now I can see how twisted that is. I could totally be like this child.
    Kudos to the OP for apologizing, but honestly, the system they’re using for doling out snacks seems very haphazard. I like the ideas that previous posters had, using hand stamps or having the kids sit down and giving out the snacks.

  • Politrix March 27, 2014, 11:31 am

    Add me to the list of folks who think the hand-stamp system is a great idea, especially if there are kids who routinely try to cut the line or take more than their fair share.
    I think the OP did fine. When I was eight years old I can think of very few camp counselors who’d be big enough to admit a mistake, much less apologize and offer reparations. (Not that failure to do so has scarred me for life, either. Jeez, if missing out on a snack/recess/craft project one day in school is the worst incident I can recall in my entire childhood, I’d say I had a pretty charmed life!)
    As for children who have been abused through food deprivation, I think that’s absolutely horrible, but not exactly the norm — nor is it an excuse for bad behavior. A kid who cuts the line and tries to grab all he or she can must be corrected — which the OP did, and in a very gentle, fair manner (presenting Mikey with two options: either continuing to argue, or waiting until everyone else was served). The accusations of lying and bad manners occurred in OP’s MIND — at no point in the story are we told these words were actually spoken to the child. OP then discovered the error, admitted she (he?) was wrong and apologized to Mikey (who seems in OP’s follow up post to have gotten over it just fine). We all make mistakes, and OP learned a valuable lesson in compassion and understanding. And in the follow-up, he/she taught a valuable lesson to Mikey: even grown-ups make mistakes sometimes, and the correct thing to do when you’ve made a mistake is to apologize, repair the damage if possible, and move on.

  • JD March 27, 2014, 12:02 pm

    As the granddaughter and niece of identical twins, I am surprised that this kid had the gumption to argue with the OP about not having a snack, but never asked if she had served his twin. This is something the two sets of twins in our family learned to deal with very, very early. My grandmother was very shy, but learned fast to say “I think you meant my sister,” to people who mixed them up. As for my uncles, who were little hellions as kids, according to their siblings; they played the switcheroo game on everyone, teachers included, just to get into a situation like that of the OP’s and make the adult look foolish. They enjoyed the discomfort they gave an adult who realized he or she had mistaken one twin for the other. Perhaps these boys are the same way, who knows? Why are some people casting OP into Ehell? She apologized and the kid survived — possibly snickering behind his hand, I might add.
    I was a shy kid, very non-confrontational, but when a teacher in second grade dressed me down for lying to her about my birthday, I stood my ground because I knew I was right and hadn’t lied. Finally, a girl who’d been in first grade with me piped up and said I was telling the truth, because she remembered it from first grade. My birthday? February 29th. I got over it, just fine. I think it’s funny, actually. I’m like my uncles and enjoyed the teacher’s discomfort, I’m sorry to say.

    • theOP March 27, 2014, 3:48 pm

      Yeah, I suspect Mikey might have just been trying to mess with me. If he’d said something like, “Oh, that was probably my brother” and then pointed him out to me I would have believed him and he would have avoided a lot of trouble. It seems like an obvious solution so it’s certainly possible he was just arguing for the sake of arguing.

  • nk March 27, 2014, 10:03 pm

    It seems like stamping kids’ hands would be an easier way to handle this then just trying to keep track of who you’ve served by memory.

  • MichelleP March 28, 2014, 12:53 am

    Good grief people, Mikey wasn’t traumatized by this. OP, you sound awesome. Teaching children in any way, be it a teacher, counselor, after school care program, etc. is an unappreciated underpaid job.

    I had far worse moments than this with teachers as a kid and I turned out fine.

  • Raven March 28, 2014, 7:09 am

    Identical twins can be hard to deal with in a situation like this, because so many parents seem to enjoy dressing them alike. I guess they think it’s cute, but it’s actually creating a situation where a child may be counted twice and their twin dismissed completely. (This could be so dangerous – what if there had been a fire or a similar type of emergency? You don’t want to have a kid missing!)

    That said, I think OP was a bit rough on him. Assuming he was a troublemaker (he took a toy – it’s not like he killed someone) on his first day was a bit prejudicial. If he had been lying, there might have been a compelling reason – like serious hunger. I’m not saying that lying is appropriate, but a child who is seriously hungry isn’t in a position to behave properly. While it does sound like your program works hard to make sure the children are fed properly, it’s good to be aware that everyone’s needs are different. In addition, a child who comes from a home without food security may be “acting out” out of fear of being hungry.

  • The TARDIS March 28, 2014, 2:56 pm

    I just want to point out that I’m a full grown adult and I get somewhat cranky when I’m hungry.

    Twins. Ooh, fun! As a teen I babysat identical twin girls. Their mother differentiated them by having one wear a gold baby bracelet with her name engraved on her left wrist and the other wore a name-engraved silver one on her right wrist.

    I think the OP was fine. They apologized for their gaffe, which taught the child a lesson in itself.

    I concur with the hand stamp idea as well.

  • crebj March 29, 2014, 8:06 am

    You learn something new every day. Do lighten up, on yourself, and on these children. Mikey had had a long day too.

  • gb March 29, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Ok, OP made a mistake that she owned and learned from. She even apologized and wants to figure out how to avoid this in the future.
    Just don’t assume you know how a child or teen might act because you’ve been a teacher or aide a long time. I’m sure you can predict behavior a lot, but im also sure you’ve been wrong as many times as right. At least, don’t categorize the child into any “file” until you know them well, and even then allow them the benefit of learning and growing from their past mistakes. Maybe they didn’t learn to share at home, got corrected some amount of times, they *might* then start sharing, even reluctantly. If you assume they’ll always be bad, why wouldn’t they? At 15, I never got into any kind of trouble in school, but because I had my best friend next to me in Spanish class and giggled too much the first day of class, my teacher decided we were very bad students and her attitude towards me the rest of the year was very condescending, making me very afraid to participate in class at all. Yes, I interrupted the first day, but she categorized a shy girl who learned that teachers are not all wise. Yes, lots are, including my husband.

    What’s wonderful is that OP learned a lot from her post, from hand stamp solutions to not judging so quickly. She seems to have taken the advice and is a better aide/teacher from it.

    I obviously don’t condone bullying, but at what point are we calling EVERYTHING “bullying” and targeting kids that aren’t necessarily bullies, but made a mistake. I think we are over using the word and it will soon lose the true meaning. My nephew told me that his dad bullied him for putting him in time out. I’ve heard other stories about kids using the word incorrectly as well. Bullies will exist, and they should not be allowed to behave that way, but something about this “anti bullying” campaign is just off…