Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Silent Wheel

Everyone knows that ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ In other words, the one that complains the loudest or causes the most grief gets the attention and, often, the results. In school, it’s the biggest disciplinary problems that get the special programs; it’s the most disruptive students that get attention in class. In the world of retail, it’s the loudest complainer in the restaurant or store that is immediately catered to. The angry customer is the one who will get the refunds and the extra perks. In the home environment, it is often the most difficult child who receives the most attention.

My question is, what about the wheels that don’t squeak? What about the kids who come to school (sometimes against great odds) who want to learn, who avoid getting in trouble and see  value in education? What about the customer who makes their concerns known without bothering to raise a big stink about it? What happens to the ‘good’ siblings who aren’t always in crisis mode or creating emergency situations? Who really cares for these silent bystanders who seem to be penalized for NOT causing problems?

I think, on a certain level, these people who play by the rules are caught in a thankless trap. On the one hand, the assumption is that since they aren’t complaining that they don’t need help. To take that a step further, they don’t need the encouragement, support or attention that their squeaky counterpart needs.

On the other hand, the other assumption is that these people will take care of themselves. Things will somehow work out for them. They will be okay. They don’t need any extra help or encouragement. 

First of all, everyone needs support and encouragement. When people who play by the rules consistently see all of the attention paid and support given to the rule breakers, the question then becomes, why bother to play by the rules. This is especially true with children and adolescents. What is the benefit for doing the right thing when the wrong thing is rewarded with time, attention, encouragement and support? 

There are countless programs aimed at ‘at-risk’ kids and I’m not saying there isn’t a need for such programs. What I am saying is where are the programs for the C and B students who come to school every day, who pay attention, who do their homework. What lesson are we teaching these kids who want to do the right thing?

I have seen many situations where the siblings who manage to finish school, maintain jobs and start families hardly get any acknowledgement for their efforts; while they watch in helpless frustration, their parents continually run to the aid of the sibling who stays in legal, financial and relationship trouble. Does that sibling need extra help? Certainly, he does. However, those other siblings deserve some time, encouragement and attention as well.

In the most extreme situations, the silent wheel has to start squeaking to finally get the attention they crave. And to me, that is extremely desperate and sad. The silent wheel shouldn’t have to engage in squeaky negative behavior to get some attention.


IanRod2000 said...

I think that sometimes people who make a lot of noise eventually get ignored on the don't cry wolf story level.

Also, if you do not pander to the loud shouting people and just speak calmly and quietly and rationally they generally calm down to your level of voice.

I find that these two things are very useful when dealing with the noisy attention seekers.

Karyn L Beach said...

Good points about dealing with the squeaky wheel. I think if more people realized that behavior for what it is, the attention seekers would have to find another way to get their needs met.

I think we also need to find a way to acknowledge those who often go under the radar. Even though they usually won't ask for it, they deserve some attention and acknowledgement to.