The Nail Biter, Episode III: The Mean Teacher

Two weeks later Natalie reported that she cried during her immunization administration, but that it didn’t really hurt.
“That’s terrific!” I exclaimed.  “I am so proud of you.  You are a real magician.”
She smiled.
“Are you still biting your nails?”
She nodded slightly.
“No worries!” I exclaimed.  “Let’s keep talking about how to feel better about your life.  Is it okay for us to talk about your teacher today?”
“She’s mean!” said Natalie, pouting.
“What does she do?”
“She yells at me when Maddy gets out of her seat,”
“Why does she yell at you for something Maddy does?”
“She yells at everyone!  She’s not nice!”
“How do you react when she yells?” I asked.
“I ignore her.  But if she asks me to do something I glare at her.  She needs to learn what it feels like when people are mean to each other.”
“Hmm,” I said as I pondered her response.  “Do you think that’s the best way to get things to change?  Have you ever gotten along better with someone after you were mean to them?
“No?” she said tentatively.
“A good rule to remember is that ‘confrontation leads to resistance.’  This means that when you act in a mean way to someone, they respond by becoming even less cooperative.  If you want to help change someone’s behavior, you need to be more clever,” I explained.
“What do you mean?”
“Let me tell you a story about the Dragon Lady,” I started.
“A Dragon Lady?” she exclaimed.
“Well, she wasn’t really a Dragon Lady, but that is what we called her.  Because she was really mean.  She was in charge of the Human Resources Department at the hospital where I used to work.  She needed to sign off on anyone we were going to hire.  On one occasion I wanted to hire a new nurse.  So, I filled out the required paperwork and off it went to the Dragon Lady.  Then,” I paused.  “Nothing happened.”
“Nope. A month went by, and I went to the secretary in my Department and asked what was the hold-up.  The secretary said, ‘The Dragon Lady has not yet signed the form.’  ‘Well,’ I said. ‘Can you please ask her to sign the form?’ ‘Oh no!’ she said. ‘You can’t ask the Dragon Lady to sign the form because then she just puts it at the bottom of the pile.’” I sighed.
“So, what did you do?” asked Natalie.
“I waited another month.  But still nothing.  I went back to the secretary and asked what was going on.  She said the Dragon Lady hadn’t signed the form yet.  I asked if there was anything that could be done to speed her along.  ‘Oh no!’ she said.  ‘Nothing speeds up the Dragon Lady.”
Natalie frowned.
“After another month I decided that I could not wait any longer.  So, what do you think I did?”
“You asked the Dragon Lady to sign the form?”
“I didn’t do that!  I had been told that if you ask the Dragon Lady to do her work, she would become very mean.  Do you have another guess about what I did?”
Natalie shrugged.
“OK.  I’ll tell you.  I went to the hospital gift shop and bought a box of chocolate.  I then went to the Dragon Lady and said, ‘Hello, Dragon Lady.’  Except I didn’t call her that.  I used her real name.  ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Can I help you?’ I answered, ‘Actually, I came to give you a gift’ She looked surprised.  ‘A gift?  For me?  Nobody ever gives me gifts!’ I handed her the box of chocolates.  ‘Here,’ I said.  ‘I wanted you to have this gift to thank you for all of the good work you do for my department.’  ‘Thank you so much,’ she said, as she sampled one of the chocolates.  ‘Is there something you needed signed?’  ‘Why yes,’ I said.  ‘Can you please sign the form for the nurse I would like to hire?’ ‘Certainly,’ she said.  And then she signed the form!  I didn’t even ask her to sign the form when I came to her office.  She offered!”
Natalie smiled.
“You see,” I explained.  “When you are nice to people most of them are then nice to you.”
Natalie nodded.
“Sounds like your teacher has a hard time in your class.  Maybe you could give her a small gift in appreciation of her working hard.   Do you want me to tell you how you can help her feel even better?”
“Uh huh.”
“This is what you do.  Every morning you can think good and kind thoughts about your teacher.  You could think, ‘I hope you have a good day,’ or ‘You can stay happy and calm,’ or ‘You can have fun today.’  In a few days you should notice that your teacher gets into a better mood because you helped her.”
“How does that work?” asked her mother.
I explained, “For one, when you think loving and kind thoughts at someone, it affects how you react to them, and how they react towards you.  But I also believe that such good thoughts can affect someone even without a direct interaction. I remember once when a girl complained that her best friend stopped talking to her half a year beforehand.  I told her to think good and loving thoughts about her friend.  Three days later the friend contacted her out to the blue and wanted to get together.”
Natalie looked at me.  “Does that really work?”
“I’m pretty sure that it does.  Isn’t it nice to know that you can help other people just by thinking about them?”
Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of our saga:  The Nail Biter, Episode IV: The Jealous Fingernails.