Posted on: May 31st, 2024

S is for Scram!: A Lesson from Oscar the Grouch

June is a month of many celebrations. The month starts with a lesser known one, Oscar the Grouch Day!

Oscar the Grouch, Sesame Streets favorite curmudgeon, has been called mean, rude, and grumpy. The other characters think they can change Oscar’s attitude by forcing him out of his solitude. I have a different theory.

I imagine Oscar inside his home surrounded by his treasured trash. He sits in his favorite chair and sips on a cup of toxic waste. This is the life”, he thinks to himself. Suddenly, he hears a loud banging that makes the walls shake. Oscar!”, a neighbor shouts, Come out here and play with us!” Oscar sighs and sets his book down. When he opens his trash can lid, annoyingly energetic monsters greet him. Oscar begs them to leave him alone and explains that he just wants to go back to his trash. He uses sarcasm and complaining to try to scare them off. It doesnt work. Poor Oscar interacts as long as he can stand it. Then, after singing a song he hates about a letter or number he doesnt care about, he tells his guests to scram”. He slams the can lid and hopes no one else bothers him. But they do… all day.

Oscar tries to get his alone time, but his neighbors wont go away. Then he gets labeled as mean when hes actually just burned out from not getting his needs met. Can you relate? I know I can. When other people keep me from getting my needs met, Id love to be able to say Scram!” like Oscar. So what are grouches like me and Oscar (and maybe you) to do?

We need boundaries! Maybe, like many of us, youre not sure how to set boundaries. Id like to suggest what Im calling the Oscar Method.

Step 1. Identify your boundary Oscar needs alone time surrounded by trash, but his neighbors keep showing up unannounced. So his boundary might be needing friends to call before they visit to make sure hes free.

Step 2. Say Scram!” (Communicate your boundary) Stating a boundary doesnt have to be complicated. Often times, simple is best. Saying scram might be a bit harsh, but something like Please, call me before you visit” could work.

Step 3. Close your trash can lid (Follow through with your boundary) If someone doesnt respect your boundary, you can maintain it through action. For example, a friend of Oscars might visit him without calling. Oscar can back up his boundary by telling them hes not available and closing his trash can lid.

While Oscar is technically a Grouch, he isnt always grouchy. When he gets what he needs, hes actually very sweet and thoughtful. Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable, but not setting them can make us miserable. When we have boundaries, it can be easier to get our needs met, and were less likely to get snappy. Next time you have a chance to set a boundary, think of Oscar. He deserves to get his needs met and so do you. Happy Oscar the Grouch Day!