Woman Attacks 5 Year Old On School Bus
Filed Under (bullying, self-esteem)

When I heard this headline I was shocked, but not really.  The story is a familiar one.  Child bullied.  Parent angry.  Blame.  Retribution sought.  Tempers flared.  Inflamed reactions.  It happens in schools, hockey rinks, playgrounds – anywhere children interact.

We might agree that the parent who exerts her force against another child on behalf of her own wounded child is in the wrong.  We might even agree that the child himself would be better to abandon the eye for an eye mentality.  ‘Turn the other cheek’ is a popular, if not politically correct, option.  But the truth is, it’s not in our nature.

While training my first puppy to behave with small children, I learned the method of pulling the dog’s tail or poking it in the eye (as a child would do to a dog) and rewarding the dog with praise and treats for not retaliating.  This, the trainer assured me, was essential.  After all, any animal that is attacked will defend itself.  It’s just instinct.  You must condition against instinct.

Humans have instincts too.  Of course humans also have reason and intelligence and hopefully, a measure of self-control beyond that of simpler species.  But we still have anger and the natural desire to defend ourselves.   This desire extends to our children.  We are their protectors.  They wear our hearts on their sleeves.  We hurt when they hurt – maybe even more than they do.

When my first-born encountered a bully at the tender age of 5, I was unprepared for the intense emotion that reared up in me.  I remember feeling confused about my level of anger.  I was more bothered by a bully offending my beautiful, perfect, faultless princess than I was when I’d had the same done to me as a child! 

I won’t pretend that I was able to conjure up any hint of the composure and perspective that I now possess as a seasoned mother of three.   Although I didn’t give in to the desire to attack the offending child as did the mother in the headlines, I did think about it.  I wanted to make that bully cry.  I wanted her to be scared and remorseful and promise never to hurt anyone ever again.  Because this is what I want for the world. 

 I also want to learn why we feel how we feel and do what we do.  So I sat with my anger a while.  Alone.  We had it out – anger and I.  We screamed, we cried, we cursed the hurt until the hurt surrendered.  When all was said and done, the wounded child inside spoke up.  Here’s what she said:

I’m scared.  Scared that I’m not enough.  Scared that you don’t like me.  Scared because I don’t like myself.  It doesn’t take much to knock me over.  When you’re mean to me, I crumble.  Because I don’t know yet that your opinion doesn’t matter.  I don’t see how great I am or how great you are.  I don’t know how to defend myself against you because I don’t know how to defend myself against me. 

A piece of that wounded little girl still lives inside me.  She always will.  But she’s growing up.  With each new challenge to her self-esteem she gets stronger.   Sometimes she’s challenged by little friends like those that salt her wounds by hurting her children.  Other times it’s the grown-up friends that get to her, knocking her off balance for a little while.  Then a little while less.  Until finally, someday, maybe, she won’t even feel it when that bully punches her really hard on the inside – where it used to hurt so much.

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I’m not a fan of the New Year’s Resolution ritual.  I find it unsavory practice to form intentions on cue as if it were as unquestionable a necessity as drinking water.  I admit I have an exaggerated distaste for a potentially positive practice.  But my experience with resolutions repeatedly demonstrates a set-up for failure.  Thus, I avoid dispapointment by shunning the practice.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in goal setting and personal reflection.  I just dont like feeling pressured by it at the start of a new year.  I much prefer the idea of forming a manifesto – a declaration of beliefs and motives.  Manifestos are juicy.  Simple, yet decadent.  Full of guts.  A manifesto is timeless.  It travels with you, co-existing with a change in goals.  Because manifestos reflect the core of a person, they tend not to waver.

Manifestos can act as a guidepost.  True North.  They remind you of who you are and what you believe.  When you step off track, as we all do, a manifesto can set you straight.  If developed thoughtfully, a manifesto helps you answer the elusive question ‘Who am I?’ independent of ‘What do I do?’ or ‘What do I want?’ 

Knowing who you are is a basic building block of self-esteem.  We cannot assess our own value, our self-worth, if we don’t know what makes us, us.  Can a jeweler appraise a diamond’s value without looking at it under a scope?

Let the making of your manifesto be a work in progress.  Let it evolve.  Form a draft and sit with it a while.  Take time to decide if it fits.  Whittle it down until it is a bare-bones representation of your uncompromising truth.  When the New Year rolls around, you won’t need new resolutions.  You’ll only need to recommit to your manifesto and the motivation for growth will follow.

Here are some questions to help you and your tween understand what makes you tick:

  • What’s your idea about how the world works?
  • What beliefs keep resurfacing?
  • What do you hear yourself repeating in conversation?
  • What do you wish you could change?
  • What belief or action do you aspire to?
  • Who do you emulate and what is their core belief?
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Believing in Magic
Filed Under (Friday - Fun and Family, Something To Think About)
If the Tooth Fairy hadn’t fallen asleep before doing her job, a certain 10 year old might have continued to believe in fairies, Santa, and a candy-delivering bunny.  As it were, the whole lot was exposed at once.  The tragic reveal went something like this:
Daughter: “Mom, the Tooth Fairy didn’t come!” <sniffle>
Mom: “I’m sorry. There’s something I need to tell you.”
Daughter:  “I know.  The Tooth Fairy isn’t real.  Or Santa or anyone else, right?”
Mom:  “Right.  If you knew, why so sad?”
Daughter:  “Because I still want to believe in the magic.”
Well said, I thought.  We all want to believe in magic.  To believe that good surprises drop into our lives on a regualr basis.  The end of the Santa ruse is but one example of the loss of innocence in tweenhood.  When a child becomes a tween, it’s as if her eyes are dilated and she begins to see a wider perspective on the world.  The world stops being a fantasyland.  But it doesn’t have to stop being magical.
At the end of innocence, savy adults can replace the fictional characters of childhood with examples of real-life wonder.  An old friend who calls just as you were thinking of her; assistance that appears exactly when you need it; an amazing and unlikely find at the department store….These and countless other magical moments infuse our lives.  And they’re real magic, not contrived magic from folklore.
Keeping childlike wonder alive is easily accomplished with an open heart and mind.  Help your tween see that gifts are brought to the world not by one man on one night, but by multitudes over a lifetime.  Tis always the season to be jolly, and grateful, and awed by the magical world.
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”  ~Roy L. Smith
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Gratitude is Fuel
Filed Under (Uncategorized)

A fellow mom and I commiserated while volunteering at a school event. Her daughter had just ‘asked’ for a ride in the way a teenager can – with an air of entitlement and self-centerdness. My friend lamented to me, “All I need is a little gratitude and I’m good for the next six hours. Would a ‘thank you’ be too much to ask?”

Parents would admit that they don’t do what they do to earn appreciation from their children. Nonetheless it is easier to jump through hoops when gratitude is the reward. Appreciation is like fuel for the giving machine. And unlike real fuel, appreciation is free! It costs nothing to say thank you. So why don’t we do more of it?

It’s easy to become desensitized to the gifts we receive, especially if they appear repeatedly. When acts of kindness and love become expectations, appreciation fades away.  Gratitude naturally raises our vibrational energy. We feel better – more content, more abundant, more generous – when we employ gratitude. And our actions follow suit.

I politely turned a deaf ear to my friend’s parenting session. But I did catch her concluding remark as her daughter walked away. “There it is. A ‘thank you.’ Now I’m good for another six hours.”

Questions and Actions:

  • How could you be more appreciative to those who help you?
  • What/who do you take for granted that could use some attention?
  • What is the smallest, most under-appreciated thing you could be grateful for?
  • Have you said ‘thank you’ to a child lately?
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Helping Kids Deal With Stress
Filed Under (coping strategies, stress, Uncategorized)
   “My teacher is mean. It’s going to be a terrible year.”

“None of my friends are in my class.  I’m going to be alone.”

“I don’t think I took the right classes to get into college (4 years from now.)

 Like a tropical storm, the deluge of stressful thoughts made landfall as predicted in the first month of school.  Having weathered this storm before, I had prepared for the worst – namely the flash floods of emotions.

 Taking tips from trained rescue workers, I taped off my windows (eyes and ears) and sandbagged the house (locked myself in my room) to ride out the storm.  Ok, not really, running for cover was just what I wanted to do.

 Transitions such as the start of a new school year are stressful. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, even positive events like marriage and vacations can significantly impact our stress levels.  Entering a new school year means that adjustments have to be made on multiple levels. Knowing this, though, does not necessarily prepare you to deal more effectively with the stress.

 In my experience, the best way to deal with stress is to stay focused in the present.  Think about it, is this moment right now stressful, or is it the worry about future and past moments that are stressful?  A past event is kept alive by our minds repeating a script.  ‘Can you believe she said that to me?!  I should have said……’ 

 Likewise, future events are created by our thoughts.  ‘What if……’  When our minds run in fast forward, we fear what may or may not happen and live it as if it is happening now.

 To help a child deal with past grievances we can pull her into the present with statements like:

  • What do you know now because of this event?
  • What can you do now to rectify or make peace with the situation?

If nothing can be changed by words or deeds, focus on forgiveness and detachment from the circumstance.  When we hold onto old regrets and grievances it’s like towing a huge suitcase behind us.  A waste of energy that steals from today.

To help a child deal with worries about the future:

  • Explain to her that only today is real.  The future does not exist yet.  Frequently we invent a future that is much more difficult than it turns out to be in reality.
  • Remind her of her own strength with examples of times she has handled difficult situations with courage and wisdom.  Those assets are hers and will serve her in dealing with any challenges that arise.

Lastly, a helpful practice is the formation of a Stress-Buster list.  Help your child to compose a list of stress relieving strategies.  Keep this list handy for access when needed.  Here are some suggestions to get you started: 

Stress Buster List for Kids

  • Listen to loud music
  • Dance
  • Play, play, play
  • Talk it out, cry it out, laugh it out
  • Take a bath
  • Look at baby photos or videos
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