Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Boy O Boy.. A Blogging Award

I have been offered this award in the past and refused it. I hate chain letters (and chain blogs) but I am away at the San Diego Comic Con - presented on a panel - and am feeling 'chill'.  Also, I love Roger's Ramblin'With Roger blog (http://www.rogerogreen.com/2011/07/22/call-me-mr-versatility/) and when awarded The Versatile Blogger Awarrd reluctantly accepted it because I do think his blogs are a blast to read - full of personality and wonderfully entertaining tidbits. And, in all honesty, I also accepted it because being at this convention, I had little time to prepare a more substantial post (please check back in a few days)
In accordance with protocol, here are some facts to share (about me which I hope to relate to my blog's theme of parenting and education).  Following that will be some blogs I pass the award to:

  1. When my kids were younger they were not allowed to watch television.  My husband and I would allow some PBS and educational videos and programming (Sesame Street, Mister Rodger's Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, The Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy and the one with the talking dog playing lead roles in classic books (am forgetting the name - but it was actually quite a lovely introduction to the classics - if any of you remember it, please leave it in the comments).
  2. While I am writing a book about integrating graphic novels into the classroom (which I wholeheartedly support) until very recently I did not think they were fine examples of literature to be taken seriously.
  3. My son gave me I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly to read once I admitted to him that maybe I should look into graphic novels and take them seriously.  I loved it, read some more and was seriously hooked into this literary format.There are some SUPER (educational -but don't tell them) graphic novels for kids and I will write more about it in my next blog - because I love them and because I am fresh from Comic Con.
  4. I am watching Kung Fu Panda as I write this (sad, but true - my adult daughter and I are getting ready to leave California).  I just watched the scene where the Master learned how to teach the Panda to be the Dragon Warrior  by using his affinities (love for food) and his strengths of character.  It is a great lesson to us all!  There are all kinds of minds around us and we need to learn to reach each one in his or her own way.
  5. It is my ONE YEAR Anniversary blogging.  
  6. I was afraid to blog - even called myself a techno-dinosaur.  I have, however, met wonderful friends, LOVE the comments left on my posts, and am reading such wonderful posts from others that I can't imagine not blogging now.
  7. Thank you all for your support and participation but PLEASE don't leave me any more awards.  I probably wont accept them and hate to disappoint you.
And now to pass to torch to seven other bloggers:
  1. Planet Weidknech at - http://weidknecht.com
  2. Keiths Ramblings at - http://keithsramblings.blogspot.com/
  3. Mickeys' Simglemomdon at http://mikey-thesinglemom.blogspot.com
  4. Faythe at http://grammymousetails.blogspot.com/
  5. All Things Audry athttp://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com
  6. My Digs 18 at www.mydigs18.blogspot.com
  7. Well Dressed Cupcakes at http://welldressedcupcakes.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Power of Argument

ar-gu-ment n. [ar-gyu-mehnt] 
  1. a reason given in proof or rebuttal; discourse intended to persuade (Mirriam-Webster online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argument 
  2. a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion (Mirriam-Webster online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argument 
  3. a reason or set of reasons given in support of an idea, action or theory (from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/argument)

When I hear the word "argument" I think of the personal, verbal sparring I try to avoid - the personal kind where emotions (and often) voices are high, there is often some sort of confrontation, and while they may at times enlighten, they usually don't - instead they leave me emotionally spent (albeit often somewhat relieved).  In writing this, though, I realize that when I think of 'argument' I often think of 'fighting' BUT argument' does not need to entail fighting.

Furthermore, there is something to be said for arguments.  

Arguments offer
  • opportunities for clarification, 
  • opportunities for problem solving and brainstorming,
  • opportunities to sharpen social skills,
  • are the ground work for debate,
  • and sharpen communication skills necessary to relay and convince
The key to arguing your point, be it intellectual or personal, is to:
  • clearly and succinctly relay and express your position - addressing one point at a time, 
  • control the emotional component to arguments,
  • optional (but equally powerful and important):  add some humor or related vignettes, making it easier for listeners to comprehend, internalize and acknowledge  (albeit not necessarily agree with)
As Monty Python so aptly put it:
"An argument is a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition...it's an intellectual process"
So with the argument clinic behind us, enjoy this Python classic example of argument which  further illustrates its intellectual component as well as provide superb examples of literary devices such as metaphors, alliteration, palindromes, puns and personification:

I realize now that while I was raised by parents who avoided confrontations and as a result tend to shy away from arguments, there is something to be said for them - at least for those arguments whose purpose it is to clarify, expand, explore and define scientific,  intellectual, social, or verbal nuances about the world around us.

There are times though, especially in interpersonal relationships and parenting, when arguments aren't intellectual or humorous.

Dealing with non-intellecutal, non-humorous arguments (to avoid a subsequent fight):
  • try to keep an authoritative not authoritarian voice;
  • focus on one topic at a time;
  • keep the argument concrete - focusing on the issue(s) and not on making personal / emotional judgements - don't name call, curse, or add negative emotions to what should be a discussion;
  • when arguing with your child be consistent but add options and compromise opportunities (avoiding power struggles) ;
  • take and give time outs where neither side speaks - avoiding saying things that will be regretted, while calming tempers (but don't just walk out or turn a back - explain that you need time to think this out or to cool down);
  • acknowledge feelings while disagreeing with positions (it's amazing how far and how important it is to separate feelings from the reality of the situation while validating or at least acknowledging those feelings)
  • recognize that there is a difference between fighting and arguing - while fights often involve anger and rarely lead to consent, arguing can be healthy ... cool down fights.
How do you approach arguments? For fun or self-reflection you may want to learn more about your arguing style.  Psychology Today offers a 43 question (20 minute) "Arguing Style Test" and while it is really for arguing with partners rather than with kids, they are informative:
[Note: I found the first more informative and second link interesting  but not all that insightful.  The positive thing about these tests are that the questions themselves teach better 'arguing']

Let me know what you think - about arguing, how you argue, or your thoughts on these links.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Zero Tolerance for Bullying

No argument: There should be ZERO tolerance for bullying.  

The debate is over policy: Zero Tolerance Policies (where ALL acts of bullying result automatically in severe punishment, which in schools usually translates into suspension) sound good. Research, however, indicates it is ineffective at best.

Part of the problem is that Zero Tolerance Polices do not, by definition, incorporate (a) extenuating circumstances; (b) the fact that understanding what lead to the undesirable behavior is essential in determining the most effective responses; or, (c)  the fact that what constitutes "punishment" various from each individual.

Here's one real life example (names have been changed):

Brody hit Charles in the school lunch room.  Brody admits hitting him, tries to explain why - but the Dean, incensed with the action suspends him without an investigation.

But, is life ever that simple?  What did Brody and Charles learn from this?  What did their friends learn?

In truth, the scene above happens all too frequently in schools and is NEVER that simple.

In the above case, Charles began bullying Brody three years before this final incident.  Brody typically would walk away when pushed and berated but not report it because he felt ashamed of being victimized.  On this day in question, after homeroom, Charles again began calling Brody names. Brody walked away and Charles stalked after him.  Other kids observed this but no school personnel took notice.  Brody was a quiet kid, never got into trouble, helped his classmates and was considerate of others. Charles was not liked by others and was often found engaged in verbal arguments.  Charles kept harassing Brody - who kept walking away.  Finally Brody turned to Charles and asked him to leave him alone and stop stalking him.  They were in the lunch room.  Charles pushed Brody, and Brody in desperation punched Charles.  The punch is what the administration saw.  Charles refuted Brody's story (initially) and Brody was suspended. It was only after Brody's mom complained that the school began asking kids what happened and Brody's story was corroborated.

What was gained by the school's action?  Charles' bullying was reinforced - Brody got into real trouble.  Brody became a victim not only of Charles' bullying but of the school administration's blind eye to detail and circumstances.  Other students saw who was reinforced and punished in this scenario and they learned too.

From: psychologytoday.com

Until witnessing this scenario I was a strong proponent of Zero Tolerance policies.  Bullying should not be tolerated - be it physical,verbal, visual or sexual bashing.   In the case above, however, the Zero Tolerance policy reinforced Charles' bullying and further humiliated Brody. Brody should not have fallen victim yet again, and Charles' bullying should not have been reinforced by punishing only Brody (further validating Charles' behavior).

Bottom line:
  • There should be no tolerance anywhere for bullying, name calling. harassment of any sort.  
  • Bullying begins with words and physical cues and postures.  These words and postures should be the first behaviors addressed when dealing with inappropriate social interactions.  We should not wait for the physical manifestations.
  • There must be negative consequences for all harassers and all forms of harassment.
  • The first rule, however, of behavior modification is that when punishing someone for any type of act, the punishment has to be perceived to be a punishment by the person receiving said punishment. SO, if a kid likes being alone in a room, sending them to a room for time out as punishment, will not be effective.  Therefore, having predetermined punishments, by definition is not the most effective means of shaping behavior.
  • When punishing - make sure you have all the facts before passing judgement.  Realize that getting these facts may take some time.
 Anti-Bullying Suggestions:
  • If you see bullying on television or a movie, or read about it in a book, or see it happening in the playground - talk to your child about it.  Talk about how it feels to be a victim, talk about how to defuse a bully, talk about seeking adult help, and talk about NOT being ashamed if it happens to you.
 It doesn't work this way in real life, and bullying is not funny - at all - but it is a nice jumping point to watch scenes like this together and talk about them.
  • If your child is being bullied, talk about it.  Empathize with him or her, validate their feelings.  Brainstorm possible solutions explaining that there may not be any quick fixes but making sure your child sees some form of response and consequence.  If this is happening in school, talk to teachers and administrators.  Document the bullying.  Be persistent in checking in with the school and your child.
Some websites you may want to visit:
    There are so many forms of bullying (verbal, physical, cyberspace bullying, etc.) that cannot be addressed in one post.  Have you had to deal with bullying?  How have you handled it?

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    "YES, when..." An Antidote for Parent Child Power Struggles

    From networkedblogs.com
    In a recent comment I received to one of my posts, as a follower wrote about the hurdles she faces with her two year old who just discovered the power of "no!"  Those of us who have survived the "terrible two's" can look back, smile, and nod knowingly, not missing this particular stage of toddlerhood.

    Personally, I loved the terrible two's because each day offered something new.  My approach to the "NO!'s" was to present my kids with a counterbalanced "YES" saving the "NOS" for really important times (from toddlerhood through teenhood, especially through teenhood). Granted, we did have some headbanging, hair tearing, door slamming (teen tantrum), fit throwing moments, but time has kindly wiped most from my memory and we all moved on. Also, because my husband and I are relatively low keyed people, we did not scream, which meant that for the most part, our kids did not scream either. 

    The "YES, when" and other "NO!" Counter-balancing Suggestions:
    • When their no's are playful, play too. With toddlers, in particular, sometimes their "no's" are more word play than power struggle. Sometimes. When they're playful, reply with your own playful 'laughing' "NOOOOoo"  Laugh, distract them. Chances are, you'll end this with a final yes and hug.
    • When their 'no's' are serious, offer alternatives. Look at it as brainstorming and problem solving - two really important skills they need to learn and use. Granted, sometimes there isn't time to analyze, problem solve and brainstorm, but doing it efficiently and effectively ends up saving time in the long run.
    • I, personally, am not above some 'cognitive tom-foolery'... Distraction's and key!

    • Sometimes instead of "no"  use "OK, but first...."  or "Yes, after..." or "Yes, when..."

    The YES rationale: When your child counters a demand/request with "no"-  have a suitable, acceptable alternative handy.  Not only does this "yes" alternative distract and neutralize their "no" - it also encourages them to contemplate alternatives, it models creative problem solving, and it empowers both sides.  It can turn a head-bashing deadlock into a win-win situation.  The challenge is in creating the "YES" alternatives.  For suggestions, some of my previous blog posts may be helpful:
    "Options, Shining Opportunities, Opening Worlds at http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/04/options-shining-opportunities-opening.html
    "Looking at the World from Another Perspective:  Richard Feynman Style at http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/looking-at-world-from-another.html 

    YES - Think about this:
    • When headed into an argument -  "NO" is a power struggle word... we want to avoid those confrontations and save them for the really important arguments we need to win.  
    • Say "YES" with qualifiers ("Yes, when..."  "Yes, but after/before..."  "Yes, but with..."!...)  This way you are teaching them HOW to get what they want while accomplishing and doing what they have to do AND providing often needed structure and limits. 
    • Childhood is our opportunity to shape and teach our kids.  Sometimes the best way to do this is to encourage them to take (safe or calculated) risks, and to allow them to learn from mistakes.  So before saying 'NO' ask yourself if this is a mistake you can live with and one they can learn from.  If the answer to this question is 'no' then your response has to be "NO." IF, however, your response to this question is yes or even maybe, look into the NO alternatives.

    When you have to say "NO" To Toddlers and Younger Children: There are clear times we have to say "no" to our young children.  These times involve safety issues, and basic essential school and social issues.  Any time the yes/no line is not crystal clear, go to the problem solving, distracting, 'negotiating' alternatives.  For those essential NO's:
    • Use them with consistency - no running in the street ever... no running in the house with scissors or knives ever... no hitting other kids...These are always rules - not just sometimes;
    • When possible, explain why you are saying no, what the consequences can and will be,  and allow them to brainstorm what might be more acceptable.
    • Mean it - we all know the "no" look and body language.
    • Offer alternative behaviors, options, and means - this will help them with problem solving and it will help avoid confrontations and power struggles - empower them with acceptable alternatives they can chose from.  This not only teaches positive problem solving, it empowers safe risk taking - something they must learn how to do and navigate throughout their lives.
    • Show your kids that it is the action you are against and that you love them. 

    And, when you have to say "NO" To Teens:

    With teens the YES/NO line is no longer so black and white.  Teenhood is a time of learning and asserting independence; it is a time they have to learn to live comfortably in their own skins and a time when we as parents have to give them a longer rope to live by.  We have to chose these NO's carefully.  Too many no's here will push them further away sooner then either of you are really ready to cut that rope...but consequences to mistakes are greater, which makes this gray area grayer.  Here too ask yourself:  Are the consequences of his/her actions ones I can live with and he/she can learn from?   Take out your scale here and measure both sides and remember to chose your NO's wisely. Failing and mistakes are not always a bad thing - painful, yes, but they can be powerful learning experiences that can serve your teen well.

    The bottom line is that we have to pick and chose our yes' and nos'.  How do you balance them?    Please let us all know in your comments!