Monday, April 26, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks!

In less than six weeks, school will be out for the summer here in south Florida. As we begin the countdown to summer vacation, it is a great time to explore what you would like your family to experience this summer. Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing how to have a summer that rocks!

Shifting from school into summer is a transition for both children and parents. With any transition, there will be stress, and you may notice some increased misbehavior. You can reduce the stress by being aware of how you and your children’s routines, activities and focus will be different over the summer.

The times to wake up and go to bed may be different. Eating meals will be different. What your child wears each day will be different. Because routines create comfort, predictability and safety, a change in routines can be very stressful. Let your child know ahead of time how his routines will be different, and explore everyone’s ideas for a new “summer routine.”

Instead of the school activities that your child has come to anticipate, what will he be doing? During family meetings, brainstorm about things that everyone wants to learn and do over the summer. If there is something your child wanted to do but did not have time during the school year, here is his opportunity. Are there any programs going on in your community that are a good fit for your child’s interests? Do you want to have a “beach day” each week? Do you want to teach your child to cook, sew, knit or play a sport? Will he be in a camp and if so, what can he expect? This is the time to check in and see what your family is inspired to do.

Your child will not be focusing on tests, projects, homework and his school job. What will he be focusing on? What will be your focus for the summer? The more specific you are, the more helpful this will be. Explore what you would like to focus on over the summer.

Summer Suggestion #1: Plan a “See Ya Next Year” event. It could be a pool party, year book signing, visit to the ice cream parlor or a trip to the movies. It is a setting for saying goodbye for a few months. If you make an annual event out of it – a ritual – it can be something that everyone anticipates. You can keep a scrap book of each year’s event.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

When It Hits Close to Home Part Deux

As Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother often said, “All’s well that ends well.” The experience that I reported last week has ended well.

The school administrator handled everything beautifully, first speaking with my daughter and then asking if she would like to be present when she spoke to the student who had slapped her. She did want to be present.

With the administrator’s kind guidance, it remained a conversation between two middle school girls and an adult facilitator rather than escalating into an inquest. No one was labeled and no one was blamed. I was happy to hear that my daughter assertively expressed herself and held the other young girl accountable for her actions when she said she had only been playing around. Slapping is not playing around, and that was made clear.

I also liked that the administrator asked the girls what kind of relationship they would like to have. Did they want to remain friends? If so, she told them it would require work and respect.

They agreed to do it.

Many gifts came from this experience. My daughter felt empowered to define how she wanted her relationships to be. Her friend learned limits. Both learned that friendship takes energy and understanding. I learned that the concepts in Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ that we have used in our family for over a decade really do inspire inner-directed, self-reliant and influential children.

It not only ends well, the next step begins well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When it Hits Home

Yesterday – exactly one week after writing the last post on Changing the Bully-Victim Paradigm – my daughter came home from school and let us knows that another student had slapped her across the face. As the three of us – my husband, daughter and I – sat down to talk about the incident, the thought that her school was not safe flashed through my mind. That thought did nothing but escalate my fear. I set that aside because what I wanted to discover more than anything else was how my daughter was showing up. In what way was she saying – through tone of voice, words, body language and presence – that it was even remotely possible for someone to hit her?

My daughter, who is in middle school, shared that she had been loaning books to two friends. Each girl would read the book and return it the next day. One friend returned book #5 in the series. While waiting for the bus to go home after school, the second girl, who is in the grade ahead of my daughter, demanded “Five!” My daughter felt intimidated, and instead of telling her that she needed it for her book log, she told her a lie. She said that the first girl had not given it back. In response, the second girl slapped her across the face. She had already been told by another girl that #5 had been returned to my daughter.

My daughter did not hit her back. She said, “That really hurt!” She then deflected a punch.

We talked about and demonstrated body language – assertive and passive – and the results of each one. We talked about the possibility that the girl who slapped her was on the receiving end at home, especially for lying. We talked about how the girl’s height and very demanding tone were intimidating. We talked about the options for responding to intimidating people and what our daughter wanted to do to handle the incident.

I felt proud for my daughter for many things. She told us about it, she did not hit back, she honestly explored her feelings, and she wanted to be actively involved in handling it at school. She also has some more learning and growing to do, so this conversation will continue.

Today I spoke with the school’s administrator, and it is now in her hands. I let her know that my goal for my daughter was for her learn to assertively express herself and to show up in a way that says “I am not for hitting.” My goal for the second girl was to learn another way to deal with her anger and to find a safe place to talk if she is being hit at home. The administrator will be calling me back after she talks with both of them individually.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Changing the Bully-Victim Paradigm

Over the weekend I listened to the archive of author Pamela Dunn’s recent radio program Can the Bully Be Magnificent? Can the Victim be Powerful? Pam is the president of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company, and she is writing a book on shifting the bully-victim paradigm. If you haven’t listened to the program, please do. In writing about the topic and the program before it aired, I wrote that “Pam will explore how our language often limits our ability to cooperate and be creative in seeing the magnificence in others, no matter the way they are acting.” This program was so much more than that.

I loved the discussion – rich in the principles from Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ (RCB) – between Pam and Leilani Long, a high school teacher in San Antonio who is successfully applying the RCB concepts in the classroom. Their conversation was about children, individual children with needs. Listening to Pam and Leilana, I realized that much of the time when we discuss bullying, it is talked about at the level of an epidemic. We forget the individual child and how children are drawn together in this dynamic.

When a child gets hurt – when a child dies – fear escalates our sadness to outrage. We label a child as either a “bully” or a “victim”, criminalizing one and disempowering the other. When we wage an assault on bullying – a war on aggression – we may raise awareness of issues; however, we fail to raise the self-awareness and self-acceptance of individual children. To do that, we can take Pamela Dunn’s suggestion and look inside.

Slow down and look inside. Teach children to slow down and look inside. Deal with individual children with unique faces, feelings, relationships and lives. Bring it down from an epidemic to a single face. That takes a different energy.

Know that when a child’s needs are met – he belongs, feels valuable, powerful, special, and loved – he is a contributing part of a team, family and classroom. He is neither aggressive nor compliant. When he belongs, he steps into who he really is, and that IS the solution. Look for the magnificent leader and the powerful individual. That is who they really are.

The war on bullying is our outrage, and outrage does not model solutions for children. If you slow down and look inside, your vision of a child’s magnificence – beyond any behaviors – will be what changes a child’s perception of himself. That is not outrage. It is love. And that is who YOU really are.