Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Lessons from an 8th Grade Trip

In May, my daughter participated in her school’s eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C.  I learned so much from this adventure!  No, I wasn’t a chaperone.  I learned all of this by being at home while she was gone for four days.  I learned all of this after crying like a baby driving home after seeing her board the bus for the airport.  I learned this through our telephone conversations, our texting and the sharing after she got home.  “Learned” is probably not the most accurate word.  Her trip reaffirmed things that I already knew in my head and now feel in my heart. 

My daughter is a terrific friend.  She is sensitive to those around her, and she sticks by her friends.  She expresses how she feels.  The teen years are an intense immersion course in relationships.  She was absolutely stunned when she expressed her feelings to someone on the trip, and the response from the “friend” was, “So?”  As a result, we’ve had some good discussions on what friendship means, how to set boundaries, how to be self-protecting, and how to handle it when “friends” respond insensitively.

People are amazing!  Our daughter’s godfather, Greg, and his fourteen-year-old son happened to be in Washington, D.C., on an over-lapping day with her tour.  Greg immediately asked if he could meet up with her.  We got approval from the school, and he bought tickets for the dinner-dance cruise.  It meant a great deal to our daughter that Greg and his son would take the time to be with her.  It meant a lot to us that he would spend hours amidst a throng of high school and middle school teenagers on a boat without escape and without alcohol!  From the Potomac, they sent me text messages and photographs.  At least three of my daughter’s friends are now “in love” with Greg’s son!                  

She does not waiver in her determination.  Beginning on the plane ride from south Florida, there were several challenges on this trip.  She did not cave in.  She pushed through the difficulties, taking good care of herself and honoring how she felt.  She grew more resilient and confident from the experience. 

It is terrific for children (and parents) to go out into the world.  They grow, and they return with something to enrich the family and themselves.  I could see this in how my daughter approached her voice lesson the week after she got home.  I had never seen her so confident!  She took risks vocally that she had not done before.  I could see it in how she approached her responsibilities with much more leadership.        

I can see where I nag.    In the quiet around the house during those four days, the “typical daily home soundtrack” replayed in my head.  The soundtrack replay made me keenly aware of how much I say, how often I say it, and the tone I use when saying it.  After the trip, I actually took my own advice from Redirecting Children’s Behavior and talked less, using one word, i.e., homework or trash or pets, instead of multiple sentences!   Minimizing the number of words I’ve used has produced much happier results! 
A trip like this allows everyone the space to examine their relationships.  My daughter got to appreciate home and family.  She got to examine friendships when the time spent with friends allowed everyone to truly be themselves at their best and their worst.  And I got to see the results of my daughter’s big step into the world, generously allowing me to see her more as the young woman she is becoming than the child she has been.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All You Have to Do is Look Inside: An End to the Bully AND the Victim

The film Bully recently opened, and bullying has been a hot topic of conversation for many years.  Please welcome our guest columnist, Pamela Dunn, who has great insights into how to shift the bully-victim paradigm. Pamela will be speaking on this topic at It Takes a Village Parenting Conference on October 20, 2012, in Miramar. Thanks to Parkland Life Magazine for permission to reprint this article.

by Pamela Dunn

It takes a lot of courage, a lot of love and compassion to see the perceived bully as greater than their actions – and each and every person has that ability.  It takes a lot of strength, a lot of faith and compassion to see the perceived victim as greater than their beliefs and each and every person has that ability.  This paradigm shift in how you see them AND then treating them THAT way is no longer just for the gifted – it is critical for everyone. It’s critical because it is your way to stop adding anger, revenge, depression and discouragement to the world and replace that with the ability to treat each other and ourselves more compassionately, see ourselves and others as brilliant, judge from the beauty and care about the pain.  THIS is the richness the world – and YOU – deserves to experience.

You see, the concept of bullying on any level is a highly damaging concept.  In addition, the media and many specialists, when addressing the issue of bullying, add to the issue by simply arming the victims against the bully and punishing the bully. I believe this is one of the key perspectives that perpetuate the problem and All You Have to Do is Look Inside will address the alternatives necessary to shift this belief and the way we operate.

There is a way to minimize what we are harmfully deeming the “bullying” epidemic, and first and foremost we must see it for what it truly is… the lack of a person recognizing the innate good and magnificence of who they are.  The bully does not see the magnificence of who he is nor does the victim.

One of the most important concepts in shifting the paradigm will be to feel your feelings and identify them rather than express feelings and over-identify with them.  This can occur through saying things like, “I feel angry” rather than, “I am angry.”

Beliefs about ourselves are anchored through our actions.  The belief that I am angry is anchored through acting angry. The belief I am a bully is anchored through acting like a bully. The belief I am a victim of something or someone is anchored through being the victim.  You see the paradigm here – one that every single one of us has fallen into before; we have excellent reasons for this behavior, but the truth remains that these beliefs and their subsequent actions are NOT our magnificence. 

Change your belief about yourself or others – recognize what that would feel like – take action based on the new belief and your expectations change.  We only see what we believe is possible – so believe it is possible and that is what you’ll look for.

Dr. Haim Ginott said, “I have come to the conclusion that I am the decisive element.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis is elevated.”  We have all been both the bully and the victim of the bully at various times in our life.  We can continue to live our lives in that limiting paradigm or we can move beyond to our depth of love, compassion, strength and faith in humanity.

Goethe said, “If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  So decide who you want to be and learn about yourself, especially when you are NOT operating that way and then go on to discover, honor and express your magnificence – help others do that, too.

Pamela Dunn is the author of Journey to Your Soul’s Magnificence, the president of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company and the founder of The Peaceful Project, a non-profit organization devoted to guiding people to discover, honor and live their unique life’s purpose.