Thursday, December 22, 2011

The one where I talk about bullying....

Bullying comes in many different forms, and from many different people.  We all know about physical school yard bullying and how much it can hurt our bodies. But what don't know about is the subtle bullying that comes from words.   "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". We've all heard that, right?  Well guess what, I'm here to debunk that.  WORDS HURT!   As much, if not more than, sticks and stones.
How do we recognize bullying with words?  Sometimes it can be hard. has some wonderful information in their article

Bullying: Know the facts about bullying, even if you don’t think bullying affects your child.

They talk about teasing and it's effects on a child.  A child can become withdrawn, not want to be around the person(even if it someone they really like). They can have self-esteem issues. They can feel like no one around them cares.  They can even feel resentment towards the person doing the teasing/bullying, even if it's a loved one.    A loved one, you ask? Yep. Sadly adults who love our children are also doing the teasing/bullying.    Why?  Well, because they have been that way their whole lives and everyone thought it was funny.   They made excuses for her.  They let her continue in order to "keep the peace."    

Well, this mama refuses to "keep the peace."  My house, and my children, are a Bully-Free Zone.   You may not bully me or my children, or my husband.  Not as long as I'm around...

So, how do we recognize bullying by teasing?   Here is how:
-The person who is being teased isn't happy about it. They may laugh, just to cover the fact that they are uncomfortable or to "fit in."
-The teasing is directly hurtful.  Covering hurtful words with a laugh and an "I'm just joking." is just as bad.  It still hurts.
-If the person is too young to understand that words hurt.   Small children can still be hurt by words, but sadly, do nothing about it.  They either can't verbalize it themselves or they have been taught to respect their elders no matter what.  This gives the adult an unfair advantage because the child cannot stick up for themselves.
-Making fun of people, even in a teasing manner, is still hurtful and not okay.
-Is the teasing tearing a person down, or lifting them up?   If it's tearing them down, it's NOT okay.   God wants us to love each other and use our words to lift them up, not tear them down. 

So, what can we do about it?    Well, we can teach our children that bullying and teasing in a hurtful manner is not okay.  Using your words to hurt others is never okay.   If you have a problem with someone, bring it to them directly. Don't use bullying/teasing as a way to retaliate or make your ways known.  

What can we do if we see someone who is bullying/teasing others?  STOP BEING QUIET ABOUT IT!  STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR THAT PERSON!  There is no reason at all that the person doing the bullying/teasing needs to continue.    It doesn't matter if that person is  8 or 108, it's still not okay.   That person needs to learn a new way to communicate with others. If the only way she can communicate with others is by teasing/tearing them down, then I think maybe some counseling is in order because she has some serious problems of her own.    Be it self-esteem issues or a way of getting attention, or because it makes themselves feel like a bigger, better person, whatever it is. It's not okay.    

Kids Health has a wonderful article on teasing and what to do about it.   It's behavior that must be unlearned once it's been learned. It's behavior that needs to stop before it even gets started.  

If you have anything to add, or any comments, I'd love to hear them.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The one where I talk about Shaming..

Actually, I have asked a wonderful gentle mom and fellow blogger, peaceondarknights, to do a guest post for me.  Shaming is something I try  my hardest to avoid while raising my boys.    And wether it comes from me, their father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends or strangers, it all has the same effect.

Shame is an insidious thing.  It can be so subtle and be conveyed by such culturally acceptable phrases, that we might not even realize we are doing it or the message it is sending to our children.   Some parents who would never dream of spanking, still find shaming to be a perfectly acceptable way to show their displeasure or get a point across to their kids.  Some parents, like myself, recognize shaming for the monster it is, but still occasionally spit out pat phrases of disgust rather than thinking through more uplifting and appropriate things to say.  

Here are a few phrases I see used, why I object to their use, and some alternative things to say:
Bad boy!  I usually see this directed at toddlers, doing normal toddler things.  Regardless of your opinion on the inherent goodness or lack thereof in humans as a whole, a 2 year old getting into the cookie jar or decorating the bathroom with toilet paper is not being *morally bad.*  Usually they are being inquisitive or exploring their environment.  They are little scientists, discovering their world and figuring out what will happen if they drop their food on the floor.  Does it make a sound?  How fast does it go?  Does it splatter?
At any age, even disobedience or moral wrongs are not helped by the vague proclamation that the child is bad.  All it does is tell the child that their entire human worth is wrapped up in this one mistake.  If it is used frequently, it tells them that their worth is wrapped up in these series of mistakes that they just keep making no matter how hard they try.  Wait.... they make mistakes!  That makes them so fully..... human.  As an adult human, I certainly can relate to how awful I feel when someone berates me and how much better I respond when someone takes the time to gently show me a better way.    

Depending on the age of the child and the issue being addressed, some alternatives are to explain to the child the problem with what they are doing, express how you feel about what they did, redirect them to something more appropriate or work with them to brainstorm ways they can do what they want to do in a more acceptable way.  State clearly what you want them to do "Leave the cookies in the jar," rather than attacking their character.    

What on earth were you thinking?!  I find myself spitting this one out without thinking sometimes.  What I really mean is "I just found this mess and I'm shocked and frustrated!"  or "If you had thought this through/used your brain/ thought about how this would affect me you wouldn't have done it."  The first can be much better expressed by saying exactly what I mean and saying how I feel about the situation.  The second is demeaning.  It insinuates that the child is stupid or careless.  I am so glad that today when I closed my husband's online tv show he had loading when I only meant to close the page I was browsing, that he didn't insinuate I was being careless.  How often do we as adults do things that fail to take into account how someone else will feel about it, not out of maliciousness, but maybe because we simply don't know that they have a preference?  Children lack forethought and impulse control because that is the way God designed them to develop.  If those areas of their brains were mature, they wouldn't need parents.  No amount of trying to make them feel stupid, careless or bad is going to force their brains to develop faster.  What it can do is cause them to feel stupid, careless and bad for the rest of their lives. 

Again, the best way to express frustration, is simple to state your own feelings.  It is important to distinguish between feelings and judgments.  "I feel like you were being careless when you broke my necklace" isn't actually a feeling at all.  It's a judgement about what you think the other person was doing and thinking (or not thinking).  "I feel frustrated/sad/upset that you broke my necklace," lets the child know that their actions do affect other people.  When all they hear is your judgement, they will probably think you are attacking them and get defensive.  If they hear your feelings and are of an age where they have developed some empathy, they will be more inclined to respond appropriately.   A great book on this subject is Nonviolent Communication. 

Your brother always.... why can't you be more like him?  The comparison.  No two people are alike and if we were all the same, what a boring world it would be.  So telling one child to be more like the other, does not help him become a better person.  It hinders him from becoming the person HE is supposed to be.

Instead of comparing two children, imagine how you would respond if this child was the only one you knew.  How can you build this child up in his unique gifts and abilities?    

Shame, shame (complete with the finger motions).  This one does not even try to disguise itself as something other than what it is- shame.  It is blatantly telling the child that they should feel ashamed of what they have done and can even be done in a mocking way.  I think it is very important to distinguish between guilt and shame.  Guilt is internal and comes from our conscious or the Holy Spirit prodding us to do things differently.  Guilt is a natural, God-given feeling that arises when we do something wrong.  When experienced by an emotionally healthy person, it pushes them towards repentance and restitution.  It is the impetus for changing their behavior TO something better.  Shame, on the other hand, is external.  It is the voice of someone outside ourselves saying that we *should* feel bad, wrong, and dirty for what we have done.  It is embarrassment and fear of what someone else thinks and creates a desperation to get AWAY from the bad feelings, without any goal of where to go.  A child who hears a lot of messages of shame, blatant or subtle, can fail to learn to hear their own conscious and instead learn to use the approval or disapproval of others as their guide for what is right and wrong.     

Again, this only tells the child what not to do and that he should feel bad for doing it.  Imagine that you were just teleported to another planet.  You don't know their customs or their language and you have to figure everything out as you go.  Would it be helpful for them to look at you in disgust and shame you every time you made a mistake?  Or would you appreciate if someone took the time to show you their customs?  Kids don't want to do things that other people will be angry or sad about.  They want to figure out how to get along in this world and often even when they know intellectually, their impulse control and physical ability has not yet caught up to make it possible.  Show them how the world works, explain to them why, and work with them to find solutions to problems.    

Friday, December 9, 2011

The great birthday extravaganza!!!!!!

So, my sweet little boy turned two today.  Two years ago I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a c-section and nursing my sweet, gorgeous baby boy.    Look at this beautiful face!  

Now, two years later, he is this big beautiful bundle of fun.

Because I like to make their actual birthday special, I decided to throw a small party at a local park.. It was fun.  Some friends, some family and good old fashioned party fun.   Cupcakes(which Samuel and I made together), some balloons and lots of playtime.  Which also means, lots of pictures. :)  

He wasn't too sure about the birthday singing.  He seemed a bit scared.  And he wasn't too sure about the candles.  He wouldn't blow them out.  I guess we better work on that. OOPS.

But this?  THIS was fun!  More leaves than he has ever seen and he gets to play in them all, as much as he wants.

Mima and Papa came tonight too.  They brought a gift with them.  Can you see it? It has wheels.  Awesome.....

It's a hit. He loves it.  Totally cool.

So I brought out the new-to-us toy food that a friend at church gave us.   That was a huge hit. He loves it!   Oh, and that scarf?  Mima made that.  One for him and one for Cias. :)

Now this is what I call a happy birthday boy.  He had a wonderful day of playing and partying and eating whatever he wanted.  He even got one of his favorite foods for dinner-PIZZA!!!

And there is more partying and more presents to open on Sunday at the big family birthday bash.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Elf Mischief!

The elves are back. They came back the weekend after Thanksgiving. And boy, oh boy, have they been busy little creatures.......

Night 1: They got into the pantry, pulled out some cans of food and made a tower.

Night 2:   Um, they slept..  I think they were tired from their trip here..

Night 3: They poured themselves some Rice Krispies.  Guess they were hungry.  Messy, all always.

Night 4:  They gathered some friends to play with. Lined them up in the hallway and gave them some toys.  Looks like they had fun. What do you think?

Night 5:  They were too tuckered out from playing the night before.. They slept all night.

Night 6:   Well, we woke up in the morning and found them in the bathroom.  They dumped band-aids on the counter, played with toys and used window marker to draw on the mirror.   Tic-tac-toe, happy faces, stuff like that.  One was actually hanging from the Christmas lights with the marker in his hand when we found them.

 Night 7(I think...): A snow ball fight! Can you believe it? They actually had a snow ball fight in my house!  Good grief.  They used cotton ball snow balls and Mega Blocks to build protection.

Night 8?: Can you believe these two? Hanging from the lights!  Whatever shall we do with them???

Night 9:  They just keep getting into stuff.  We found them in refrigerator! Cias' elf(Jake) was standing on the jelly jar eating whipped cream.  Sammy's elf(Buzz) was sitting on the shelf below eating blueberries.

Night 10?:  Well, the good news is that they aren't just mischievous.   They are also crafty.  They actually crocheted themselves sleeping bags. In one night!  Impressive!!!    They did leave a bit of a mess with the yarn though.

Night 11?:  More crafts. And a little sweetness.  See the snowmen hanging on the wall? Well, Cias and I made those during Thanksgiving break, but we hadn't hung them up yet. Well, the elves were kind enough to hang them up for us.  How wonderful!  They also made some of their own. I haven't hung them up yet. I think I'll let Cias do that.

Night 12(I think...):  Blocks are fun, even for elves. They built themselves houses.  One used Mega Blocks, the other used wooden blocks. Then they tucked themselves into the cute little elf-made sleeping bags and settled in to watch some TV..
Sammy wasn't too sure what to think about it when he woke up.  The elves were playing with HIS blocks!  

Night 13-ish: HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAMUEL!!!!!  2 years ago today I gave birth to my adorable, cuddly, beautiful, full-of-life baby boy.    The elves made him 2 signs and brought him a gift.  It's a Melissa and Doug Trace and Lace.  I hope he likes it!