Friday, November 21, 2014

#ThanksMichelleObama

Today in the news feed on the side of my facebook wall there was a link to articles about how Teenagers are Tweeting pictures of their school lunches with #ThanksMichelleObama. What I want to focus on is not the gross nasty disgusting things schools try to feed children (no one should ever be fed canned green beans, is it any wonder kids think they don't like vegetables?), and it's not about the inadequate number of calories on some of those cafeteria trays (there are a lot of athletes in high school, there's no way they should have to make it through the day on three chicken fingers people!) What I want to examine is the reaction of adults to the tweets. 

I know, I know, "Don't read the comments!" But the comments are such a great place for blogging inspiration, and well, my eyes get to the comments before my brain can jump in and remind me that I really don't want to wade into the negativity.   

But oh the negativity! From self-righteous comments about how their food looked just as bad and wasn't nearly as nutritious, to swearing at the kids for being ungrateful, and calling the kids lazy because they don't bother to pack their own lunches, and pointing out that it's not Michelle's fault it's the school that isn't implementing the new regulations creatively. Oh, and then there are the people who are going to jump on the Michelle bashing bandwagon while still managing to hate on the kids. Once again I am shocked and saddened by how hateful adults are toward the youth of American. I also find it ironic that those same adults blame the young people for being angry and rebellious.

So many people want to silence the voices of the kids. It's the out dated and misguided idea that children should be seen and not heard. When you take away the voice of a group of people, or you've never let them have a voice to begin with, that's oppression. 


Here's what I see, the older generation, the good old boys who have long held the power, and people who want to maintain the status quo or return to the mythical "good old days," are in for a shock. The young people of today have grown up with technology. They know how to pick a hashtag that's going to get noticed, and they know how to leverage the power of social media.

People in America also forget that, while we often do our best to infantalize them, teenagers are intelligent, capable people. Increasingly social media is giving them a voice and they are going to use it. (The Epstein-Dumas Infantilization Inventory (EDII)   has a list of interesting questions to consider if you think we don't infantalize teenagers.)

I think adults forget what teenagers have done, historically, to change the world. Perhaps it's time for everyone to go back and watch the movie Sarafina!  When we do everything we can to control, limit, humiliate, and demean young people, we should not be surprised when they are angry, depressed, and not involved in meaningful ways in their communities. I think it's awesome when teenagers use social media to make their voices heard. When we take teenagers seriously - interacting with them respectfully, listening to what they have to say, validating their experiences, and encouraging them to join the conversation - we create the opportunity for young people to use their energy and passion to help make the world a better place.




Monday, November 17, 2014

Kids are easy to make fun of.....

There are memes on the internet that make fun of little kids. People post them forward saying how funny they are or adding snarky comments about their own kids. People post pictures of kids throwing tantrums, sometimes tantrums that the parents caused just for the photo op. When I commented on a thread, after someone posted a meme about kids who were "picky eaters," I was shocked by the harsh words that came at me when I tried to point out a more compassionate perspective.  I'll write a post about the term "Picky Eater" another time, because it's not a phrase that's helpful. Today I want to respond to something that was said in the previously mentioned thread:


"I miss being able to just laugh at kids being weird...."

By the time this was said I have given up trying to add anything positive to the discussion, but here's what I wanted to say to the young woman who made this statement: 

Do you miss being able to laugh at people who are gay because they are weird? 

Do you miss being able to laugh at minorities because they are weird?: 

Do you miss being able to laugh at women because they are weird?:  

Do you miss being able to laugh at people with Downs Syndrome because they are weird? 

Why? Why do you feel the need to laugh at anyone? 
Does it make you feel powerful? Does it make you feel "better than" or superior? 

More and more people are realizing the harm that Racism, Sexism and other isms cause. However, many people fail to realize that ageism is an issue that needs to be taken into consideration.

Kenneth Quinell wrote your Handy Guide to -Isms that I highly recommend reading.  

Do you ever wonder about oppression as it relates to kids? This post, Are Children an Oppressed Class, asks great questions and doesn't claim to have all the right answers.

I find it sad that more people fail to view children with compassion. It's even worse that parents have no problem publicly humiliating their children, which I addressed in my post Shameful Parenting

Why is it that many people don't have a problem with oppressing others? Perhaps it's because most people grew up with it and learned to accept it before they were old enough to know what was going on.

"Adultism is the first oppression all people experience. Parents must take charge of their relationship with their children. Presenting the world as a dangerous place with murder and hurtful people along with a "That's the way it is" attitude they instill powerlessness in children. As new forms of oppressions are later introduced, we now accept them without fighting back. Born with an open, zestful and cooperative relationship to everyone we are hurt very early by this irrational behavior of adults. While we are in emotional distress, our vast human intelligence momentarily seems to shut down and the new information is stored wrongly or "jams up" in a tied-up knot, and we are blocked." Read more Here  (I'd use the word "ageism" instead of "adultism," but that doesn't change the value of what is being said.)

By being kind and compassionate in our interactions with children, being respectful to children, this is how they learn to be kind, compassionate and respectful. And that means being aware of what we say about our kids on facebook,too, as I pointed out in this post, What Your Words Say About You.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is School More Important Than Your Child?


Is school more important than your child? 

This may seem like a ridiculous question, but it seems that many people view school, grades, and academic success as more important than their child's health and well being. I'll admit that once upon a time I fell into this category. I would have denied it vehemently, but I made my crying 7 year old get onto the bus more than once. It was horrible, I felt bad about it at the time, but she needed to go to school, school was important. But was it really more important than her mental and emotional health?  


Is school more important than your relationship with your child?

Again, you are probably shaking your head and saying, "Of course not!" And again I will point at myself and tell you that as much as I said I loved my kids and that they were more important than anything else, I let school damage our relationships. Do you think my crying 7 year old felt loved and cherished when I made her get onto the bus? Do you really think this strengthened her trust in me as a mom who would protect her and take care of her? 

Parents send their kids to school even when they know their kid is being bullied. Parents make their kids go to school even when they know their child is bored because the work is too easy or struggling because they aren't cognitively ready to meet the benchmarks created by someone in an office building somewhere. Parents punish their kids for getting poor grades or not doing their homework. Parents push their kids to do more and do it better, because, they tell you, they want their child to be successful. Parents feel like they don't have a choice, it's what the school expects from them as the parent.
“By far the most important predictor of adult life-satisfaction 
is emotional health, 
both in childhood and subsequently. 
We find that the intellectual performance of a child 
is the least important childhood predictor 
of life-satisfaction as an adult.”

School isn't more important than your child. School isn't more important than your relationship with your child. You do have a choice, you don't have to be the homework enforcer. You don't have to send your child to school.

Think I'm crazy? 
Read Alfie Kohn's article, "Rethinking Homework," or better yet, his book, The Homework Myth, to learn more about why homework isn't necessary or even beneficial. And as for sending your kid to school, you really don't have to! Homeschooling is legal in every state. And if you think homeschooling means mom or dad hovering over their kids, who are sitting at the kitchen table working through workbooks, think again! Homeschooling can mean visiting museums, going to the zoo, meeting up with friends at the park on a sunny September afternoon, or playing computer games. The options for educating your child at home continue to expand at an incredible rate, look around, there is probably an option that will work for you and your kid. And remember, the academics aren't the important part of homeschooling, having a chance to support your child's mental and emotional well being, getting to explore the world together, those are the important parts. 

Think you can't homeschool because you have to go to work? Get creative! Find another homeschooling family that would be happy to have your kid spend his days with them. Ask the grandparents if they would enjoy having company during the day. You might also consider the educational options in your community, maybe there are charter schools, magnet schools, learning cooperatives, private schools, or internships that would be a better place for your child. 

We took all three of our children out of school 6 years ago. Setting ourselves free from the school system has made a huge difference in our kids and in our relationships. Am I worried about them getting into college or being successful? No. If they choose to go to college I have no doubt that they will be able to meet the requirements for admission. And as for success? For our family success is wrapped up in knowing who you are and what you love to do. If my kids follow their passions and end up doing something they love, that's what is important, that's what will create life-satisfaction when they are adults. For us, school has no part in our exploration of the world and we are all mentally and emotionally healthier as a result. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Being a Parent Your Child can Trust

Fat shaming frequently includes comments about health, as in "I just want you to be healthy." 

News flash! Fat people can be healthy and thin people can be unhealthy. In my own life my health has affected my weight much more than my weight has affected my health. 

I recently had a child tell me that they shouldn't eat sugar because it causes Diabetes. When I questioned that, saying that there was more to someone having Diabetes than just eating sugar, the child responded by saying that it usually happened after a person was grossly overweight for a long time. 

It always bothers me when parents use scare tactics to try and control or manipulate their children's behavior. Parents do this all the time! It's sometimes based on some aspect of the truth, but it's often a gross exaggeration and said in a way that is mean to create fear based avoidance in their child. Sometimes parents believe what they are saying is true, even when science doesn't back them up.

For example, many parents still cling to the idea that eating sugar makes their kid hyper.  As this video shows, that's not true:  Sugar Doesn't Make Kids Hyper


If you want to have a relationship with your child that is built on mutual trust and respect, then you need to provide them with facts. If you don't know the facts, research them, possibly together with your child. And I don't mean shoving the facts down their throats! Exploring the world together does not mean exploring the world according to your agenda, if they aren't interested, let it go. If you avoid pushing information onto your child, or using it to try and manipulate their behavior, they are much more likely to come to you when they are interested in exploring a topic. If you insist on pushing information onto your kid, or using half truths to scare them, chances are they will learn to tune out what you are saying or stop trusting you to tell them the truth. In the long run, telling your kids the truth and sticking to the facts gives you a better relationship, and makes it more likely that your kids are going to hear what you have to say on topics that are important to you. 

But back to weight and health and the facts! According to the American Diabetes Association: 

Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight. 

You can learn more facts about diabetes on their website HERE.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

What more can I do?

How do we model compassion, empathy, generosity, and caring for our children? 

Lately I've notice people saying, "I wish I could do more...." in response to the struggles faced by our family and other people we know who are coping with health or financial crises. As much as I know that the people who say, "I wish I could do more..." are trying to express their support or sympathy, it tends to irritate me more than it makes me feel better. The truth is that many of them do kind and generous things for other people. They aren't uncaring; they are often truly worried about the person or situation. 

So, what's my problem? (Obviously this is my problem and not theirs, right?)


Maybe these people can't do more, or maybe they don't want to do more. That's o.k. we all have our personal and financial limits. We get to choose how much we give and how much we do. But it's hard when someone says to me, "I wish I could do more..." while I am struggling to buy toilet paper and they have financial security that I can only dream of having, someday, maybe, but it doesn't seem likely at this point. If they aren't going to do more they could say, "I hope things get better for you soon," or "I'm sorry things are so hard right now." 

If you really wish you could do more it would be better to ask, "What more can I do?" 


If you can afford to buy toilet paper, without feeling stressed by the expense, then you can probably do more. If you aren't sure what to do, how about starting by buying an extra package of toilet paper and leaving it on the porch of someone you know who is struggling. If you feel like that's not enough, try adding a tag that says, "I'm sorry life is shitty right now." 

Our children learn compassion from us, from our interactions with them, but also by how we respond to the needs of others. What an awesome world it would be if our kids grew up asking, "What more can I do?" instead of standing to the side, wringing their hands, and saying, "I wish I could do  more."


The next time you have a friend who is facing a challenge ask yourself, or ask them, "What more can I do?"