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Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Society That Cried Bully

Were you bullied as a kid? Before you answer, stop and really think about it and then consider how your kids will answer the same question thirty years from now.

The word is being thrown around a lot lately and in the process its definition is becoming diluted, which personally I think is an insult to those kids who are truly being tortured to the point of suicide. It’s also a danger to our own kids who are being taught to label those around them as bullies when in fact they may be nothing
more than an ignorant kid who simply called your child a poopy head.

I myself was teased as a youngster. I was the short kid in school. At one point I strongly considered legally changing my name to Half-Pint. Kidding aside, it had a profound affect on me. It wasn’t just kids calling me names and labeling me, it was teachers, parents, coaches, friends, family, you name it. They all had their
shutterstock_87771445“affectionate” little names for me and were always quick to point out that I was too little to do things. My self image throughout life was that of being small and scrawny. Even after I’d become an adult and, for the most part, caught up, I still considered myself puny.

Would I consider it bullying? No. Teasing maybe, but not bullying. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I react to it? Certainly. I remember one day getting so angry I actually found myself shoving the tallest kid in the class into the chalkboard and punching him. But that was pretty much the extent of it. It led to a trip to the principle’s office for both of us and a lesson on choosing how we react to people.

Then I discovered Ernie DiGregorio, a point guard for the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. Listed as 6′ 0″, he was closer to 5′ 10″ and seemed dwarfed by the other players on the court. Yet he held his own. He had poise and exuded inner strength. I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet and he was my idol. To a kid like me, he represented that the size of my body didn’t matter as much as the size of my heart. He gave me a positive to grab hold on to and carry with me.

I still hated being short and looking back can see how the names, always being at the head of the line in school, the names, having short sisters who were bigger than me, the names, and frankly just being short, all had a profound affect on my self image; both as a child and as an adult. Still I wouldn’t consider it bullying.
Would it have helped if people would have been a little more sensitive? Sure, but the question is at what point does teasing become bullying or something more criminal? And do we at times put too much of the responsibility on the teaser, and not enough on the teased?

WHAT? Blame the teased? No, I’m not suggesting we blame the teased. But I do believe we are on a path of making everyone out to be a victim, which is dangerous. Yes, it is without question important to teach our children (and adults for that matter) to be sensitive to those around us. To be compassionate, supportive and understanding. To lift each other up rather than knock them down. But we also need to be giving our kids the tools to deal with jerks. To recognize that they exist and how to look past them and keep moving forward. To learn the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate us and ignore the noise emitted by those who would put us down in an effort to build themselves up. To understand why people are mean and learn how to blow it off.

The reality is, no matter what we do as a society, there are going to be assholes. Hell, as a dear friend and mentor once taught me, on any given day we have the potential to be that asshole. There are going to be jealous, insecure idiots who will do whatever they can to push down the strong willed and those different than images-6them. When they attack we need to know how to handle it and brush it off. To recognize that typically these people need bigger hugs than we do and buying into their ignorance is giving them too much credit.

That takes practice and it takes a support system teaching us that the actions of the mean are irrelavent and nothing more than a cry for help from someone much weaker than ourselves. They are actually a sign that the potential strength they see in us is a threat, one they don’t know how to deal with so they choose to spew hatred. I honestly believe bullying has more to do with fear than it does hatred. We fear those who pose a threat and tend to become defensive. Some take it to extremes with relentless taunts, facebook posts, threats, verbal torture and worse.

My point to this post is simple. I’m concerned that too much focus is on teaching kids not to bully and not enough on giving kids the tools to deal with being bullied. As much as we need to let kids know how important it is to accept each other and respect each other for our differences, we also need to teach our kids the value of having a tough skin. To learn to deal with adversity and defeat. To pick themselves back up when they fail or someone hurts them. This doesn’t mean giving everyone a trophy to build up their self esteem. Quite the contrary. It means recognizing those teaching opportunities. The strikeout, the D-, not making the team, being called fat or skinny; singled out because of race or sexual orientation or for wearing the wrong shirt to school. These are all precursors to the struggles that await them as adults. Their childhood is a pre-season of sorts. And it’s our job to coach them through it to prepare for the big game. From pre-school to middle school to high school, each instance is a chance to learn how to deal with struggles and find the inner strength to over come them. (Please don’t wait until high school to start.)

YES! We need to help kids understand the impact of their teasing, and bullying. But there are always going to be those who bully because they already KNOW the affects of their actions. It’s why they do it! They want to inflict pain. They want to knock you down. That’s their goal. The more you point out to them that their actions hurt, the more you’re going to encourage them because they WANT to hurt.

My hope is that we as a society not only teach our youth the power of their words and actions, but that we also strive to raise a generation of emotionally strong, self confident young people who recognize that people who hate are afraid. Afraid of your strength. That sometimes the only way they know how to build themselves up is to take you down a notch. We need to raise a generation of kids who know how amazing they are to the point that even the harshest attacks will leave nothing more than a scratch. When I shoved the kid into the chalk board, we were BOTH sent to the principle’s office. I was told that while the other kid’s actions were unacceptable, how I responded to them was as bad if 314239679x356not worse. That violence isn’t the answer. When I got back to the classroom my teacher told me the same thing and told me that I was “bigger” than that. And she was right.

Your kids are going to be told throughout their lives that they aren’t good enough, that their thoughts are wrong and will feel at times like they don’t belong. They’re not going to gel with everyone they meet. We need to teach them that just because someone thinks they can’t sing doesn’t mean they should stop singing. In fact, we should teach them to sing louder so that more people hear them. Because I promise you, there is someone out there who will think they sing like an angel. Teach them to just walk past the ones who don’t and keep looking for those that do.

So what can we do? For starters let kids know they’re not alone. Show them that they have someone else they can talk to who may be going through the same thing. The Our Place Network is a great example. Young kids talking to young kids, monitored by an adult. There’s even a weekly podcast that goes along with it where kids can call in with questions or stories and get input from other kids their age as well as non-judging adults.

Yes, teach your kids to be sensitive. Yes, coach them to be supportive when someone stumbles. But at the same time educate them to know how to pick themselves back up when they themselves stumble and there isn’t anyone around to help them. Because it will happen. They will be picked on, they will be teased, they may even be bullied and feel like the world is against them. Give them the tools and the inner strength to battle through those moments, brush themselves off and be there to help the next guy.

 

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Bad Taste In Your Mouth

We all talk a lot about being around people who “get” you. And what a drag it can be when you’re around people who don’t “get” you. Even when talking about your divorce, you’re more than likely to say at some point, “we just didn’t get each other.” I did that. I put the onus on the fact that we just didn’t “get” each other. But then I Unknownstarted to look at the bigger picture and recognized that there were a lot of people in my life who just didn’t “get” me. And so I turned to the mirror.

The truth is that we likely have traits that create the same outcome in many aspects of our lives and a broken marriage is a great opportunity to take a closer look at ourselves. The problem is, life and societal interaction is a bit more complex than that. To believe that we alone are the soul contributor to the outcome of any relationship is ignoring the fact that, for lack of a better term, “it takes two to tango.” Perhaps the reason for our discontent isn’t always in how we interact with the world, but more, what world we choose to interact WITH.

Consider for a second that the world is your local grocery store and personalities are ingredients to a recipe. Pick any two ingredients and you’re going to get a different outcome. Some will compliment each other very well; such as peanut butter and jelly. While others, like the same peanut butter with pickles, will for most anyway, leave you with a bad taste in their mouth. So it stands to reason that if peanut butter only hangs out with different pickles I would imagine he’d start to think he didn’t taste very good. But what if peanut butter started hanging out with jellies more often?

Perhaps for some reason we keep hanging out in the wrong aisle, constantly trying to team up with the wrong ingredients. In turn we constantly find ourselves trying to blend with other personalities that clash with, more than compliment our own flavor. We’re then left with the feeling that no one likes peanut butter, I mean, us. Let’s face it, pickles just don’t “get” peanut butter. But jelly sure as hell does.

As I enter my third year of divorce and forty-seventh on this earth, I’ve come to realize that as much as we 24PEANUT-articleLargeneed to take a good hard look at ourselves and who we are as individuals, we also need to take an equal if not deeper look at the recipes we keep trying to get mixed into. In essence we need to figure out what kind of ingredient we are and then look for a. other ingredients we’ll compliment and then b. make sure we’re served to people who have a stomach for the dish we become a part of. If you’re like me, you spent a good part of your life constantly hanging out with ingredients who were anything but the pork chop to your apple sauce.

True enough, sometimes wild combinations can work. For example, I recently had some ghost pepper jelly that was mind blowing. And there are pickles who create some serious magic with peanut butter. But for the most part, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s nothing anyone can do to a ribeye steak that will make it appealing to you. Nothing. So if you’re the steak, you’ll probably find yourself feeling more appreciated if you start hanging out with steak lovers instead of vegans.

I truly do believe we need to know who we are as ingredients. We also need to recognize that not everyone is going to have a taste for what we bring to the table. And that’s OK. Just know who you are. Be happy with who you are and then find other ingredients who “get” you and appreciate you. Hopefully in doing so, you’ll have a better chance of people asking for seconds rather than throwing you in the garbage.

 

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Get It Right The Third Time!

Would you expect your nine-year-old to start playing a Chopin concerto perfectly on the piano the first time? How many hours of practicing would you expect him/her to need in order to get it right? And yet how often do we get upset with our kids when they don’t act correctly or follow directions the first time?

My recent push to have the kids do the dishes together after dinner made me stop and recognize how important it is to provide them with opportunities to practice not just what they do but how they do it and whoIT-simple-mistakes they do it with. Our first go around was rough. (Boy … was it rough). Each kid wanted to lead. Or should I say, didn’t want the others to lead. Perhaps their goal was for me to give up on the entire idea and just say, “fine, you guys go play and I’ll clean up.” But by the ninth or tenth time they started to get into a rhythm. They started to figure out that either way it was going to happen, so they may as well make it fun. And they did. They each made mistakes (I have a picture of a very soapy floor to prove it). But learned to help each other work through the mistakes rather than point fingers.

How many soccer games did your child play before they started to figure out how to pass rather than go after the ball with everyone else on the field?

I’m grooming my oldest for baby sitting the other two; giving her opportunities to watch them for five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time. The first few times it’s resulted in a revolt due to a lack of communication and lack of understanding of how everyone needs to work together. But what a tremendous learning experience for every single one of them, including me. After each instance we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully over time, they’ll each learn the best way to respond to each other to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Even something as simple as the morning routine, i.e. getting ready for school, getting dressed, fed, out the door on time; has taken a long time to nail down. Oh sure, you can try to get things together the night before. mistakesBut kids change their minds or forget socks. Or neglect to inform you of a form that needs to be filled out, waiting until you’re closing the door. Learning how to work together and pace yourself properly and work through the stress of the morning rush takes practice.

But how many times do we throw up our arms and give up when it doesn’t work the first time? “I knew this would happen!” “I knew this was a mistake!” “What were you thinking?!” “Why did I think I could trust you?!” “Obviously you’re not ready for this kind of thing!” So easy to just spew the negative and make our kids feel like incompetent idiots isn’t it?

I, like you, struggle with providing them emotional room to grow and learn. To build their confidence through the fine art of screwing up. How difficult it is to encourage our kids to make mistakes and teach them that being wrong is OK and simply part of the process. Especially when it directly affects our own routine or deadlines. But keep in mind that even Einstein knew the power of making mistakes. I believe he’s quoted as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Yes it typically means a lot of cleaning up, or buying a “new one.” But I believe there is a cost to progress, both financially and emotionally. I always tell my kids, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I mean that in terms of both a project and the day itself. If we can lay our head on the pillow high-fiving each other, regardless of any arguments or lapses in judgement that took place, then it was a good day. If we can rest knowing we learned something from our mistakes and that we’re better prepared for the next time, then it was indeed a success.

Bottom line; the goal shouldn’t be to get it right the first time. The goal should be to learn how to do it differently until you get it right.

 

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No, No, No, No, NO! (maybe)

Between the three of them, my kids ask for something on average about every :17.4 seconds. Many times there are simultaneous requests made that have nothing to do with each other. There are just so MANY. “Dad I need this,” “Dad can I do that?,” “Dad, have you seen my goldfish?” To that point, the word “Dad” is verbalized no fewer than 48 times an hour or roughly 600 times a day. I’ve often said the three of them can be like needy little piranha. Because of this fact, as a dad (or mom for that matter), you know how easily the word “NO” flows from your mouth. To the point that sometimes it slips out before the question is even asked. “Dad can I … ” NO!

The problem is, that mixed within the ridiculous requests of, “Dad can I take the dog in the shower with me,” “Dad can I have a pet lobster?,” “Dad can I buy this $350 pair of disposable socks?” are legitimate requests yes-no-buttonsand / or desires that deserve some serious consideration. The trick is figuring out what the motivation of a request is and when to stop and mentally wrap your head around it.

For me, there are a couple of ways of accomplishing this.

1. When possible have them wait a week. This eliminates about 40-50 percent of the requests as they usually either forget about it, lose interest or recognize that the friend who instigated the “need” has gone another route and rendering it no longer cool and therefore a waste of time and energy for all parties. If after a week it’s still something they deem important, it probably deserves a second look.

2. Suggest they will need to clean up any mess made by what they’re asking to do before they get computer or TV time. This eliminates another 25 percent.

3. Logistics and reality will usually eliminate another 15-20 percent and require an actual flat out “no” which may create some drama. But you have to have some fun am I right?

As mentioned, lost in there are another 5-10 percent of requests that likely have some weight. And our first inclination is to take a look at history and devalue the request based on what we’ve seen in the past. And
there’s truth to that. How many times have you heard yourself say, “Do you remember the last time?” or “I’m ????????????????????????????????????????still paying for the last time.” or “Yeah, that’s not happening again.” Still, they’ll offer to do the dishes, clean toilets, mow the lawn, get off of their little brother, anything to have a chance to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity that happens every Friday at 7 p.m.

So how do you know when something deserves the yes? Well. Maybe if they get themselves up and ready at 5:30 in the morning for an event that’s not shopping related. Or after two weeks it’s still something they’re interested in. Or maybe you just need to ask yourself if you’re saying no just out of habit. Or it’s a power struggle. “How many times have I told you, no, no, NO!” Are you digging in your heals to make a point about who’s in charge? Sometimes it’s worth putting ego and history aside and considering the benefits of saying yes.

The word “no.” Such an easy answer. Eliminates so much responsibility and time management. But at some point the no’s also eliminate opportunity to acknowledge your child’s self worth. And honestly, the word “No” can be nothing but a dead end that gets you nowhere with your child. Sometimes saying yes to something you completely don’t understand or consider a complete waste of energy, is actually an opportunity to bond with your child in a way you never dreamed. It’s a chance to teach them what can happen when you open your mind to the possibilities of what can happen when you say yes to the world and step outside of your comfort zone once in a while. Just letting them know, that sometimes you simply have their back is worth an occasional …

Yes.

 

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Aloysius – Come Do The Dishes!

It’d been coming for some time. I actually wish I’d started sooner. And there may be some bumpy roads moving forward as some of it sinks in and we work out the kinks, but I’m already beginning to see the benefits.

I’m talking of course about having the kids do the dishes after dinner.

As proud as I was of the fact that we always sat down for dinner as a family. And as much as I enjoy cooking for the kids, (Sunday brunch is a staple), it was time to step it up a bit. The kids always asked to be excused and were good about clearing their spot, but then they’d retreat to the computer or the TV whilst I did the dirty-dishesdishes, put everything away and wiped down the counter tops.

During their last stay I let them know what was coming. I let them know that the next time they were with me they’d be responsible, as a team, for cleaning up after dinner. “BUT DAADDDD! that’s so not fair!” To which i replied; “No, what’s not fair is one person attempting to keep up with all household chores while everyone else plays Minecraft, watches TV and listens to their i-pod.” (It really wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I had to beef it up for the sake of an interesting blog post).

So, as planned, the first evening of their next time with me we moved forward with the new schedule. And after a lovely chicken, beans, mashed potatoes and cucumber dinner, I asked to be excused and reminded them that they would be cleaning up. I suggested they divide the duties (one clear, one load the dishwasher and one wipe down) and let them at it while retreating to the couch to watch some football and observe from a distance.

It took all of about three minutes for the calm resolve to evaporate into thin air and be replaced by arguing and whining. I have a family of leaders, so following doesn’t always come naturally and requires a bit of practice. But they made it through and all in all did a pretty good job. My favorite part of the experience was mid-way through when the middle child asked me in a stern tone, “Dad! Why don’t you get over here and help?” To which I replied, “So you can see what it’s like to be working hard cleaning up someone else’s mess while they run off and play.” Didn’t really fly, but hey I was trying to make a point. I had been trying to explain to them for months how much it took to keep the house in half way decent shape and felt this was an important experience for them. And now they could experience it first hand.

Once the point was made, the next time we did it all together. We would, as a family, take care of our home. There was still the occasional, “I hate this,” or “This is so HARD.” But we muddled through and cleaned up as a family. And the truth is, they often help clean the house, vacuum, pick up their rooms, etc. But nothing very routine. This was a chance to not only teach them responsibility, but also about working as a family team.

Kids-Learning-to-Clean-the-Kitchen-My hope is that over time this will simply become routine and that they’ll grow to embrace taking ownership of things. As a matter of fact, even last night I found the oldest cleaning up the bathroom and picking up her room. So perhaps a glimmer of hope.

I think being responsible takes practice for many. I know plenty of 30 somethings who have a hard time keeping up with a home. Hell, I usually have a few pair of socks lying around. The point is, I don’t want my kids to be one of those people. I also want them all to know how to take care of themselves; boys and girls. My dad, who’s name happens to be Aloysius hence the title of this post, can’t boil water. That won’t be my son.

We all like to preach about teamwork, but rarely do we follow through. When you’re busy it takes a real effort to do things at a somewhat slower pace and perhaps not exactly the way you’d like it. They will make mistakes and they will complain. But I think any negatives will give way to a sense of belonging and understanding that they aren’t visitors. This is their home as much as it is mine. And I want them to learn to understand that they’re part of a team. We’ll work together and we’ll reap the benefits together. When we go to Target and they get to pick out something they want, I want them to recognize that they’ve earned it. It’s not just being handed to them. I personally believe they’ll appreciate things more and will work together better outside the kitchen once the’ve realized the benefits of everyone chipping in.

That’s the hope at least. Will keep you updated on the progress.

Peace!

 

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