Saturday, March 12, 2011

Standing Up Against Bullying

We talk a lot about how to get our children to stand up against bullies, but the conversation needs to start with parents. There are times that you notice bullying and do nothing: bullying on the playground, bullying at the bus stop, bullying on your street in your own neighborhood. Sometimes these are kids you know; other times they are strangers. How should we respond to the bullying we see around us, especially if our children are watching our every move?
"I was driving toward the school to pick up my stepdaughter when I saw this group of kids start to beat up on another boy on the other side of the road," Carrie remembers. "Recently, I'd watched a news special report about how the public responds to acts of violence with kids they don't know, so it was fresh in my mind.
"I immediately pulled over and began to yell at the kids to stop. I said, 'Do I need to call the police?' They just looked at me silent and dumbfounded. I repeated, 'Do I need to call the police? I expect an answer from you right now.'
"Finally, they said they understood. Then I told them, 'You cannot hit other kids!' I was amazed at my reaction to defend a child I didn't even know. My adrenaline was flowing and I was shaking by the time my stepdaughter got into the car. When I told her what happened, she couldn't believe I'd do that for a stranger. I truly believe she gained assurance from the fact that I could stand up for a kid I didn't know."
Good coaches can demonstrate the skills they want to instill in their players. It's hard to take a baseball coach seriously if he can't hit the ball himself. Let your kids see how you approach advocacy, so that they know how it's done.
If your child is experiencing bullying, this is a "high stakes" situation and requires immediate action. This is one of those times when rushing in is the best idea. If you are unsure as to your rights or the rights of your child, check out Harassment at School.
According to experts in family law, bullying is:
  • Sexual harassment of another student
  • Teasing and excluding
  • Calling names
  • Physically pushing or otherwise attacking
  • Threatening or hazing
  • Damaging or stealing belongings
  • Demanding money
One of the best preventative measures we can take as parents against bullying is to instill in our children strong leadership skills. Is your child a leader or a follower?
For more information about instilling leadership skills in your child, check out Giving Your Child the Excellence Edge.
For more about bullying for kids, check out Kids Against Bullying.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

All That Glitters. . . Isn't Gold

What is it about some stories about parents and children in the media that bother us while others do not? For example, there is continuous uproar about Jon & Kate Gosselin choice to raise their 8 children with cameras rolling.
There's Nadya Suleman and her 14 children, 8 of which were born this past January. We are quick as a society to judge and jump on seemingly every day parents profiting from exposing their children's lives in front of the camera on reality television.

Yet we are slow, even preferably ignorant, to the same exploitation of children on "fantasy" television and film. Is it any less disturbing, even though it is often more profitable?

We cringe when we watch the Barbie Doll pageantry for toddlers; we run for our torches and pitchforks when we hear about the arrest of a school teacher, pastor, or scout leader on charges of child pornography.

And yet we are numb to the lives of young performers, who begin their careers in front of the camera sometimes at birth. Who put them there to begin with? Who profits?

Is it because we concede that they are making a lot of money, therefore, their lives must be wonderful? Is it because we secretly wish our own children were in the spotlight? Is it because we forget that there are real people behind the characters they portray on television and on film?

For whatever reason, we are outraged at Nadya Suleman and Jon & Kate Gosselin, but we're oblivious towards Tim & Anne Sweeten, parents of Madylin Sweeten (Everyone Loves Raymond). Three of their four children are in show business (all three on Everyone Loves Raymond) - the twin boys since they were 1 year olds).

Now at 18 years old, Sweeten seems to live a charmed life. No negative press - yet. And that's probably why our eye doesn't naturally turn toward her like it does toward a car crash on a busy road. As far as anyone is concerned, all is well.

But is it?

According to Paul Petersen, founder of A Minor Consideration, an advocacy group for young performers, something always lies beneath. "Many, if not most, of the kids seen in the media come from dysfunctional households. There is no other way to explain how they come into the Business. Advanced abilities to communicate and control the emotions of a family (or within a character) are often plain ol' survival mechanisms," Petersen explains.

"These children are so good at masking their feelings we are often at a loss to figure them out...and that's awful because at the core they are still children.
No one, I've said and more than once, can be more mature than their age. It's the compensation principal: Excel in one area of life and you can be certain other aspects are lacking."

Whether we're talking about the Gosselin children or any young performer we see on television or on film, all is not what it seems.

Our fascination with the glean and glitz of reality and fantasy celebrity is not unlike the great gold rush of the 1800's. One rumor of gold is all it takes to get some people to abandon their lives in search of the gold that will change their life forever. But all that glitters isn't gold - we should know that by now. Any prospector will tell you that you'll find more pyrite (Fool's Gold) than you will ever find real gold.

As a "viewing" public we enlist a double standard - those using reality television to profit on their children and those using "fantasy" television and film to profit on their children. Human dignity does not exist on a continuum - as a society we either value it, defend it, and promote it - or we don't.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Travolta's Son Dies at 16

Even though the press has spent years hounding the Travolta family about whether or not their son, Jett, is autistic, it's time to just

Leave the Tender Moment Alone

Celebrity status may have the power to advocate for special needs and historically has done so, but it should not be expected or demanded. Every family has the right to do what is right for their own families FIRST before doing something for society.

Today, as a mother of boys, I pray for John Travolta and Kelly Preston, unable to fathom their pain right now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Standing Up for Themselves: A series about how our kids learn to stand on their own

In Her Own Words. . . Alyssa

The word “freedom” cannot be completely understood until the first night in college. There are no parents to check in with, no curfews and not nearly as many rules as back at home. I grew up in a very strict household throughout high school. I had to always tell my parents exactly what I would be doing at every minute of my night, which was interrupted by at least 4 or 5 phone calls. Since I’ve gotten here at Loyola University Chicago, I have experienced more freedom than I ever thought possible. I went downtown with a group of people until 1 am and didn’t have to justify to my mother that we were being safe. I walk to go buy a cup of Starbucks coffee without my dad telling me I could feed someone a meal with the money I was going to spend. I’ve done my laundry after midnight some days because I was playing Rockband in a guy’s room with a group of people, which my parents would consider unacceptable.

However, with freedom comes responsibility. There have been nights where I have stayed up until 3 am talking with people—the night before I have class. However, I have done my homework for the night, and still wake up and am attentive in class. Freedom is only a gift if a student accepts the responsibility that goes along with college life. Procrastination is inevitable for most, and I am definitely not the exception. Sometimes ordering Chinese food and watching House seems way more fulfilling than writing an 8 page paper for my Theology class. However, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can appreciate the freedom more once I have completed all my responsibilities.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bullying Top Concern of Parents With Overweight Child

Consider the following news item. If this is something you face as a parent, share your experience so we can help each other.

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Bullying is the top "health" concern among parents with overweight and obese children, according to a new report.

Parents of these children, aged 6 to 13, also are much more likely than parents of children at a healthy weight to call bullying a top health issue for kids, according to a report released Monday by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"We found that parents with overweight or obese children actually view bullying as a greater problem than childhood obesity," Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children's Health, said in a university news release. "Since bullying is known to be a problem for children with increased weight, bullying prevention programs will need to be mindful of obesity as a potential trigger for bullying behavior and of parents concerns surrounding this issue."

Overall, parents don't take childhood obesity lightly, ranking it No. 1 is among health concern for kids in the National Poll on Children's Health. Still, only two-thirds of parents actually enforce such limits with their children on junk food and time spent in front of a TV or computer screen, the poll found. Still, many parents are talking with their children about having healthier diets and increasing their physical activity, which Davis said is an important first step in setting the stage for a healthier lifestyle.

Nearly two in five of the families polled included one or more overweight or obese child between the ages of 6 and 13. The poll also showed that children who were obese or overweight were almost twice as likely to have an obese parent as healthy weight children.

"In many families, obesity is a two-generation phenomenon among parents and their children. This trend could be the result of genetics or behaviors such as eating habits and physical activity that are shared among parents and their children," said Davis, an associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Tips to Deal with Bullying from Consumer Affairs:

For students ...

• Tell someone, school staff, parents, other trusted adults about the bullying. Often children are afraid to talk to an adult because they fear retaliation or being viewed as a tattler.

• Take a friend, or group of friends, along when speaking to a trusted adult. This approach creates a community of support and provides a model for how to address these issues.

• If students feel comfortable and safe, speak up when a peer is being bullied.

• Treat peers with respect.

For parents ...

• Model respectful interactions.

• Talk with your child and create a space in which they feel safe to discuss their fears.

• Be aware of warning signs of bullying and talk to your child about what is going on.

• Know your children's friends.

• Take time to connect with your children.

• If your child is being bullied, alert school officials and help your child get assistance. NEVER tell your child to ignore the bullying as this can increase the seriousness of the problem.

• Expect the bullying to stop. By setting a high standard, parents are demanding that change and consequences occur. They are also empowering the child to take action and shed the victim role.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about obesity and children.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Response to Intervention - RTI

There's a national move away from special education testing and placement in favor of RTI (Response to Intervention). The desire is to help students within the regular education classroom get their needs met by their classroom teachers instead of immediately trying to have them removed into a special education environment.

That's fine. . . as long as their needs are met, teachers are prepared to meet them, teachers are willing to meet them, and their needs do not outweigh the ability of the teacher to meet them.

However, RTI can be a stumbling block to those students who truly need special education services. RTI can delay testing and services and precious time can be lost and a student's academic career jeopardized.

If you are a parent with a child who is struggling in school for any reason, please read the following article in the Washington Post and keep you eyes and ears open for RTI.

Waiting Too Late to Test?