Beautiful Kids vs. Brutal Honesty

Smart little kidLast week, I ran 3 parenting workshops and there was one topic that came up over and over again – the truth about your kids. While I was describing research, education methods, philosophy and personal development techniques to raise happy and successful kids, some people were very concerned about telling kids the truth.

I find the concept of “the truth” very problematic and the seed of many difficulties in life. Every small problem in life just makes this seed grow poisonous roots of inadequacy, self-doubt and fear.

At the workshop, I talked about the importance of raising kids to think they are capable, talented, smart, friendly, flexible, courageous, wise, trustworthy, etc (the list can be adapted to each parent’s needs) so they will have good beliefs about themselves, their skills and their abilities. I always say that overcoming kids’ learning difficulties is easier than overcoming their belief that something is wrong with them and that therefore, it is parents’ job to make sure their kids have positive, empowered beliefs about themselves.

The parents and I examined beliefs that are very good for kids to have. Let me ask you, if your son thinks he is smart, is that good for him or not? If your daughter thinks she is friendly, is it good for her or not? If your kids think they are good siblings, is it good for them or not?

Is it good for the parents too?

Well, apparently, for some people it is not good. To them, the truth is more important.

Read more about kids and beliefs

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Bullying (6): Victims

TargetLast week, I talked about the character traits of Bullies. Today, I will cover the personality of the Bullied or Victims. It is obvious that for someone to be a bully, they need a victim. You probably wonder why some kids are bullied and others are not? Well, it is because there is some dynamic between the bully and the bullied and some behaviors are easy targets for the bully.

The most obvious reason kids become a target for bullying is being different in some way. It is not easy to avoid being different somehow, because something as small as your type of hair or the size of your body can be easily used by the bully as a weakness.

During the school years, fitting in is very important for kids and by trying so hard to fit in and hide the differences, they attract bullies to their weakness. In his 2007 research, Field found that children who are bullied have 2 main problems:

  1. They stand out as being different
  2. They have challenges with their social skills

Read more about bullying victims

Who Knows?

Little dog, big dogMotivation can be external or internal. That is, a person can be prompted, encouraged or coerced to do something by somebody else, or they can do it for their own reasons.

Kids, being so young and dependent, begin their life by mimicking their parents and other carers and by following their instructions. “Those big, loving, all-knowing creatures that take care of me must be right, so it’s best to be guided by them”, they reason.

This quickly develops into obedience, even when following the instructions might cause discomfort to the child. “It’s a small price to pay for the big person’s love and besides, maybe the big person is right and this is good for me?”

I find with my kids that their principals, teachers, coaches and other instructors tend to encourage conformity and submission to authority and I have to deal with it sometimes and help them strengthen their internal motivation. You will recognize this has happened to your children when they start talking about getting away with things, instead of whether or not those things should be done in the first place.

Read more about kids’ motivation

Bullying (5): Bully awareness

clip_image001[3]Understanding the dynamics of bullying is very important in finding the solution for it. In the next two chapters of the bullying series, I will discuss the characteristics of two main players in the bullying phenomenon – the Bully and the Bullied (victim). I say two main players, because there are many other players in the game, but they will be discussed later on.

From a very early stage of the bullying research, it was obvious that bullies have special characteristics. Research done in 2007 by Field found that bullies have difficulties with schoolwork, health and self-esteem. Field also found that bullies have personal, social and interpersonal difficulties, including challenges in dealing with emotions and conflicts, lack of compassion and inability to express empathy.

As the challenges bullies have are all associated with their inability to manage their feelings, it is easy to see that bullies have low emotional intelligence.

Read more about bullying

Low-Tech Games

Kids playing video gamesAs hard as it is to admit, computer games have made our kids quicker thinkers and given them great satisfaction for hours have not been a good substitute for face-to-face social interaction and physical make-believe games.

Social skills are a very important part of our personal development and from a very early stage, make-believe and dressing up are our ways of growing emotionally in a safe way. While computer games are limited by the availability of technology, the make-believe and dress-up games are only limited by the players’ imagination.

Last week, our 15-years-old son Tsoof went to a party. It was an 60’s party and just before he left, he went into the loft, took out the costume suitcase and looked for inspiration to dress up. Eventually, he found some hippie-looking clothes that made him happy.

Later that night, Gal and I went to bring him back from the party, which was in a beautiful garden at his friend’s house. It was just lovely to see a group of 15- and 16-year-old teens all dressed up in hippie clothes, singing with a guitar, couples hugging and kissing and you know what? We felt good! Really good!

Read more about encouraging your kids to use their imagination

Bullying (4): Forms of Bullying

FacebookIn the past, people considered physical aggressiveness as bullying. Being a form of violence, it was easy to distinguish. Every physical act that was meant to hurt someone else physically was violence and therefore an act of bullying. However, the modern definition of bullying is much broader, so that made many people think there is a lot more bullying today, when in fact, it was here all along, but it was much more acceptable.

For example, name calling and exclusion of people based on their gender, race or disability were very common parts of daily life 40 years ago. I remember myself being intimidated by name calling as a kid. I was bullied and a bully myself. I was made fun of constantly for my skin color or ethnic affiliation and I joined others in making fun of others for other reasons.

I do not think we have more bullying nowadays. I think the level of bullying is similar to what it was in the past, we just pay attention to it more now and are more willing to address it and create an accepting, tolerant and happy society.

People use different forms of bullying to threaten, intimidate and create emotional pain. Here is a list of behaviors that are considered bullying. As I read each one of them, I saw only one form that was new and was not there 40 years ago. Other than that, we had them all and in some respects even worse.

Read more about forms of bullying

Bullying (3): What is NOT Bullying?

Man bullying childWhen talking about bullying, it is very important for parents (and teachers and kids) to understand what bullying is not. Many times, a single act or behavior is out of proportion, but it is not considered bullying.

Some people think that bullying is any aggressive behavior and although such behaviors are a source of concern and need attention, it is important to separate them from bullying. As I said in the first chapter of the bullying series, bullying is recurring and deliberate abuse of power.

It is not easy for kids to understand the difference between a deliberate act and an accidental one, but it surprises me that many grownups also talk about things people do to them as if they were done intentionally to hurt them. Such perception is very dangerous, because every minor act of conflict, done without any intention to harm, can escalate and become a big conflict.

Much like in any communication, whether it is verbal or not, there are two sides involved. Bullying is a form of communication and depends not only on the giver but also on the receiver. For an incident to be considered bullying, the aggressor must want to hurt someone and the victim must perceive the incident as a deliberate act of abuse.

It is very important for the victim to know what bullying is not to make sure that when things seem hurtful, they will not fall immediately into the category of bullying, because the way to overcome bullying is different from the way to overcome other hurtful acts.

Read more about bullying

While I Was Sleeping

Father and daughterWhen it first came out, I read Dad’s post While You Were Sleeping and it really struck a chord in me. I have read it about 7 times now and it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in the amazing knowledge that “my daddy loves me”. I decided then that I was going to write something that he could read and maybe see that this little bear cub feels his love and his good intentions, even while I sleep. And maybe if I could convince reader parents that we kids feel your love and we love you back, I will have done my good deed for today.

I am the oldest of the children in my family and I have learnt through time and experience that my parents are not all knowing or all able. I know that they are sometimes sad, angry, frustrated or disappointed. I know that they work hard sometimes, that they need help or they are a bit stressed. But although I know they are not invincible, they are still my cocoon. No matter how old I get (and I seem to be getting older every year), I still go to them for support. I go to them for advice, for help and most of all, for comfort. They are still my pillars of strength and my source of love.

Read more about kids’ love for their parents

Bullying (2): Scary Statistics

Teen bullyingBullying has become a problem in our society. As I promised in the first chapter of the bullying series, I will share with you today the facts and figures about bullying and they are very scary. But I am not writing this to scare you, just to create awareness to this epidemic of violence in our society. I also believe that parents and educators, who are the majority of the readers of this site, have the power to change it.

Bullying research

I have spent a long time reviewing information about bullying, much of it on various government sites, so where the source is not mentioned below, some government agency has publicly confirmed it.

  • A study done in 2007 on a group of 6th Graders found that 89% of kids had experienced some form of bullying and 59% of the students had participated in some form of bullying

Read more about bullying

Stubborn Kids

Kid making a faceI know a lot about stubborn kids, because I was famous for being stubborn as a child myself. Only later in life, when I studied education, I realized that people call their kids “stubborn” when they themselves do not give up and follow their kids’ instructions or rules. That made me think that

In order for a child to be stubborn and insist on doing something, you need to have an adult that insist on doing something else

I learned this amazing thing from a young kid who was about 2 years old at the time (he is 22 years old now). Let me tell you, learning it from a kid is much more humiliating than learning it from other adults, so I hope you will be able to learn it from reading this if you do not want to have to suffer the humiliation of “losing to a rug”.

Read more about how to deal with stubborn kids