Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category

Mom’s Job Description vs. Celebrity Mom’s Entourage

Friday, May 9th, 2008

We applaud as they sit on Oprah’s couch just weeks after giving birth back to their svelte bodies as they tell us how wonderful motherhood is. They are celebrity moms, and babies are the new ‘must have’ accessory.

The reason they are svelte and showered is because the adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has a totally different meaning for celebrity moms. They gush about the joy of having children, as we somehow do without the personal trainer, nutritionist, dietician, stylist – and let’s not forget round-the-clock nannies, housekeepers and nurses that take care of the kids. We’re lucky if we get to use the bathroom alone.

We suffer from ‘momnesia’ where we lose our memories because so much attention is spent on the children. We’re putting a load of laundry in as we get dinner started, homework checked, schedule doctors visits, and fundraise for little league all of which begins after we get home from work. And Microsoft invented multi-tasking?

Our prizes are not awards and our outings are not on the red carpet where the paparazzi fights to take our pictures. But we forever have the mental images of the parks, games, concerts, school plays, graduations and family dinners as we’re blessed with the most wonderful gift – each other.

Remember, we’re in this together so the next time a three-year-old is having a meltdown at the checkout line at Target, ask the mom if she needs a hand. Let’s not judge each other’s choices about working or staying at home, or how we spend what little time we have. Just give a nod, a smile and sometimes an encouraging word – after all, we share the world’s greatest job title – Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Tina Nocera
Founder, Parental Wisdom

Beating the Bullies

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is estimated that each school day, over 160,000 children stay home because of bullying.
Since many of us have experienced some form of bullying we know that the power of the bully is diminished when there are no followers.

Each day, when your child leaves for school remember to give them a hug to let them know they are loved. In a more subtle way, encourage their own personal power, and as you discuss the kind of a day they had over dinner, listen carefully to what they say and know when to step in when they need you.

Here is a high school student’s college admissions essay that I had to share:

“If I held the thermometer tightly in my hands, I could raise the temperature just enough so that I could stay home from school without my parents being concerned enough to take me to the doctor. This worked in the past, whenever I felt the need to fake an illness to get a break from being teased at school.

I had resigned myself to the fact that the teasing had to be my fault. Perhaps I should have raised my hand less when I had the right answer. Perhaps I should have laughed at the joke, even if I didn’t think it was funny. It was about fitting in. Although it was fairly constant, the teasing was subtle, too subtle to report without making me sound like a wimp.

One day everything changed. It happened as the 5th grade lined up for library. John was short by 3rd grade standards. He wore very thick glasses, and was not able to stand up straight due to some sort of spine curvature. This made him a prime target for the bullies. The teasing inflicted on John was much worse than anything I had experienced. But on that particular day, some of our classmates started knocking on his front and back to laugh at the sound that resulted from the plastic plates he wore under his shirt. It was more than I could take.

I don’t know where it came from, but I became almost ‘Hulk-like’ with anger. To this day, I honestly can’t say if I stood up for John because of the cruel punishment he was getting, or if I was finally dealing with the fact that neither of us, or anyone else for that matter, deserved to be treated that way. I stood in the middle of the cool kids, only a bit taller than John, and let them have it. My voice was loud and cracking, and my cheeks were flushed, but I somehow found the words that had been buried inside me for the entire year. ‘Do you like being mean? How would you feel if you were in his place?’ I was so afraid it would slip that I was really referring to the way they treated me, but fortunately I didn’t. When I finished, one kid made a joke, but the rest were quiet and looked down. The crowd dispersed as the teacher came around, but she never did understand the minor commotion.

We are now in our senior year in high school, yet John and I have never spoken of that day. Sometimes he will give me a little smile as we pass each other in the hall. Perhaps it’s my imagination but I have to believe he stood just a bit taller from that day on. I know I did.”

Tina Nocera
Parental Wisdom

Mom on Strike

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

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As I read the article about the arrest of Melissa G. Dean, 33, Florida mother of 4 children ages 17, 16, 14 and 13 for leaving her children home alone, it quickly dawned on me that she was a child herself when she became a mother.

Even for those of us who waited until we felt ‘ready’ to have children, whatever ready means, I can’t imagine how challenging it is not only to be a teenage mother, but to be a teenage mother repeatedly.

Parents, please create a village for yourselves as a means of support. This job of parenting is too hard to do alone. We all need people to rely on and count on. For all of the daily parenting questions that arise, where you need to be your child’s advocate and not break any confidence, you can reach out to Parental Wisdom.

As Plato said, be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Teenagers – Like Rodney Dangerfield, They Just Need Some Respect

Friday, January 18th, 2008

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An article in The Patriot-News reminded me of a situation from a few years ago. We went to a movie theatre and just before the movie started, the door opened. The manager looked in, scanned the crowd and found a small group of adolescent kids who were eating popcorn and sipping soda, just like everyone else. The manager glared at them and yelled, “If you do anything, I’ll throw you out!”

They weren’t doing anything. I don’t know if some other incident happened earlier or another time, but at that moment, they were well-behaved.

I thought the manager was disrespectful and wondering how kids learn respect if they’re treated that way. Don’t get me wrong, there are adolescents and teens that behave badly, but stereotyping is wrong and unfair.

Let’s teach by example.

The Kids Are Always Watching

Monday, October 29th, 2007

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The families of two 5th-graders involved in a pushing incident are called in for a counseling session after words between families were exchanged. After the counseling session ended, an argument and altercation outside the school followed. When it was over, the father of one of the boys was dead.

How do our children learn? What do our children learn? They learn from us, their first and most important teachers. They learn how to behave, how to resolve arguments without violence, and they learn that sometimes they are wrong.

Scenario

Two best friends try out for the high school varsity cheering squad. Tracy makes it; Allie doesn’t. They walk home together in silence. Allie walks in her house, tosses down her book bag, and tells her mom, “I can’t believe she didn’t say a word to me. I can’t believe she didn’t say, ‘I’m sorry you didn’t make it!’” At the same time, Tracy arrives home in tears. “I can’t believe she didn’t congratulate me,” she tells her mother.

A parent has a tremendous opportunity to help her child, and at the risk of hyperbole, even get us closer to world peace, by pointing out to her child the other person’s point of view. What if the same scenario played a little differently?

What if Allie’s mom replied, “Honey, maybe Tracy was struggling with feeling good about making the squad and feeling guilty that you didn’t. It’s very possible that she simply didn’t know what to say.”

Tracy’s mom could have replied, “Tracy, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Allie was really disappointed that she didn’t make it. Give her a day to deal with that.”

The world looks very different when you hear the same scenario from the other person’s perspective.

What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
-Mother Teresa

The Definition of Insanity

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed) US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

I’m not sure how we expect things to get better when we aren’t doing anything differently. We have to understand a problem before we can fix it. Unfortunately, we aren’t giving current problems enough attention to actually fix them, so they come back to haunt us.

What you’ll see below is our child-like ability to be easily distracted by the next big news story. Let’s step back a few years and look at the news stories just before 9/11.

In the year 2000, we were watching a million moms march to protect us from gun violence, but that lost news coverage.

If you recall, that summer prior to 9/11 was the summer of shark attacks. Did we ever figure out what prompted the attacks?

That is until the search for missing former intern Chandra Levy focused the spotlight on U.S. Rep. Gary Condit. Did we ever figure out who killed Chandra Levy?

The mystery with Chandra Levy’s disappearance was dramatically overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks; also know as the day the world changed. Did we ever find Osama Bin Laden?

In more recent news we had a series of child abductions where both 13-year-old Ben Ownby and 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck were found at an apartment in Kirkwood, miles from the rural locations where the boys disappeared 4 1/2 years apart, but we still don’t protect our children well enough from predators.

That story was overshadowed by a diaper clad Lisa Nowak, a Navy captain, accused of accosting Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, 30, in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport early Monday and spraying her with pepper spray.

The astronaut story was overshadowed by the death of Anna Nicole Smith which took over the headlines for a very long time.

Which was then overshadowed by Don Imus’s comments about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team. These were not new comments or new problems – just news. But we are distracted once again, and won’t stop to resolve the root cause of the Imus comments or racial tension that still exists.

Because the Imus comments were overshadowed by the shootings at Virgina Tech which just seem to bring us back to the first line of this blog – protecting us against gun violence.


We certainly qualify under Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Virgina Tech 4/16 is a 9/11 Like Numbness

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Time heals what reason cannot. – Seneca

We felt the same numbness in the days following 9/11.

Families looking for their children were a reminder of the families looking for loved ones in the post 9/11 days where pictures and names were posted. At that time, postings were on walls surrounding Ground Zero, in local hospitals, churches and make shift memorials.

Yesterday, names were posted on newly posted websites sharing whatever information they could. Some read names of those missing, while others were listed under the category ‘OK’ and sadly there were posts of those deceased.

The frightening events of those moments were captured in a student’s cell cam video where we can hear the chilling sounds of bullets being fired.

Where and when will our children be safe?

For now, our prayers go to the victims’ families and friends and we hope the long process of healing can begin. More than anything, let’s pray these awful stories end.

May 18, 1927

Bath, Mich.: Andrew Kehoe, a school board official, kills his wife, then blows up the town’s school, killing more than 40 people, including himself.

Aug. 1, 1966

Austin, Tex.: Charles J. Whitman kills 16 and injures 31 from atop the University of Texas tower.

Jan. 16, 1979

San Diego, Calif.: Brenda Spencer, 16, waits outside the Cleveland Elementary School for the principal to open the school. For 20 minutes, she fired on arriving students and teachers. She killed the principal and school caretaker, and injured nine students between the ages of 6 and 12. She then went home and waited for police to arrive. “. . . I just did it for the fun of it. . . . ,” Spencer told police. She was convicted on two counts of murder and is serving two 25-to-life sentences.

Dec. 1, 1997

West Paducah, Ky.: Michael Carneal, 14, fatally shoots three classmates and wounds five at a high school prayer meeting.

May 20, 1988

Winnetka, Ill.: A mentally ill woman named Laurie Dann steps into a second-grade classroom with two handguns and opens fire, killing a child and wounding five others. Dann flees the school and later kills herself.

Feb. 2 1996

Moses Lake, Wash.: Barry Loukaitis, 14, walks into algebra class at a junior high school and opens fire with a hunting rifle. The teacher and two students are killed, and one student is wounded. He is convicted in 1997 of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to two life terms without parole.

Oct. 1, 1997

Pearl, Miss.: Luke Woodham, 16, stabs his mother to death before going to Pearl High School and shooting nine students. Two die, including Woodham’s ex-girlfriend; seven others are wounded. Woodham is convicted as an adult in June 1998. He is serving three life sentences.

Dec. 1, 1997

West Paducah, Ky.: Three students are killed and five wounded while praying in a school hallway. A 14-year-old, Michael Carneal, is arrested and pleads guilty but mentally ill to three counts of murder and six other charges related to the shootings. He was sentenced Dec. 17 to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years.

March 24, 1998

Jonesboro, Ark.: A 13-year-old boy and his 11-year-old cousin open fire outside a middle school, killing four girls and a teacher and injuring 11 others.

April 24, 1998

Edinboro, Pa.: Andrew Wurst, 14, is arrested for shooting to death science teacher John Gillette in front of students at a middle school graduation dance. Two 14-year-old boys are wounded. Wurst will be tried as an adult.

May 19, 1998

Fayetteville, Tenn.: Jacob Davis, an 18-year-old honor student, fatally shoots a classmate in the school’s parking lot. The victim was dating his ex-girlfriend. Davis awaits trial.

May 21, 1998

Springfield, Ore.: Kip Kinkel, 15, fatally shoots four and wounds dozens after being suspended a day earlier for bringing a gun to school.

June 15, 1998

Richmond, Va.: Quinshawn Booker, a 14-year-old student who is angry at a classmate, opens fire in a crowded high school hallway, wounding a 45-year-old social studies teacher and a 74-year-old Head Start volunteer. Booker pleads guilty to five charges and will remain at a school for troubled boys until he completes its program.

April 20, 1999

Near Littleton, Colo.: After planning for a year, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, kill 12 students and a teacher and wound dozens before killing themselves at Columbine High School.

March 21, 2005

Red Lake, Minn.: On an Indian reservation, Jeff Weise, 16, kills his grandfather and a companion, five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself.

Aug. 24, 2006

Essex, Vt.:2 Dead In Vermont School Shooting Police: Elementary School Teacher Possibly Killed; 4 Others Injured

Oct. 2, 2006

Nickel Mines, Pa.: Charles C. Roberts IV, 32, shoots 11 girls execution-style at an Amish school, killing four of them and wounding seven.

Don’t Lose the Lesson

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

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We need to be reminded of the children’s poem “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me.” After listening to the articulate and heartfelt comments by the Rutger’s team of talented, educated young women and their coach we know that it is not true; words can harm you.

Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. – Edward R. Murrow

These ‘wrongs’ are protected by our rights. This country is still the greatest experiment in the world and does allow freedom of speech. We are divided various issues that largely center on the words we use and who can use them. This is a slippery slope. Who will make decisions on freedom of speech?

Don’t lose all the lessons that we’ve learned from this news du jour experience. Discuss what happened with your children and most importantly how they should treat people. Why was this offensive comment highlighted when Don Imus and others have a history of making offensive comments? There were a number of reasons:

The comments made by Don Imus were targeted to a specific group. Much like tossing a pebble in small pond, the ripple effect of those comments was hurtful to real people. While other comments are equally offensive or worse, they impact such a broad audience that people don’t feel the comments are directed to them and tend to be ignored, similar to tossing a pebble in an ocean. It would require a large group to mobilize and challenge those comments and hold the offender accountable.

We are in a world of 24-hour news, YouTube and convergence of technology so you will see those comments hundreds if not thousands of times. Important for young people to remember that pictures and video captured and posted on the Internet is there forever, so don’t be foolish about what you do and say.

Address the root cause of the situation and explain to your children why stereotypes are unfair and wrong, and encourage them when disagreeing with someone how to deal with that. Name calling is clearly not a solution.

Explain that when children feel something is wrong, they have a choice and can call a sponsor to say that content is offensive. If they feel very strongly about it, they can let the sponsor know that if the sponsor continues to support a particular show, as a consumer, you will no longer be a customer.

Finally, let’s celebrate and discuss the news we should – the accomplishment of these young women to reach the NCAA finals. They earned and deserved that moment.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol US artist (1928 – 1987)

Getting to Know You

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

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We will need to disconnect before we connect with each other. Parents – our primary goal, our most important job, is to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted, independent children that contribute to society. Our children need to have empathy and listening skills which leads to good relationships and feels like a ‘psychological hug’.

Unfortunately, with iPods, text messaging and instant messaging, we’re not talking at all – at least not face to face. When getting together to go out, kids actually don’t go out at all – they watch movies or play video games. Their social skills are at great risk. A by-product of poor social skills is a lack of empathy. How could our children care about others when they don’t even take the time to know their friends?

A recent news story where a man was found dead after a year with his TV still blaring made me realize were we setting a good example about caring about our neighbors? The man had no contact with anyone for a year, despite the fact that he suffered from blindness and diabetes. Fortunately a water pipe broke, or we still might not know.

A family with two young boys came home from school ahead of their parents who were teachers. The house had been broken into and the boys hid in the backyard until their parents arrived home. Why didn’t they go to a neighbor’s house? They didn’t know any of their neighbors, even though they lived on that block for over nine years.

Not caring is not new. The story of Kitty Genovese still sends chills up my spine. It was 1964 and a young woman coming home from work was brutally stabbed to death while no fewer than 38 of her neighbors witnessed her attack. It would take them three hours after the attack to call the police.

Some might excuse apathy for fear of getting involved. For the record, I don’t buy that theory. The concern is that the simple act of our kids not even getting to know their own family and friends through simple social interaction because they are engaged in being connected may have just the opposite effect. They will be completely disconnected.

Parents – encourage your children to unplug and break out the art of conversation.