Archive for April, 2008

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

Happy Earth Day Microsoft!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Where do I begin? I just sent out an email to Parental Wisdom members (below) which talks about how we’re stopping our children from enjoying the most wonderful lessons on earth in a rush to excel. I came across a piece by the senior product manager at Microsoft that I have to share:

You helped her learn to walk. He’s totally potty trained at last. Just when it seems you’ve conquered the most angst-ridden issues faced by parents of toddlers, here comes another source of concern: In a world increasingly dominated by technology, familiarizing your child with a computer and online tools is more important than ever.

Parents can’t afford to wait until their children start school to introduce them to technology, says Craig Cincotta, senior product manager at Microsoft Corp.

“Schools are incorporating computers into their curricula at very early grade levels. It’s not unusual to find a computer loaded with learning software in preschool and daycare settings,” he says. “Children who have experience with computers at home will have an edge over those who first encounter technology in the classroom.”

Boy, is this person ever wrong. Children are becoming frustrated and angry, even at young ages because we are not allowing them to be children – children are meant to play, especially outdoors.

Have you ever tried to toilet train a child too early? It doesn’t work. When children are ready, toilet training is easy. The same is true of education, computers and sports. Let children play freely, and when the time comes for studies and computers and organized sports, they will come ready to learn.

Here is the email sent yesterday to Parental Wisdom members.

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
-Ancient Proverb

Global climate change, pollution and how large a carbon footprint you leave behind may seem like many issues parents face – overwhelming.

The answer is actually quite simple and lies in the ancient proverb that states we borrow the earth from our children.

Unfortunately, we take our children from the very thing they gravitate to, the wonders of nature. We put them in schools too early, in front of computers too early, in organized sports programs too early, all because being inside and educated means they will be safe, smart and ready for a cutthroat world.

According to a recent article in the Wall St. Journal, the birthplace of kindergarten is returning to its roots – quite literally. Children ages 3 to 6 walk into a forest outside Frankfurt Germany to sing songs, build fires and roll in the mud. To relax, they kick back in a giant ‘sofa’ made of tree stumps and twigs.

Fredrick Frobel, the German educator who opened the world’s first kindergarten actually called it a “children’s garden.” He suggested that children of this age learn far more by playing in nature than they do immersed in letters and numbers.

Let’s move from ‘No Child Left Behind’ to ‘No Child Left Inside’ and stop our 5-year-olds from what some educators call ‘early academic fatigue.’ If you can’t change the education system, at least you could give your children the gift of spending time with nature. Take a walk with your child and see what he sees, it’s amazing what a young child can teach you.

Perhaps if we made this a habit, there wouldn’t be a need to set aside April 22nd to remember the Earth; everyday would be Earth Day.

Mud pies anyone?

What Do You Do?

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Thursday, April 24th marks the 16th annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day.

It is so much more than a career day. It demonstrates to our children why education matters, but more importantly, our children can be inspired to learn what it is they might love to do. You can only be really great at something with passion and persistence and that begins by doing what you love.

Now for the bad news. If you’re negative about your current job then I recommend you don’t pull your children out of school for the day since you’ll be doing more harm than good. Instead use this as an opportunity to think about the advice that you would give to your grade school age child so that she is not in the same position.

Here are some ideas:

Do what you love. As a young child, spend the time finding what it is that you love
Test the waters. You can’t know if it’s right until you try it. And then if you think you like something, try it again.
Talk to people (as many as you can) in the field you think is for you. Even be courageous enough to talk to people who have left the profession so you could understand why.
Think about the kind of a life you want to live. Do you want a family? Would you love (or hate) to travel? What if you had to constantly relocate? Do you want to be home for dinner every evening (if this is important to you, don’t even think about politics).

Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure;
Where your treasure, there is your heart;
Where your heart, there your happiness.
-Augustine

Take me to your shredder

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I’m confused.

We understand the problems associated to childhood obesity and began to educate families and limit advertising unhealthy food choices to children.

But we are also faced with economic woes. Families are in debt and children are getting mixed messages about the concept of wants vs. needs leaving parents literally holding the bill.

To make matters worse, children are now the direct targets of credit card companies looking to give our children exactly what they don’t need – an entry to the never ending world of debt.

A number of years ago, I wrote the U.S. Treasury Secretary to suggest that unsolicited requests for loans are credit cards would be stopped. Initially my thought was to fight against identity theft. But as I noticed my children getting applications for credit cards. Great – let’s add this to the list of popular culture culprits that parents fight.

What the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole? Stop digging.

Follow the leader

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

At what age are we guilty?

Police questioned a group of Georgia third-graders about a plot to kill their teacher, apparently because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair. The nine students at Center Elementary School are too young to be charged with a crime under Georgia law, a prosecutor said. They include girls and boys, ages 8 and 9. Authorities withheld the students’ names.

Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said school officials alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had brought a weapon to school,

Police seized a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape, electrical and transparent tape, ribbons and a crystal paperweight from the students, who apparently intended to use them against the teacher, Tanner said.

He called the plot a serious threat; Center Principal Angie Coleman said, “This is an isolated incident, an aberration. … We have good kids”

I’m sure (at least I hope) the situation will be closely scrutinized. Did the children watch violent programs or play violent video games? Were their parents lack about rules and limits? Was personal responsibility not taught?

Of all the issues raised here, I have a few thoughts:

Why did the other children follow the leader?
What is stopping our children from having the courage to stand up and stop such behavior?
Use this topic as a conversation starter with your children. Discuss with them what they should do if they heard about a potentially violent act.

If you want to avoid this, you may want to read 12 Steps to Raise A Juvenille Delinquent, written by the Houston Police Department. You can find it on Parental Wisdom’s Free Reports.

By the way, after you talk to your children, give them a big hug.

What do you want to protect most in the world?

Monday, April 7th, 2008


Easy answer – your family.

You take great care twice a year in checking the batteries on the smoke detector. You talk to your children about stop, drop and roll, reinforcing what they learned in fire safety. You’ve done all the right things. But there was one thing you didn’t count on – that your children will not wake up to the shrieking sound of a smoke detector.

More than half of young children, who die in home fires, are asleep. One possible reason, as an experiment shows, smoke detectors just didn’t wake children up. As Rebekkah, age 12, sleeps peacefully; she terrorizes her parents; she didn’t wake up even though the smoke detector had been going off for two minutes.

Experts know that in a fire you’ve got to escape quickly. The deadly smoke and flames spread in an instant. After two minutes, your chances of escape and survival are critically diminished.

What was learned in the experiment is that the same sound that immediately wakes adults, doesn’t disturb children. According to Dr. Sanford Auerbach, Boston Medical Center, “[childrens]
brain waves are different, their sleep patterns are different, their stages of sleep are different.”

Fortunately, there are new voice activated smoke alarms that will soon become available that allow a parents voice to be heard instead. The same experiment conducted with the parent’s voice instead of the shrieking sound had the children up on less than 15 seconds.

Stay tuned as we’ll be watching for further news on the new products.

For now, watch this video; I’m sure you won’t forget it.