Christmas, Bullying, And Raising Kind, Compassionate Children.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas time again. Well, it was when I began writing this post.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy helping others in need all year-round, but especially this time of the year.  There are so many people in need and we are called to help them.

Unfortunately, this time of year also brings out the greediness in many.  You usually see this on Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving night now) and just before Christmas when people fight over the products that they must have.

Our children are aware of all of this.  They are also aware of when we are unkind to each other and them. Conversely, they’re also aware of our kindness and compassion for each other.

This is why I was sickened and angered by this dad who forced his daughter to walk to school which is miles away while he videotaped her in order to punish her for bullying.

Punishment is also a form of bullying because it teaches children how to force people to do what they want.  It is a temporary, ineffective solution to any behavioral issues, but especially for bullying.  Most bullying is the result of bullies feeling powerless because there’s either too much control in the home, i.e. authoritarian parenting (very controlling and punitive), or not enough care and acknowledgment, i.e.neglectful and permissive parenting. Some children (and adults) are so desperate for control and power that they will target seemingly weaker people. They push and push until they get the reaction they want and then they feel powerful being over the other person.

While I completely understand the seriousness of bullying as I have been bullied and made fun of my whole life, and I just dealt with a cyber bully, I feel like the dad just reinforced the bully mentality by making his daughter walk to school and video it. 

What did it teach her about kindness and respect? NOTHING! And his demeanor was very punitive and bullyish. Forcing her to walk in the cold while he followed her in his truck and videoed the whole thing is punishment, not a consequence of her actions. And SHE was also bullied herself. Think maybe she was trying to exercise power over others like they had done to her? There is no excuse for bullying, but you have to understand all the reasons why a child is behaving in a certain manner so that you can work with him/her and teach him/her.

Children learn what they live.  As I said, I just recently had a cyber bullying incident that I had to report to Facebook.  Both children and adults get behind their screens and say things that they usually wouldn’t ever say to the other person’s face.  I have not been a bully but I have been harsh online and have had to apologize for my behavior.  Saying anything cruel and calling names is bullying and verbal and emotional abuse!

It’s very important to realize that people of any age that act poorly usually feel poorly.  If one feels good about oneself, usually they don’t have the need to exercise control or get a reaction from another person.  There’s no need to purposefully hurt another person when you have healthy self-compassion.  Bullies are trying to get/do one of two things:

  1.  Exercise control over a weaker person to feel powerful and inflict pain so that someone else can feel the pain that they are feeling.
  2. To get a negative reaction from the victim as well as attention from others.

I would be very upset if I had a child and my child ever bullied another child. Social media and other media outlets are showing bullying to children. So the first two things I would ask if my child was being a bully is “What have I been doing to contribute to this?” And, “Why is my child feeling like he/she has to bully?” There is a reason for all unwanted behaviors.  I would work on the connection between my child and me.

I would limit screen time for my child and insist on knowing every account they have.  Many children and adults have secret accounts for bullying and other inappropriate things that they don’t want anyone else to know about.  It is crucial to be an active participant in our children’s online activities.  We need to stop cyber bullying and teach children that cyber bullying is also never okay.  If they see online bullying, they should put an eyeball 👁 emoji in the comments.  And cyber bullying must always be reported!

I would have many long discussions with my child about why it’s NEVER ok to bully. I would read books with him/her about people who were bullied. I would role play to teach kindness. I would have him/her do community service with me.

Teaching children unconditional kindness is so important.  Unconditional kindness is when we do something kind to someone without expecting any type of reward or credit for it .  This is true kindness.

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Another critical thing I would do is teach my children about all different people and not do anything to criticize differences.  When disability, culture, religion, age, race, and sexuality differences are understood, there’s less bullying because children learn that we’re all humans and we deserve equality and respect no matter what!  This is why I wrote my children’s book about my cerebral palsy which is currently being illustrated.  When we understand someone very different than us, it leads to kindness and compassion (unless the person is mentally ill and unable to be kind).

Finally, I would take the child to and from school and check in with her/his teacher until I could trust him/her again. Gentle parenting is more work than just punishment. Most parents don’t do anything because they don’t know how.

This is an excellent article about helping bullies become more empathetic and compassionate with others.

Understanding what drives bullies is crucial to both stopping and preventing it.  Teaching children empathy and compassion is so important. And Christmas time is a great time to really teach this so it will continue year-long.  When children see and are involved with more giving than receiving, they’re taught about empathy for people who aren’t as well off as they might be.  It also teaches gratefulness and that they are not entitled to get anything.

Christmas and New Years’ is a time to get involved with different charities.  It’s also a time to reflect on our relationships with our children and other people.  Children need our love and a deep connection with us.  They need to see healthy relationships with people.  This is vital for teaching empathy, compassion, and love towards others. They also need us to teach them healthy coping skills for their negative emotions.

I believe most bullies can be reformed if they are worked with for a while.  It may not happen overnight but we have the power to show them what empathy and compassion looks like. We can soften a harden heart by helping them deal with their own pain that is causing them to bully. We can teach them gently that greed and entitlement are bad.

Here is another excellent article about how to deal with bullying.

Children who witness bullying should always report it to a trusted adult.  If they are being bullied, they should do their best not to react and walk away to report it.  I believe teaching children self-defense is also important.  Taekwondo and karate are wonderful ways of accomplishing this!

This Bible verse came up in my devotional recently during my cyber bullying incident. It comforted me and applies to everyone even if one isn’t a believer.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, NASB).

As we enter the new year, may we use gentle parenting to prevent bullying and raise kind, compassionate children!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy, healthy, blessed New Year!

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Aggression NEVER Works!

As an early childhood professional and a parent coach, one of the main issues I help parents with is young children being aggressive.  Young children have zero impulse control and often express themselves through aggressive acts until they finally have enough practice and skills taught to them by us to use their words and be gentle.

Yes, aggression is a form of communication in young children and if parented gently and respectfully, these children learn that aggression NEVER works.  It only HURTS!

But what happens if children are never taught gentleness and kindness?  What happens if they are spanked/hit, harshly spoken to/yelled at, and/or otherwise punished and disrespected?

Just turn on the TV, get on Facebook and other social media, or dare to walk outside and you’ll see the effects of harshly treated children crying out for whatever social justice is the current “hot topic.”  You’ll see people actually being shot and killed.  You’ll see people rioting.  You’ll see people verbally assault anyone who dares to offer a different perspective.

Unfortunately, many pro-spankers believe that this is due to not spanking/hitting children enough, but the majority of children are still spanked.  The Bible says that we reap what we sow.  If violence is “lovingly” sown into children’s hearts to get people to do what they want, then it will be easier for them to use aggression and violence to try to force people to listen to them.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/synergygentleparenting/?ref=ts&fref=ts

I struggle with this at times too.  It’s hard to keep responding respectfully when you’re angry and/or passionate about something.  I have made my fair share of mistakes and constantly strive to be a more empathetic, compassionate, gentle person as that was not how I was raised.  But the fact that I was raised with harshness and was often disrespected and still get dismissed at times due to my disability is no excuse for my mistakes!

Sadly, some people truly believe that violence and aggression–both physical and verbal– is the only way to be heard and enact change.  When people come at me aggressively, I get defensive and shut down.  It hurts, so it makes me not want to listen to the person. When I hear about violent actions in the name of some cause, it makes me want to run in the other direction!  I feel bad for the victims who are usually innocent bystanders that had the misfortune of being in the crossfire of the angry people.

We claim to want peace but end up trying to get it through violence and aggression.  We want equality for all but end up putting certain groups down to get that equality.  We believe in love but end up using hate to try to force love.  We strive for tolerance but end up being intolerant to groups of people who don’t have our same agenda.

We are all guilty of this!  It’s just that certain people fail to recognize this in themselves and think that they are truly making a difference when all they are doing is making everything worse and turning people off. They are even inciting people like them that are on the opposite side to start behaving aggressively.  They fail to realize that aggression never works.  It only hurts!

I love the Nonviolent Communication  approach that Marshall B. Rosenberg writes about, and with which he trains people, because it teaches us that everyone is capable of being compassionate.  I’m trying to work on using this approach more with people.  Here’s a quote from the website.

“Through the practice of NVC, we can learn to clarify what we are observing, what emotions we are feeling, what values we want to live by, and what we want to ask of ourselves and others. We will no longer need to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. We can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to each others’ well being.

NVC creates a path for healing and reconciliation in its many applications, ranging from intimate relationships, work settings, health care, social services, police, prison staff and inmates, to governments, schools and social change organizations.”

We want our children to be gentle and kind. They are always watching us and imitating us.  Therefore, we need to teach them how to be kind and compassionate to others by being kind and compassionate with everyone.  Love is the only way to enact change, not violence and aggression. A toddler that throws a cup doesn’t get a drink, but instead, is taught better ways of communicating his/her needs. The same applies to adults.  Throwing stuff might feel good but won’t get the change we want to occur.  Love always wins in the end!

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What Is REALLY Wrong With Today’s Youth?

Believe it or not, every generation complains about “today’s youth” being “out of control.”  But, what drives me nuts about this is that many people claim that the reason children are “out of control” is due to a lack of spanking/hitting children.

The reality is that between 70-90% of parents still admit to spanking/hitting their children. Obviously, corporal punishment isn’t helping at all. And since there are a huge array of harmful effects of corporal punishment, it will never help children to be more respectful.

I believe that in addition to children being treated harshly there is another huge reason why today’s society and youth seem so disconnected. Technology!

Yes, I said it, technology is one of the reasons why our society is so disconnected.  The very thing that is supposed to keep us more connected is actually tearing apart human interaction.  Go to any public place and observe the people.  I can guarantee that the majority of the people are looking down at a screen instead of interacting with each other.  Couples at a restruarant text or update their Facebook statuses instead of talking to each other.

What is even sadder is that I recently heard on the radio that children are getting hurt more often at playgrounds because their parents are too busy staring at their phones to even hear their children calling for help.

Here is an interesting study from an Exchange Everyday email:

“‘A new Chinese ad campaign illustrates the way smartphones can affect family life and relationship,’ reports The Huffington Post “Titled Phone Wall,” the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China is a literal representation of the barriers to human relationships that screen addiction creates.’

Juggi Ramakrishnan, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, told The Huffington Post, ‘We want people to see [these ads] and rethink their relationships with others and their phone in a different light. This is a definite pressure point that Chinese society is facing on its path of rapid development.’

‘This pervasiveness has the potential to be especially detrimental to families with kids,’ says Ramakrishnan. ‘There is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings. Consequently, children may feel they aren’t getting the attention they need…. Addiction to mobile devices can put a strain on romantic relationships as well, as partners may become less responsive to each other’s feelings and have fewer meaningful interactions.'”

This addiction to technology starts way too young in this society.  There are now bouncy seats for infants that hold iPads for the infant.  I’m sorry but as an early childhood professional, this really disturbs me.  Infants and young children need lots of human interaction as well as using real toys such as balls, blocks, plastic dishes, dolls, trucks, cars, musical toys, push toys.  Manipulating concrete items and having real experiences are absolutely crucial to healthy development.  By giving an infant an iPad, the infant is going to be more interested in the iPad as a whole because their brains don’t truly understand what’s actually happening on the screen.  Too much screen time can actually hinder development.  A toddler should be able to do a range of fine motor activities, not just swipe on an iPad or phone!

Also, infants absorb and are affected by everything in their environments. It’s much better for a baby’s brain development to have music playing in the background rather than a TV.  Another thing is that we are almost constantly exposed to violence thanks to the media. This is desensitizing us to violence and so many other disturbing things.  Besides sex, violence is a common theme in our movies, television shows, music, and videogames. Plus, the news is constantly reporting acts of violence. We are so much more aware of violence whereas prior to when media was so prevalent people were not as exposed to or aware of the violence that was occurring and they could shelter themselves and their children from it because there was no television or Internet.

Children didn’t watch cartoons or play videogames filled with violent images like they do today. Because so many parents have to work full-time in order to survive today, children are being left alone with all this access to violent media with little guidance from busy, stressed out parents. Research shows that all of this exposure to violence is desensitizing children and adults to violence. Greven (1992), page 129, states:

“Research has demonstrated that television must be considered one of the major socializers of children’s aggressive behavior. Two major behavioral effects of heavy viewing of televised violence are: (1) an increase in children’s level of aggression; and (2) an increase in children’s passive acceptance of the use of aggression by others. Both aggression and apathy thus are intensified by an immersion in television violence although the roots of both undoubtedly are to be found in the life histories of punishment and abuse of those who view such violence with either indifference or enthusiasm.”

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All this being said, I do understand that there is a time and a place for technology. If a parent or relative is far away, using Skype or FaceTime to help them see the child is perfectly fine. And once children become preschoolers, it’s ok to slowly introduce them to technology.

It’s just important to naturally limit technology by having plenty of other activities for children to do. This way, too, by not putting much focus on technology, we can avoid power struggles when it’s time for them to put it away.  Always allow children to finish the game they’re playing or show/movie they’re watching before having them move on. I love this article by Janet Lansbury regarding introducing and limiting technology with toddlers.  We need to be present while our children are using technology to protect them from all the evil things and people lurking on the Internet.

And, of course, technology is a must for children with special needs/disabilities. With my severe cerebral palsy, technology allows me to write and communicate with others whereas I otherwise would be unable to do so.  Amateur radio is another great use of technology. It allows people to talk to each other over the airways.

In sum, technology definitely has valid uses. However, we need to stop allowing it to consume our lives.  We need to be totally present with our children and intentionally interact with them throughout the day. Children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. Technology cannot substitute actual parenting. Nor is it fair to only interact with our children to spank/hit or otherwise punish them.

Do you want children to be kind, empathetic, and not self-entitled?  Put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer electronics and model how to interact with people. Talk with your children. Let them see you actually watching them play.  Stop spanking/hitting them and discipline (teach and guide) them.  If you are a Christian, make Jesus the focus of your home rather than technology.

Reference:

Greven, P. (1992). Spare the Child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

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