Susan Boyle, Bullying, Judgment, and Your Kids!

"Look!" "Lauren is wearing Ugg boots." "She thinks she's hot so let's teach her a lesson and just ignore her!" (Lauren got the boots as a gift from her grandmother. She was nervous about wearing them because she usually doesn’t wear designer brands.) "Josh's dad drives him to school when he lives only a few blocks away and could walk." "What a lazy loser!" (Josh’s peers don’t know that he has a fragile bone disease and that doctors have asked him to avoid tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks.)

“Those kids get straight A’s.” “They’re such bookworm nerds!” “No wonder they have no real friends.” (The straight A students are funny and personable if only some of their peers would give them a chance.)

We all pass judgment. Sometimes it can serve as a 6th sense that protects us from danger. Most of the time however, passing judgment is an unjust allegation. Kids in particular observe something and make up their minds about it before acquiring any facts. Their observation is a mere sliver of the big picture. Kids then go on to express this observation as an assumption using words that can be hurtful because they are not necessarily true. The words in turn can become nasty rumors and lead to schoolyard pranks that hurt, alienate, or otherwise harass the person being judged. Suddenly an innocent child is subject to teasing or full-fledged bullying. So what can we do to help?

Parents and teachers can choose from an array of ideas to help their kids to be fair and friendly instead of judgmental. My new favorite is the old classic video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I know. You’ve already seen it, but would you please consider watching it again with your kids or students beside you? Pay close attention to the judges and the audience. Assess their facial expressions and ponder what they might have been thinking both before and after Ms. Boyle sings. Then ask the kids what they observed. Query them on how passing judgment can be unfair. Ask why one of the judges called the incident “the biggest wake-up call ever.”

To really connect with your kids, consider sharing your own experiences related to passing judgment or being the recipient of it. Then ask them to share theirs. You might just learn something new about their “secret” life at school, sports or other extracurricular activities. Lastly, solicit your children’s solutions. Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” How do your children think they can be that change?

It takes a village so let’s support one another. After you watch the video please come back and leave us a comment of the wisdom you and your children shared.

Parenting Kids to have a Strong Work Ethic

You’ve heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” 

When I ordered a new washing machine and dryer in late March, I got some seriously sour lemons in customer service from a well known national home improvement store.  The harrowing experience lasted for 2 ½ weeks and included:

  • 23 hours in which I was confined to my home waiting for 8 separate delivery crews or appliance service technicians.
  • Over 10 hours (yes hours) of phone calls to the store to get customer service I’m paying for.
  • Over 3 hours of phone calls to the appliance company to trouble shoot machines that ended up not working because of human error.
  • A string of human errors and incompetence including delivery men not knowing how to switch door swing on the dryer, not turning on the gas line to the dryer, not balancing the washing machine properly which caused the pieces inside to literally shred (the machine had to be replaced), not turning on the cold water to the washing machine, and dragging trolley grease up the staircase carpeting.
  • Robotic customer service who said “I’m sorry” with the most un-empathetic, unconvincing communication and no gesture to prove improved efficiency or courtesy.

But alas, there is lemonade to be made. 

I don’t doubt that I’m the only one who has had an experience like this.  You probably have too!  Was it the cable, satellite, phone, or internet company?  Could a poor work ethic have caused workers not to maintain a Southwest airplane properly causing the recent mid-flight “hole” to appear?  Perhaps the more important question is what can we do about these incidences? 

To me the answer lies in Gandhi’s words.  He said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.   Not only can we function with a strong work ethic and empathetic attitude but we can teach these values to our children. 

Now we have reached the part where we can make lemonade. 

Parents are the CEO’s of their families.   Their leadership in the home is responsible for sculpting future citizens and employees.  Take a moment to dream about how productive and kind our world could be if every parent took this leadership with gravity.

Here are some ideas to ponder.  Take what works and toss what doesn’t.

1.   Starting at a young age, teach kids to focus.  Start with simple tasks like homework.  Eliminate distracters like cell phone text messaging, Facebook , music , or TV so kids can concentrate on completing one task comprehensively and with accuracy.  Kids wouldn’t allow themselves to get distracted when they need to score points in a video game.  If they can focus there, they can focus anywhere!  Focus is the basis of a “job well done” that eventually sprouts pride.  Effective multitasking can only grow from effective single-tasking!

2.  Be the “best.”  When I was a younger, my dad told me to be whatever I wanted, but to be the “best” at it.  Ask your children what it takes for them to be their “personal best.”  Incorporate their ideas to help them create a plan of action about any given task from homework to sports or even video games.  Kids love to have their ideas taken seriously and revel in creatively carving their own successes.

3.  Limits, consequences, and consistency are supposed to be a parenting mantra but they are not easy to enforce.  If the police gave you a traffic ticket for a rolling stop instead of a complete stop at a stop sign, chances are you would refrain from that recurring.  Parents, you are your child’s police officer.  You hold the power to enforce a strong work ethic instead of letting a weak one slide.

4.  Elvis said it best.  “Walk a mile in my shoes.”  Teaching our kids to have empathy can make a world of difference in how they treat others.  We don’t like being in situations like the one I described at the beginning of this post.  We can avoid putting others in that situation by knowing what it feels like and doing our “best” to prevent it from happening.  Sincerity and integrity matter.

Over to you.  What do you think?  Can we effectively follow Gandhi’s words by being the change we want to see in the world?  Can our strong work ethic and that of our kids make a community wide difference?  Please leave your comments as well as your suggestions on building work ethic in kids.

How one Mother's Dying Wish Impacts our Parenting

 Death is never easy to accept. When it comes prematurely, it yields unrelenting agony for those left behind.  Our hearts ache, particularly, for children who are not equipped to understand.

My own heart is aching for one very young fellow who recently lost his mom to cancer.  This mom had many roles but “mother” is the one she fought hardest for.  Motherhood is a job that can never really be finished.  There is always an opportunity to love, teach, impart wisdom, extend the hand of friendship, soothe pains, revel in joys, and of course so much more.   In a job that seems limitless, this mom had very limited time. 

I came to comprehend her plight most clearly when I read her last online journal entry.  She said it was the “most difficult” one to write as Hospice had been summoned and she knew her end was near.  She made a final request.   

The request was for letters that would help her son know her better as he got older.  Friends and family were advised that the letters would be held for him to read at an age that was appropriate and she asked that they indicate that age on the envelope.  Specifically, she longed for stories about the kind of person she was, or any other information that would help her son to know her as he became an adult. 

This dying mother’s request saddened me deeply, but it also inspired me positively to think about my legacy, and I am writing to inspire you to think about yours (if you want to). 

Besides a legacy in which we bequeath material items, what could we leave our kids that would enrich their being?  Here are some questions to ponder.

  • What do you want your kids to know about you?  Why?
  • What easy to recall stories can you share that will illustrate your strengths in overcoming adversity? 
  • How can you help your kids avoid mistakes by sharing stories about your weaknesses and how they debilitated your efforts or results?
  • What are the most important scriptural verses, or spiritual messages you’d like to impart?  How do you hope these will help your children?  Are there any specific situations you’d like to include?
  • What guidance will you impart to your kids about managing everyday frustrations, romantic relationships, community or corporate leadership, or their own roles as future parents?
  • Are their favorite books or movies that you would want to share so that your kids have insights into what moved you emotionally?
  • Do you have perspectives on social graces, etiquette, study skills or education that you’d like to convey?
  • Would you include a code of ethics, family “commandments”, or moral wisdoms that they could live by?

As you can imagine, this list could go on and on.  What is important is that you create it in a way that reflects what is most important for you, and what you think is important for your kids to know as they navigate their own lives.  You are the author of your legacy.

After pondering the questions, one might ask “how do I best convey my legacy?”  Here, we have to consider the child’s age and level of maturity, and the style that best suits the parent.  I have heard of one mother (also dying from cancer) who left her daughter videos on various subjects including how to apply makeup.  Verbal communication, letters or journaling, audio recordings, or even video are options.  Choose one or choose them all.

Alice Earle Morse wrote this quote:  "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it's called the present."

Since none of us have a crystal ball to know what will happen tomorrow, we can use the gift of time today.  What do you think?  How can we start to leave our legacy for the ones we love the most?  What would your legacy include?  What method is best for you to convey it?  Please share your thoughts in our comments section.


What Christmas Values Will You Choose?

With Christmas this month, I fondly remember my favorite inspiration from Jesus.  “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Imagine the nobility of those words.  Think deeply for a moment, could you or anyone you know do this at a time when you are being persecuted? I chuckle as the first thing I think about are dogs.  They are experts at forgiving us with their perpetually wagging tails, and we in turn forgive them.  I have a beautiful black lab, and no matter what she does to misbehave, I forgive her and continue to adore her because I know that she doesn’t know any better.  It is simply her nature.  Isn’t this often the case with humans, the ones that make up our family, friends, community, and work colleagues?  Sure… I know you are thinking that they DO know better!  Maybe they do, but innate tendencies take over and they slip up without realizing it.  The point here is that Jesus did not complain about others knowing better, or what they SHOULD have, or COULD have done differently.  He very simply took responsibility on how He would manage the situation He was placed in.  He chose to think and act with nobility and forgiveness and subsequently gave us that profound guidance “Forgive them for they know not what they do”.

As the holidays are upon us, I read many articles both online and in print on how to manage the holiday stress of difficult people whom we interact with… particularly visiting relatives.  How do you feel about incorporating Jesus’ words in to your toolbox of stress management?  How can you forgive your sister in law for her curt remarks or your colleague for his insensitive gift?  Think about what irks you, who irks you, and why.  Perhaps you want to write this down in a private journal that you can reflect upon.  Then think… how will you forgive them and not take their actions personally? What three specific steps can you apply this Holiday season to truly live by Jesus’ words?  Perhaps you would like to write these down too.  You might want to use them again!

Since I am a parent coach, we have to incorporate some parenting here, so remember that your children are closely observing you and learning from you.  Do you want them to grow up constantly frustrated with other people’s insensitive behaviors or do you want them to have a toolbox of effective self-soothing and noble behaviors (by the way… this is a part of emotional intelligence which you can read more about on my website )?  If you can overcome your frustrations and apply tools like Jesus, you will have created the ultimate win-win situation for yourself, your watchful children, and of course those whom you interact with. Wouldn’t that be a tremendous achievement that you can carry in to the New Year!

Any examples you choose to share in our community forum would be greatly appreciated by all.