Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Four

Media and conversations continue to remind me how relieved I am NOT to be a kid these days. It’s like kids are expected to come from the womb knowing exactly who they are and what they want from life.

If you read my other posts in this series, you might recall that I wanted to be a secret agent at one point. Oh, and if I didn’t wish to be a horse, I pretended to be a boy. All of this to say school isn’t about learning the basics anymore.

Recently, I realized that I had another advantage over kids these days. Of course, movies and journalists will claim it means I was brainwashed, but I was expected to adhere to a specific set of rules. And my mother took me to the church she believed taught the right things.

So Many Beliefs

Our world is diverse in so many ways. There are different races and religions. People choose political affiliation.

Cultures stress family units or individual achievement. Books are written about things as vague as basketweaving to the ridiculous notion of a zombie apocalypse.

Who’s to say what’s right or wrong?

Well, in the world of what I want to believe, I get to decide what is right for me. And, as a parent, I’m responsible for teaching my child the difference between right behavior and wrong behavior.
How did any of us survive with our mothers feeding us cow’s mile in our bottles? Everyone knows babies can process all those harsh proteins. They need their mother’s milk or expensive formula.
But we did survive. Our parents fed us what they ate.
Medical research has since declared cow’s milk “unhealthy” for infants. But did babies die from drinking it back in the day when people didn’t know better?
Maybe. Most likely they developed some form of allergic reaction. Even I was allergic to the fat in milk. It made my skin bubble up and itch.
All this to say that no person can teach their child every different belief system. In fact, they should give due diligence to being consistent living their own beliefs and explaining them to their children.
This whole “We don’t take our kid to church because we want them to choose their own beliefs” mentality confuses me. Introducing your children to what you believe is choosing to believe it for them?
I think not. You’ll put the Crest toothpaste on the counter in the bathroom and watch them brush their teeth twice per day. Why Crest? Is it really better than Colgate or Aquafresh or the store brand?
How can you force your toothpaste choice on your child?
Even more to the point, why do you make them brush their teeth anyway? What if they believe bad breath is better?

Pressure to Conform

Children will face pressure to conform.
If the parents don’t give them a baseline of acceptable responses (based on their own worldviews and societal standards), they’re setting their child up to fall in with the loudest voice.
For a few years, parents can be the only voice a child hears. And believe me, they will choose to ignore that voice plenty of times. Hopefully there will be consequences when they do.
Fair and consistent outcomes won’t happen very often in the larger world, but parents can make sure they happen in their child’s pre-school world. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do it?
Because you’re brainwashing your child to be a Christian or a person who bathes or someone who eats three balanced meals per day?
As soon as they begin interacting with other kids, the pressure is on. Eventually, they’ll want different toys, different clothes, and different opportunities.
Do they really need these things to become a well-rounded individual?
Or if they conform to these expectations, are they being brainwashed by larger society to believe and act a certain way?

Freedom to Choose

God created humans to have free will.
Every person should have freedom to choose for themselves. God said so. He set the universe in place on that truth.

But if there is a choice, there is a right one and a wrong one.

Just because being a doctor is right for some people, it’s wrong for me. I don’t like to listen to a sick person’s list of complaints. I don’t want to go to school for a decade and be exposed to every bodily fluid.

But that doesn’t mean being a doctor is wrong. We need conscientious doctors who care about the physical and emotional well-being of people.

I wouldn’t be that doctor.

This is a case where the freedom to choose will give individuals unique outcomes. What’s right for one isn’t right for all.

However, children need to eat protein and vitamins. If they don’t, their brains and bodies won’t grow to optimum potential.

And fortified cereal isn’t the same as fresh fruit and organic eggs. Even if all the nutrients are the same, we know the foods aren’t equal. One choice is healthier for the developing human than the other.

In this case, freedom to choose can have a negative outcome if you choose poorly. And there is a better, more healthy choice.

All choices aren’t created equal even if the right to make them is consistent across the board.

I’m glad my mother didn’t give me a choice. Even though it meant eating liver and butternut squash, I didn’t get to choose to have a bologna and cheese sandwich instead. It meant I had to pick up rocks, pull weeds and clean toilets, but I’m not afraid to work hard and I know how to take care of my yard, garden (ugh, or how to NOT have one) and home.

I wouldn’t have been able to make good choices about many things in my life when I was a kid. If I’m honest, I still make poor choices as a middle-aged adult woman.

Let’s face it the $5 lunch from Dairy Queen sound delicious. And so much easier to make than fresh fruit, plain yogurt and sliced red peppers. But which one is a healthier choice?

Crazy Things Students Say

I’m a full-time author. At least two days each work week (when school is in session), I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
Due to a shortage of licensed substitutes, my state allows any person with a Bachelor’s Degree to go through the training and application process and attain what is called a Restricted Substitute License. Although I hold no teaching degree, I have more than a decade of experience in education.

Why would I subject myself to such a topsy-turvy schedule? Two reasons:

  1. It’s not conducive to creativity to spend everyday in an office without interacting with other people (and social media doesn’t replace actual human face-to-face contact)
  2. Most of my publishing contracts are “royalties only” and the schools give me a much more regular (and at this point, substantial) paycheck

Since my dream is to write fantasy novels for young adults, this subbing thing keeps me engaged with their worldview and voice.


Heard at the Middle School

“If you’re an author, why would you be a sub?”

Why indeed! I generally give them reason number two as outlined above. I have been known to use other reasons, as well, but not to the same student.
Yes, this is a common question. For some reason, they think a published author should be SO famous and well-paid that they wouldn’t submit themselves to the degradation of being a substitute. (I don’t find it degrading. I actually enjoy it…most days.)
“Are you the sub?” Isn’t this obvious? I’m always amazed by this question.
“YES!” I never know how to respond to this unabashed joy that they have a substitute. It would be ego-affirming if it was because they liked me so much, but the reality is much darker. Any sub is preferable to the regular teacher.
What does that mean? Is the teacher mean? Are subs easy? What?


Heard at the High School

“Do people ever call you Miss Texas?” (Do you need context for this? My last name is often mispronounced as Houston by students.) “I’m from Texas, and I’d like to call you Miss Texas.”
Well, thank you, freshman male student. Now I can feel like a beauty pageant contestant–for an hour of my life.
“At least I had a dad.” I’m not sure this one needs any explanation. FYI, the student was laughing in a pleasant manner when he said it. (And no, it wasn’t directed at me.)
“You look familiar” (and after I say I’ve subbed often in the building) “No that’s not it. I think it’s from Facebook.”
Just when I’m wondering if my author page is blowing up with my young adult audience, the bubble is burst.


“You were one of my suggested friends.” (What does that even mean? I know she meant FB suggested me as someone she might know, but what is a suggested friend?)
“Hey, I know you!” I’m squinting at the skinny junior boy at my old alma mater. I definitely know the kid in the back of the row beside him.
I try the, “I subbed here two weeks ago” response.
“No, that’s not it.” He gives his forehead an exaggerated pound. “The middle school. Right?”
“Are you sure you can remember that far back?” Three years is a lifetime for teenagers. But I smile and assure him that he’s nailed it. Too bad he doesn’t smile so proudly when I hand him the essay assignment a few minutes later.
There are priorities. Writing class is rarely one of them for high school students.
These teenagers offer me plenty of smiles. And eye rolls. But best of all, their vivacity contributes fodder for future fiction. (Yes, I do love my alliteration.)
So, I’m glad that the state hasn’t changed the substitute teaching requirements just yet. I’m on my way to being licensed for three more years of inspiration from the world of public school.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard lately?

Dear Teenager: Your Dress Code isn’t about Sexism – Part 2

This is part three of a series of rants inspired by this lovely meme:

Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?
Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?

Maybe you’re bored with discussing school dress codes and sexism. Believe me, it was tedious to be confronted with it day in and day out when I worked for the school district.

Why can’t the kids just follow the rules?

Because they’re teenagers, and that means they push every boundary, looking for inconsistencies to exploit. It helps them form their own worldview.

And the physiology of this age group is mostly what I’ll address today, as I approach the teenage boy ogling the girl in a dress that reveals more than it conceals.

Dear Teenage Boy-

Do you know why we’re meeting today? No?

Let’s talk about first period. What happened in there that might have prompted me to call you down to the office?

You’re right. She was uncomfortable with you staring at her chest. It was highly inappropriate.

Again, you’re right. She shouldn’t have worn that dress, but not for the reason you said. Let me direct your attention to the Student Handbook. (See the reference here)

The same physiology that makes girls burst into tears over the slightest thing, makes you unable to look away from visual stimulation. In fact, men are visual creatures, attracted by what they see.

That’s the reason we have these rules. We understand that you’re hard-wired to pay attention to what you see. We’re trying to keep you from seeing things that would distract you from learning.

That’s why you’re here at school, you know, to learn. And one thing we want to teach you is to respect other people.

That’s not our job? You’re probably right. But if no one else is going to do it, then we’ll take up the banner.

Back to how to treat people with respect. In the future, what might be the right response in a situation like this?

Now, get back to class. I don’t want to take up too much of the in-class instructional time with this meeting.

Sincerely,

Your School Administrator

******

No shame and no blame placed on either student in these encounters. Facts – the written rules – were presented.

Will that boy stop having sexual thoughts when he sees girls? Doubtful. That’s part of his physiology.

Should he learn to control his reactions? Yes, but that comes with maturity. And isn’t a guaranteed outcome. I’ve had full-grown, gray-haired men give me the heebie-jeebies by staring too long.

Did the school reinforce his misconception that women are sex objects? (Can we say for certain he thinks that?) I don’t think so.

And every school administrator I know addresses these things as quickly as possible so students can get back where they belong. In the classroom.

Plenty of students think school is all about socializing with their friends. That’s why they don’t take the rules seriously. Or show up late to class. Or forget about doing homework.

The real concern that should be spurred by the meme above is that school has become another platform for protest. Is that really in the best interest of those young people who need to learn to read, write and balance their checkbooks?

Yes, this is the end of my lengthy soapbox discussion of dress codes NOT being about sexism.

What else might you say to this young man? To the school?

Thank you for humoring my long-winded diatribe. I hope it was a little bit entertaining or thought-provoking.

Talon by Julie Kagawa

Kagawa’s story of dragons living among us has been on my to be read list since I first read its description. Yes, I’m talking about Talon.

When it came, it appeared on my Overdrive app just in time for the weekend. *sigh*

Summary

Ember and her twin brother are on the last leg of their training. If they can successfully assimilate into human society, they will earn their position in Talon, the international organization of dragons.

Ember wants to taste freedom. She befriends the locals and finds a love of surfing. Not as good as flying above the waves-which is forbidden-but enthralling nonetheless.

Her summer is cut short by the arrival of adult dragons to train her and her brother. Separately. Wait a minute! They’ve done everything together for their entire sixteen years of life.

Soon, Ember is chomping at the restraints Talon places on her. Encouraged to defy their rules by a rogue dragon, she finds herself doubting everything she knows about dragons and drifting further from her beloved brother.

Enter the spies from St. George, the dragon hunter’s organization. Garret is known as the Perfect Soldier, but when Ember pushes him to embrace living, unexpected emotions – and doubts of his own – emerge.

Review

Kagawa creates two complex organizations with ideologies that diametrically oppose each other. She throws a teenager from each together. Conflict results. This conflict is central to the story and really the best part of the book.

The two secret societies battling each other is a perfect backdrop for this novel. What do teenagers care about some remote war?

Ember wants freedom. She’s not going to find it in Talon. Ever.

For Garret, he’s been a soldier his whole life. He learned to kill dragons at 14 and has more kills than anyone his age. But is there more to life than hunting the beasts that killed his family?

Some reviewers complained about the ease with which Dante and Ember fit into human society since they’d lived in isolation for sixteen years. Ember’s inner thoughts made it believable to me. Dragons have a natural chemistry for soothing people, easing in, making people trust them.

I enjoyed viewing the dragon society through the different eyes of the three narrators. Is Talon the evil organization the rogue dragon believes? Is there a greater purpose behind their disguises? Those answers must wait for the sequel.

Usually, I’m not a fan of love triangles. In this case, it didn’t bother me (as much) because it was obvious that Ember had a duality – dragon and human. Each side of her preferred the guy from its race.

I wasn’t thrilled with the ending because, while the story question was resolved, it introduced the problem for the sequel. Was she afraid we wouldn’t read the next book unless she wrote it this way?

It still earned 4.5 out of five stars from me because I loved the characters, the conflict, and the constant tension. Were there unbelievable moments? Not enough to throw me out of the story.

But I predicted the outcome fairly early on (although I didn’t guess every angle). And the ending could have been stronger.

Recommendation

If you love dragons, you want to read this book. They are everything you expect while being unexpected in their human disguises.

If you like snarky heroines, you will enjoy this book. Ember Hill has attitude. Being inside her head made for a great ride.

This book has violence but it’s handled with taste and delicacy, so the story is suitable for younger teenagers. The romantic element is secondary to the character development. A PG read in that respect too.

The biggest drawback of this book – the library didn’t have a copy of the sequel available for me to check out.

Rogue, consider yourself added to my TBR list.

School Begins: So will this argument about dress code

Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?
Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?

Most of the time, I just blow off the millions of memes I see on Facebook, especially when they’re obviously nothing more than a soapbox. For some reason, this one stabbed deeper than others. Because enforcing a dress code has nothing to do with shaming or promoting misogyny.

I worked in the public education system for nearly fifteen years. I sent girls (in 7th or 8th grade) whose breasts were hanging out of their strappy camisole to the office for a “real” shirt.

I am a die-hard believer of successful education, which means I support dress codes. AND there’s no point in having rules if they aren’t going to be enforced (state and federal governments might care to remember this).

Since I’m a woman, it’s obvious that I don’t hold these beliefs because I believe I’m nothing more than a sex object. Of course, I am from a pre-70s generation, so I’ve probably been brainwashed by societal norms *rolls eyes.*

Anyone who knows me is doubled over with laughter. Here, let me give them a moment to collect themselves.

This meme is a perfect example of the tendency in American society to blow every little thing out of proportion while claiming it has something to do with discrimination.

Alert: Dress codes exist everywhere

At the schools where I worked, guys were dinged nearly as often as girls for inappropriate dressing. Mostly it had to do with their pants pulled so low those boxers they wanted everyone to see were hanging out.

The rule: undergarments can’t be on display.

How many of us would go to work with our undergarments on display?

(Other than those of us who work at a home office where sweats and pajamas are part of the norm.)

School is about preparing young people for adulthood.

Unfortunately, some people are counting on the school system to teach their kids things that only parents should be addressing.

“Because what if those parents don’t talk to their girls about menstruation or birth control?”

Yeah, what if that happens. Because that happens quite frequently? Systems are being constructed around the exceptions in society rather than the majority.

And I probably just offended someone with that statement. Maybe even a multitude of someones. Please read on before you compose your diatribe for my comments section.

You can’t change physiology, folks. Teenagers are walking hormones. They’re going to be distracted by things like what a person’s wearing.

How can a teacher compete with that?

A girl who’s worried about being told to cover up her assets isn’t thinking about how her education was interrupted by this trip to the office. Do people really think that? Or is that just a reason they know will bring attention to their gripes?

In fact, most of these teenagers would go along and get along if media didn’t push issues like this to the forefront of everyone’s mind. I’m not saying they would be drones, but they’d learn. In this case, they could understand the point of enforcing the dress code.

It has nothing to do with discrimination. It’s not about reinforcing some perspective that women are sex objects.

It’s about teaching people to follow the rules.

I’m not going to bring in the statistics about the ever-increasing misdemeanor crime among young people. You live here. You know it’s a problem.

Maybe it’s because rather than telling kids, “Those are the rules. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to like it. But we do have to follow them;” parents and media are encouraging them to defy the rules they disagree with.

As if teenagers need any additional incentive to buck the system.

The fact is, we do have to follw the rules. At school. Or work. In public. Otherwise, there are consequences.

At home, dress how you want. Watch what you want. Drink it, do it, knock yourself out. At home, you make your own rules.

But rather than bashing the school’s standards, support them as necessary for that time and place. Fight them through regular channels if you truly feel they’re unfair, biased, or out-dated.

For the next two weeks, I’ll post on this topic again. Next up: a letter to the teenage girl referenced in the meme that started this fire under my feet. The third post: a letter to the teenage boy supposedly being taught to regard girls as sex objects.

What do you think? Feel free to disagree with me. All I ask is that you use the same amount of respect you want when people argue against you.

Expectations that build character

Washington had oodles of Character
Washington had oodles of Character

Some readers might have given up on my series regarding expectations for young people. After all, it seems like a diatribe against education, government or parenting. Aren’t their some expectations we should have for our children?

Duh. Lack of appropriate expectations has damaged our youth as much as unrealistic expectations. Maybe even more.

We all need a standard set before us – a model to follow. For generations, parents modeled standards for their children. In more recent years, I see parents willingly submitting this duty (really an honor) to government and educators.

This is one of the biggest problems in our society. Whether parents want to be the role model for their children or not, they are being watched. Many children will follow their parents’ example without consciously deciding to do it.

So, it’s past time for parents to step up. If you had a child, you have some responsibilities to that child. Uncle Sam isn’t responsible to teach your child anything. (Do you really want the political system of the day deciding what your child needs to know?) Your neighborhood school should be teaching reading, writing and mathematics, but we all know there is so much more to life than those things.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on four areas where we should have solid expectations for our young people: work, responsibility, accountability and respect.  These areas (and I would personally add values, but I won’t open that can of worms) can guarantee young people develop admirable character.

A Work Ethic

You don’t have to tell me; work is a four-letter word. Many people try to avoid it as much as possible and it’s beginning to show in our younger generation.

A simple homework assignment that might take 15 minutes is too much work for many kids. Rather than researching a topic, they will Google an already completed paper on the subject and turn it in as their own work. Gaming, texting, social media hangouts and pursuit of other interests monopolizes their free time.

What happened to a list of daily chores? I know, kids scream “child abuse” and so parents back off. Who wants a confrontation with a mouthy teenager anyway? Not any sane person.

The solution is to give kids chores at a young age. I’m not recommending child labor. A four-year old can pick up their own toys and dirty clothes, though. If a kid is old enough to go to school, he can make his bed. Setting the table, unloading and loading the dishwasher, cleaning the toilet and washing dishes are other chores that can be completed by anyone at least seven years old.

Will they do an excellent job? Not if you don’t teach them the right way to do it. This doesn’t involve yelling at them to rewash the dishes if you find a dirty spot. It means the parent stands beside them demonstrating how to do the chore correctly.

I think one chore per day is plenty for younger kids. By the time they’re teenagers, they think they should be free to do what they want. Sure, once they finish a list that involves a few more chores. And their homework.

After all, who’s going to do their dishes when they’re adults? You? It’s in everybody’s best interest for them to learn how to do basic housework.

How do we earn money? By working. Sure, it might be sitting at a desk or driving a truck, but whatever your job, you must be industrious. The harder you work, the more valued you are to your employer (or should be – another rant altogether here).

Responsibility

Finger pointing abounds. This is because no one wants to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

It’s a major flaw in “free” society. Every person needs to carry their weight. Imagine society as a huge wheel and every person is a spoke. Break a few off, and the wheel is too weak to work properly.

How do you teach your child to be responsible? You give them a set of chores and forfeit their rights to do anything else until they’ve done them. And done them to a satisfactory standard.

Lack of responsibility hurts everyone around you. It makes a person undependable and disloyal. Who will trust them with the smallest task if they are irresponsible?

Schools are designed to build this trait into children. What a student is responsible for increases as they age. In kindergarten, they’re responsible for putting their coat and backpack in the correct cubby. By middle school, they’re responsible for that and turning in their homework when it’s due.

This doesn’t mean parents have no part in teaching this trait. Believe me, people in education can tell the parents who have let this slide.

Accountability

Another reason for all the finger pointing in our society is the lack of accountability. Being held accountable will make someone more responsible. After all, if they can do a half-hearted job on their chores and still head to the movies and a sleepover with friends, what’s the big deal?

As my kids aged, I trusted them to be accountable. “Mom, can I go to my bro’s house?”  My response: “Is your homework done? I see you didn’t sweep the kitchen yet.” After the kitchen is swept, the inquiry is issued again. “If your homework is done.”

This bit my youngest son in the hinder parts his freshman year of high school. I expected him to do his homework, study, turn things in on time. When I went to the spring conference and talked to his Spanish teacher (he had an F) and his art teacher (he had a D), his life got pretty ugly.

The thing about accountability is that the parent needs to be the party kids answer to about whether they’re meeting their responsibilities. I realized that my son had lied about his homework (actually he turned in much of it but it was subpar work).  Outside of school and church activities, his social life ended. Oh, and you can bet that included access to computer games and the internet.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get the Spanish grade up. He reaped the consequences. Grounded from technology for the summer (that was his big thing) and he had to retake the class in order to get the credit for his college applications.

People must be held accountable because there are consequences for actions and inaction. Yep, there’s plenty of whining about “life’s not fair” but the reality is, we need to learn to deal with it. Being accountable is a good start.

Respect

Biggest for last. Lack of respect in young people disturbs me. It isn’t just their disrespect toward adults. Many don’t respect property or even themselves.

Image from startnetworkingtoday.com

“You respect me and I’ll respect you.” I actually had an 8th grade student say this to me once. My reply was, “Who starts? You or me?”

The truth is respect must be mutual. One reason kids are disrespectful to adults is because they hear their parents dissing authority. No surprise when these kids turn and rail on those same parents. Remember: our kids are watching us. We are teaching them – for better or worse.

I happily respect everyone I meet. When they scorn me, I turn the other cheek. I’m an adult. I was taught to hold my tongue by a pop on the mouth when I didn’t. My husband forbade me to do this with our children.

It made teaching them when they misspoke more difficult. Nothing gets our attention more quickly than pain. Arguments and power struggles wore on me. Eventually, I won and my son’s learned I would always win. Even if we had to wait until dad got home.

Have I left any important expectations off this list? Did I misrepresent any of these items? Let’s discuss it.

Sora’s Quest: A Book in Review

Some people actually watch commercials during prime time. I search through the Amazon shelves for free eBooks. Crazy? I think not.

One book I discovered in one such recent foray was Sora’s Quest by T.L. Shreffler. It is the first book in a fantasy series called The Cat’s Eye Chronicles. You can always find the eBook for free. Click here if you love Amazon.

Synopsis

Sora’s seventeenth birthday is supposed to be her introduction to all the eligible bachelors of the nobility. Instead, a man in black crashes the party (yes, literally) and kidnaps her.

She wants to escape her future, but this wasn’t the way she planned to do it. Thus begins her adventure.

Things she believed to be myths, the races of Wolfy and Catlin, are revealed as authentic. Her plan to find out who wanted her father assassinated leads her into the hands of people who are happy to blame it on her.

As a fugitive, she travels with the assassin and his mercenary friends through the dreaded swamp. Along the way, she learns about the mystical necklace left behind when her mother abandoned her as an infant.

My Response

The prologue had me stumbling about who the main character might be in the story. It took me quite some time to decide the character introduced there wasn’t a good guy. Once the vengeful mage murdered three people, I realized he was actually the antagonist, not the kidnapper.

As a character, Sora rings true for me. She’s a discontent noble girl who accepts the fate handed to her with aplomb. I like her spirit from the first page. Along the way, she makes enough mistakes to keep her believable.

If you like romance, you won’t find it here. However, there is sure be a love story later in the series. The growing awareness between Sora and her kidnapper adds enough spicy tension to keep the plot interesting.

Even when I wanted to say “isn’t that convenient” toward the end of the book, I realized I couldn’t do it. Shreffler had set up the possibility as viable early in the story. This is what great writers do.

I like my loose ends tied up. They’re not. That’s what keeps people coming back to the series.

The mystery surrounding Crash is compelling rather than irritating. If we don’t discover most of it by the end of book two, I will be annoyed. The revealing of the power of the cat’s eye stone and the dark evil released by the antagonist have been handled skillfully.

Yes, I think I may have found a new author to love and follow. Already done on Facebook.

My Recommendation

After reading the last page, I opened my browser and went shopping. Back to Amazon where I immediately purchased the second and fourth book in the series. I’m sure book three will also find its way into my queue.

If you like magic, this book is for you. Sword fights? You will want to read this. Love dragons, elves and dwarves (like me), you will love this book. No, none of those are present but Shreffler creates her own races and does an excellent job of it.

I laughed and I cried. I have enjoyed several good books in the YA fantasy genre recently, but this one completely captivated me.

If you want to be entertained, pick up Sora’s Quest. I promise it won’t disappoint you.

Cure for Bullying?

One of the blogs I follow faithfully has been addressing the subject of bullying. It seems like bullies come out of the woodwork in digital areas like social media and blogs.

In recent years, bullying has been a huge subject in the news. Numerous teenage suicides have been attributed to bullying. It isn’t just peer bullying either; some of the most atrocious bullying has been teachers to students.

We tend to think bullying is something kids do. Everyone has to learn to deal with the bullies. Eventually, they grow up and the vile need to put others down or make them look bad disappears. This isn’t the case.

Bullies just get older. They feel empowered to continue their hideous behavior because no one has managed to stop them or convince them of the error of their ways. They up the stakes and suddenly stealing lunch money from the nerd down the street isn’t meeting their need for excitement or validation. Their need for – whatever it is that motivates them to bully.

You can read about one woman’s experience at work here. Can anyone believe that an employer would let such behavior go on unchecked? Maybe if it was the owner who was acting this way, but it wasn’t. One woman ruined a company and caused many people to lose their jobs.

One bully. If one bully can make a fracas, what happens if one ally steps into the fray?

In another post, Kristen Lamb shares some scientific data that indicates bullying behaviors can be stopped. How? Stop feeding the bully.

No, I’m not advocating physical starvation. However, some genetic qualities surface because of reactions in the brain that simulate pleasure or satisfaction become associated with these qualities. Behaviors like bullying and aggression are two such characteristics.

To starve a bully, we need to steal their satisfaction. How can you do this? Let’s take a lesson from my oldest son first:

He was in sixth grade, entering middle school. Before school and after school while waiting for the bus, he played catch  with some boys. A few 8th graders decided to have a little fun with this scrawny little jock-wanna-be. He came home covered in mud, with his shirt ripped off, with his hood dangling from his hooded sweatshirt and his backpack straps snapped in two.

You can bet Mama Bear was on top of that. Those bullies would be sorry – if they could still breathe when I finished with them. My son told me not to contact the school or their parents. He wanted to deal with it.

He laughed along with their pushing and shoving. He shrugged and submitted, pretending it was all in good fun. They couldn’t get his goat. They couldn’t make him cry. He wouldn’t shove back or try to get them to stop. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun for them anymore and they stopped.

It took about three months for this resolution. My son wrote a few stories about bullies for language arts assignments during this time. He maintained excellent grades and continued to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

I won’t say I didn’t bite my nails during this time or that my blood didn’t boil when another item of ripped clothing came home – courtesy of the bullies. I will say that my son handled the situation in the way he determined was best. At 12, he understood that if he didn’t give the bullies what they wanted – a scared crybaby or whiny tattletale – they would leave him alone.

That’s the essence of the scientific data. We can starve bullies of their satisfaction. Don’t engage them. Stand up as a unified front against them.

I don’t have the patience that my son displayed at 12. (He obviously inherited that trait from his father.) I prefer to be the change. I would rather step in and stand beside the person being bullied. I’m the one who got her face pounded in for telling the bully to stop.

I’m also the one who got spanked in the principal’s office for smiting the bully in the mouth when they spouted off filthy lies. In either case, I am not someone who can be a bystander. Injustice infuriates me. People picking on the little guy because he’s defenseless ignites a fire of ferocity under my feet.

What do you think? What’s the cure for bullying? Can a regular girl like me (or you) stop a big, bad bully in their tracks?

Bittersweet Birthdays

Isn't that the most innocent face?
Isn’t that the most innocent face?

My baby boy was born at a few minutes after midnight twenty years ago.

Just typing those words encouraged another gray hair to emerge – right in my part, of course!

Remember when you were five? People would ask, “How old are you?” and you always said, “Five and a half” if it was the day after your birthday or “Almost six” if your birthday was six months or less away.

What were we thinking? That the next age would offer us something the current one did not. The curse of youth is that we don’t realize how fleeting it is until it has taken wing and flown far away.

When we were ten, we couldn’t wait to be twelve. Once we got to twelve, we wanted to be a teenager. At thirteen, sixteen seemed the age when real freedom would be attained. Once we had that driver’s license, we wanted to be eighteen so we could “go where we want whenever we want and not have to do what anyone says.”

Yeah, right! The irony of adulthood – the freedom it promises to those dominated by parental control is just a chain of a different sort. Adulthood: bills, jobs, problems and responsibilities. All that stuff our parents handled for us while we were whining about enjoying our youth, it falls on our shoulders now.

Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world
Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world

My baby is no longer a teenager. He bemoaned this at church camp last year, when he was still weeks away from nineteen and very much a teenager. The leaders wanted him to be in charge of things. He just wanted to be one of the kids.

Get used to that feeling, son, it’s coming your way more frequently as your age number increases.

After college, the fun and games of youth become the drudgery and responsibility of adulthood.

Welcome to my world.

What birthday did you look forward to the most? Which one did you dread?