Tag Archives: Resilience

A Stand Against Bullies

In elementary school, I sat on the small, white pebbles next to the school doors waiting to go back inside. I never played with the other kids. I wasn’t welcome. In middle school, I cried almost every day, some days I feared I’d be hurt. One memorable day, at the start of school a teacher, the cool male teacher everyone liked, singled me out, made fun of my clothes and the way I talked. That was the best day of the year. The next two years in the school improved only marginally. One day 5 girls encircled me, taunted me, tormented me until the bell rang. I told my teachers. Nothing. I told my parents. They contacted the school. The girls upped the ante.

In high school, I was an outsider. If anyone liked me, I had no clue. I received daily messages in my locker telling me how much no one liked me. A few times I received messages from multiple individuals. My second high school was better. Being much larger it was possible to find a group willing to allow me through the door. But even there a person or two were more than willing to inform me I wasn’t welcome at their lunch table. For quite some time I ate on my own because I didn’t even know anyone else at the school.

I was bullied.

I’m not sure why I was such an easy target. At least not in the beginning. By the end I’d wager those vultures could smell my low self-esteem from a  mile away.

I never want my children to experience anything even remotely similar to what I went through. I want to protect them. Of course there’s really only so much a parent can do to prevent it from happening to their child. Part of me wonders if it’s possible, in an effort to protect their children, they somehow create a child willing to bully others?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that one woman has taken a stand. A stand against bullies. Not just a cheap show that falls apart the second someone actually gets bullied, but a real stand.

I applaud this woman.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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Why Children Misbehave

About a month ago we went through a period where the girls were completely out of control. Someone was always being hurt, someone always being mean. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of tears, a lot of hurt feelings. The girls needed more attention , more love, more understanding, but the behaviours made it difficult to want to give them what they needed.

At some point, I believe, every parent gets to that point at least once. One night after a particularly rough evening, Ryan turns to me and says, “I just don’t get why she (Ella) does these things.”

The answer was painful. Obvious. We were responsible for her behaviours. Not directly of course, but in a lot of ways the things we did in response to her actions, caused more, bigger actions. At the time I wasn’t modeling calm behaviour. I didn’t model a gentle voice, I didn’t model patience, or a willingness to see someone else’s perspective. Her acting out directly mirrored my own acting out. Between Ella and I, Agatha also acted out. She no longer had comforting arms every time she needed them, she no longer had a soothing voice when scared, her sister no longer gave her the space she needed. With three people in the home angry and hurting, it only makes sense that Ryan felt the tension. It’s expected that he began to act out as well.

Use whatever analogy you choose. A family is a single unit, like the body, a car, or computer. When one part doesn’t functioning properly, the rest malfunction as well. As my hormones came back into balance and the quality of my sleep improved, my moods and level of patience improved. The difference was instantaneous and so beautiful. The girls calmed down, Ryan came home happier and better able to join the girls in their pursuits. Our family healed.

I believe, and please don’t take this as finger-pointing, that if a child is acting in a way that’s unacceptable to the family, then the parents need to look at their lives and see what the root cause is. Children, especially young children, pick up the stress and tension within the home and act on that. The moods in the home become substantial, palpable. A harsh word is as strong as a rough hand, a brick wall. When the people within the home are out of tune, then children aren’t capable of acting in a calm collected manner.

So what’s a parent to do? Sometimes situations are out of control. A person is sick, there isn’t enough money etc. Find out what you need in order to feel in control again. Or what can you do to make things better.

In my case it was a mental shift. I had to let go of needing certain things. I had to reaffirm my conviction that the parenting style we’ve chosen is the best for our family.  If it was a lack of money, we’ve been there, we’d find a way to make the money go farther, or decrease our wants. If a person was sick, we’ve been there too, we’d try to find ways to work around the illness without taxing the person. We’d try to find ways to focus on the rest of the family, rather than the sick person.

In all cases we find ways to have unstructured fun as a family. Before starting our fun we, the adults, talk and try to guess what behaviours we’re likely to see – running, climbing, jumping, screaming, grabbing, pushing, pulling, hitting…. and try to find ways to allow the behaviour without anyone else being hurt or afraid. From the “Playful Parenting” book we’ve taken the ‘love hit’ suggestion to heart a few times. If a child hits us, instead of getting upset, lecturing, saying ‘no’ we laugh and look goofy as we inform them it was a ‘love hit’ and now we’re so madly in love with them we must hug them and kiss them forever. They run away squealing – the hit and whatever caused it completely forgotten. The parents are now back ‘in control’ and everyone is enjoying their time together.

In order to fix hurt hearts and down feelings we don’t need a ton of time, but we do need to prove that we’re there for our children. We don’t need to give them everything, we can still offer guidelines and boundaries, but we must do so gently and respectfully. If we model it, they will follow it.

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Whose Fault is it Anyway?

One of the biggest problems in our home is determining whose fault something is. We all do it. Ella and Agatha say, “I didn’t do it.” Ryan tells Agatha, “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault.” I trip over something in the middle of the floor and demand, “Who left this here?”

Sound familiar?

In day to day life people assign blame for so many things, and most of the time it doesn’t matter who did it. Will it change anything by knowing who to blame? Maybe your relationship with the other person. But most of the time nothing else will change. And that’s the problem. In our family we’ve fallen into the blame game and the only things coming from it are hurt feelings. As parents if we demonstrate truthfulness and own our mistakes as well as failing to notice the mistakes of others, our children won’t fall into the blame game as well.

I want to change how our family handles mistakes. However, for myself, I know it won’t be easy. It’s a habit I’ve fallen into, unfortunately I don’t really know how to stop it. There has always been a punishment for every mistake or wrongdoing. From the time I was young, to moving out, and starting work. That’s the way the world works.

But it shouldn’t.

People should be free to make mistakes. And more importantly, free to learn from their mistakes. Fear prevents learning, growing. The fear of punishment makes a person’s primary objective hiding the mistake, rather than learning anything from it.

How can we step away from blame and become free to make mistakes and let our children make their own mistakes?

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Should Siblings Be Without Rivalry?

For Months I’ve heard people recommend this book, “Siblings Without Rivalry”, yet I’ve refrained from reading it. I’ve read pretty much every other parenting book out there, even when the person recommending it parents completely opposite of us. My reason for reading all of them is that even a book or a person I disagree with can help me along my journey to becoming a better parent. When I see someone do something that goes against my parenting philosophy it solidifies in my mind why I parent the way I do. It also allows me a chance to see better ways to approach something similar in my own family.

So why did I balk at reading “Siblings Without Rivalry”? A book recommended by many people who parent in a similar manner? Easy. The title scared me.

Siblings without rivalry. The words indicate that it’s both possible and desirable to have no rivalry in a home. That initial reaction left me feeling inadequate. My children fight. A lot. Some days I have no idea what to do. Ella chases Agatha around the house while Agatha screams and cries. Agatha follows Ella everywhere, even when Ella’s asking for space so she can calm down – then Ella loses it and hits Agatha. My girls love each other deeply, but they fight – sometimes they’re downright mean to each other. I didn’t want to read a book that indicated my children shouldn’t be fighting – that would mean I was doing something terribly wrong.

Put the camera down, and rescue me!

Not only do I think I’m doing a pretty good job, but I think rivalry is a necessary part of growing up.

I don’t mean parents should create it – far from it. But I think rivalry helps children learn how to navigate social interactions. Though it only provides learning if parents facilitate the learning in the beginning. When they’re little parents need to model ‘fair fighting’. Parents also need to help their toddlers and preschoolers work through disagreements so everyone comes away feeling respected and safe. A toddler won’t know how to ask for a toy he wants and another toddler won’t know what to do when someone takes her toy. As parents we can help them learn how to ask. And how to stand up for themselves without hurting anyone.

However, as children get older it’s important for parents to step back and let them disagree, let them yell at each other. Let them learn what happens when they say X, Y, or Z. they’ll find out what happens when they ruin a siblings prized possession.

Those were my thoughts. And they haven’t changed after reading the book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wanted to keep an open mind.  First, I think many of the ideas presented in the book are very similar to their other book “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen…”. Second I was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t suggest siblings shouldn’t fight, or even that it was possible to prevent fighting. They did provide ideas on how to support each child so when fights occur children will be able to feel respected and safe. The book also highlight things many parents do that creates further tension between children and greater levels of rivalry.

For the most part we already use many of their techniques, but it’s always great to have a reminder. There are also new ideas presented that we’ll try out over the next few weeks to see how things go.

I’m going to make a point over the next week to pay closer attention to the girls disagreements and how they resolve. Do they need help, how do I react, was everyone able to feel safe and respected?

 

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Rubber Balls Come Bouncing Back…

Michael from Sharing A love of Teaching commented on my post about teasing yesterday. I wanted to expand on his thought that it is not a critical part of the teachers job to teach resilience, to which I agree. However his opening paragraph states that he thinks teaching resilience is overrated. From a teacher’s perspective, maybe. However from a societal perspective I think it is one of the most important things we can do for our children, for our future.

What is resilience?And why is it important?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

A resilient child can be faced with many day to day stressor such as sibling rivalry, bullying, being pressured to perform at school or extracurricular activities. However, despite increased stress will manage to not only survive, but thrive.

Resiliency allows a child to overcome adversity, to be the winner in the battle against stress. Without resilience adversity wins and the child is left feeling sad and dejected.

I Have a Daddy that loves me. I Am getting better. I Can tell Mommy when I'm Scared.

 

How do we help children develop resilience? And who should ‘teach’ it?

I believe it is the role of all adults in a child’s life to help them develop and maintain resiliency. However, a firm foundation should have been set at home, starting at birth.

In order to help children develop resilience it’s important to look after our own mental health, but that is a topic for a future post. For now I will assume all parents are capable of helping their child(ren).

According to the Bernard Van Leer Foundation children need to be able to draw from three sources in order to be resilient. Those sources are “I Have, I Am, I Can”. The ‘I Have’s’ are people in the child’s life who love and support the child, who can help them in difficult situations. ‘I Am’s’ are traits the child possesses that increase a child’s feelings of self worth. ‘I Can’s’ are things the child can do to help lessen stress.

In order for a child to believe they ‘Have’ people in their lives who can help them, the foundation needs to be laid early in life. Actively playing with a small baby by giving massages, singing songs, reading stories lets the baby know he is worthwhile. Allowing a child to make mistakes without ridicule or punishment lets the child know she is worthwhile and provides opportunity to learn skills that foster resilience.

For specific suggestions on ways to help your child develop resilience from birth through the early school years take a look at the ‘Bounce Back Books’.

Here are some examples taken from “A guide to Promoting Resilience in Children” By the Bernard Van Leer Foundation

THE SITUATION

The baby is in the crib and is lying on his back screaming and kicking. You do not know what is wrong. He just keeps screaming and kicking.

You promote resilience if you pick him up and begin to soothe him while finding out if he is wet, too cold or too hot, needs patting on his back to remove air, or mainly needs comforting (I HAVE). You help him calm down if he feels loved and cared for (I AM), and if he can begin to calm himself down (I CAN).

You do not promote resilience if you look at him, decide to change his diaper, and then tell him to stop crying. If he does not stop crying, you walk away and let him `cry it out’. This interaction does not promote resilience as the baby needs more than a change of diapers. He needs to be held and comforted so that he knows he is loved and cared for. Then he can begin to calm down.

THE SITUATION

The two year old toddler is at the store with you. She sees some candy, grabs it and starts to eat it. When you try to take it away from her, she shouts, `No! Mine, mine!’

You promote resilience if you remove her from the situation so you do not disturb others, explain calmly to her that she cannot take things without your permission, and give her something else or show her something else to distract her. You help her understand limits of behavior (I HAVE), help her feel responsible for her own behavior (I AM), and communicate with her as she listens (I CAN).

You do not promote resilience if you just let her eat the candy or if you hit her and scold her or if you force her hand open to take it. This kind of interaction makes her afraid of the one who provides love and trust, makes her rigid in her behavior and makes her feel unloved and not understood.

Once a child leaves the home and enters school, I believe it is important for teachers to continue fostering resilience. However, my understanding is that teachers are not given the resources needed to know how to foster true resilience, but rather try to talk children into ignoring other children or stressful situations. Ignoring, or burying, their emotions doesn’t make those emotions go away, and it doesn’t help them develop skills to work through them.

If a strong support system is in place at home, and a child already has strong resilience I don’t believe it will make a huge difference if a teacher isn’t able to promote effective coping techniques. But if a child either has lower resilience or doesn’t have a support system outside of school, then it is more important that a teacher, or other adult, is able to help the child develop skills that will aid him in day to day life.

Growing Resilient Children states:

Damaging stress is like an alarm bell going off constantly in a child’s ears, telling him that there is danger, but never telling him what to do about it, nor giving him a chance to turn off the alarm.

Whether it’s parents, teachers, or another caring adult I believe one of the most important tasks is to help children learn how to turn off that alarm. Let them know they are loved and safe. Resilience is not overrated. Maybe misunderstood would be the better term.

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