Category Archives: Children

It Shouldn’t Be That Difficult

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
Robert Fulghum

It doesn’t surprise me that this quote would come from someone who wrote a book called, All I Really Need To Know I learned In Kindergarten. Because children really learn, very early in life, the foundation of what should be most important to the rest of their lives.

Like all parents, I’m sure we made our share of mistakes. Parenting is a learn as you go experience so you do the best you can in situations you never imagined. Some moments require patience and understanding while some are simply common sense. Or should be.

For me, the Fulghum quote falls into the common sense category. It’s just so obvious that it’s painful to watch when it happens, and it happens much too often.

Most parents are big on discipline. They make sure their children say please and thank you. They try and teach them to be independent and they want them to respect their authority. They may punish them for disobeying their directives or not doing well in school. The list goes on.

But Fulghum takes parenting to another level of responsibility that parents sometimes ignore. The impact their own words and actions have on their children.

Are you teaching them what should be most important in their lives or satisfying your own desires because you’re unwilling or too lazy to do what’s right?

Is your language in front of your children what it should be? Children hear everything, even when you think they’re not listening.

Do you show the proper respect to others and ask that they do the same, explaining instead of ignoring or dismissing? Respect comes in many forms. Your lack of discipline should not become theirs. Continued excuses are unacceptable.

Are your prejudices on display in full view of your children? They notice and will react accordingly.

Do you attempt to influence their thoughts and actions instead of allowing them to try and make up their own minds?

Do you allow life to lead them or attempt to lead them through life without consideration for their own thoughts and interests.

Children hear what you say from the back seat of the car, from their rooms, during meals, while you think they’re preoccupied, while you’re on the phone or at the park speaking to your friends. They hear you at games, after games, during school functions and in every situation where your body language speaks louder than your words.

The absorb everything.

They recognize at a very early age what you think is most important and will follow accordingly. In many ways they will pattern their lives based on the influences your show them and the importance you place on certain things, and once it’s ingrained in their DNA, it’s hard to change. Next month or next year is too late.

Then one day they become a little older and you may not like what you see or hear. Discipline becomes a little harder until it’s not possible and then they’re on their own. A reflection of your words and actions.

Common sense stuff, right?

One would think so.

 

 

Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amazon’s Echo and our friend, Alexa, here is a description put out by Amazon…
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab126. … Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. 

Essentially, Echo is a smart speaker and Alexa is the voice you hear providing you with answers to most any question you might have. She’s basically a know it all that you can’t see.

With that as a backdrop, I was teaching a fourth grade class the other day and we were just beginning our math period by reviewing the previous night’s homework. Individual students would give an answer and if everyone was in agreement we’d move on. If not, we’d work out the problem on the board so everyone understood.
After James gave his answer, a couple of students sold him out and began laughing, saying he cheated because he asked Alexa for the answer. I looked over at James and his eyes were looking down and his face was red.
I was trying not to laugh because i never considered Alexa as a resource for homework but then again, I’m not a clever nine-year old with easy options available to him. So the very brief conversation went like this…

Me (smiling): James, did you use Alexa to do your math homework last night?

James (looking at his “friends”): You don’t how I did my homework!

Me: James, I’m not upset if you did, I’m just curious if Alexa helped you with your homework.

James: (looking at me with his face still red): Yeah, but after she gave me the answer, I did the problem myself. I wanted to check her to make sure she was right.

Me (trying not to laugh out loud): So you checked Alexa to make sure she didn’t make a mistake?

James: Yeah.

The class became quiet and looked at me to see what I would say but I don’t sell out clever nine-year olds who can think on their feet in front of their peers. So I simply said, “that was smart,” and we moved on.

I’m not sure what kind of lesson James learned that day, if any, or if he understood he was scamming the system a bit and might try doing it another way in the future. It’s possible.
All I know is that when I glanced back up at him a few seconds later he was smiling and his face wasn’t red anymore. I’m guessing he was feeling pretty good about himself.

And that was good enough for me.

 

When The Beast Wins, Children Lose

A ten-year old student in an ELA class at one of my schools was asked to provide an argument for something he felt strongly about. He chose a sports related topic. This is what he wrote, unedited.

Parents, teachers, coaches and kids! I call on you to change the policy that kids have to try out for sports. It’s wrong to not let kids join sports because it hurts their self-esteem, because it builds a nasty sense of competition and because all kids deserve to play if they want. 

Some pooh-pooh the idea that a kids self-esteem gets hurt but how do you think it makes us feel? I’ll tell you how it feels, it feels TERRIBLE. It feels lie everyone is staring at us , feeling sorry for us. It makes us wonder if we’ll ever be good enough. The truth is our school, coaches or parents don’t think we’re good enough to participate. They’re supposed to make you feel stronger or better, not destroy your self-esteem and confidence.

Not allowing other kids to join sports also makes kids competitive with each other. In one survey, 18 out of 20 kids said they would rather make the team than stay friends with each other. In an interview with a student who made the team, this article said, “I really don’t hang out with any of my friends now who didn’t make the team. They don’t have the shirt we have. I don’t know, I just don’t see them any more. You might think competition brings out the best in kids and maybe it does when they’re older but in elementary school it makes kids mean and lonely.”

The most important reason not to make cuts is that all kids deserve to play. For goodness sakes!!!! We’re nine and ten years old. Isn’t this the time we should be learning skills, getting stronger and having fun? A lot of people say it’s just sports, that’s how it is. But we’re not pro ball players. All of us deserve a chance to get better.

Change this policy, please. Give us the fast legs and strong bodies we deserve. Let us all be the athlete we want to be. 

Interesting discussion topic.

I have three daughters who played multiple sports through high school and I coached basketball and softball for quite a few years.

But it was a very different time in terms of youth sports. It was not all-consuming and I could probably write a short book on the strong feelings I have about children and the parents and coaches who affect their lives.

The immersion and consumption of time in sports today at a very early age has to be witnessed in order to be understood. I think the biggest fear for me is how it affects families and the time they spend together.

Or don’t.

It’s time that will never be returned to them and it passes so very quickly.

I understand that making cuts as it relates to some teams are the nature of sports and I think some kids learn from these disappointments, but some things this student said are pretty sad; specifically about the interaction between kids who make teams and those who don’t, and what competition brings out in children.
At younger ages, it should never be about the score. Who wins is irrelevant. How good you are at 8-9-10, is irrelevant. We’ve all seen stars at ten who burn out or fall behind others as they get older; stars at ten years old who never play a high school game. Coaches and parents lose sight of the fact that young children who choose to play sports should, as this child mentions, focus on basic skills and development, not winning and losing. Can both be accomplished? Of course. But all too often one takes control of the other. It’s the nature of the beast.

Most importantly, children at that age should be having fun. Sadly, and all too often, that simple goal is not part of a parent or coaches mindset.

Children should be allowed to be children and families should be allowed to enjoy those few precious years together.

Sports is a great outlet and competition is healthy as long as both are done intelligently and balanced properly.

I was going to conclude by saying that I hope this young man figures it out and finds sports to be a positive experience, but it’s really not his decision, is it?

So I hope the adults in his life figure it out and provide this child with a positive experience. Lord knows our children can use all the positive experiences they can get.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not always provided by those who have the opportunity to do so.

Words

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”
-Unknown

Several years ago I ran into a young man at a wedding that I used to work with, but hadn’t seen in a few years. I asked how and what he was doing and he explained, among other things, that he had moved out to the opposite coast and was now living in Oregon.
I was surprised for a number of reasons and when I asked him why the move, he told me it was because of something I said to him once, several years earlier, and he decided to take my advice.

At first I thought he had mistaken me for someone else because, A) no one really listens to me, and B) even if they did, they wouldn’t listen to me.

Curious, I asked what kind of advice I could have possibly given that would cause him to move three thousand miles away. He said I once told him that if he woke up one morning, put his feet on the ground and was not happy with where he was, he should have the courage to do whatever was necessary to make a change in his life.
He told that story to his wife about a year after they got married and soon after, they left their jobs and started a new life on a different coast.

Words.

They have such power over us. More than we care to admit to sometimes.

They can change a life, save a life or destroy a life. They are free, priceless and sometimes carry burdens that last a lifetime.

They leave scars.

They soften and harden hearts.

For all that we know about words and the kind of impact they have on each of us, we sometimes remain careless with them.

Especially with children.

Words can affect adults in many of the same ways they do children. They can make us feel incredibly special or drop us to our knees. The difference, I think, is that adults can sometimes rationalize or explain away the negative comments. They can bounce back by understanding the source or respond by standing up to those words. Children, especially younger children, don’t have those same abilities. Too often they believe what they hear and may internalize those feelings for years. Sometimes it begins to shape their lives.

Being a parent can be challenging at times. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t try to do the right thing when it comes to their children. Or at least believes they are.

You know, volume is a funny thing. There have been times when I’ve heard a band play a song live and the music is so loud, I couldn’t hear the words. Children are no different. Sometimes, when the volume is too high, they just hear the noise, which can be as damaging as the words they can’t hear.

Sometimes we think we’re disciplining our children when we’re only inflicting our control over them. There’s a big difference between the two, just as there is between encouragement and constant critiques. Parents sometimes attempt to live their own lives through their children, instead of allowing them to grow, make mistakes and find their own way through life.

All these actions involve words.

With children, words have a greater impact and last much longer. The control or influence we think we have as parents, only lasts a few years. Rebellion, much longer.
They will remember. And when they’re old enough, they will understand and make their own decisions and choices.

Then the impact of words may be reversed. Strange how that works.

You know, the funny thing is, I didn’t remember having that conversation with that young man I spoke with. Even after he told me about it and I tried to go back in my memory and remember when I may have said it, I couldn’t.

But he did. And that’s the point.

That’s the blessing and the curse about words.

You may not remember what was said today, especially when it comes to children.

But they will.

And one day, you may have to eat what you planted.

The Paperclip

One of my daughters saw this short video on Facebook and sent it to me.
During this season of line pushing Black Friday’s and hectic Cyber Monday’s, a little three year old girl reminds us that not everything comes with big price tags or in large packages. Most times it’s the smallest things throughout the year that matter most; a hug, a visit, a letter.

A paperclip.

 

Helping Out My Bestie

My seventeen month old granddaughter Brooklyn, helping her best friend Bailey, get ready for the game. Since she’s a solid secondary food source and constant companion, he’ll let her do just about anything.

Even this.