Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teasers and taunters

I am sure we have all experienced being teased as children and remember how much it hurt our feelings. Yet it didn’t stop us doing the same thing to others! So why do kids tease one another?

      Teasing, taunting, putting others down, being sarcastic and ‘burning on’ others amounts to the same thing. It is done to degrade another person and it is intended to hurt. Teasing usually takes the form of poking fun at another child’s physical features e.g. their ears or their nose, their height, their weight, a disability, an accent, their clothing, their hair and on and on it goes. Kids will often be given derogatory nicknames such as Porky, Skinny, Dopey, Stinky, Frumpy and Stumpy. These names can stick with them for years and define the way they think of themselves.

      So the question remains. Why do kids tease each other? Often they do it to advance their own standing in a group. It is like chickens in a pen pecking at one another to gain supremacy. They are creating a ‘pecking order’. They want to be at the top of the totem pole. Some tease and taunt out of jealousy, thinking another child is getting all the attention or is the favorite in the family. Children
often earn the art of teasing by the examples they see around them. Most TV sitcoms rely on one line put downs to get a laugh. Sometimes parents are heard making hurtful remarks to one another or to their children, and kids learn to do the same. Hurt people hurt people.

      The Bible tells us that we should love one another, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I don’t see in these statements, that the quality of love should differ between people. Instead we are to accept and love one another unconditionally. We shouldn’t have to prove our worth to be accepted by others. Our worth comes from acceptance. There should be no need to put someone else down to make our selves look superior. In fact, the opposite is true. When we make negative comments, we lower our own worth through our disrespect of others.

      It is vital to teach our children to value one another equally. Just because teasing and taunting is so rife amongst children, it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. When our children learn to be respectful at an early age, they will naturally develop a sense of worth and continue to develop a healthy self-esteem
throughout life. This sense of personal value will negate the need to put others down to enhance their own standing.

      Teasing and taunting is not restricted to children. It continues into adult life. Sometimes we excuse making a hurtful remark by adding, “Just kidding”. If we were just kidding, we wouldn’t have said what we did in the first place. It is like asking forgiveness instead of permission. As adults we also need to consider our behavior in this regard. Do we put others down to create for ourselves a better position on the imaginary totem pole? By respecting one another equally we will negate the perceived need to put another person down. We can upgrade our own self worth.

      I have a friend who I can honestly say has never made a negative comment about anyone in my hearing. Because of her reputation I know that she would never make a negative comment about me. I trust her integrity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a family that was known for its respect and integrity? We should expect nothing less.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking after YOU!

We are about to facilitate a marriage session at church on the subject of maintaining a healthy marriage through the various stages – from newly weds, through being young parents, parents of teens, empty nesters and finally grandparents. I am taking this opportunity to share some of our thoughts with

     As soon as we become parents we know our responsibility is to provide a loving, caring, disciplined environment for our kids. But do we ever think of how important it is to look after our marriage during the whole parenting process?

     We didn’t start our family for three years after we were married, and probably, like most parents, we just assumed that since we already had a strong marriage that it would take care of itself. It had to. After all, we were in ‘reaction’ mode just doing whatever it took to feed, clothe and keep our kids happy. It feels like a never-ending cycle of broken sleep, loads of washing, caring for sick babies, going shopping, to coffee group, daycare and school. The more babies, the more work and the less time there is for one another.

     Looking after marriage requires effort and there just doesn’t seem to be any energy left for that! However, by getting into the habit of putting the kids first all the time, we forget to carve out time for our own rejuvenation. Marriage can’t stand being ignored for years.

     So how do you look after yourselves during the parenting years? The first thing is to create a well managed, happy home so you have time to spend with your spouse. To accomplish this you need well-defined family values and routines that your family upholds. You need to stand together and not become divided or one of you be a weak link. Plan together for time away from your children. Yes, they will survive without you! Go on dates regularly – movies, out to dinner or out for a drive.

     Don’t drop everything to always do what the kids want. Have them come with you to events you like. Our children fitted into our lives, not the other way around. We were into singing and recording and they came, too. It gave our daughter the opportunity to discover her wonderful singing ability, and our son took up the guitar and completed a Recording Industry major.

     Stay interesting, fit and vibrant. Encourage one another to reach your potential. I worked to put my husband through University and he helped look after the children while I studied for my Bachelor’s Degree. We helped one another obtain jobs we both loved to do and, by being happy and satisfied within ourselves, we were also happy with one another.

     There is life after children and the empty nest period is the best time of your lives. It is a time when you are usually more financially secure, make wiser decisions, are better planners and, most of all, you have the uninterrupted time to enjoy one another’s company.

     We now have time to enjoy our children and their families. Our daughter has been married for 11 years without children. She and her husband have just adopted a little boy from Korea who is now 13 months old. Not only is she a new mother at 35 years-of-age, but also she is now 20 weeks pregnant. It has been very interesting watching them manage their time and now it is our turn to give them some time off to look after their marriage. When we go to New Zealand our son and his wife book us in for a weekend to look after the grandchildren so they can have some quality time, too.

     Nobody is going to look after your marriage but you. Neglect sneaks up on you with the distraction of family and work. You literally have to be proactive by creating opportunities to be together. When you walk up the aisle it doesn’t occur to you that you will ever split up. To stay together and be happy empty nesters, you need to nourish your marriage through all its stages.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shifting gears

It won’t be long before school ends for the year and some children will be going to new schools. I vividly remember changing schools. It was exciting and yet a little scary. Each school level change brought excitement as well as challenges.

       What is exciting about going to a new school? There’s meeting new kids, having a different school to explore, experiencing new teachers and learning new stuff. There are also scary aspects to starting at a new school. Being in a new place and a new situation takes a child out of their comfort zone. There is the fear of the unknown. Previously they were familiar with ‘the program’, the teachers and friends, but now they have to face new routines, new schoolwork, new teachers and new friendships. All of these things bring the fear of not meeting expectations - expectations set by their teachers, their new friends and sometimes their parents.

      Most children become very stressed over too much change all at once. While parents anticipate their kids will be excited about going from elementary to middle school, or middle to high school, they often forget their own anxiety as their children face drastic changes.

      These kids have to learn to change gear as they progress through grade levels. They are expected to grasp concepts more quickly. With less personal coaching they are expected to keep up with the rest of the class. There are less second chances, and much shorter grace periods for making mistakes. They
have to learn to work on their own, be self-motivated and self-sustaining. With new friendships they have to establish their place in the group, and that often challenges their self worth. Teens in particular are very sensitive about how they appeal to others, so they measure their worth on what they perceive others think about them. They may have been big fish where they came from in the last school, but suddenly, in a new group, they are the minnows.

      Shy children find it particularly difficult to approach new situations. It takes them a long time to feel confident. A child has a real advantage in being an extrovert. Such children find friends quickly whereas kids with quiet, reticent personalities find it much more difficult.

      It is very important to prepare your children for major changes in their lives. Tell them what they are likely to experience in a new school. Suggest ways they can make new school friends and what kind of friendships they should foster. Encourage them to work independently and to finish projects. Ensure they are in the habit of doing homework.

     Show your kids how to research subjects on the computer. Be a constant learner yourself so you are an example to your kids as to how much fun it is to learn new stuff – at any age. Be interested in their new school experiences and praise them for their successes. Help them through their concerns. Observe them carefully for signs of undue stress and address it immediately.

      School days hold treasured memories. We can help our children traverse their educational years successfully by preparing them for changes through our constant encouragement and continued support.