The Fight against Bullying

Raise your hand if you have been bullied at some point in your life.  If you can read this, I expect you are raising your hand.  It doesn’t matter what age, gender, skin color, native language, etc.  It’s a natural reaction when we are not taught to behave otherwise.  Typically bullying is a reaction to stress (  And who is not stressed at some point in their life?

The number of groups and news reports about bullying gives me hope that we will soon have the tools to stop the bullying behavior.   Dateline even did an episode secretly watching kids to see if they will participate in bullying.  Ways people are stopping Bullying behavior:

What if your child is the bully?

Thanks to RaisingAwareness for your post and reminding me to complete this post.


Teaching Fairly

As we learn about psychology, we are discovering the subconscious behavior for a person to favor someone who is similar to them.  We all do it, you, me, everyone; without thinking or realizing.  It’s very natural to share camaraderie with people of our same background, from fraternity or sorority members to people who share  the same background and interests that we share.  People who both like football, golf, nascar, jazz music, any commonality to bind us together. It’s a basic human instinct to try and understand the people we are interacting with.  We want to know if someone is male or female, what is their age, their ethnicity, their upbringing.  Whether this makes sense or not, we will assume we better understand someone who grew up in the same area and shares the same ethnic identity compared to people who differ from us in these characteristics.

Now that we understand this idea, we see many examples in our social world of how this concept subtly rules our behavior.  From corporate executives bonding and promoting with people of similar characteristics, gender, and ethnicity to teachers, who tend to be female, showing more leniency toward female students in their grading and evaluations which is helping girls excel in academics and is hurting their male peers.  This can be crucial at every level of education, since there are certain windows we have to learn certain skills.  Even as early as preschool, studies show that kids who learn the soft skills will have more successful lives long term.  And we are discovering the extent of a teacher’s expectations can affect the student’s achievement.  Although being lenient on girls in school may help to reverse the unintentional bias against women in the workplace, it’s

not a fair treatment of boys to help them achieve their potential.  Both genders need equally supportive leaders, family, and educators to set high expectations that encourage the kids to achieve.

So how can we combat this subconscious bias?  As G.I. Joe reminds us each episode, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”  As a Caucasian female, who grew up in California but now resides in Massachusetts, I might never fully understand the circumstances and point of view of an Asian male who grew up in South Korea and now resides and works in Ohio.  We will always have different points of views with people around us, even with people of similar backgrounds.   In order to treat people fairly, and give the same support and benefits to people of equal standing, we need to better understand those different points of view.

And by including more people with varying points of view, we will improve our networks and knowledge centers.  By focusing our interactions with people of similar backgrounds, we are less likely to tap into a resource we are not already connected to.  So in order to improve our businesses, we should increase diversity in our workplace, which goes against our natural tendency.  We naturally feel better in a group of our peers, who can understand and accept us without much effort.

The more extreme version of this tendency is to think of people as “Us” vs. “Them.”  Sociologists are learning the depths that people will categorize other people to be part of their group, or to consider them as an outsider, and the residual effects of thinking that way.  Which is way beyond my level of understanding, but I find fascinating.  A few professors at the University of Michigan discuss this idea of Us vs. Them in a paper.

Teaching Children by Imposing Consequences

We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows where children of the 1950’s era may steel a little candy from the store, and their parents make them return the item (if possible) or at least go back and pay for it with a hefty apology.  And we hear more stories today of parents “interfering” with their children’s lives, even when their children are legal adults.  The parents might talk to the school administrations of the university, or worse, call into their children’s employer to remedy a situation for their child.  It’s unbelievable to me that a parent would interfere to that degree.

We recently had a co-op employee, similar to an intern but this student acquires university credit for the work experience, anyway, her parents called in to the office and arranged to hang posters with her picture in the office for a birthday celebration.  I would be mortified if my parents thought of treating me that way.  Although I believe it was completely by accident and lack of awareness by my parents, their hands off approach has made me extremely independent.

So why do parents think that this kind of interference is good for the kids.  I was listening to a memoir of sorts (book on CD), Between Good and Evil by Roger L. Depue and he describes the time period in high school where he became nckvery disobedient as a kid.  This is common for kids and teenagers as they try to test boundaries, and learn to gain their independence before adulthood.  Luckily in his case, for every action, there was an imposed consequence.  After punching a kid in school a few days before graduation, his parents did negotiate for him to clean every window in the school instead of suspension which would prevent him from graduating.  And it struck me the importance for parents to show their children that there are consequences for every action.  We should be fostering the development of independence in children, so they learn how to deal with life situations.

We all see parents today try to rationalize with their kids, even as young as 2 or 3 years old when they are not of a mental development to have a rationalized conversation.  I think the conversation is good, and is important when the kids do reach that mental development.  But first the parent has to be in charge!

NPR had a good story about parents trying to deal with the outbursts of their teenagers.  Kim Abraham, a therapist in private practice in Michigan, specializes in helping teens and parents cope with anger.   I’m now adding to my reading list:  The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler

How To Stop the Bad Guys?

armed guard

armed guard (Photo credit: micmol )

So the Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre thinks we can stop guy violence with guns? “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

First, this would not prevent killings, but it might reduce then. Of course we must consider the impact this environment would have on children, learning each day in a prison instead of a school. And how do we protect the area around the school where kids play, enter and leave the school, and get onto buses? What about libraries, parks, swimming pools, basketball courts, and shopping malls where kids play and congregate?

I know, he thinks we should build a bubble in each town and arm the 1 entrance to protect the children. Kids can leave only at night to stay with their family.

We need to address the problems because trying to control the impact of problems is an eternal game of cat and mouse.

But if we decide that armed guards will help, I’m all for taxing gun sales to cover the cost of this measure. Violence begets violence. And I would prefer to move away from violent actions and solutions.

Communication Skills – I need to work on them, and so do you!

So I have decided that my New Year’s resolution will be to compliment people more and make them feel better about the things they are good at.  It will take a while to retrain myself, so I’m starting now with the hopes of significant achievement by New Years to continue throughout 2013.

Listening to a my local NPR station, and many discussions/arguments with my boyfriend recently, made me think about communication skills in general.

Everyone is a different person with their own experience and point of view.  It can be very difficult to have an open discussion with people on the opposite side of an issue.  Especially during the election season, discussions can be heated and break down, possibly causing long term hurt for a friend or loved one.  On this week’s radio episode of This American Life, they interview people of differing political parties who have experienced the loss of a friendship or personal relationship because of their political views and statements.

I like how they interviewed “Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess, two political opposites and authors of You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong), about their advice for how liberals and conservatives can have more productive conversations” and brought them on to help two sisters mend a relationship.  The lesson here is that you can’t have these discussions with the goal of changing the other person’s mind.

Boy, can I relate to that, and not in a political way.   My boyfriend and I have had many of these heated conversation lately.  I get very frustrated because he repeats himself over and over, which seems like he will not listen or consider my point of view and is just waiting for me to adopt his side and thinks I’m just confused.  Not the case.  This cycle of discussion drives me crazy because I feel like my point of view is not considered.

I have an idea for a solution!!!  From now on, when in such conversations with him, I will have to repeat what he just said back to him, so he knows I understand his point of view.  Then it is clear that I’m rejecting or differing from his point of view, not just misunderstanding.  Then I will state my point of view and force him to repeat so I know he’s at least processing what I have said.

Granted I’m not the best conversationalist; maybe you have noticed.  I like to get to the heart of the discussion, and not dilly dally on unimportant details.  I lose patience when the discussion becomes repetitive (which is natural for his professor mentality).  So it can be difficult for me to have meaningful conversations at times, especially about nonsense.

We all could use help understanding how to improve communication with friends, family, and co-workers, etc.  A book about the 5 Languages of Love is great for understanding how your partner might give and receive the feeling of love, and how that might differ from you.   There is also the 5 Languages of Apology.   I would also recommend, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dr. Dan Ariely and a relationship book We love each other but..  by Dr. Ellen Wachtel.

Dinosaur Oatmeal

Thanks to my nephew, I now enjoy Dinosaur Oatmeal.  It starts out with Dinosaur eggs, then when you add hot water the eggs hatch into Dinosaurs.  GENIUS.

For great ideas on adding nutrition to this sugary breakfast, check out Cathy’s blog.




It’s Amazing what a person Can Accomplish – Hope for the next generation

It’s easy for “regular” people to feel bad for the family members of disabled kids.  Well this older brother has turned a disability into an opportunity for them to connect.

It seems like people with disabilities have something “regular” people often struggle with: to be happy, to be appreciative, and give love.  A recent discussion with friends who have disabled siblings, it seems to help kids learn empathy for other people.  I think this quality is severely lacking in our hectic, individualistic societies.   I wonder what other ways we can teach kids this trait?

There have been several stories lately giving me hope in the next generation.  Like 8 year old Wyatt donating his money for a neighbor girl to get chemo.  And Abbie who goes above and beyond to find the owner of $4,000 she found.

Maybe this trait will be a theme for their generation.

Deeper Meaning of the Hunger Games story

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Wow! As interesting as the Hunger Games trilogy is on it’s own, having just completed the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings a stabbing realization to the underlying message of the Hunger Games.  (Spoiler alert if you have not read through book 3, Mockingjay).

Throughout the trilogy, Katniss struggles to understand the complacency of the capital’s citizens and the citizens of District 13, in their acceptance of inhumane treatment of citizens in the other 12 districts.  She wonders how can they be so concerned with fashion and the supply of food delicacies, when so many people of the country suffer malnourishment and mistreatment?  How can they watch the hunger games event each year, watch innocent children be killed and kill each other, as if it’s entertainment?

The same message rings true throughout Half the Sky, in it’s disturbing, yet realistic depiction of inhumane treatment of girls and women, in a multitude of actions, in many developing countries (although also found in more developed and western cultures too).  In the Hunger Games trilogy the capital’s citizens are portrayed as a sophisticated elite class, without acknowledging the sacrifices of others to bring them such luxury.  Can’t we say the same for the USA regarding mines for gold and precious stones in Africa, sweat shops throughout Asia, and sex slaves.

It’s impossible to ignore the message that we are able to block out the pain of others, suffering at the hands of other conscientious beings, while we enjoy a life of relative leisure.  As if we  earned this quality of life, rather than been born into it privilege.  Why do we think that?  Because we have a few “difficulties” to deal with?

What I love about the way Half the Sky was written, it gives an analysis of various aid programs; commenting on their flaws while highlighting the positive impact in spite of these flaws.  At the same time, the authors acknowledge the need for rigorous analysis of these programs, to determine the most effective method; while recognizing that the optimal programs will vary according to region and cultural norms for that region.  Some of the most successful programs are those that give the women and local communities the tools to make the necessary changes for improvement.  Finally, the book ends with a few suggestions of how we can help, starting with the most simple of steps.

The symbol of the revolution. The Mockingjay.

The symbol of the revolution. The Mockingjay. (Photo credit: damnyeahnich)

Maybe the authors of Half the Sky will also make this connection, if they can use the lesson of the Hunger Games trilogy, to find their own Mockingjay.  Similar to celebrities who try to advocate equal human rights around the world, but instead find a captivating character that we each identify with, that relate to as ourselves, recognizing our own power to stop the torture.  And our own silence as an accessory to all these crimes.

In early October, the PBS documentary show Independent Lens will air a 4 hour special on the same topic as the book Half the Sky.  And here is the Half the Sky website for more information on the effort to bring equal rights and protection to women.

Reading posts by others suggests that each person can take away their own meaning for these books, based on thier personal experiences and priorities.  Sometimes the main point to people is a deep love story, which I did not get at all from reading the books and listening to Katniss’s thoughts.  Some see the good vs. evil, but maybe they haven’t completed the whole trilogy.  I’m curious what other points of discussion people have after reading this series.

Stuff to do with your kids

This website has a lot of ideas for family activities.  Check it out if you live or visit:

  • NYC
  • LA
  • Boston
  • New Jersey
  • Long Island


  • make paper snowflakes
  • clean out the toy box
  • go camping in the livingroom
  • make a mobile out of found objects (acorns, rocks, branches)
  • write up some New Year’s Resolutions
  • create a simple Family Tree
  • play basketball with a wadded up piece of paper and a wastebasket
  • play card/board games
  • design your own game
  • make homemade play dough
  • play with play dough
  • play hide-and-seek
  • send virtual greeting cards
  • make a craft
  • choose photos for a family calendar
  • arrange photo albums
  • draw, color, paint
  • copy your favorite book illustration
  • write letters to a relative, friend or pen pal
  • write stories
  • write a play, act out a play
  • invent indoor circus acts
  • perform an indoor circus
  • brush the pet
  • read a book/magazine/newspaper
  • read a story to a younger child
  • listen to a story or book on tape
  • make up a story
  • make up a story by drawing pictures
  • cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
  • make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
  • write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
  • draw a cartoon strip
  • write in your journal
  • plan an imaginary trip to the moon
  • plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
  • write reviews of movies or plays or TV shows or concerts you see during the break from school
  • write a science-fiction story
  • find a new pen pal
  • put together a family newsletter
  • have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
  • make up a play using old clothes as costumes
  • play dress-up
  • play Cowboys
  • produce a talent show
  • memorize a poem and  for your family
  • make a tent/fort/teepee out of blankets
  • do a jigsaw puzzle
  • play on the Geosafari
  • do research project
  • do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
  • cook, prepare lunch, dessert, dinner
  • try a new recipe
  • have an indoor picnic
  • bake and decorate cut-out cookies
  • surprise a neighbor with a good deed, do a secret service for a neighbor
  • play store
  • make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops, string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) and then eat it
  • make sandwiches and cut them out with large cookie cutters
  • prepare a “restaurant” lunch with menus
  • hold a tea party
  • have a Teddy bear picnic on the floor in the livingroom
  • learn magic tricks
  • put on a magic show
  • make sock puppets, put on a puppet show
  • crochet or knit
  • make doll clothes
  • sew buttons in designs on old shirts
  • organize a dresser drawer
  • clean under the bed
  • vacuum or dust window blinds
  • write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
  • practice musical instruments, perform a family concert
  • teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
  • create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
  • make up a song
  • build with blocks or Legos
  • create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
  • have a marble tournament on the livingroom carpet
  • give your pet a party
  • check out a science book and try some experiments
  • play jacks
  • play charades
  • make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
  • call a friend
  • plan a treasure hunt
  • make a treasure map
  • plan a special activity for your family
  • search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopedia or online
  • learn the flags of different countries
  • have a Spelling Bee
  • make up a game for practicing spelling
  • make paper airplanes, race them
  • learn origami
  • make friendship bracelets for your friends
  • make a wind chime out of things headed for the garbage
  • paint your face
  • braid hair

Have fun!