Children

  • Sharing My Experience: Parenting While Black in America

    The recent murder of George Floyd In Minneapolis Minnesota has sparked an outrage amongst many people throughout the world. The video tape of the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the grueling, slow demise of Mr. Floyd has put a microscope on America and the pressure cooker of social injustice that is woven into the fabric of our nation.

    Protests are taking place around the world and people are asserting that enough is enough.   There is, like never before, a sense of tolerance and a seeking of understanding like we’ve never seen in America. People of all Races are shouting that, “Black Lives Matter”  and are demanding that we, once and for all, bring an end to racial disparity for black people.  

    Suburban soccer moms are coming to the realization that not all soccer moms are treated equally. I am a Black woman, raising my two Black daughters. I did all of the things that society told me to do. I earned an education, started a career, and created a family.  

    My children have a very diverse friend groups.  They have a lot in common with one another, one being a sense of suburban naivete that comes along with not being raised in a big, bustling city. Having spent part of my childhood raised in a major city and part in the suburbs, I can tell you that the lack of street savviness my children and their friends exude at times, shocking; living in a more sparsely populated area, being exposed to less people and making more things unknown or even taboo to the young child.  That is, until reaching an age where they must, in small doses, experience the world on their own. Similarly, many of the soccer moms and PTA parents in Suburban towns have a similar naivete. I roll my eyes every time one of the parents of my kids’ classmates say “that they don’t see color”. It’s coming from a well-intentioned  place and I do not personally fault anyone for their frame of reference that comes from a lack of experience.  Let me be clear, everything is not a black-and-white issue but the world sees my children in color. Teachers set expectations for them based upon their color. The world receives them in a matter that is based upon their color. It is impossible for my family and I to blindly walk around as if color does not exist. I encourage you to not only see color but further be open to the racial disparities that come along with being a person of color, a Black person, in this country. It will open your eyes to what your fellow soccer and PTA parents are experiencing.  

     As they’ve grown over the years, my conversations with my daughters’ have been very different from the conversations that their friends’ mothers have had with their children. I’ve had to impress upon them that they would need to conduct themselves in a different manner than their friends would at the mall. I made sure that they knew where I would be in case they needed to reach me, I made sure that they had more than ample cash in their pockets, and I instructed them to not touch anything they had not planned to buy and make sure that none of their friends engaged in any illegal activity, albeit intentionally or unintentionally. I made sure that they are aware that if there was a situation where the group was accused of shoplifting, they would likely face harsher judgement by authority figures. 

    Every single one of my black friends have had the same conversation with their children before allowing them to go to the mall without their parental supervision. It’s not because we believe that their friend group is filled with thieves or that the children of other races, who we’ve grown to know and love as our own, will knowingly put our children in a bad predicament but having been followed around stores and chased out of towns while black, you begin to learn what you should tell your children to minimize their chances of being discriminated upon. That is parenting while Black, in America.

    You may be reading and wondering, “is that really necessary”?  Therein lies the issue. It is your ignorance that is the issue. Ignorance, not in a negative way by any means. Ignorant meaning the lack of experience that you’ve had as a black parent in America. 

    A few years ago, my next-door neighbor and very good friend decided to move her family from a central Jersey town to the Beach town of Wildwood, NJ.  Before moving, we had some very candid conversations about race, as she is a White mother raising Black daughters and a White son.  Both strong women and fierce protectors of our children, we spoke often to our children about the world around them. We spoke respectfully, but bluntly to one another. Our daughters stair step one year apart in age and her son is several years younger. The children would run from house to house after school, on weekends and all summer long.  

    The families were so close that she would call me and ask for suggestions of what she should cook for dinner and I would tell her not to worry about it because I already fed her kids dinner. My kids were even listed with her kids’ names on her summer pool pass at a neighboring town. She’d throw them all in the minivan and take them swimming for hours so that I could work outside of the home. I trusted her with my children and would allow her to take them anywhere because I knew she loved them as she loved hers. I also knew that my big mouthed friend would stand up for my children if they were discriminated against in the racist town that she took to swim in daily. Did she know that the town had been known to be racist at the time?  Of course not, she’s white and hadn’t had experiences like myself sometimes taking a longer route to not have to deal with the chance of being harassed and pulled over for no reason. There was always a small part of me that wanted to hug my children and not let them go because I know how evil people can be and I didn’t want to expose them too early to a reality they would ultimately face. You might even be asking yourself, why would she even let them go knowing they’re going to a town that is known to be racist. My answer to that is what town, what school that is not predominantly black with a predominantly black police force are you not going to find racism of some kind, be it overtly or subliminally? So, I let them go. As expected, incidents occurred but my trusted friend and fellow mom handled it. She explained how she fended off the racist at the pool with sarcasm. I am 1000% positive that her privilege allowed her to navigate that situation in a manner that would have been received differently had I been there too.  She knew it and I did too. Unknowingly, we leveraged her privilege so that my children would have an experience in a pool where they would otherwise not be welcomed. That is parenting while Black, in America.

    I believe that these candid conversations allowed us to grow as mothers, respectively. I had no idea what the adoption process was and the reaction of strangers to a White woman raising Black children. Prior to speaking with her in-depth, my frame of reference was limited to what I had seen in movies. I was disgusted and floored by her experiences and my ignorance.  It changed the way I viewed the experience of a white woman mothering black children in America.

    Likewise, I opened her eyes to the experience that her black daughters would likely face in America, regardless of who was raising them. The year they moved to the beach town, they invited us to come down for a weekend visit. While we were excited to go visit the neighbors that we missed so much, we were cautious. What I never told my friend, and she will not know until she reads this, is that we had to search the racial breakdown in her town before going so that we knew what to expect. If the speed limit was 35, we drove 25. When we got to her house, she questioned whether or not we got lost since we were late. I politely smiled as a response instead of reminding her what it means to be driving while black. It had been about six or seven months since they moved and a lot had happened in that time. It’s unfortunate to say, but there had been a number of police killings in that time. So many, that I can’t remember exactly which killing it was but I do remember that she had asked me if I would mind talking to her daughters about the experiences as young black women in case they were uncomfortable speaking to her about what they were feeling. As their neighbor and bonus mom, when they were in my care, I would oftentimes have age-appropriate, race related conversations with them on the fly.  I was able to unknowingly provide them with a nonverbal sense of comfort, sometimes just a common sigh of pain while watching the latest killing of an unarmed Black person on the nightly news. When I spoke to one of her daughters, she was feeling the same pain that black people collectively feel every time they see someone look like them killed unjustly. I breached my neighbor on some of what her daughter had expressed and gave my thoughts to how she might be able to address the issues.

    She was excited to take us to the beach that was in walking distance from her new home. As the two of us walked with five kids in tow and more beach gear than we would ever need, I was cautiously aware of my surroundings. While walking, we encountered a topless Jeep Wrangler parked on the street. On the rear seat laid the exact car seat my friend had been looking for her young son. She excitedly walked over to the Jeep Wrangler and pointed, “look, that’s it!”  I instinctively backed up and said, “oh that’s nice.” Having known me as well as she did, she saw the look in my face and felt the shift of my energy, prompting her to ask what was wrong. I explained to her that this was a prime example of how white privilege worked. She’s so innocently and excitedly wanted to show me the car seat. There’s nothing wrong with that. I would have loved to feel comfortable going over there with her to share in her excitement before hustling the children to the beach. But, I froze. There was no way in hell that I was going to go close to a car that I did not own, in a town with a population of 75% White and less than 8% people that look like me. Period. That is parenting while Black, in America.

    While we sat on the beach, laughing and reminiscing, I nervously watched my children the entire time making sure that they didn’t accidentally run into a potentially racist beach patron, while frolicking on the beach with their friends. A time and place where one should be relaxed, my guard was up. What if someone called one of the girls a slur, because they stepped on an adult’s foot while running on the beach? Would I be able to be the same mother bear my friend was when she told off the lady at the pool or would I be the angry Black Woman who might get detained in front of her children at the beach for trying to protect them? If that happened, how traumatizing would that be for my children? Can you imagine what that kind of stress feels like?  It’s paralyzing.  Do you recall when the country started closing, state-by-state to address the coronavirus pandemic? Do you call the sense of helplessness when the numbers kept rising and the only thing you could do to protect your family was to stay home? Well, Black parents don’t have the option of keeping their kids home forever. Until now, there’s not been a unified call for attention to the disparities among us.  

    Some of us, including me, are more scared of the pandemic of racism than we are the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s hope for developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.  The racial pandemic that plagued this country for the past 400 years with no prevention or cure on deck is not novel but just as deadly.  That is, parenting while Black, in America.

    Check back for the upcoming posts in this series, as we address how to speak with your children regarding racism and the importance of diversity…

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  • Benefits of Volunteering at Your Kid’s School

    Stay-at-home Mom, work-from-home Mom, work full-time, work part-time, running a business, starting a business, full-time student or any combination of work schedule; we’re all so busy.  How many of us are guilty of finding a week’s worth of old notices from the teacher about upcoming events at the bottom of the child’s backpack days after the event has passed? I’ll raise my hand high for this one.  It seems like the children are having some kind of class event every few weeks. Bake-sales, class trips, pizza parties, and book fairs, oh my! It’s overwhelming and expensive.  

     

    It seems like someone from the school is begging for us to do something for the class, every five minutes, right?  Yes, this is true, but I’ve been on the other side of planning such events and I’ll share some insight about why you’re being contacted so often regarding class events.  Teachers are with our children day-in and day-out. Even if we’re asked to send in the 1,000 boxes of tissues and hand sanitizer at the beginning of the school year, most teachers easily spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket each year.  It adds up quickly too. Most districts provide the basics. Teachers get to know our children’s learning styles and emotional struggles intimately. It’s not unheard of for them to selflessly pick up a game or manipulative that will solidify the concepts that the group has been working on for the past several weeks.  Class parties are likely not calculated into the district’s school budget when discussing finances at board meetings. Here’s where the notices found at the bottom of the backpack asking parents to donate time, money or both come into play.

    I know how busy you are and I understand that it may be nearly impossible to be at all school events.  There are; however, huge benefits for us as parents to volunteer at the kids’ schools. 

     

     A first-hand glimpse of how your child’s teacher engages with students. 

    It still tickles me to think back to when I used to work at schools and would run into a family while shopping in the same community. Students, and oftentimes their parents, would treat me like a local celebrity and be seemingly amazed that I shopped for my own groceries too.  The wide-eyed look, the pregnant pause while they’re deciding whether or not to approach in public. Unless running into the store after work, I’d notoriously be looking my worst as if I were making a quick run to the dumpster to throw out trash, but I digress. After the chance encounter, the dynamic of my relationship with the student would usually experience a slight shift as they realized that I, too, was a human who ran errands in sweatpants and not the usual “teacher clothes”.  

     

    Similarly, volunteering in the classroom enables parents to see the more “human side” of school personnel, the good and the bad.  You’ll learn how compassionate and caring the teacher might be when a student falls or how short-tempered he/she might be when a kindergartener has an accident, how often the other teachers gossip, how much the teacher seems to enjoy or perhaps dislikes their job.  The more regularly the parent comes to volunteer in the classroom, the more comfortable the teacher becomes being themselves. Think the first time a guest comes to your home versus the 50th time. I think it’s important for me to get to know the teacher making a life-long impression upon my children beyond back-to-school night and the last day of school.  I also think it’s equally important for the teacher to know that I will “show up” for my kids and not just when I want to complain. So, when I can, I volunteer. Some years, I was class mom, working side-by-side with their teachers to plan all class events. In other years, I wasn’t able to miss work as much and was only able to volunteer once the school year for an hour or two. Should you feel horrible if your schedule, financial situation or both don’t allow you to volunteer?  Absolutely not! But, I’d encourage you to find another way for you and the teacher to get to know each other as “humans”, as I believe it helps build a foundation for mutual respect between parent and teacher. 

     

     

    A view of how your child socializes with peers.

     

    The elementary and middle school years are so challenging.  I’ll be frank with you. SOME kids can be jerks. I don’t fault them because they are children.  They’re learning and growing. Some developing and maturing faster than others. Also, having been a counselor in schools, I’ve been privy to the confidential information shared with me by my students. While I won’t dare share specifics, I will tell you that you have no idea what some children have been through at a young age.  Regardless of zip code or type of school, dysfunction and mental illness are prevalent in the homes of children and the effects oftentimes manifests itself it the only place the child can feel safe, school. Their class bully has likely learned his/her behavior and is either modeling what has been seen, responding to what has been rewarded at home or is coping with the trauma he/she has experienced thus far.  As a parent of a child who has “the bully” as a classmate, there’s very little you can do. However, what you can do is teach your child how to avoid or respond to the other child’s behavior.  

     

    Our children won’t learn how to deal with difficult personalities unless they are taught.  While it’s inappropriate for us as parents to go into the classroom and make another parent’s child feel bad or scold them, even if they are “a bully”, it is very appropriate for us to engage in a dialogue with our own child at home about how they should have responded to an incident that we may have witnessed while volunteering earlier in the day.  One of the best ways to gain a bird’s eye view of how our child socializes in school is to be present. A quick trick from a veteran parent is to multitask.  Kids act differently when you’re there. Be 95% engaged in helping out while the other 5% is discreetly taking note. Work every time.

     

     

    The opportunity to engage with other class parents.

     

    If your child has never been the bully but has been bullied or harassed by a peer, you’ve likely had the thought, “who raised you?”  Here’s your opportunity to engage with the families whose children are helping shape your child’s daily experiences. I don’t know about you but I like to have some insight into their values and perspectives.  Working with other class parents has revealed why the kids might be so darned pushy, as their parents are the same way. Sheesh! 

     

    Likewise, I’ve formed some relationships that have turned into life-long friendships because I’ve learned exactly how much the family has in common with ours.  There comes a point in time where our teens will wake up and believe that we are not wise, we were never children and we know absolutely nothing. Around the same time, they will come to believe that a kid their own age, possessing the same exact amount of minimal life experience as they’ve acquired thus far, knows everything. Parents- let’s roll our eyes in unison. All the more reason to have a clue about how their peers are being raised because like it or not, “those kids” are making an impression.  

     

     

    The chance to steal a few moments with our child during the school day.

     

     

    If you have more than one child or more than one job, you might feel pulled in several directions.  If you’ve ever had to “choose a kid” because your kids have different events in different places, at the same exact time, I feel your pain. Volunteering at my child’s school allowed me to specifically designate uninterrupted time to one child.  It allowed me to be able to steal moments and create precious memories that we’ll hold forever. It sounds cliche, I know, but it is true. I made fruit shish kebabs for my youngest daughter’s kindergarten class trip about seven years ago and it was a hit with the kids and teachers.  My daughter still mentions that trip occasionally. Every time she brings up the event, I recall that I wasn’t going to go but rearranged my schedule at the last minute to accommodate. In the blur of her early years, this stands out to her. I’ve worked a lot and I’ve missed a lot. So stealing the moments that I’ve been able to “figure out”, means so much to both of my girls and me. 

    Being Parent of the Year doesn’t mean that you have to show up every single time.  It’s unrealistic. Do what you can, when you can. That will be enough for your children.  When you are able to show up, being present and actively engaged makes all the difference.  

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  • 5 Ways to Prevent Bullying  

    Bullying is a serious issue that warrants the immediate attention of all parents, school personnel and students.  For a long time, the gravity of the effects of bullying was dismissed as we used to believe that “kids will be kids”.  We’ve since grown as a society and now know better. We now understand that making a conscious choice to ignore bullying may hold both life-long and life-threatening consequences. So, let us explore the who, what, where, when and why of bullying.

    What Exactly is Considered Bullying?

    Stopbullying.gov indicates that “the current definition acknowledges two modes and four types by which youth can be bullied or bully others. The two modes of bullying include direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). In addition to these two modes, the four types of bullying include broad categories of physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.”

    Let’s Look at the Stats

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 U.S. students ages 12-18 have been bullied during the school year.

    YouthTruth, a national nonprofit agency, analyzed data collected from nearly 80,000 5th through 12th graders across the country and found the most commonly reported forms of bullying are verbal harassment, social harassment, physical bullying and cyberbullying.

    Their findings further indicate that “when asked why they thought they were being bullied, almost half of all bullied students – 44 percent – think it’s because of how they look. Another 16 percent believe they were bullied because of their race or skin color, and 14 percent think they were bullied because other students thought they were gay (regardless of how they actually identify).”

    The National Center for Education Statistics further found that:

    • 33% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they were bullied at least once or twice a month during the school year;
    • Of those students who reported being bullied, 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 12% were the subject of rumors; 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose;
    • A slightly higher portion of female than of male students report being bullied at school (23% vs. 19%). In contrast, a higher percentage of male than of female students report being physically bullied (6% vs. 4%) and threatened with harm (5% vs. 3%;
    • Bullied students reported that bullying occurred in the following places: the hallway or stairwell at school (42%), inside the classroom (34%), in the cafeteria (22%), outside on school grounds (19%), on the school bus (10%), and in the bathroom or locker room (9%).

    Current research further suggests that there is a strong link between bullying and suicide.  The CDC reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death among children, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year.

    What We’re Seeing in Schools

    Educators and psychotherapists working with our nation’s students aren’t surprised to learn that the most incidences of bullying occur during the middle school years. It’s a hard time for our young learners.  It’s smack in the middle of the so-called awkward phase of physical growth and emotional maturity. Those of us who’ve directly worked this population of students often term them as big babies stuck in bigger bodies. They typically enter middle school lacking a great deal of self-confidence and if properly nurtured, will graduate more self-aware and self-assured.  Sixth-graders experience the most bullying among all school-aged children.

    Stopbullying.gov found that 70% of school staff have witnessed some form of bullying on the school campus. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month, and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.


    Here are the 5 ways to prevent bullying:

    1  | If you see something, say something.

    Bullying can only be prevented and/or addressed if it’s reported. We must teach children to get away from this protective code mentality of not telling or “snitching” when it comes to serious matters. Our children are being driven to harm themselves through dangerous means like cutting themselves or attempting and committing suicide. If that’s not a reason to report incidences of bullying, I don’t know what is.

    2  | When it’s reported, do something.

    The brain doesn’t fully mature until about the age of 25.  Children are ill-equipped to “handle it” by themselves. This isn’t an issue that we can leave them to resolve without guidance. Adults MUST step in and alleviate the pressure that builds from being a victim of bullying.  We teach children that it’s not nice to be a tattletale, so it takes a lot for a child to tell on their peers, particularly as they get older. As mature adults, we have to stop being dismissive by sweeping things under the rug.

    3 | D O C U M E N T

    I cannot stress this enough. I’ve been on both sides of the aisle on this one, folks. I’ve created school policies to prevent violence and coordinated anti-bullying programs at schools for students from prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Moreover, I’ve worked with parents to teach them how to advocate for themselves and their families.  Most importantly, I am also the parent of a child who was a victim of bullying and have felt like my concerns were not only not addressed properly, they were ignored.

    I’m going to be completely honest. It’s one thing to be the professional in the suit with the fancy words lending your expertise to better create an anti-bullying culture within the school district you work. And, as much as you may love your job and students, you’re allowed a reprieve when the workday ends. It becomes next-level, as in Momma/ Poppa Bear instinct when looking into the teary eyes of your own child who’s being harassed at school you presume to be their safe space.

    In either case, documentation is key. Whether sitting on the fancy school leadership committees or in court testifying as an expert witness on behalf of the districts that contract with my company or as a parent who is advocating for my own child, documentation matters.  Parents get emotional when it comes to their children, as they should. Kids complain, parents complain, teachers complain. Everyone has a “side” when things go wrong. The mix of emotions may lead to us vs. them exchange instead of a more productive “let’s fix this” meeting.  Bringing a summary including dates, notes outlining each incident, parent communications and school responses will help all stakeholders see that a pattern of harassment is truly occurring. This approach will likely elicit a swifter response by the anti-bullying team than would a meeting of emotional accusations being hurled from side to side.  

    4  | Know your rights and the rights of your children too.

    Your child has the right to feel safe in their learning environment.  One of the most important components of a good school is being a safe school where children are provided with a nurturing environment that positively regards their emotional, mental and physical safety.

    Children should not feel threatened, harassed, intimidated or bullied by any child or adult while at school, on the bus to-and-from school, or when attending school-sponsored events, trips, etc.

    Every school should have a Bullying Coordinator. The person’s title may differ from district-to-district or state-to-state but the job responsibilities are similar.  They are the person who works at the school that is tasked with preventing and addressing incidences of bullying. Good schools have defined anti-bullying policies and violence prevention programs in place to create a district-wide culture emphasizing the importance of student safety.   

    5  | Know when it’s time to take it to the next level.

    If the school is unresponsive or doesn’t take appropriate measures to intervene, then there is a chain of command in place. Always try to work with the teachers and administrators first, as they work with the children on a daily basis.  The next point of contact would be the office of the superintendent, as they oversee all of the schools within a district. The next level would be the county or regional superintendent’s office followed by the state’s Department of Education. 

    There are also organizations that aim to help families navigate the process.  If the child has documented disabilities and has an IEP, or individual education plan, they then fall into what is called a “protected class’ there are additional laws and teams in place to ensure that they are not discriminated against or bullied because of their disability.  There are parent advocacy networks in place to help parents stand up for their children’s rights. Having worked with various districts throughout my career, I have seen firsthand how parents benefit from having an advocate attend meetings with combative school personnel. There are also Educational Law Centers that specialize in representing families who believe their child’s educational rights have been violated.

    Bullying is everyone’s problem. Accordingly, the prevention and reduction of incidences of bullying must be a top priority for all parents and educators.  It’s important to be clear on identifying what bullying is and to know how to attentively respond to incidences without being dismissive. Documentation alleviates stakeholders from sifting through emotional and verbal ramblings and forces them to deal with issues head-on.  Finally, there is a protocol chain in place to eradicate bullying and school violence that includes working directly with school personnel, partnering with an advocate and ultimately seeking legal action when problems are not addressed.


    Sources

    https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=719 

    https://youthtruthsurvey.org/bullying

    https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html

    https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/what-to-do-about-bullying/

    http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html

    https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-bullying#fnref4

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  • Sticks and Stones

    #affirmation #bully #bullying #verbal #emotional #abuse

    Sticks and stones will break my bones

    but words will never hurt me.  

    That is an absolute lie.  Words do hurt. They not only hurt, but they can also have a sting that forever lives in one’s inner core.  As parents, we oftentimes feel what our children feel. When they hurt, we hurt; albeit an illness or emotional harm.   If you’re a parent of a child who has low self-esteem or has been the victim of bullying, then you probably understand this better than most.  

    Children with low self-esteem are likely to internalize what is said to them which may lead to ruminating thoughts.  Rumination is when one dwells on negative thoughts, focusing on what they’ve done wrong and what they should’ve or could’ve done differently.  These circling thoughts may lead to a negative self-image.

    According to the official government website, stopbullying.gov, “The most common types of bullying are verbal and social.”  Some studies suggest as many as ⅓  of US school children report that they have been bullied.  All of these statistics are alarming but when they hit home, they hit a little differently.

    We send them out into the world and hope that they’ll be okay but sometimes we can’t be there to shield them.  Since building a fort and never letting them leave isn’t a healthy option, how do we help protect our children from harsh words?  

    As infantile as it may seem, providing your child with positive affirmations before, during and after incidents or periods of verbal abuse may in some ways, safeguard children from being as affected. Let’s be clear, positive praise isn’t a substitute for therapy. Therapy is always strategic and usually long-term. Therapists teach clients essential coping skills and techniques to unpack emotional baggage in a safe environment.  In addition to seeking professional treatment, parents and educators can pump great energy by way of positive affirmation into children which, in turn, combats some of the negativity that may be thrust upon them. Just as “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” rings in song in most of our heads as we repeat it, positive affirmations work the same way.    

     

     

    Hopefully this visual can illustrate the effectiveness of positive words.  Do you see the one phrase that doesn’t fit?  It’s enveloped amongst positivity.  It’s difficult to spot. It’s not isolated. It doesn’t really stand a chance amongst the warm insulation of what surrounds it.  

     

    When one of my daughters was in the second grade, she began to feel isolated and ultimately bullied by some of the girls in her grade.  She attended a small school with less than thirty children per grade, so it was very easy to feel isolated.  I heard her crying to herself one evening long after she was supposed to be asleep.  When I inconspicuously asked her about what was bothering her over morning breakfast, she revealed that some of the girls were saying mean things and talking in front of her as if she were invisible.  I’ll be honest, the initial wave of anger had to dissipate before I could think with a completely sound mind.  I realized I need to do something to cure her wound that was, for the first time in her young life, not physically visible.

    Since my girls were born, I made a conscientious effort to greet them every single morning with a cheerful “Good morning!”  I just believe that children should wake up knowing that someone is happy to see them and is looking forward to speaking to them.  I’ve also taught them to greet me the same way.  I don’t give much care to the whole, I’m not a morning person thing.  One of my girls is a complete morning person like me, the other is the complete opposite.  My rule is that we don’t have to have long drawn out morning conversations until you’re ready but we will acknowledge our appreciation for seeing each other wake to experience another day by greeting one another upon first glance.  It’s now a natural occurrence and unbeknownst to them, I’ve also taught them that they are worthy of acknowledgment by not only myself but by others around them.

    Once this incident happened, I began pumping them with morning affirmations.  One of my favorite things to do was crawl into bed to steal a few morning minutes with my little ones.  While there I’d whisper:

    You are kind. You are smart.  You are beautiful.  You are an amazing person.   Today is going to be a great day.  

    She resisted me at first but that too became the norm.  After she got used to me saying it daily, I had her repeat it with me.  When other instances of bullying occurred, I’d remind her of her greatness and put in perspective that what her peers said didn’t matter.   Positive thoughts and phrases are easily incorporated into the school day, administrators can share them during morning meetings or over the intercom for daily announcements.  Teachers can start off or end classes with words of encouragement.  Kids thrive when they know they have a sound support team.

    More and more, great schools are incorporating positive affirmations into their school day.  Parents and instructional leaders must be partners in the educational process every step of the way.  This partnership must include a process that eradicates bullying as something that just happens, particularly in middle schools.  Long gone are the days where we dismiss the cruel effects of verbal harassment and physical violence with “boys will be boys” or they’re just “mean girls”.  As a society, we now know better, so it’s important for adults to do better by understanding and emphasizing the importance of speaking positivity into existence.  When speaking to children, think back to the key principle that we all learned in kindergarten, use your words. Just remember to use them wisely because words do hurt and what we say matters.

     

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