* Agree to Disagree in a Respectful Manner

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, Dec. 5, 2017 –

There are a lot of things to be unhappy about in our world today.  Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to politics and current affairs, and many are not shy about expressing their feelings. If you open up your social media news feed and read through the comments, you will see a lot of negativity.

What about you? Have you taken a look at your own attitude and behavior lately?

We try to raise our children to be well rounded individuals, to know the difference between right and wrong and to handle conflict appropriately.

Sometimes things are said just for the sake of stirring up an argument with someone who posted their opinion.  We feel hurt by things people post, and want them to know they have offended us.  But what is the right way to handle this conflict?

We must remember that our children are observing our reactions to these situations and they are often mirroring our behavior.

As a parent, I am entitled to my own beliefs that influence how I raise my child.  However, I am also responsible for ensuring they conduct themselves in a way that is respectful.  Perhaps it is time to review the idea that we can “agree to disagree.”

Be mindful of how you respond to situations you disagree with.  I am also guilty of uttering something under my breath about the latest news.  What I would like my child to take away from the moment is that I don’t agree with what is being said or done.  But your child is also hearing the words you are saying and thinking of how to apply it to situations in their young life.

Unfortunately, our bad behaviors may teach our children to handle a situation in an inappropriate way and they may ultimately be punished for it.  We are setting our children up for failure by not keeping our own reactions in check.

The next time you are watching the news and disagree with what is being reported, take a moment to think about how you should respond.  What do you want your child to learn from your reaction?  How would you like them to react to a difficult situation at school when you are not present?

The first step in expressing yourself in a positive manner is by starting with “I feel.”  Surprisingly, many children don’t know how to describe their feelings, so it might be helpful to have a list of feelings available for them to look at while instructing them in this skill.  “I feel angry” and “I feel sad” are some examples.

Once the child understands how to identify their feelings, you can begin teaching them to identify what is making them have this feeling. For example, “I feel angry when you tell me to pick up my toys.”

Practice modeling this behavior around your children and continue to encourage them to use their words instead of acting out inappropriately.  As always, be sure to praise them for using their words in a respectful and appropriate manner.

 

*Create a Sense of Purpose for Youth

By Wendy Lynch, MSW, Courier & Press, August 1, 2017 –

After a busy day helping kids as a school social worker, I often come home from work feeling the need to decompress.  Many days I find myself trying to process the daily struggles of my students.

My husband and I regularly discuss what it means to help a child in need.  How can I serve all the kids I meet with effectively?

There are many directions this conversation can go, but one concept we often discuss is the necessity for  youth  to feel a part of something — a need for connection, a sense of belonging  or perhaps best said, a sense of purpose.

Research shows that teens and young adults that seek purpose have higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.  While recognizing these needs is important, the more challenging component is to how best connect  youth  to this sense of purpose.

When I recently listened to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg give an eloquent commencement speech to Harvard University graduates, I was impassioned by his message of “purpose,” because it was so reflective of many of my interactions with the kids I serve through  Youth  First.  Mr. Zuckerberg’s thesis was that “finding your purpose isn’t enough; the challenge is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.”  (You can find Zuckerberg’s speech on You Tube.)

 With this in mind, I often find my conversations with distressed  youth  gravitating toward  the things in life they care about — people, ideas, and dreams — and how I can best point them toward  these  connections.  So how might one do this?  Zuckerberg offers three concepts that can help you lead your child towards a sense of connection, belonging and purpose:

  1. Encourage participation in something bigger than yourself.  Examples include community service, sports, drama, music  or clubs.
  2. Try to create the feeling or environment where the child is needed.
  3. Help facilitate an environment, attitudes  and goals where there is always something better ahead to work towards.

In my experience, I believe it is productive to help your child see a bright future and focus on what is to come rather than what is in the past.  According to William Damon, author of “The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life,” benefits can include living longer and healthier; valuing humility, gratitude and integrity; being more academically engaged; being more pro-socially oriented and engaged; being interested in how their actions affect others  and more.

The teen years are a time to explore one’s inner and outer world and seek new experiences.  Hopefully, these experiences will also create time for self-reflection so that teens can discover what gives their life purpose and meaning – what makes them feel alive.  Parents can set an example for their teen by modeling a sense of purpose in their own lives.

Guide your teen toward finding their purpose in life.  Help them break down their purpose into achievable goals and take action to support them until they’ve achieved their goals.  Pride in what they accomplish and service to others can build a capacity for a greater purpose that endures into their life well beyond the teen years.

* Whose Game Is It Anyway?

By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, May 9, 2017 –

Anyone who attends school athletic events has probably noticed negative behavior in a small percentage of parents. These are the folks who believe winning is everything, and the opposing team, players and coach are not deserving of respect. Forgetting the meaning of sportsmanship, they make their opinions known to anyone within earshot.

We all like to see our children or team win, but there is much more we hope our children will learn from their involvement in athletics. Here are some things that come to mind:

  • Physical as well as mental challenges
  • How to adapt to unforeseen problems
  • Learning to show respect for the efforts of others
  • How to share time and talent
  • Learning to work harder and smarter to achieve goals

These are certainly lessons our children could use in day-to-day life outside of sports. Here are some additional benefits from participating in sports:

  • Learning problem solving
  • Learning to develop strategy
  • Developing trust in one’s self
  • Exposure to calculated risk taking

Looking at the last four benefits, you can see how easily they could translate to situations like standardized testing. This would certainly be a win for both athletics and academics so that these benefits could positively impact a student for life.

According to momsteam.com, here are some other behaviors you can model to make sure your child has a positive experience:

  • Don’t view the other team as the enemy. Talk with parents and players from the other team to send a message that the game isn’t life or death.
  • Congratulate and applaud ANY player (on either team) who makes a good play.
  • Have fun! If kids see you having fun on the sidelines, they will keep the game in perspective and realize they can be good sports and have fun too.

Don’t condone poor sportsmanship. Don’t cheer on the coach or player who gets ejected from the game because of bad behavior. Rather, use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about poor sportsmanship at home after the game.

Take a look in the mirror. How is your behavior on the sidelines viewed by other parents, coaches and players? Are you keeping your cool, remaining calm and under control in tough situations? Children learn self-control by watching adults model self-control.

When we get caught up in the emotion of a tie-breaking play, we need to remember that we all want our kids to win and they all deserve respect. The essence of competition is sportsmanship – learning to be gracious in winning as well as losing.

This is a quality that everyone can model for his or her child. After all, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Let’s give them something to be proud of – parents who are positive and supportive of their student athlete, team and coaches.

After all, whose game is it anyway?