As I was reading about kindness I became fascinated by the brain research. I sat there thinking “Well of course, the brain is in charge of our feelings. Why wouldn’t it be the center of this conversation?”.
Our brains are in charge of our emotions and our actions. Our brains take the input we receive from others. Process the information. Tell us how to emotionally respond. And our actions become the response. Makes perfect sense. The brain is in charge of kindness.
And then I read this, “our brain learns best about kindness when it FEELS kindness”. There is was.
How should I teach my children about kindness? Help them FEEL kindness.
Children learn kindness when they ‘feel’ what its like to make someone else smile. And their brain learns.
They learn about kindness when they share with others, when they comfort others, when they give to others. And their brain learns.
Suddenly writing this blog topic wasn’t rocket science, but is was brain science. It was simply thinking about all of the ways that children can be kind to others and understanding that while they do this – their brain learns.
Of course kids get angry. Parents get angry. I get that and know what to do to help children learn to express anger in appropriate ways. But when should we get concerned that there is more to it – that a child might have anger issues.
Here’s a list of warning signs. If your child exhibits several of these behaviors for at least 6 months, it’s time to take action.
- frequently loses temper
- defies or refuses to follow adult rules
- is touchy, easily angered
- often annoys and upsets people on purpose
- often bullies, threatens or scares others
- often starts physical fights
- is physically cruel to people or animals
- is often spiteful or wants revenge
- purposely damages people’s things
If you think there could be a problem, talk to a professional. Make an appointment with a mental health professional, doctor, school nurse, or school counselor. They can do an evaluation and determine is there is a problem. And together you can decide on any needed action or treatment options.
Psssst I know you listened to the Corporal Punishment podcast because it tells me how many times it was reviewed.
It’s ok, I know this is a hard topic to discuss out loud. I sometimes feel the most comfortable when I can look up information on my own and think about it first. Here’s the catch – information has to be credible AND reliable information. And here at extension we also demand that it be research based.
So how about we start there – I’m going to share some solid research based resources around the topic of corporal punishment for you to review and ponder over -and then we can talk a bit more. Feel free to ask us not to post your question individually and we will be happy to post it as a ‘subscriber submitted question’.
Here you go!
Empathy is the ability to understand the world from another person’s point of view. Empathy can also create motivation to treat another kindly based on that understanding.
Feelings Flashcards: Make flash cards with a photo or drawing showing different emotions such as happy and sad or scared and mad. Even three and four year olds can identify a range of emotions. Point out the different feelings and talk about them.
Share stories and personal experiences: share stories about times when you had similar feelings and let the children share back.
Puppets: Children are drawn to puppets and many lessons can be taught by them. Have puppets display different emotions and talk with children about them.
Share how you have seen empathy impact children’s relationships and friendships.
When should children begin organized sports?
Good question! Sometimes parents feel pressured to get their children into organized sports at a very young age.
I remember when my 5 year old daughter played soccer for the first time. I wanted it to be fun and something she enjoyed. It was the 4-5 year old age group, and after a couple of wildly amusing practices they had their first game. In the middle of the game she actually kicked the ball for the first time and stopped midfield, looked over at me and gave me the biggest grin and two thumbs up. She was so proud. At that moment another child ran past her and yelled “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!”
Yep, my mouth hung open for a moment just like yours did. I can tell you that I literally saw her deflate before my very eyes. Be watchful and wary about when and where you send your children to experience their sport for the first time. Protect their egos and their developing brains.
Here’s a little info on what child development says young children can ‘handle’.
At the preschool age (3, 4, 5 years old) – children are developing a sense of independence and decision making. They are typically too young for a structured formal organized sport. Their brain development hasn’t yet mastered the ability to ‘lose gracefully’ and they can easily bored and distracted. Not to mention disruptive and frustrated. If we push them to ‘pay attention’ and ‘follow the rules’ we may actually be turning them ‘off’ to the sport in the future. Preschoolers need fun and light hearted experiences with lots of room for goofiness when it comes to sports.
How might you have handled my situation above?? Are there times that you have had similar experiences?
As I thought about children and sports this month I want to share something I overheard.
A young child was working on a new physically challenging skill. He was working and working and working so very hard. Finally SUCCESS!!! HE DID IT! He was so proud I swear he grew 4 inches right in front of my eyes! “I did it I tried my best and I did it!”
The older sibling overheard the exclamations of joy and in a grown up voice replied “It’s never our BEST, there is always room for improvement”.
SILENCE…….. DEFLATION……… end of working on skill.
Isn’t there a time when we really have done it ‘good enough’ to celebrate? Can’t we just stop and celebrate the moment and say “We did our best and we succeeded!” As we continue with children and sports this month, think about really allowing your child to celebrate the moment of their own personal success.
We ALL have to start somewhere and not all of us are going to be Olympians. Besides – without those of us having OUR OWN personal best, their would never be Olympians who we encouraged to be their best.
How have you celebrated personal bests with your child?
The birthday party invitation that never arrived, the whispers by the hallway lockers, the cruel words written on Facebook – it has happened to us and it happens to our children. We know it hurts to be talked about or excluded from groups or activities. Now after listening to the December podcast I have a name to put with this – relational aggression.
Sarah Coyne defines relational aggression as any kind of mean behavior that aims to harm a relationship or the social structure of a group. This includes gossip, spreading rumors, exclusion and so forth. Do you remember the chant – sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me? Well, wrong! Relational aggression can be just as harmful as physical aggression. The pain can linger and even last for years. I can remember incidents from my teen and college years and suspect you can also.
I think a place for parents to start is by being proactive. You don’t want your child to be aggressive in this way and you don’t want your child to be hurt by relational aggression. Sarah talked about three things that parents need to address – and you may not like these.
Really pay attention to what you and your child watch on TV. Reality shows are popular but research points to the relational aggression that is so common. Being mean is shown in a glamorous way for someone to “win” or become popular.
Next take a look at yourself. How do you interact with other adults in your home? What does your child hear and see? Does she hear you talking “mean” to each other? Does he hear you gossiping or making snide remarks about people? Children model what they see in the home.
Then tune in to your child’s group of friends. Is it a group of kids that practice relational aggression? Are they children with low self-esteem or do they think they are “hot stuff”? Either way, help your child learn how to stand up to the mean behavior.
Ok – I realize I just gave you three things to give your attention to and none are easy. But we are talking about the pain that results from girls and boys being mean to each other. It is worth the effort to help children learn a better way of treating people. I, for one, would like to live in a world with a few less relational aggressive adults!
Listening to the podcast and reading the blog I wanted to make sure that we had more opportunity to really think about the thoughts and ideas presented so I am bringing back Donna’s 3 points. Again – you may not necessarily like these suggestions but I want to dive in a little deeper…
- Really pay attention to what you and your child watch on TV. Reality shows are popular but research points to the fact relational aggression on these shows far too common. Being mean is shown in a glamorous way for someone to “win” or become popular.
- Next take a look at yourself. How do you interact with other adults in your home? What does your child hear and see? Does she hear you talking “mean” to each other? Does he hear you gossiping or making snide remarks about people? Children model what they see in the home.
- Tune in to your child’s group of friends. Is it a group of kids that practice relational aggression? Are they children with low self-esteem or do they think they are “hot stuff”? Either way, help your child learn how to stand up to the mean behavior.
When you look at these suggestions and watch the children around you (yours or others) what are examples that you may have seen (in your children or others’ children) that show these points to be true?
How have you seen acts of relational aggression handled in a way that positively impacted the situation?
We may decide to blog about this topic all month if you would like…
Previously in this blog, we wrote an article about cyberbullying, which detailed some statistics about cyberbullying, and helpful hints for keeping your child safe from cyberbullies. But, what happens if your child is the cyberbully? No parent wants to be confronted with this issue, but if you ever find yourself in this unfamiliar territory, it’s crucial to handle the situation appropriately for the sake of your own child and for the victim’s sake.
First, you will likely need to limit your child’s use of the Internet. Let the child know that the behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable, and Internet use will be limited or eliminated until he/she can learn to use online media appropriately. Beyond this initial reaction, you will need to discuss with your child how to use the Internet appropriately. Lay clear expectations and ground rules. Let you child know that he/she will have to demonstrate that he/she understands and follows the rules consistently and without reminders before full, unsupervised use of the Internet will be granted.
Next, sit down with your child to discuss why cyberbullying is so harmful. Oftentimes, it’s easy for people, adults included, to write or type things that they would never say to someone’s face. We all get brave when hiding behind written words because we know we will not have to see the reactions of the other person. We don’t have to see the anger or tears, and we don’t have to hear the immediate backlash. Ask the child how he/she would feel if someone said that to his/her face. Would it hurt the child’s feelings? Make him/her cry? Or feel angry? A good rule of thumb for online chatting is to never type anything that you would not say to the person’s face.
Finally, you can also ask the child to think about what was said, and why it was said. Was the child feeling angry? Betrayed? Sad? Brainstorm with your child how the situation could have been handled differently. Talk through options of how to manage these feelings and confront the situation. Help your child choose an appropriate course of actions for the next time he/her feels this way and needs to handle a situation appropriately.
Do you have experiences with cyberbullying? Have you been the parent, the victim, the cyberbully? How was the situation handled? What tips do you have for confronting cyberbullying?
Bullying is occurring at alarming rates in the U.S. and the long-term effects of being bullied can be severe. Unfortunately, many adults are not aware that bullying is occurring with their child or their students.
According to a National Center for Education Statistics document, the definition of bullying includes a variety of actions, such as, “being made fun of; being the subject of rumors; being threatened with harm; being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; being pressured into doing things he/she did not want to do; being excluded; and having property destroyed on purpose,” (Dinkes, Kemp, & Baum, 2009, p. 40).
A large study conducted in 2007, comprised of 12- to 18-year old students in the U.S., revealed many eye-opening statistics. Based on these students’ self-reports:
- 32% had been bullied at school during the school year
- 63% had been bullied once or twice during the school year
- 21% had been bullied once or twice a month
- 10% were bullied once or twice a week
- 7 % had been bullied almost daily
- 79% were bullied inside a school
- 4% had been cyber-bullied
- 21% had been made fun of
- 18% were subjects of rumors
- 6% were threatened with harm
- 5% were purposefully excluded from activities
- 4 % said that someone tried to make them do things they did not want to do
- 4% had their own property destroyed on purpose by someone else
- 11% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on, and 19% of these students were injured as a result of being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on.
Interestingly, only 36% of students who were bullied notified a teacher or another adult at school about the event(s). Other longitudinal research concerning bullying shows that being bullied is related to poor mental health and self harm. Individuals who are bullied experience severe emotional consequences such as anxiety, passivity, academic problems, social deficits, and low self-esteem.
Based on these studies, it is clear that many children, ages 12-to-18 years, are being bullied and the majority of them are not telling adults about their experiences. To learn how you can help a child, read the information contained in subsequent posts within this blog. Bullying, regardless of where or how it occurs, has long-term consequences and must be stopped immediately.
Cyberbullying, or bullying via technology and/or the internet, has become the newest way to make fun of, ridicule, and victimize others. In a 2010 study of 12 to 18 year olds, researchers found that 83% of teens use a cell phone, 78% send text messages, 50% use Facebook, 38% use Myspace, 46% email, and 41% instant message. With this wide variety of technology being used by today’s youth, it’s no wonder that bullying has found its way from the playground to cell phones and computers.
It’s no secret that physical bullying is more common among boys, while relational bullying (bullying with words) is more common among girls. Given this fact, it might not be surprising to you that cyberbullying is most common among girls, although it happens to both girls and boys. Over 20% of teens report having experienced cyberbullying. The most common forms are hurtful comments, rumors, or threats online. Other forms include text messages, pictures, videos, or websites created about the victim. If not dealt with and solved, cyberbullying can have serious negative consequences for children. As a parent, it’s important to know how to handle such a situation.
To help your child stay safe from cyberbullying, here are some helpful tips:
• Keep your home computer in a location where it can be easily viewed. If your children know that you can see what they’re doing, they are more likely to use the computer for appropriate behaviors only.
• Become familiar with social networking and communication technologies. If your child tells you that he’s doing homework, but he’s actually instant messaging, would you know the difference? In order to keep your children safe, you have to know a little about these technologies: know what they look like, know what they’re used for, and know the lingo.
• Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Consider installing filters or blockers to keep your child from visiting dangerous chat rooms or from using the Internet in other harmful ways.
• Set guidelines for cell phone use, then enforce and monitor these expectations.
• Set guidelines for computer and internet use, along with specific consequences if these guidelines are not met.
• Have a plan of how you will handle the situation if your child is being cyberbullied. Stay calm and take steps toward finding a solution.
• Inform school administrators right away. Inquire about bullying preemption programs.
• Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Save the messages, pictures, or videos.
• Spend time with your child to let him/her know how much you love and support him/her.
Bullying is one topic parents hope they never have to encounter. Unfortunately, it happens all too in often, in a variety of different forms. Approximately 75% of children report that they have experienced bullying. The most common type of bullying is verbal bullying, followed by physical bullying and indirect bullying (spreading rumors, excluding others). Cyberbullying is also becoming more common; however, I’ll save that for the topic of next week’s blog.
Sadly, children do not always tell their parents that they’re being bullied. As a result, it’s important for parents to look for signs that their child is being bullied. Your child may be experiencing bullying if he/she:
- Takes a different or long way to/from school
- Doesn’t like going to school; fakes illnesses to stay home from school
- Doesn’t care about schoolwork
- Has a loss of appetite
- Doesn’t have friends
- Has troubles sleeping, including nightmares
- Comes home from school with items that are torn, broken, or missing
- Acts nervous, stressed out, grumpy, or sad, especially when getting home from school
- Comes home with bruises, cuts, scratches
If you think your child may be experiencing bullying, the first step is to sit down and talk with them. Ask questions about bullying, be a good listener, stay calm, and show concern for your child. If your child is experiencing bullying, here are some important steps to support you child in handling the situation.
- Find out more information about the bullying situation – Who, what, when, where, how often
- Explain to your child that you will likely have to tell others about the situation, in order to protect him/her
- Notify school faculty, and other adults who may be present when the bullying is taking place
- Explain that if the incident happens again, your child needs to report it to an adult; Remind your child that this is telling someone about a dangerous situation, NOT tattling
- Take photographs and keep a log of any evidence from the bullying incidents – Bruises, cuts, torn or damaged items, harassment notes
- Brainstorm and role play strategies for handling the bullying situations
- Help your child make friends by getting him/her involved in an organization
- Spend time with your child, let them know they are loved and supported
Click here for more information on bullying.