Whenever my kids come home from school with a story about someone being mean to them my natural instincts are to leap into action, find this child, take them to their parents and make sure it never, ever happens again. But, then my reason kicks in, and I have to remind myself that the offending child was acting out of one of the two emotions that control most of our negative and positive behavior toward each other, fear and love.
When you come right down to it, every other action is truly a reaction to whether they are feeling fear or love at that moment. In the case of the child saying mean things to another child, that reaction, the mean words, is from fear. Whether it be fear of losing their status with their friends, fear of the other child taking some of their popularity, or perhaps one of their friends. They may simply be afraid that if they don't put other children down they may not be looked up to. When a child is talented or capable in a specific area that the other child is not, that can create a fear that they will be compared unfavorably to the more capable child. The feeling becomes threatening to them and they react out of fear by lashing out.
The alternative is true when positive reactions occur. These are a reaction to the love felt for the other person. That is evident in friendships where one friend supports the other regardless of whether it is reciprocated. I've seen people who are encouraging a friend as they reach for a goal, and never does that friend thank them or acknowledge what they've done. It is taken largely for granted. Why then does that person continue to support that friend? Because they love them.
In my work as a 911 dispatcher I often hear the frustration in other dispatchers after taking a nasty domestic violence call where the husband was arrested for beating his wife, just to take another call from the wife asking how she can bail her husband out of jail. It flies in the face of reason that she would want to take him back. In those cases it is not out of love as much as it is out of fear. She knows well that when he does get out of jail if he believes she is somehow responsible for the arrest he will probably take it out on her. If she bails him out of jail she is showing him, in her mind, that it was not her fault and that this is proof that she loves him. She also is often afraid that without him she will not survive, which is what most domestic violence suspects convince their victims of. Either they threaten to take everything away from the wife that she loves, or that they will take her financial security from her. The threat of losing their children or being alone is very real, and so they convince themselves that this is love on their part when truly it is fear. The husband convinces them that they only provide that security out of love, or that the wife should feel grateful that he sacrifices to provide for them. His motivation is also fear. Most often fear of abandonment whether real or imagined. He holds violently onto her out of fear of what may happen if he doesn't.
None of this makes behavior that is violent or threatening right. It just explains the motivation behind the anger. Sadly, the other emotion, love, can also create a sympathy in the wife for the husband that urges her to forgive him. It's a terrible circle, and difficult to walk away from if you are caught in it.
So, when I think of that child that called my child names or said mean things I have to wonder aloud with my child what it could be that this other child is afraid of. When you explain this to a child it is incredibly empowering because now they don't see that other child as having power over them, they see them as one who deserves their sympathy. Whether they show sympathy or not is not really important. What matters is how they feel about themselves.
Our youngest son is preparing to leave the nest in a month, and some of the skills I am making certain he has securely in his arsenal are basic life skills. We were sitting next to each other in church last Sunday and he leaned into me and whispered, Look. He was pointing at the sleeve of his suit jacket, where clearly the third of the four buttons on the cuff was broken. It was the same on the other sleeve. How he managed to break the third button on each of the cuffs isn't clear, but, I wanted to make sure he didn't think I was going to be fixing it for him.
I whispered back that he could just remove each of the broken buttons and either replace them or simply move each fourth button into the third buttons place and leave it at that. So now he is faced with a dilemma. How does he find matching buttons for his jacket? Ah, a new skill to teach him, a bit of lesser known information to pass along.
I whispered that he could check the inside of the jacket, usually located near the bottom hem or by the inner pocket, for replacement matching buttons. If he could not find them there, he could check at a local store that sells buttons, such as a fabric or craft store, or even a local super market, for a set of matching buttons, but, he would need to have one of the buttons on hand to match it with.
This all might seem just practical common sense type stuff, but, this generation has not been raised to really face the day to day challenges we just took for granted. Such as, wearing, much less repairing shirts with buttons. We live in a disposable society, and most teenagers live in t shirts and jeans, so who cares about learning how to sew on a button? He has yet to make this repair, probably trying to avoid it, hoping Mom will just step in and do it for him. I have to admit , it is tempting, especially since this is a suit jacket, and the buttons are decorative, so, a shabby job will ruin an otherwise nice jacket. What would be better in the long run is what matters more to me as I prepare him to venture out on his own. So, this week I will take him to shop for matching buttons, and will demonstrate on a piece of fabric the proper technique for sewing on a replacement button, matching the stitching that exists on the other buttons. Then I will show him that a tiny, repeat tiny, drop of super glue will make the repair last so much longer, and can be duplicated on the remaining buttons to prevent them from pulling off too easily.
And that leads me into other clothing care, such as basic laundry knowledge. Most moms have somewhere in their early days created a beautiful array of pink clothing. We've had crayons go through the wash which ultimately end up in the dryer, leaving a lovely color pattern on whatever it touches. We've combined cold wash items with warm wash items, and paid no attention to the washing instructions, end result, shrunken sweaters for a start, and over time our clothes probably wanted to rebel, which explains the number of missing socks, they simply ran away.
Clothes today are so expensive, and either poorly or delicately made, that ruining them because you never learned how to properly do laundry is easy to do and replacement is not an inexpensive option. So, I take each child by the hand when they are old enough to reach the washer comfortably, and teach them the ins and outs of laundry. I start with the functions of the washing machine, and explain that each machine may be different, but, there are some similarities they all share. I explain the temperatures first, because this is the biggest issue faced by a novice. It's not all about cold for darks and hot for whites. Then I move onto load sizing, and clarify that it is not a time or money saver to cram the washer full, because it actually wastes water, soap, electricity, and your time, to wash so many clothes at once that nothing really gets clean, and then you are faced with washing them again, or walking around in clothes that don't look or smell very clean. So, explain how the washer works, that clothes must be able to move around in order to create that rubbing action that the old style wash boards were once used for. They have to be able to move, or it's nothing more than sitting in water. Also explain about heavy items needing a counter balance to prevent the washer tub from becoming unbalanced, making that awful bashing sound when going into a spin cycle. The gentle cycle really does have a purpose, as does the permanent press cycle. I save that for when I discuss washing instructions on clothing.
Time to move onto the dryer. Again, I explain the way it works, and the need for air flow. I also express firmly that lint is the product of fabrics rubbing against one another, it is the by product of the washer action that comes off in the dryer, and that it is flammable. I teach them to empty the lint trap before starting another load, and if a single load isn't getting dry in one cycle the trap will need cleaning again before starting it over.
Now that I have covered the tools, it's time to cover the valuables, that being their clothes. This is where the labels are carefully read, and I have them sort clothes into piles of warm water, cold water, hot water, delicates, and permanent press. We read the instructions for both washing and drying, and then separate the piles into more specific piles based on the washing and drying instructions . Then, they do the laundry, right through to folding or hanging the clean clothes. One of the biggest time savers I teach them is to immediately remove dry clothes from the dryer before they cool off, and fold them directly into a basket, or hang them on hangars, whichever is appropriate. This usually eliminates wrinkling, so they may not have to iron anything except perhaps dress shirts and pants, and if they are cared for properly, perhaps not even them.
The last thing I like to teach my kids about laundry is how to fold shirts to create the maximum use of their dresser space and easily find what they are looking for at a glance. It's a trick I learned from an organizer, Linda KooperSmith, when she was on the show Clean House. The technique is demonstrated here
I have a quicker way to do it, while standing, I take the shirt by both shoulder seams, give it a shake to smooth it out. Then I bring the shoulders to the back center, the way she does, but, while holding the shirt up. I then hold the shirt against my chest, and bring the bottom up to the top of the back, basically folding it in half. Then I fold it in half again, from the back. And there ya have it. Just as she said, the shirts all tucked neatly into the drawer lined up in rows, and displaying enough of the front of the shirt to identify each one easily, makes it so easy to see what you want without having to move other shirts or dig in the drawers.
So, now we will move onto another Life Skill, basic housekeeping.
Building credit now will be so valuable to them as they set out on their own. Something as simple as paying their credit card in full every month and not carrying a balance from month to month will set them up for a very positive credit score. If they choose to buy a car, even one that is very cheap, have them take out a loan, that you will cosign on. Making their monthly payments on time rather than having it show as your credit will make it possible for them to get not only a car loan in the future but also a home mortgage at a competitive rate.
Teach them how to set up a monthly budget. They will not, at first, have much in that budget, but, simple things like eating out for lunch in high school or a monthly amount to spend on clothing, shoes, whatever they like to shop for. Insist that they stick to their budget, and to plan in advance for larger expenses, like holiday and special event purchases. It even helps to have them set an amount for how much they will spend on presents during the holidays for each person on their list. Kids tend to just see something they want to buy for someone rather than looking for something in a specific price range. If they know how much they have overall to spend, and how many people they are planning to buy for, they will make better choices than if they just took a wad of cash and went shopping with no real plan. They'll be happier with their choices, too.
Preparing your child to leave the nest.
When a mother bird pushes her baby fledgling out of the nest, she does so after preparing that baby to fly on it's own. She knows what the baby will need to have learned and practiced before it's first solo flight, and she also knows that even after the first solo the baby will still need a bit of time returning to the nest before it is able to leave permanently. Much the same way we human parents should be preparing our fledglings to move out and handle life on their own. So what are the skills our children need to solo? Your list may be different, but, here is mine and how I prepare my children for independent life.
First they have to be able to feed themselves. A child relies entirely on it's parents for nourishment, and rightly so, but, when they are out on their own they will need the skills to be able to not only eat but to nourish themselves. Anyone, pretty much, can heat a microwave dinner or take out, but, those types of foods are expensive and for the most part are heavily salted, loaded with fats and preservatives, and not at all a balanced diet. Still, young people believe that if they simply satisfy their hunger they are doing fine. My adult kids have expressed to me how surprised they are that their college roommates and friends have no idea how to cook for themselves outside of making ramen. The truth is, as a newly independent adult, they need every physical and mental advantage they can get, and by nourishing their brains and their bodies they are a leg up on many if not most of their peers. Sadly, good nutrition can cost a bit more and takes more time and effort than fast food, but, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Knowing that doesn't guarantee our children will make that choice, so, we need to educate them from as early an age as we can about the value of eating healthy foods, and give them the practice they need in preparing it. Teach them exactly what is in their chosen fast foods, and make comparisons with healthier alternatives so they know clearly what the difference is. Teach them about the elements of a healthy diet. One of the very best sources of facts and education is found on Chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution website. My kids changed a lot of their eating habits and choices after following his short series.
You'll find recipes that kids can make and will love. Along with the how to's on his site are the why's. There are great websites out there that teach kids and parents about real food alternatives to fast food. The great thing is that kids like to cook. They like to learn how to follow a recipe. Therein lies the key to why so many young adults do not cook for themselves. They have never learned how to read and follow a recipe, and are intimidated by all the equipment and jargon. They don't know how to shop for ingredients, and they truly want to be able to. That's where the parents come in
Instead of just doing the grocery list making and shopping, get the kids involved. Teach the children how to make a menu based on the recipes they either like or want to try. Every week include one recipe that is new to everyone so they can learn how to adapt to new ways of preparing food right along with you. Try various cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, Indian, Korean, mix it up a bit but try not to go too crazy every night of the week. Stick to the basic family favorites and simple recipes for most meals. Just add something new and different once or twice a week. This applies to more than just dinners. Change up the breakfast and lunch routines, too. Scour the internet and your favorite cookbooks for the week's recipes. Then make up a grocery list to include the ingredients you don't already have in the pantry. After you have prepared the grocery list, have your child look it over to see how it's done and perhaps add a few items to the list that they would like to try, like a fruit they haven't had before, or just to add some healthy snacks to the list. Kids usually eat what they have chosen for themselves.
Now that you have your list, take the child to the store with you, and have them do most of the shopping, meaning walk them from area to area and have them find the items on the list. This will not only teach them where things are in a grocery store, but, how to compare brands, prices, quality, all the things we already do as parents but don't always teach our children. How many times have we heard of a wife sending her husband to the store to buy something, let's say tomato paste, and they come back either empty handed or with some completely incompatible substitute like ketchup? The reason for this is they had no idea where to find things in a grocery store or what can substitute and what cannot. It's truly a skill that is developed through trial and error, practice, and education. Far too many young people avoid shopping for food simply because they lack that skill.
Once the food is purchased, teach them how to bag the groceries properly. Most young people that have worked as a grocery store bagger know that eggs and bread and other crushables always go on top, and that too many heavy items can tear through a bag. Not every child has this experience, so, make sure your child knows what goes where and how. Then teach them how to properly store the food they just bought.
Now they need practice preparing and cooking the food, and how to read and follow a recipe. After a few times most of the jargon and abbreviations will be familiar to them, and the fear will go away, but, be prepared at first for the tendency they will have to get you to take over and just do it for them. On a busy night it's even more tempting, but, try to stick to your guns most of the time. They will learn that cooking really doesn't take that long, and the result is so much better than throwing something in the microwave.
When your child is on their own and competing in the school or work world they will be so much better off for having made cooking for themselves a natural part of their day to day life.
On a similar note, at some point every child should learn how to count back change, how to write a check, how to balance a checkbook, and how to properly use a credit card. But that's another blog entry.
So here is a recipe my kids love to make, and it's so simple and yummy we make it fairly often especially in the summer time.
Peas and Cheese Salad
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
a dash of pickle juice
a dash of apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag frozen peas or 2 cups fresh peas
2 cups cubed cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped sweet pickles
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped or sliced
Just combine the first five ingredients, then add the remaining five ingredients. Enjoy. If you like you can add mustard, chopped apples, just about anything you would like.
I'm a mother of eleven children, wife of 37 years, Latter Day Saint, and 911 Dispatcher and a budding homesteader. Come along with me as I journey toward self sufficiency, one baby step at a time.
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