Tuesday, September 23, 2008

9 Killed in Finland School Shooting

That was the headline on the morning news today. It is a sad reminder that school bullying and violence are not just home grown, but that it is truly a world epidemic. Our children are suffering all around the world. Adults are not listening and the victims are snapping and eliminating their tormentors. It is a sad commentary on the human condition. We can all be ashamed of ourselves.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Children Are Suffering

Our children, our legacy, are suffering. I don’t see much happening to end their suffering. The high school shootings got our attention to be sure, but our attention was fleeting. How much louder must our children SCREAM for our help? There will be more killing to come until we wake up and take ACTION.

The majority of the books I have read say the same thing. The bullying (AGRESSION) starts in elementary school. It does not start in junior high and high school. It only becomes more violent in junior high and high school as the bullies pounce on their victims who have had enough and snap taking matters into their own hands because the adults around them have failed to respond to their cries for help.

Who is to blame? Is the bully the only one who is to blame? Not by a long shot. We parents bare the brunt of blame. We have spoiled our children rotten and have failed to discipline and parent them at home. Then, we send them off to school to terrorize defenseless children and ill-equipped teachers who do not know how to deal with our out-of-control off-spring.

My children had 11 elementary school teachers between them. Only 2 of the 11 teachers were married with children. So, the majority of my kid’s teachers had no parenting experience. It is not a teacher’s job to parent our children. Parenting is our job. It is the single most important job we will ever have. As a society, we are failing miserably at it.

When I walk into my children’s classrooms, I inevitably witness half of the children (some 15 plus) acting out, purposely disrupting the class. As our children go into middle school and high school with bigger class sizes, the number of unruly students is greater.

In first grade, I became very concerned when my daughter’s young, inexperienced, first-time teacher failed at controlling her class. Walking through the hallway, I regularly heard her screaming at the children. My daughter being sensitive would come home distressed because the teacher yelled and rang her chime all day long. This young teacher used a chime to get the children’s attention. I only heard it a few times, but found it very jarring to my own nervous system. The teacher used this ineffective tool all day long.

Concerned, I repeatedly offered my help in the classroom. My offers were repeatedly denied. Finally, I asked her for a parent-teacher meeting. She accepted and asked if it would be okay if the principal joined us. Taking this as a sign of aggression, by husband insisted on attending. In the end, my offer for help was finally accepted. I regularly assisted the teacher during the daily math lesson.

After my first one hour session, it was clear to me that the teacher had a tough class. There were 20 children, 10 students who were on task at all times and 10 who did everything in their power to disrupt the teacher. I remember being shocked and disturbed that this teacher had been reduced to an over paid babysitter. The ten children who were out of control at all times completely shut the teacher down. She was completely ineffective as a teacher because she was constantly interrupted and sabotaged.

There was one boy who was constantly grunting, belching, humming, throwing things, yelling across the room, you name it, he was doing it. One day I asked him why he did these things knowing he would be told to go to the office. This 6 year old boy told me that he wanted to go to the office so he didn’t have to do the work. I suggested that the teacher just remove his desk from the main area. He didn’t want to be with the other children and bothered them relentlessly until he was eventually told to move to another area in the room. The next day, the boy’s desk was off to the side. He was much happier in his own area and did not have the negative impact on the other children that he had before.

This boy (bad student) who was some how linked to my daughter (good student) from kindergarten through 5th grade. In third grade, my daughter could no longer stand to be in the same class with this boy. I informed the 3rd grade teacher that my child had been in the same class with this boy for 4 years and could she please separate them. In fourth grade, my daughter had a nice break, but in 5th grade he was back in her face. Linking good students with bad students is topic for another time.

Elementary school teachers who ignore reports of bullying are to blame. Not all teachers ignore the reports, but most do. Most will tell the children to stop “tattling”, a word that should be eliminated from our every day language. Reporting AGRESSION can NEVER be called TATTLING! Instead teachers should be encouraging discussions on playground bullying. Teachers can also be present on the playground. They are no where in sight when our children need them the most. The presence of teachers on the playground during recess would be a major deterrent to AGRESSION.

Elementary school principals who ignore reports of AGRESSION and do nothing to put a stop to it are to blame for our children’s suffering. Principals who address AGRESSION, and by that I mean they mention it in an assembly or over the loud speaker, but who do not clearly and unequivocally state severe consequence for bullying (AGRESSION) and follow through fail our children miserably. Probably nine times out of ten, the bullying (AGRESSION) occurs at school. SCHOOL IS GROUND ZERO and must be dealt with head on by school principals. They can no longer bury their heads in the sand failing our children and America as a whole.

School principals have the power to make a huge difference, as do teachers and parents. We have to go to the source, Elementary School. It is time to communicate and come up with a working plan to STOP THE VIOLENCE IN OUR SCHOOLS NOW!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bullying Games

School is barely back in session and the bullies are hard at work humiliating their latest targets. Apparently, the games of the week at my daughter's junior high were "Pantsing" and "Dead Meat".

Pantsing is self-explanatory, of course. The principal apparently spoke to the students over the loud speaker telling them to stop pantsing other students because it is humiliating, and disgusting. Again, I have to point out the fact that the bullies relish humiliating their prey. So, telling them to stop because it is "humiliating" is only fanning the fire.

The "Dead Meat" game, however, had me stumped. I had to ask my 6th grader to explain it to me. According to her, the bullies run up behind the other kids and slam into the back of their legs at the knee joint in such a way that the victim falls to the ground. The principal reportedly stated that a student was seriously injured as a result of this despicable act.

I asked my kids what consequences were cited over the loud speaker in an effort to put a stop to the hazing. They did not recall hearing the principal warn the student body of the consequences. I was not surprised. I was disappointed, but not surprised. At, least something was said, but nothing was done.

The following day, luck had it that the school had contracted an anti-bullying advocate. His name was Michael Pritcher. My kids said that he was hilarious. They did not even realize that it was an anti-bullying assembly. A parent told me that Mr. Pritcher's son committed suicide after being chronically bullied at school.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bullying From the Sidelines

I just got back from a 2 hours seminar called "2nd Goal Parents" put on by the Positive Coaching Alliance. It made me realize how out of control recreational sports have become. The instructor pointed out that the bad behavior we see in professional sports on a regular basis is making its way into kids soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, football, etc. He also pointed out that professional sports are all about the money and are therefore "entertainment".

Now, I'm sure that all parents, when they are off the field and rational, can agree that this outrageous behavior has no place in our kids recreational sports. I was shocked to learn that 70% of children by age 13 drop out of all sports. The reason they drop out is the constant criticism and pressure put on them by their sideline parents. That would be us. Ouch! That hurts, but we are all guilty of making comments on the sidelines that discourage rather than encourage our kids.

A few weeks ago, my daughter's competitive soccer team was in the second day of a two day tournament. Toward the second half of the game, we parents were wondering what the heck our girls were doing. Each and every parent began coaching his or her kid. At one point, I wondered how the girls were hearing their coach at all over all the parents yelling from the sidelines. One dad kept yelling out angrily, "We're watching!"

Well, after the game we parents, myself included, didn't have anything positive to say. Our girls just didn't seem to want the win bad enough. Back at home, I asked my daughter why the girls were batting the ball away instead of taking it down field. She said that they were having difficulty with running the ball the day before, so the coach told them do bat it to the closest teammate. Double ouch! That strategy got the team into the Championship Game.

Back to the dad who yelled, "We're watching!" Yesterday during practice, after criticizing the trainer for not controlling the girls' energy and focus, this dad said that he really wished he could get in there and help. Then, he hit the nail on the head when he said that he didn't want to "interfere". Interfering is exactly what we all do when we start coaching from the sidelines. Our kids can't really hear us most of the time. I know, I've asked. Maybe it is just as well. Tonight for the first time, I equated this inappropriate sideline behavior as bullying.

From now on I am going to zip my lip at the games and let the coach do the coaching. I appreciate him giving his time to coach my daughter and her team. It is a huge commitment and daunting task to train thirteen 12 year old girls who still do cartwheels during practice. I will do a better job of finding positive things to say to encourage and support my daughter and her teammates.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

PG13 Pushes Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol on Our Children

Wow!  It is nearly impossible to find an age appropriate movie for pre-teens!  My daughter was invited by a friend to go see “THE HOUSE BUNNY”.  When I looked it up and read the description and the rating, I had to call the mom and tell her that it was inappropriate for my 12 year old girl to see.  The movie is rated “PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity, and brief strong language.” The description read: “The protagonist is Hef's favorite and acts like a den mother to the other girls. On her birthday, she is unceremoniously evicted from Hef's pad for 'being too old.' Homeless and without essential skills, Shelley wanders around L.A. until she finds a new job--the housemother at the most unpopular sorority on campus.”

I know that her daughter wanted to see it, but when I read the description, the mom gasped on the other end and admitted that she had not read the listings.  Really, how tame can a Play Boy movie be?  It is absolutely NOT FOR KIDS! Then the mom suggested seeing “DISASTER MOVIE”.  As I was still on the movie website, I read the description and rating out loud. “PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, drug references, and comic violence.”  “DISASTER MOVIE follows the comic misadventures of a group of ridiculously attractive twenty-somethings during one fateful night as they try to make their...” See Full Description 

Not giving up, I continued to search for something more age appropriate.  “STAR WARS” was rated PG and the other mom agreed that it would be fun for all to see. Even PG movies have inappropriate content.  A parent has to guess just how crude or rude the jokes might be. I have had many unexpected surprises in the theater with my kids. 

When I told my daughter that we had agreed on STAR WARS, she began to flip out about it being “boring” and for “little kids”. Not two minutes went by, when the phone rang.  It was her girlfriend calling to complain about the movie selection.

Again, I spoke to the other mom and we decided to forget the movie and just let them hang out at her house for a couple of hours.  Curious, I re-entered yahoo’s movie page and read the PG13 rating of the other movies listed.  Funny how they are all so different, but the same nonetheless.  The pervasive theme is sex, drugs, and alcohol.  Who does Hollywood think they are exploiting our young children pushing sex, drugs, and alcohol on them?!!!!!  Here are some more ratings I found for films currently showing in theaters:

Vicky Cristina Barcelona:

Two women travel to Barcelona.  One of them is emotionally and SEXUALLY adventurous. In Barcelona, they're drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements

PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.

Babylon A.D.

PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some sexuality.

Disaster Movie

PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, drug references and comic violence.

Dark Night (Critics agree that it is far too dark and scary for children.)

PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.

Mama Mia!

PG-13 for some sex-related comments.  My husband and I loved the movie, but the non-stop sexual innuendos, the protagonist not marrying her fiance and instead sailing off with him to pursue HIS dream, and the cougar/teenage romance were enough for us to chose NOT to take our children to see this film.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

PG-13 for mature material and sensuality.  I’d have to see this one first to determine how much "mature material and sensuality" it really contains.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Scam Alert Involving D.A.R.E.

On my way out of Walgreens (a drug store) today, I was asked for a donation of $20 to help D.A.R.E which I was told is in danger of folding due to lack of funds. Being that I have children and like to support such charities, I happily handed the man a $20 bill. As he reached for his receipt book, he asked me for an additional $1.78 in sales tax. (This was the first RED FLAG). I do give my self credit for at least asking about charging sales tax on a “donation”. Of course, the young man had a smooth response having something to do with the T-shirt and children’s book that I was receiving for the $20 amount.

Given that I am the Queen of Naïveté, I handed the young man $2 and told him to keep the change. Once home, I decided to file the receipt. That is when I noticed something was not right. “D.A.R.E.” did not appear at the top of my receipt, nor did the word “donation” appear anywhere. I quickly flipped it over and read the back.

To my shock and horror, the receipt said that D.A.R.E. would receive 5% of my $20 donation! (The state would get the $1.78.) I thought I gave $20 to D.A.R.E., but in reality, D.A.R.E. would only receive $1.00!

Angry that I had been scammed, I called D.A.R.E. The girl who answered the phone was new and could only tell me to go to a website and try to figure out for myself how to get the money back. I told her that this practice made no sense to me. Why would D.A.R.E. affiliate itself with marketing companies that prey on donors who want to support D.A.R.E.? She had no answers.

I could see my complaint would go nowhere. So, I found a phone number on the receipt. The woman who answered gave yet another company name which was different from the marketing company listed on the receipt. So, there is apparently some kind of pyramid scheme going on here.

There was a 2nd red flag. Because I was waiting for a prescription to be filled and it was lunch time, I slipped into a local diner for a quick bite to eat. The young man and woman who had scammed me (I was still unaware that I had been taken) came walking in. I was struck by the young man’s fancy suit and the young woman’s professional dress and Gucci handbag. Hello! Do I really need to be hit over the head by a two by four to see when I am being conned?!

Determined to save my friends from falling prey to this scam, I sent out an email to warn them. Unfortunately, one friend emailed back saying she had given them money too, thinking that her donation was going to D.A.R.E.

I don’t know why D.A.R.E. chooses to use these marketing companies to raise funds. But I do know that these companies are using Deceptive Practices. My donation was actually a purchase of merchandise. Thus, the additional sales tax. Unbelievable!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Schools Encourage Bullying

Some schools actually encourage bullying by not taking action when bullying is reported. But they also encourage upper class men bullying younger class men by instilling or allowing in their school the attitude that the upper class men are "superior" to lower class men. Of course, this is not the case, but nevertheless, this is the atmosphere on many school campuses.

One elementary school that my children attended actually had a cheer that encouraged this attitude that leads to hazing in our schools. The school cheer had a verse recited by each grade. When the cheer reached the 5th graders, they yelled out, "We're so cool we RULE the school." This cheer was not written by the children, but rather it was taught to them by their teachers as early as first grade. In my opinion, this is a completely irresponsible practice.

This past week, in middle school, my daughter was standing in the corridor when an eighth grade boy intentionally plowed right into her knocking her into a pole. Apparently, the rule is that lower class men either stand next to the lockers or be knocked down by the bigger kids walking through.

Before my kids got to middle school, I was warned by an eighth grade girl not to purchase the rolling backpack. I was shocked to learn the reason why. She told me that it is common practice for the bigger kids to pick on the kids who have them by kicking and even break the rolling backpacks! Thus, humiliating the new 6th graders in front of a large audience. Nice welcome to middle school!