Archive for the ‘family’ Category

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How to make two years fly by

August 1, 2008

What happens when you get offered a teaching job in Italy? Well, if you’re me, you sit your boyfriend down and have the dreaded “where is this relationship going” talk. Which is precisely what I did a couple of months ago. I told him about the job offer in Italy, and explained that what I wanted was to work in San Diego for two years and start a family during my third year of teaching. And if he didn’t agree… Well, I was off to Italy!

And wouldn’t you know it, he agreed with my timeline! YIPEE!!

But then it hit me… Two years? I still have to wait two more years??? What torture!

Then, I realized I could approach this in one of two ways: I could sit around and mope because I still had to wait two years, or I could make a list of all the things I won’t be able to do (or which will seem overwhelming) once I have a kid. And do them.

And so, I present to you:

Things to do before I get knocked up

1. Train for and complete another 50-mile bike ride.

2. Learn how to kelp dive.

3. Take ballet classes.

4. Save and invest $10,000.

5. Run a half-marathon race.

6. Write a book about Montessori for parents.

7. Grow my classroom to 36 students.

8. Get married (I need a little help with this one).

9. Learn all I can about Montessori for 0-3 year-olds.

10. Take a French conversation course.

11. Learn how to meditate. For reals.

12. Go to India and spend a summer working in a Montessori school.

All of a sudden, two years doesn’t seem like a lot of time! I’d better get started!!!

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No More Oreos

June 16, 2008

As I stood in line to return an item at my local IKEA, I spotted a four-year old nearby having an argument with her parents.  The adults wanted her to follow them so they could do some shopping, but the child was apparently in no mood to trudge through the enormous store.

“If you give me an Oreo, I’ll do it,” she cockily bargained with her parents.  I couldn’t help but cringe as a look of shock and recognition flitted across the mother’s face.  She realized at that very moment that her manipulation tool of choice had now been used against her!  As our eyes met across the room, she managed a trembling smile and turned back to the child.

“Uh, no honey, that’s not the way it works,” she said meekly, as she took the child’s hand and led her towards the stairs.  The child’s objections could be heard across the room.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the child turned the table on her parents.  As you have just seen, using rewards (cookies, outings, TV… anything) as a means to manipulate behavior is devious, controlling, disrespectful, and in the end… completely ineffective and enormously damaging.

Sure, in the short-term, the offer of a reward might convince a willful child to acquiesce to the desires of the parent.  But at what price?

I think it all boils down to what phdinparenting calls “short-term” vs. “long-term” parenting.  In the short-term, bribing a child with rewards in exchange for desired behavior is a pretty effective means of controlling the outcome of a situation.  The parent obtains the requested behavior, the child receives the reward, and everyone is “happy”.  But are they, really?  What messages and perceptions will the child take with him for the long-term?

Think about a situation when you were controlled and manipulated into doing something for which you had a compelling reason not to want to do.  Perhaps your boss told you that he would give you a much-needed bonus if you fired three employees you know are a great asset to the company.  Or your spouse told you he would pay for your dream beach vacation if you lost 20 lbs. (although you  know you look and feel fine at your current weight).  You try to voice your opinion, but you’re told: “Come on, I know you really need the money/trip.”  Nobody tells you why, they just want you to do it.  How would you feel: dignified, respected, appreciated, and understood?   Or would you feel controlled, manipulated, voiceless, and defeated?

Very likely, you’ll go along with the request (because we’ve been conditioned to respond blindly to rewards).  How would you feel once you accomplished the task and received the reward?  If you’re even slightly human, you’d be left with a bitter aftertaste and an unnerving sense that you’re not really behind the wheel of your own life.  However, since you’ve been brought up in a rewards-based system, you’d try to brush off the feeling… Until the next time.  Except the next time, you’d want a bigger bonus or a longer vacation because you unconsciously recall the feeling of dissatisfaction you obtained from the previous “transaction”.

Do you want your children to grow up feeling controlled, manipulated, unimportant and powerless?  Because believe it or not, that is how they feel each and every time they perform an action in response to a bribe from you.  A devoted and well-meaning mother I know offered her son $50 if he would cut his unruly, shoulder-length red hair before posing for his Senior picture.  To the teen’s credit, he refused her bribe and posed in all his red-headed glory, but I think the damage was done the moment his mother offered the reward.  Her message to him was: “You’re not good enough the way you are.”

If you’re thinking, “I would never offer rewards for things like that!  I only offer rewards in situations that aren’t damaging to my child’s self-esteem,” consider your actions and their repercussions very carefully.  The problem does not lie in the situation nor in the reward; it lies in the power shift, the destruction of the child’s will and self-esteem, and the loss of mutual respect.

“If you finish your homework you can play video games.”  It’s a phrase uttered in households across the country.  How harmful is this statement?  On the surface, it seems harmless enough.  It even seems like it would be a great opportunity to show your child that he needs to take care of his responsibilities before he can enjoy other activities.  You pat yourself on the back and walk away, while your child grinds his teeth and stares at his Math homework.

How is your child being harmed?  First of all, he’s learning to link a behavior to a reward.  You’re creating an adult whose approach to life will be: “What’s in it for me?”.  You’re also diminishing the importance of homework (or any work, for that matter).  It’s no longer an important part of his intellectual development, but merely a means to an end (in this case, playing video games).  Thirdly, you’re not showing concern for the reasons your child doesn’t want to do his homework.  Maybe he didn’t understand the assignment, feels overwhelmed by his class load, is distracted by personal issues, or has an undiscovered learning disability.  The repercussions are many, but I think you get the picture…

What would happen if, instead of bribing your son, you took the time to ask him what is deterring him from finishing his assignment?  You would be giving him the message: “I care about you and want you to be successful.”  You might also gain some insight into the person your child is becoming, including his social situation and personal goals, and you would be in a better position to offer guidance.  The playing field would be leveled (much to the horror of many parents) and your child would have a much better chance of successfully reaching his goals.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve asked my child what the problem is, but he won’t talk to me.”  Gee, would you try talking to your boss if he has repeatedly “shut the door on you” by bribing you with rewards?  It’s up to the parents to change their way of educating their children.  It might take time to see results; after all, you have been bribing your child for five, ten, fifteen years.  But just like explaining “why” is an investment, so is finding out “why”.

Suggested reading: Punished By Rewards, by Alfie Kohn.

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Here We Go…

September 4, 2007

I had wanted to start this blog for a few weeks, but “life” kept getting in the way. However, I finally got my priorities in order a few days ago, when I went for an ob-gyn checkup.

Before I continue with my story, perhaps a little background would be in order. I was raised “normally” until the age of nine. By “normally”, I mean that I had recurring sinus infections, colds every year, and made regular visits to the pediatrician. Change “sinus” to any other infection, and this sentence could apply to a large majority of the children in the Western world. My mother was very conscious of our diet, providing us with healthy doses of dairy products, meats, vegetables, and tropical fruits throughout the year, believing that in this way we would be getting plenty of nutrients, vitamins, and calcium essential for proper growth.

My grandmother became deathly ill the summer I turned 9, and the doctors told her she was as good as dead at the age of 63. My mother kidnapped her from her hospital room and took her to see a “miracle Chinese doctor” her brother had heard about. This doctor turned out to be a talented Japanese acupuncturist – and a life-saver. Six weeks later, after adopting a new diet for life and receiving acupuncture treatment ONLY, my grandmother played volleyball with us in the pool.

My mother was amazed by the doctor’s abilities and vowed to learn all she could from him. She started studying the nutrition of the ancient Far East cultures and modified her family’s diet accordingly. We adopted an eating plan based on whole grains, legumes, green vegetables, sea vegetables, local seasonal fruits, and a little fish. We also started receiving acupuncture treatment to balance our energy channels.

My grandmother is still alive 22 years later and doesn’t take ANY medications. She recently tripped and fell on a sidewalk, but didn’t break a single bone. She’s 85 years old. I have not taken antibiotics or gone to see a Western doctor (other than an ob-gyn) in 22 years. My mother is now a certified acupuncturist with a thriving practice where she combines this ancient healing technique with diet modification. I’ll write more about her later… She’s my hero and my inspiration.

So, back to my story and why I finally decided to start this blog. I hadn’t been to the ob-gyn in three years and my boyfriend suggested I go for a routine check-up. The doctor I visited was highly recommended by a friend, but the experience I had with this so-called “professional” reminded me why we should all be empowered to heal ourselves.

When I entered the office and sat down, she asked me a few routine questions, barely bothering to glance at me as she wrote. She then examined me for all of five minutes, determined I had a mild infection (which she didn’t bother to name), and told me she would give me a prescription for some medicine.

I pressed her for more information on the infection, so she grudgingly gave me the name and told me that it was probably due to wearing tight pants (which I don’t, but she didn’t bother to ask). She summarily dismissed me, and I was left to investigate the causes of the infection, as well as the ingredients in the medication she wanted me to unquestioningly stuff my body with.

I got home, ripped up the prescription, and jumped online. I soon found several natural remedies for the very common infection I had. A quick dash to the supermarket’s produce section, and I was armed with all the tools I needed to cure myself of this simple ailment. Not only that… Through my research, I had discovered that a leading cause of the infection is an unbalanced diet. Looking back, I had gotten careless with the types of foods I was eating, and I know now that this is what brought the imbalance about.

This experience with Western medicine reminded me of the crucial importance of taking your health into your own hands. I have spent the entire weekend doing research into the rampant deterioration of our collective health at the hands of “professionals” and pharmaceutical companies. I will post much more on this topic in the near future, but for now I’d just like to remind you that they can only continue to destroy our health while we let them.

While my imbalance was easy to fix, I know that many illnesses are much graver and require professional guidance. Instead of going first to your Western doctor and pumping yourself full of chemicals without ever tackling the root causes of your illness, why don’t you consider visiting an acupuncturist and giving these ancient and well-proven methods a try? You might just save your own life and change the futures of your entire family.