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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is Any Job Really Better Than No Job! – A Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

Previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network on Jan 6, 2011 and updated for 2014

For the record, I want to say how much I DESPISE hearing those words. I raised four children, mostly by myself, with little and sometimes no child support. No way could I have made it on the salary I was making.

If it weren't for the generosity of my parents and one of my sisters, my children and I would have been living in roach-infested apartments, eating only Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. What's really sad about what I just wrote is that many families do live in squalor or they don’t have a home at all, because they can't afford to live. How can we expect landlords to fix apartments when the rent doesn't even pay the mortgage?

I'm not defending slum landlords. I'm just pointing out the obvious - unless the government subsidizes an apartment, if tenants make minimum wage and the landlord wants to help out by offering low-income housing to people who can't afford anything better, something has to give. And sometimes that "something" is major, like a furnace or a refrigerator. Tenants who can't afford to live anywhere else, put up with the inconveniences, because they can't afford to move anywhere else.

My situation wasn't that bad, BECAUSE I had help. But my income was so insignificant, it barely made a dent into my bills.

And it wasn't that I wasn't working as hard as the next guy. In several places where I was employed, I was doing the work of three people. In one law firm for instance, when I left in tears because I just couldn't complete the work expected of one person, I later found out, because my sister took a job working for the same law firm, that they replaced me with three people.

At another job, I worked frantically to keep pace with the work, even while everybody kept asking, “Just exactly what does Theresa do?" So I devised a performance measurement process to discover just exactly how much work each person in my department was contributing to the overall workload. In addition to what the other employees had do to, I had an additional job that none of them had to perform. I showed the chart to my boss. 

My output, on the one job alone - the one that other employees had to perform - was three times that of the average employee. PLUS I had my other job - at the same place - during the same work hours. As you might imagine, when I left, the other employees felt the extreme load of extra work. I mention those examples to prove a point – that people who live below the poverty level aren’t necessarily lazy.

However, my pay scale was nowhere near what I needed to succeed in raising my children. Though I made just above minimum wage at some of my jobs, here's why I couldn’t make ends meet at so many others:

The federal minimum wage in 2009 was $7.25. Figuring on the LOW side, rent for a single parent of two children might have been close to $600 a month, food for three was minimally $200 a month. Babysitting was about $400, renters insurance was probably $50 a month, car insurance an addition $50 a month, and when you factor in electricity, phone, gas, heat, and water, you would probably have spent an additional $200. If you wanted cable, that's at least another $100. Gas for your car might have been another $75 a month. But let's leave out the cable, because cable is really not a necessity, is it?

A $15,080 year minimum wage salary equals $1,257/mo. Let's not forget to take out Uncle Sam's portion (approximately $188.55), which leaves you with about $1067 a month. And with deductions, you are left with...

- 600
- 200
- 400
- 50
- 50
- 200
- 75

...nothing AND you owe an additional $508 - $4,710 LESS PER YEAR (for an Illinois single parent raising 2 kids) than an EMPLOYED individual requires just to meet basic necessities. And remember, the costs I listed were probably so much lower than what people with two children would have paid, that you might have to add far more loss to the equation.

In any event, I have to ask, HOW is having a job making $508 less per month than you need to survive BETTER than not having a job at all? What is the tenant supposed to tell her landlord - "Sorry, I can't pay the rent - EVER - but at least I have a job." Or how about the utility companies? What happens when her children grow out of their clothes and shoes? When you make $508 less per month than you need to survive, you can't even afford items from the Salvation Army.

The employed person could better herself by going to school, but how will she pay for daycare and transportation? Granted some government programs are in effect for SOME individuals. If you want to go into nursing, for instance, you are guaranteed to find help, but the professions for which the government is willing to pay are limited.
Let's take the problem further. Can employers afford to pay more than minimum wage to their employees? Probably not. As it is, most employees have had benefits taken away from them, wage freezes put into effect, perks taken away, and yet they still show up for work every day.

They cut down, cut out, and still they can't meet the demands of life that require them to feed their children, clothe their children, and transport their children to the grocery store.

So what is the answer? Without a job, people have to go on public assistance. With a job, people can't afford to pay their bills and end up on the streets. If you can't afford to pay the bills for your home or apartment, you can't afford to live in your home.

Again, I ask, what is the answer?

I have a suggestion. What if the government expanded its list of eligible classes to include those for professions other than the limited ones they offer? Not everybody wants to be a farmer or a nurse.

And I would like to offer another ray of hope - a government job. Nowhere else will you find pay scales that increase, benefits that are in most cases superior to anything you would find in the private sector, and more job security than you would find anywhere else. If you can get through the initial phases of poverty, find government assistance to get you through that phase, find people who will agree to take care of your children (you could take care of theirs in exchange), you can find something that will bring you out of your conditions and into something better. (By the way, the government's retirement benefits are amazing.)

Even if the job is not what you had planned on doing with your life, you can train for other positions while you work. Eventually you can live the life you wanted to live. It will be tough, but aren't your circumstances tough now?

AND I have another idea – one that absolutely would NOT work because too many government officials would put a stop to it – allow individuals to sell home made items from the trunks of their cars or in front of their homes. Have them get a permit. Monitor their sales. Crazy, right? But I have to ask why some people are allowed to put open guitar cases in front of them while they play and get donations for their talents, when those of us who write books, crochet, paint, make jewelry, or build book cases are not allowed to do the same thing? 

Bottom line – is any job really better than no job? No. But planning and researching for a better way of life, and then implementing the strategies necessary for getting a better life is better than doing nothing.

By the way, if you’re against raising the minimum wage, I’d like to direct you to two sites listed below (notice how the minimum wage has not increased since 2009 (still $7.25 per hour), but the cost of living has risen nearly 8%. Think you can live on that? Take all your expenses and subtract them from the $1,067 I listed above. See how much you have left. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How would that work for you?”

Federal Minimum Wage Rates 
Cost of Living Calculator:
USA Jobs

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of Perception

Previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network May 15, 2011

"We see things not as they are, but as we are. Our perception is shaped by our previous experiences." ~ Dennis Kimbro (motivational speaker and author)

Four people sit in a room witnessing the same event, yet come up with four completely different testimonies.

Two sisters, who grew up in the same household, paint very different portraits of their parents.

Twenty students share one teacher, yet describe him twenty different ways.

What accounts for these differences?
Perception. Perception colors our senses and our actions. Perception sometimes distorts or warps our thinking, too, and forever imprints our minds with images that explain why we think the way we do. Perception can also turn lives inside out.
Let me give you an example of how perception affected the life of one little boy.
When Ryan was 2 years old, he suddenly developed a paralyzing fear of mustaches, though at the time his mother didn't know that the reason for his terror was the sight of a mustache. At the age of 2, Ryan couldn't articulate to his mother the reason for his meltdowns. His reaction to seeing a mustache became so horrific that his mother had to stop taking him out in public, because she didn't know what brought on his panic attacks.
When it was time for Ryan to attend school, his mother was still perplexed by his behavior until he started voicing his fear of men with facial hair. And when he became a young adult, Ryan grew a beard because, he told his mother, facial hair was a sign of power.
Not until then did his mother remember the event that triggered his terror. It had taken place when Ryan was two years old, just prior to his outrageous change in behavior. Ryan's mother had left him and his baby sister in the care of one of her best friends. The friend had a boy Ryan's age, a daughter his baby sister's age, and two older children. She was also married.
One evening, the friend who cared for Ryan placed the children around the dinner table. Before cutting the meat into bite-sized portions, the mother brought the platter of meat around the table with her as she placed one uncut slice of meat on the plate of each toddler. She then placed the platter with the remaining meat in the center of the table directly in front of Ryan.
Ryan, who didn't like meat, picked up the uncut portion from his plate and placed it back on the platter.
It became a moment frozen in time, because that one movement caused a series of responses that catapulted Ryan into a state of sheer terror.
From out of nowhere the husband of the friend who was watching Ryan slammed his fist into the table next to where Ryan was sitting. Ryan looked up to see the man with the mustache glaring down at him. Everything from the table bounced, drinks spilled, and all of the little children sitting around the table stopped moving as the man with the mustache flared his nostrils and screamed down at Ryan, "IN THIS HOUSE WE DON'T TOUCH MEAT AND THEN THROW IT BACK ON THE PLATTER!"
Instantly Ryan shook convulsively. The timing of his mother's arrival at that exact moment couldn't have been better.
Ryan propelled himself from the table like a rocket, ran out of the front door across the lawn to his mother, and gripped her legs so hard she had a difficult time removing them from her so she could pick him up. The friend ran out behind Ryan to tell Ryan's mother what had just happened. Both friend and mother were outraged. But they had no idea how that one event would impact that little boy for the rest of Ryan's life.
Ryan had witnessed the man with the mustache explode in rage, all of it directed toward him, for a reason that made no sense to Ryan (nor would it make sense to any other rational human being). That one event probably still impacts that man decades later.
Though Ryan was only two years old at the time of the incident, until his mother remembered the event, she had no idea why her son's reaction to seeing men with mustaches was so violent. Because he was so young, Ryan couldn't have told anybody why he feared men with mustaches, and his mother had no way of knowing why he was paralyzed with fear at the sight of them.
Early impressions impact us.
How many times do we suddenly feel sad or angry without ever knowing why? How many of us have had something happen to us in our formative years that prevents us from moving forward? Scents, sights, sounds, tastes, and even textures can trigger an emotional reaction in us without us ever being aware of the memory that lies buried in our minds or the initial event that caused the reaction.
We may never know not only what happened to us, but also why we react to certain situations with fear or rage. Our perceptions of those early years remain somewhere in our minds awaiting the triggers that cause an emotional response.
Perception affects behavior.
When we were infants, our form of expression prohibited us from accurately conveying our emotions. By the time we were old enough to express ourselves in any meaningful way, we forgot our early experiences. But our experiences would have shown through our behavior. As adults we often have to determine from our behavior why our perceptions are sometimes distorted or exaggerated.
Fortunately, we have the ability to change not only our perceptions, but also our reactions to situations that caused our behavior to disrupt our lives.
What we see is based on what we have seen. What we think is based on what we have thought.
Because we bring with us our own life experiences, whether we are in a classroom, in a grocery store, or at work, each experience provides a different backdrop for our individual abilities to perceive not only what we see, but also what we hear.
Our thoughts about politics, religion, the proper way to raise children -- every thought we have is affected by our individual experiences, memories, and reactions to those experiences and memories. And what makes our experiences unique is our perception of those experiences.
Perception explains what happens when a crime is committed and several witnesses make conflicting statements. They were at the same place at the same time witnessing the same event, but what they saw was different from what their neighbors saw. A tiny woman, for example, might say the thief was over 6 feet tall, while a tall man might place the thief at well under 6 feet. People bring their own perspectives to the crime scene.
Perspective establishes perception.
We sometimes forget that our perception determines our view of life. We can't understand why others don't "see" the world as we see it. Our perceptions, as Dr. Dennis Kimbro points out, are based on our previous experiences. And the combination of our senses imprints our brains with a variety of stimuli so that if we experience a traumatic event at the same time we smell something appealing, for instance, our memory bank will hold the two together in such a way that when we again smell that same scent, our brain immediately feels the connection and responds accordingly.
Our perceptions also motivate our behavior. If you remember cigar-smoking Grandpa with fondness, the smell of a cigar will trigger that same tender feeling even when you are in the presence of somebody who isn't as loving as Grandpa used to be.
The Perception Experiment
If you don't believe that perception can impact your beliefs about the way you see the world, try this experiment:
Blindfold four people and sit them in a circle facing outward in four different directions. Give them each a pad of paper and a pencil. Take off their blindfolds and tell them that they are to write down everything they see, hear, smell, and think, looking only straight ahead. Ask them to be specific. While they are writing, tap different objects with your knuckle or finger nails. Spray various scents or light candles or incense.
The point of this experiment is to show how four different people can be in the same room at the same time and yet experience things differently because of their individual perspectives.
One of my philosophy college instructors conducted a completely different experiment on perception -- verbal perception. He gave one student a picture that none of the other students saw. He then asked the student to describe to four other students what was on the picture using only lines, angles, shapes, and space indicators in his instructions. He was not allowed to tell them anything else about the picture.
As you might imagine, instructions can be vague. None of the pictures accurately conveyed the image that appeared in the photograph, yet one of students' rendition bore a slight resemblance to the photograph.
Before your perceptions cause deleterious effects, examine your experiences and the perspective from which you perceived those experiences. You may discover emotions, memories, and triggers that will reveal to you why you respond to situations the way you do.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Bullying and Accidental Death by a Sibling

When Sibling Rivalry Escalates to Sibling Abuse
Originally posted on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices Nov 22, 2011

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "After spousal killing, children killed by their parents are the most frequent type of family homicide." But children kill their parents, too, with fathers more likely to be killed by their children than mothers. And while not as frequently, brothers and sisters kill their siblings - "Brothers are more likely than sisters to kill a sibling," according to the same soure, but sisters kill their brothers, too, as you will soon discover.

The University of Michigan Health System states, "Experts estimate that three children in 100 are dangerously violent toward a brother or sister," but also references a 2005 study that "puts the number of assaults each year to children by a sibling at about 35 per 100 kids."

Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that offenders as young as 6 years old and as old as 93 have killed a sibling. The stories are heart-wrenching. The stats will have to change, though, as you will see from the clips below:

From abclocal, "Jahmir allegedly stabbed his 16-year-old brother Anwan to death in the family's Lansdowne home last week. Police say the stabbing occurred during an argument between the brothers over whose turn it was to play a video game."

From philstar, "Also included in the charge sheet are Revilla's younger sister, Ma. Ramona Bautista, and three others who reportedly helped them plan and execute the crime - Glaiza Vista, Norwin de la Cruz, and a certain Bryan."

Google news scanned an archived news article from March 20, 1950, in Fresno, California, about a 14-year-old girl who murdered her twin sister and said, "I hated her. I don't feel bad because my sister is dead…I'd kill Sally again if I had the chance." Psychologists claimed it was a case of sibling rivalry. I say it went beyond sibling rivalry and escalated to sibling murder.
From wistv, "…Leroy followed his sister into a bedroom where an altercation occurred and the woman stabbed her brother once in the chest with a knife….Leroy was pronounced dead at the home."
From CBSnews, in June, 2011, "Kansas City police say a 5-year-old girl drowned an 18-month old toddler last Friday to stop his crying….The girl and the toddler, Jermane Johnson Jr., were both left in the care of a mentally handicapped teenager, who was sleeping at the time of the incident…"
Sibling rivalry is not new. Sisters and brothers have been quarreling since the beginning of time. Most of the rivalry eventually turns into friendship as the child matures, but with the proliferation of bullying, sibling rivalry has to be viewed and acted upon differently today.
When children in the 1950s threatened to kill each other, the threats were generally empty, though as you can see from the above report, siblings killing siblings did occur and has been occurring - Cain killed Abel after all. But violence appears to be escalating, and threats have to be taken seriously. A child who today says, "I'm going to kill my brother," might actually kill his brother.
Parents who think it's just a case of sibling rivalry need to pay attention to the signs. Arguments between siblings where one sibling competes for a superior position in attempting to win an argument is rivalry. Punching, hitting, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, slamming against the wall, knocking to the ground, and other physical actions that result in pain or injury, along with psychological torment, are all forms of bullying and abuse.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, parents should look for these signs when assessing the difference between sibling rivalry and sibling abuse:
Does the child avoid his or her sibling?
Has the child's sleeping habits or eating habits changed?
Does the child have nightmares?
Does the child act out abuse in play?
Does the child act in sexually inappropriate ways?
Is one child always the aggressor while one child is always the victim?
Has the roughness or violence escalated over time?
Any one of those questions answered positively could indicate abuse.
Sometimes the child who bullies his or her brothers and sisters at home is him- or herself a victim of bullying, possibly at school. Daughters and sons may be ashamed or embarrassed to admit to their parents that other kids are picking on them. Parents must pay attention to indications of sadness, depression, aggression, and changes in behavior.
Parents need to look at their own behavior, too, because children look upon their parents as role models. How parents discipline at home will impress children who will imitate their parents. However, the type of discipline parents use could be construed as abuse by others.
A father once told me, after the school had noticed bruises all over his son's body (which they discovered after I called them to tell them that the boy had been thrown against the wall by his father), that his actions were not abusive, because his father threw him against the wall all the time and he turned out OK.
Any physical action parents take against their children that results in bruises, cuts, or even psychological damage shows children that to take control and to be the boss, they must act physically violent. And when children are bullied at school, they may come home and take out their frustration, anger, and rage (at being the target of bullying) on a younger sibling.
Some children act so completely out of control their parents are left wondering what prompted the unacceptable behavior. It's time parents delved deeply into their child's life to discover the source of the frustration.
When I married for the second time, my daughter from my first marriage became unmanageable after the birth of my second child. But when the third child appeared, my oldest daughter became enraged.
After talking to counselors, I discovered that she was jealous. She had me all to herself for 11 years and now suddenly she felt she had been replaced - first by my (now ex) husband, then by her sister, followed by a brother, followed by another sister. The anger she felt at me for disrupting her life was targeted against her siblings, mostly her brother, whom she would torment by scaring when nobody was looking (a tactic she learned from my ex when she was in her room watching the Exorcist one night - he scratched the door to scare her - his scare tactic was more than effective - it scarred her for years).
Sometimes the best action for parents to take (as a last resort or when other children may be at risk) is to remove the child from the home, and though the child will resent the action, the child has to learn that bullying, threats to kill, and violence are unacceptable.
The University of Michigan Health System states, "Sibling abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of one sibling by another. The physical abuse can range from more mild forms of aggression between siblings, such as pushing and shoving, to very violent behavior such as using weapons.

Often parents don't see the abuse for what it is. As a rule, parents and society expect fights and aggression among siblings. Because of this, parents often don't see sibling abuse as a problem until serious harm occurs (emphasis mine)."
Dr. Vernon Wiehe, professor of social work at the University of Kentucky and author of Perilous Rivalry: When Siblings Become Abusive, offers the following effective parental response when parents suspect sibling abuse:
"First, bring all children involved into a problem-solving process. Get enough fact and feeling information to assess the problem accurately.
Restate the problem to make sure you understand it clearly.
Help children to arrive at a child-set goal. (Goals set by parents often become rules that children will not follow.)
Figure out alternative solutions to the problem.
Work together to set up a contract which states the rights and responsibilities of each child. Specify appropriate ways of acting and consequences should abusive behavior occur in the future. You can take steps to prevent sibling abuse. minimize (sic) the violence they see (and might emulate) (parenthesis added) by monitoring what your children watch on TV. Reward sensitive, positive behavior among brothers and sisters. Most importantly, make it a point to be a model of positive and esteem-building behavior."
Don't wait until the violence escalates to the point of death. Save both the victim and the aggressor. 
Sources: (National Institute of Health - MedlinePlus) (Bureau of Justice Statistics) (University of Michigan)
Photo credits: Author/auteur: Paul Gustave DorĂ© Source: Scan from a Dutch bible. 
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

47 Ways to Build Your Child's (and Your) Self Esteem: A Self-Esteem Pilot Program for Parents and Teachers

Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network Aug 17, 2009

Raising children with healthy self-esteem is a goal for most parents. And with that goal in mind, the following exercises and discussions are designed to help children feel confident, responsible, motivated, and optimistic among their peers and with others. Taken one day at a time (though more than one can be discussed each day), these devices can establish and/or maintain healthy self-esteem while preserving a balance that prevents our children from becoming arrogant or from feeling insecure.

These steps are part of a "take action" program - to be printed, shared, practiced, and discussed. While biblical and other spiritual quotes support the reasons behind some of these approaches to building self-esteem, the steps to becoming self-confident are more spiritual in nature than they are religious. Becoming self-confident is about becoming other-aware and not about indulging in self-centeredness.

The focus of this self-esteem building program is on communicating with and listening to your children. Teachers can refine the program to fit within the guidelines of a classroom setting. Each step requires only about ten to twenty minutes per day, or it can take as long as you prefer. Before you begin to build self-esteem, though, you must first discuss with your children exactly what self-esteem is - that confidence in and respect for themselves is the most important factor in becoming loving, giving, and respectful adults.

1) Once the meaning of self-esteem has been discussed, it's time to talk to your children about how they feel about themselves. Would they change anything about themselves if they could? Would they act differently?

2) Shyness can be a problem for many children, but even if it isn't a problem for yours, this next exercise will help them become friendlier. On the playground or in school, tell them to introduce themselves to one other child who is the same age. Even young children sometimes fear approaching other children and this one friendly gesture could help build friendships. The practice will help build confidence.

3) Notice how your children talk to you. When they look deeply into your eyes, they are focusing on not only what you say, but also how you say it. If you find yourself straying from conversations with them, make it a point to really connect with your children by paying close attention to the things that matter to them. Make sure they have your undivided attention. It will teach them to respect their own opinions and give them the confidence to share theirs with others.
"I have learned silence from the talkative; tolerance from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind. I should not be ungrateful to those teachers." (Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam)

4) Pay attention to those times when your children need help. Allow them to ask for your help. So often relatives and friends of adults who never asked for help discover too late that their friend or family members were too afraid to ask. Everybody needs help from time to time, but keeping problems inside can cause unforeseen problems. Children should know that asking for help is sometimes necessary and that they can rely on you for help.

5) Look for humor in various situations. Even when somebody dies, remembering the funny times, the fun times, and the memorable times allows your children to view what normally is a sad affair through a more positive lens. Share your memories. Laughter laced with tears soothes the soul.

6) Start paying attention to positive moments, even, and most especially, in the face of adversity. The more positive children feel, the more likely they will feel better about themselves and their lives.

7) Guilt is a heavy burden for children (and adults) to carry. It may be God's way of nudging us to admit we might have hurt somebody. If you believe in God, tell your children that He/She lives in their heart and speaks through their conscience. Paying attention to their conscience will steer them in the right direction.

8) Truth is a difficult subject to discuss, because what is true for one person may not be true for another. Actual truth relies on facts but it also relies on judgments. And it often relates to perceptions. Open up a discussion about truth, judgment, and perception.

9) Talk about what it feels like to be hurt by somebody who is insensitive. Discuss forgiveness and talk about who might benefit from an apology. Apologies relieve us from feeling guilty.

10) Vengeance, retaliation, and blame are three ways children (and adults) avoid responsibility for the way they feel about being the target of unjust actions and unfair remarks. Ask your children if they have ever wanted to "get back" at somebody, and remind them that actions have consequences too. Sometimes another person's guilt caused them to inflict pain by insulting and hurting us. But retaliating is like punishing, and the punishment is not ours to mete out.
"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. "
"In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments - there are consequences." (Robert G. Ingersoll)

11) Letting go of bitterness is never an easy task. But the inability to forgive is an even heavier burden to carry. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. We never know how much guilt the other person carries.
"How shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?" (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

12) So often people try to change their family members, thinking that it's their job to remove perceived flaws. Discuss your perceptions of each other and learn to love each other for the way each one is and not for the way you want him or her to be.
"The beginning of love is to let those we love to be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." (Thomas Merton: No Man Is An Island)
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

13) Hug each other. Often. In the middle of the day, in the morning when you awaken, just before you retire at night, whenever you think about it, hug each other. Make the day a day of hugs.

14) Discuss what it felt like to feel the warmth of hugs all day the day before.

15) Believe that you are all gifted with a special talent. Maybe you haven't discovered yet what that talent is, but believe that one day you will unearth that talent. Discuss with each other what you think the talents of other family members are or what you think they would be successful doing. Try to figure out what your own special mission is in relation to that talent. How will you use it to benefit yourselves, each other, and society?

16) Talk about why you shouldn't judge others and about how nobody ever knows the whole story about another person. Maybe the person stealing food from the grocery store just lost her job and has no food to feed her children. While what she is doing is wrong, she probably sees no alternative to robbing and we should not judge her for her actions.

17) Explain how stereotyping is demeaning and degrading.

18) Discuss problems family members have with each other. Include everybody in the discussion. Brainstorm solutions and discuss the consequences and rewards for each person's behavior without belittling or talking condescendingly to each other.

19) Visit or send a card to a lonely older person or somebody who is sick. If you don't know of anybody who is sick, call the local homeless shelter or nursing home and "adopt" an older person or family.

20) Talk about how one person can make a difference. Refer to John Walsh who encourages people to do the right thing. Talk about how your individual talents can be the catalyst for change.

21) Show genuine appreciation to each member of the family. Praise each other for whatever reason comes to mind, present or past. Acknowledge each other's accomplishments. Discuss the types of things that deserve praise and acknowledgement.

22) Talk about how opinions are not a matter of right or wrong and that each opinion counts. Teach your children how to value their own opinions by using facts to support them and not by repeating what others say. Make sure the opinions are really theirs and not somebody else's and that they are not revealing an opinion only because they think what they are saying is something they think somebody else wants to hear.

23) Smile. Make an effort to use your facial muscles to smile. Alanon and AA have a saying, "Fake it until you make it." Even if you are not particularly happy today, act like you are cheerful, optimistic, and enthusiastic.

24) Talk about courage and what it takes to be courageous. Discuss various fears that require courage. What frightens your children? Discuss with them solutions to their worst-case scenarios. Facing fears with courage builds strength of character. Strength of character builds self-esteem. Teach your children the importance of standing up for their beliefs.
"For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me..." (Job 3:25)
"If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)
"The Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
" ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2)
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. " (Philippians 4:31)

25) Adopt the "what you give out comes back to you" philosophy. Offer to do something to help somebody. Doing things for others actually helps build self-esteem, because it makes you feel good about yourself. Do whatever you can whenever you can to insure positive results.

26) Talk about how to treat others. But don't just talk about it - be considerate, care about others, respect their rights, their opinions, and their property. Remember, actions really do speak louder than words.

27) Be knowledgeable and read good books. Learn about opportunities to discover your own special talents. Expose yourself to different learning experiences. Let your children discover who they are, even if it means discovering who they are not first.
"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness." (23rd Psalm)
"Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts." (Isaiah 55:7)

28) Talk about how being polite gets results. A simple please and thank you lets others know you care.

29) Teach your children to always seek ways to improve themselves and to take personal inventories. As adults, we too, should be aware of our shortcomings - if we don't know what those shortcomings are, we should ask somebody who loves us. Have pride in everything you do. Pray to get rid of your shortcomings. Recognize your good qualities, and give prayers of thanks and appreciation for them.

30) Discuss the benefits of having a goal (any worthy goal) and sticking to it (long- and short-term).
"Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." (1Corinthians 2:9)

31) Discuss how complimenting or encouraging others motivates them.
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18)

32) Teach your children patience - with themselves. If you ever watched a baby learn to walk, you know it takes many falls before baby finally walks.
"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart." (Psalm 27:14)
"Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard; that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of he earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)

33) Don't assume that people who love you know what you want simply because they love you. Teach young children to ask for what they need and not pout because they didn't get what they didn't ask for.
Ask and ye shall receive (first step) - but remember to be patient!
Seek and ye shall find (don't expect things to come to you).
Knock and it will be opened (don't just stand in front of a door and expect it to open - when you come to an obstacle, don't retreat - figure out how to overcome it).
AFFIRMATIVE PRAYERS RELEASE POWERS BY WHICH POSITIVE RESULTS ARE ACCOMPLISHED - (1) Prayerize (2) Picturize (3) Actualize (Norman Vincent Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking)
Never use a negative thought in prayer. Only positive thoughts get results.
If you expect to succeed, you will succeed.

34) Pray - for family and friends - for those less fortunate than you - for those with power to influence, so they may make the right decisions.
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive them." (Matthew 21:22)

35) Have faith in yourself - God, your Higher Power, or whatever it is you call the deepest part of yourself that connects to others, believes in you.
"If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed...nothing shall be impossible unto you." (Matthew 17:20)
"According to your faith, be it unto you." (Matthew 9:29)
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them." (Mark 11:24)
"Have faith in God for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith." (Mark 11:22-23)
"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23)

36) Teach your children that when they are feeling so low, the only thing they can think about is their own problems, reach out to at least one other person. Now is the time to shift the focus from self to others.
"...but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

37) Learn to be peaceful. Throughout the day, pause, take a deep breath, and relax. Remind yourself to take one moment for peace. In this fast-paced world, finding peaceful moments is like looking through a haystack for a grain of sand, but they are necessary.
"Fret not thyself..." (Psalm 37:1)
"Peace I leave unto you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
"Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile." (Mark 6:31)
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." (Psalm 23:2)
"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
"The peace of God which passeth all understanding." (Philippians 4:7)
"...a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4)
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." (Isaiah 26:3)

38) Exercise, dance, or do something physically fun, like jumping, running, roller-skating, swimming, or even playing hide-'n-seek. Fun time spent together lets your children know you love and value being with them. Energy begets energy and laughter, which is good for the soul, usually accompanies fun.
"This is the day which the Lord hath made; we shall rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4)
" Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)
"...I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)

39) Trusting God, our Higher Selves, or our Higher Power gives us more power because we know we don't have to go through this life alone. We can feel better about ourselves because we know we are not just our bodies, but also our spirits, our minds, and our souls.
"The Lord is the strength of my this will I be confident." (Psalm 27:1,3)
"...if it were not so, I would have told you." (John 14:2)

40) Recognize the strength of two or more gathering together for one purpose. Know also when to leave someone behind. Hanging on to a friend who manipulates or exploits you is reason enough to leave that person behind. But like-minded individuals can gather strength from each other, and the more positive the strength, the more energy results.
"If two of you shall agree on Earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)
"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)
"And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them." (Luke 9:5)

41) Hope is a powerful tool in building self-esteem, because you never lose sight of the fact that more always awaits you. Share your hopes and dreams with your children and invite them to share theirs with you. When you lose hope, you lose your reason to live.
"...because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19)
"Why seek the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5)

42) Create a ritual of sharing. Once a day, once a week, or once a month, make it a point to share something with each other. Whether it's part of a snack, a card you designed, a special dance or song you created, or even just your thoughts, take some time to share and talk about the concept of sharing. If you attend a church or if you contribute money to a charity, discuss your reasons for sharing. Sharing is caring, and it feels good to know that something you are doing helps lift the mood of somebody else. 

"There are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life and their coffers are never empty." (Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)

43) Take note of things you consider to be blessings. Start by acknowledging your children as blessings and continue to discuss all of the things in your life for which you are grateful. Ask your children to do the same.
"You pray in your distress; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy." (Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)

44) Maya Angelou once said something to the effect that when you look into your child's eyes, make sure that child knows, without a doubt, that you love him or her. Ask your children how they feel about your love for them. Do you demonstrate your love for them in a way that lets them know with certainty that you love them, or do they need more hugs or more assurances from you? You won't know unless you ask.

45) Make it a point from this day forward to compliment each member of your family every day. It forces you to focus on the positive and lifts the spirits of the person receiving the compliment.

46) Go over the exercises in this article and discuss with your children which ones they would like to repeat. Then make sure you repeat them.

47) If you have been following these steps all the way to #47, now is the time to discuss with your children any changes they've made since you began this program over a month ago. Do they feel more self-confident? Is your home happier? If so (and if not), repeat from #1.

If you would like to read more from this author, please visit me at any of the following places. Thank you for reading! 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Prepare Your Kids for Halloween – Teach Them to Be Unafraid of Masks and Scary Movies

Previously published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices and updated for Help for Single Parents

I don't mean to spook you with this horrifying observation, but costumes, masks, and scary movies sometimes frighten babies and young children.

When you look at it from the baby's point of view you can understand why. Creepy crawlers are everywhere! Every time the doorbell rings, baby sees a ghost or a goblin, a Freddy or a Jason, or some other gruesome character, blood dripping from its orifices, mumbling, "Trick or Treat!" Instead of slamming the door in their faces, Mommy and Daddy give these little gremlins something - that once belonged to the baby.

Soon the once calm infant becomes inconsolable and disintegrates into hysterical panic attacks. Daddy feels helpless. Mummy begins to feel like a soggy pumpkin. Drenched in baby's tears, they rock and comfort their crying child, and wonder how to calm him down. And they haven't even begun dressing him in his costume. Reassuring terrified little ones has always been stressful.

Well, not anymore. October, home of Halloween, is a great treat of an opportunity for you to discuss with your children tricks that cause them fear.

Here is how to desensitize your little goblins so scary things will seem less frightening to them. To help them discover something about the world in which they live - a world that, like little trick-or-treaters, is masked in deception - here is the skeleton for teaching the perception of deception:


Hopefully it won't take an axe for you to open your mind. Buried deep within your brain is your imagination. You must use it to treat the potions that fall from the fountain of fear in your children's minds. Start first by morphing paper into hats of various shapes and sizes to illustrate the effect of funny (example: clown) or scary (example: devil) or funny scary (evil clown). If you have other hats in the home, try them on as well.

Change your character with each hat you don. Act goofy with one. Be oh so prim and proper with another. In other words, assign each hat a personality. Then remove the hats and place them on your children's heads. Encourage them to vamp (act) the way the hats suggest.

Once the hats are ready for the graveyard, use one hat to cover your face. Voila! You've just made the transition from hats to masks. What a wizard you are!


Masks are a great way to introduce children to the cauldron of fear. Young children easily grasp the concept of a mask when they see you put one on and take it off in front of them. As you did with the hats, create your own paper-cut masks. Allow your children to be part of the creation process. Put the masks on yourself while your children are watching. Allow them to put masks on themselves too.

For babies, however, masks can be frightening - on or off. Instead of covering your face with them, leave the masks within reach and let your babies discover them on their own. They might hesitantly examine the masks or they may be too frightened to pick them up. More than likely, though, they will want to eat them.

Never force masks on children or babies. Even when they find them and examine them, don't suddenly put them on your face. Move slowly and watch carefully. When your baby registers fear, stop. Eventually younger children or babies will be giggling as they put on and remove their own masks.


Makeup also adds to the deception. Show your children the effect makeup has on a body or face and discuss - and make -- fake blood to enhance your credibility. offers several versions for making blood, both edible and non-edible. I think the edible versions have more to do with protecting babies who put everything in their mouths than they do with wikihow's desire to create vampires out of its readers.

Play Monster and pretend to scare each other as you shape your body into gelatinous blobs. Sorry, I went a little batty just then. What I meant to say was, move your body in distorted ways and act silly so your children can see the effect makeup has on the character you just created.


In addition to discussing fears associated with costumes and makeup, teach children the concept of deception with a demonstration of sound. Music with deep reverberating tones deepens the element of fear (think about the music in the movie, "Jaws" - try watching it with the sound turned off).

When my children were young, they were terrified of, but creepily excited about, scary movies. I tried to explain to them that what was scaring them was not necessarily only what they were seeing, but also what they were hearing. I showed them scenes with the sound on.

I then turned off the sound while my children watched frightened actors fumble their way through darkness - in silence. Lack of sound made for a much different movie.
Throw a blanket around your shoulders or over your head to use as a cape. Roar like a lion, growl like a bear, make screeching noises and howling noises, and get the kids to pretend they're lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!


What really helped me disentangle fear's stranglehold over my children was the videotape, "The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller," starring Rick Baker and Michael Jackson and directed by John Landis. That movie was an excellent tool for explaining the process of making scary movies.

You probably will not find a 60-minute DVD anywhere - I don't even know if any were made, but VHS tapes are still available for purchase. The video can run for as much as $46+, with used copies available in the $17 range.


Halloween can and should be fun and exciting. And while you attempt to alleviate your children's fears, remain aware of genuine justifiable fear. Because more frightening than Halloween costumes are masks of deception worn by trolls parading as humans. Beware of them. Protect your children from them. What kids (and sometimes their parents) don't realize is that not every monster arises from a coffin; he sometimes lives down the street or sleeps in the bedroom down the hall.

If you would like to read more from this author, please visit me at any of the following places. Thank you for reading! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Socializing, Peer Pressure, and Bullying: At Lunch, on the Bus, During Recess: Raising Confident Children and Managing Bullies

Previously published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices Sep 1, 2010
In their article, The Lunchbox Dilemma (which has apparently been removed since I first wrote this article back on September 1, 2010), Disney Family Fun advises parents to remember that lunchtime is also social time. But lunch time is not the only time children socialize. Throughout the day, children are given numerous opportunities to connect with other children - in the morning before school starts, during recess, at the playground when school is letting out, and on the bus.

Every school day, along with learning how to write their names, add numbers together, and read, children also learn how to relate to classmates, teachers, and others. With each new relationship, children learn more about who they are and who they want to become.

Peer Pressure and Pleasing Friends
As they learn how to relate to others, children gravitate toward people they want to emulate. They have a natural tendency to copy behaviors they find attractive. If they are confident and secure, they will nurture their own personal growth by adapting their behaviors in positive ways.
But if they lack confidence, they will feel they have to relinquish who they are in order for potential friends to like them. Afraid to voice their own opinions and not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, they become the person they think people want them to be instead of being who they really are.
Insecure children believe their opinions don't count, so they allow others to influence their decisions. Your child might like broccoli, for instance, but if his new best friend thinks broccoli is "disgusting," your son may decide he no longer likes broccoli. Afraid that his food preference will offend his new friend, he decides to imitate his new friend. He now hates broccoli because his friend hates broccoli.
Children need to learn that some people have tastes different from theirs, and that liking different things doesn't mean that what they like is wrong or that somebody won't like them because of their preferences.
To get children to better understand why they shouldn't like something just because somebody else does, try asking them to choose a food they despise. Then ask them, "If your friend insists you have to eat the food in order to be friends, would you start eating it?"
Children should know that their opinions matter, and that opinions are neither right nor wrong. And children who are confident in their abilities to think and choose are less likely to be picked on by bullies, because bullies like their opponents to be weak.
Why Some Kids Might Be Bullies
One place bullies find their victims is in the school cafeteria. Most children are fortunate in that they have caring parents who provide healthy meals for them. Some kids aren't as lucky, and they will manipulate your child into giving them whatever is in his or her lunch box.
Bullies often have parents who either don't care what they eat or don't have enough money to pack a nutritious lunch. And even if they eat lunches provided to them by the school, they may resent the fact that your child brings something they perceive to be better than what they have.
Parents of bullies are either absent, abusive, indifferent, or poor. Bullies feel they have to prove they are worthy of being in the same social class as your child, so some of them resort to bullying to get the foods they desire.
Meats, fruits, and vegetables are more expensive than peanut butter and jelly, so some kids bring PB&J sandwiches to school every day. Sadly, some kids pack sandwiches spread with only butter or mayonnaise and nothing else. Mom or Dad might not be able to afford lunch meats or vegetables, or maybe children prepare their own lunches.
How Sharing Lunches Could Fend Off Bullies
Unfortunately, some parents neglect their children and spend money on alcohol or drugs. In any event, it leaves the bully, whose parent is probably also a bully, without a nutritious lunch to eat.
To prevent your children from being bullied into giving away their lunches, provide some "sharing" food. Grapes, fruit snacks, or anything else you can imagine, can be "sharing foods" - foods to be shared IF your child wants to share.
Stress that the desire to share comes from your child; not from another child forcing your child to share. Children need to know that the choice to share is theirs and theirs alone.
Vulnerable Kids at Most Risk of Being Bullied
Behaviors sometimes change in different settings. Though we hope to raise assertive, self-assured children, some of them become victims of bullies in different environments. The bully's behavior shows up in the lunch room, at recess, or on the bus - anywhere they are most likely to avoid glances from adults while they engage in their bullying behavior.
Maybe these bullies come from homes where their parents brutalize them, and they don't know any other way to behave. Or maybe they're just seeking attention. But they have learned, probably at home, how to be a bully, and they know how to recognize weakness in others.
Bullies look for the most vulnerable children to antagonize. And they are finely tuned in to lapses in adult supervision. They will wait for teachers to avert their eyes during recess, for monitors to engage in conversation with other monitors at lunch, and for bus drivers to discipline other students when they employ their bullying techniques.
Teach Your Child How to Command Respect
NO CHILD has to play victim to a bully. Lunch time is social time. Recess is social time. After school and before school (on the bus) are times to socialize. Those periods do not have to be torturous for any child.
Eleanor Roosevelt's oft-quoted saying, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent," bears repeating. Remind your child, daily if you have to, that his actions will teach others how to treat him and that anybody who tries to intimidate him is NOT his friend.
Don't Expect Teachers or Bus Drivers to Monitor All Behaviors
While you might expect teachers, lunch room monitors, and bus drivers to be aware of everything going on around them in lunch rooms and on the bus, you have to realize that one bus driver cannot possibly pay attention to every single person on the bus AND pay attention to the road at the same time, nor can every monitor hear every conversation or pay attention to every single student at recess or in the lunch room.
Bullies are sneaky. They wait for teachers and bus drivers to engage in conversation or become involved with other students before they covertly terrify and threaten their vulnerable targets in such a way that teachers and monitors would never suspect the child is being bullied.
You CAN protect your child by teaching your child how to recognize bullies and to avoid bullies.
If you suspect your child is already being taunted by a bully, learn the signs that could identify your child as being a victim of bullying. Visit Stop Bullying (click the link) to discover the signs. If you detect any of those signs, talk to your child about bullying and discuss the negative effects bullying has on children.
Understanding Why Kids Bully
Bullies see bullying as providing them with a sense of power. Some bullies think that bullying gives them an automatic invitation to become part of the popular crowd. They don't realize that the people they manipulated into being their "friends" are not really their friends at all; friends may follow bullies, but only because they are afraid not to.
That pretense of power allows bullies to feel potent and invincible. Power is important to bullies - they enjoy watching their opponents weaken before them. In their need to control their environment, bullies have set up a defense mechanism that forces them to assault others before others assault them, regardless of whether or not the intended victim ever thought about attacking the bully.
Reporting Cases of Bullying
Whatever the reason for bullying, ignoring the bully does nothing to help an already bad situation. But having a child confront the bully may put the child in jeopardy, especially these days when guns and other weapons are so abundant.
Reporting the case to the parent of an offender might put you face to face with the bully's parent, who will probably be more threatening than the child. Bullies respond to confrontation with more bullying. Trying to reason with the parent of a bully can also be ineffective, because bullies often don't feel as if they are bullies and they will act as if you are picking on their child, thereby escalating their rage.
The best way to handle bullies is to report the incident to the school, encourage other parents and neighbors to stand up to the bully, and prepare your child with ways to deal with bullies.
Start by recognizing the signs and discussing with your child ways to deal with bullies.
Celebrate Differences
We are all different. Teach your sons and daughters to appreciate differences and not to change their own preferences because they think somebody else expects them to be someone other than who they are.
Teaching your children how to stand up for themselves at lunch, at recess, or on the bus will prepare them for dealing with other areas of their lives where they will need to take a stand.
To read more about bullying, go to the Health Resources and Services Administration or read the article that offers excellent advice for Dealing With Bullies.
Health Resources and Resources Administration
Personal Observations

If you would like to read more from this author, please visit me at any of the following places. Thank you for reading! 

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