Monday, July 02, 2012

“It Takes a Village To Raise A Child.”

So they say. Hilary Clinton even made it her slogan. But, in a cultural climate where individuals have been encouraged to believe that we are all out for ourselves, this raises some interesting culture clashes.

On one hand, there is a (right) premise that each one should practice their individuality and exercise their personal freedoms, regardless, of the impact they have on others. I hear the phrase, “As long as that is working for your family, I’m glad for you.” It’s the new “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”

On the other hand, we have become accustomed to being judged. The media fans the fires of “The Mommy War.” In essence, this attacks the very old cliched proverb which has allowed us as a species to survive.

So, many confusing messages! When should we intervene when a child is “stepping out?” I mean, do we know the circumstances of that child? Are they participating in the ADD and ADHD phemoenena? Is their child off of their meds? What kind of living hell are they in every day? No matter how wonderfully they attempt to modify this child’s behavior, it is never enough.

Even if I don’t believe in the “problem,” who am I to shove my viewpoints on others? Watching The War Against Kids, showed me how well we have taught ourselves to doubt children, each other and build bubbles around ourselves.

Because that is a theme right now. There is never enough. Scarcity, poverty and isolation combined with the ability to judge are good tools to help everyone isolate themselves from others.

So, we over-think. We are afraid to re-act. We silence ourselves, when by speaking out, we could make a difference.

When I was growing up, I could expect three “talking-to’s,” one ass-smacking and the phone ringing off the hook when I walked in the door. (This would be followed by a calculated administration of the belt with a predetermined number of lashes from an eerily calm parent and a “talking-to delivered by an attorney who treated me like a witness on a stand.)

These days, look cross-eyed at an out-of-control child; raise an eye-brow at a whining parent and get prepared for all of their unmet needs to come at your face like an angry hive of hornets. So, we all just turn away. We manage our discomfort in whatever way we have to. And we fear offering a helping hand because….it has become okay to bit the hand which actually offers substance.

Well - I still believe that every child within my eye-sight is my child. So, I offer these tips.

1. Step out of judgement. Offer solutions, not criticisms. Offer the best solution you have available at the time. “Gee, it’s hot. I have an extra juice box. May I offer to your child?” OR “Wow! It can seem like a really hard time to wait in a busy restaurant. Would you make me a picture? Here is a pen and paper.” Or “If your Mom says it is okay, I’d love to offer you some of my….whatever I haven’t put my mouth on and can’t be contagious.”

2. Honor your own beliefs without judging. “I’m sorry, I heard your mother say, “No.” In our house, that’s the final answer. Maybe next time you can take a walk with us. We’d love to have you.” OR “Buses can be very boring. Singing quietly can be fun. (Whisper) Do you know this song? Proceed to sing any good nursery song.”

3. Engage the parent. “Wow, is it like this for you everyday? Yeah. That’s hard. I’d be happy to look after your kids while you ran to the bathroom to take 5.” (Look over at the other embarrassed parent and affirm, “You’ll help, right?”

4. Praise the child or the mother. Child “Wow! You noticed that candy bar was on sale! Good reading! But, it might not be in the budget. I bet you can wait until it is. You are smart like that.” Or Mother, “Wow, I really admire a parent who cares about nutrition. (To the child) Your mother loves you sooooo much! She said no to that ice cream because she wants you to be healthy. You lucky, lucky child.”

5. Ask questions and state your own truth. (To the person in line behind you, watching someone smack their kid and call them names.) “I prefer to show peace than to demonstrate violence. Have you read about police officers arresting Kindergartners for temper tantrums? Mmmm…mmmm….mmmm. Guess it’s back to the plantations for all of us. Even the White folks who ain't rich.”

These are all just tips off of the top of my head. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we re-write our internal dialog. How we display it to the world. How we create new scripts for interacting with people around us in meaningful ways. How we stop letting a sickened society continue to divide and separate us. The way stopping to truly think about an aggravating situation can help us make new scripts which honor and see each other. To embrace that “acting out” is an expression of an un-met need.

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