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Teaching to the positive, not the negative

Posted by Lissa on April 20, 2012

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to teach lessons to kids, as well as how this ties in to societal norms, shame, and stigma. Let me explain . . .

Just looking at the data, the best way to stay out poverty is to get an education, not bear or sire children out of wedlock, get married, and stay married. People who do that are much less likely to live below the poverty line; children raised in such situations are more likely to do well. (I’ve read this in enough places that I’m stating this as fact; however, if you really want me to dig up the studies, I can do that. Also, this is NOT a knock on my single readers; I’m speaking in broad generalities. My friends who happen to be single are doing just fine, thanks.) Furthermore, it is detrimental to one’s health to be obese. While I don’t buy the “OBESITY IS GONNA KILL US ALL ZOMG!!” stuff, kids who are overweight will suffer both health consequences and social/professional knocks.

So. I want my kid to believe that such behaviors – dropping out of school, having babies out of wedlock, being unhealthily overweight, etc. etc. – are bad and to be avoided.

BUT . . . I *also* don’t want my kid judging people who *do* reflect such behaviors (are obese, have a child but no husband, etc.) as *bad people.* It’s generally a waste of time to judge strangers anyway, and it’s impossible to know what factors played into their decisions. (Can YOU tell by looking whether that’s a single mother whose kid never knew its father, or whether it’s a widowed army wife? I can’t.)

I want my kid to grow up with a good sense of what’s healthy and what’s not, what will better lead to life success and what will make success more difficult, while still being compassionate and not overly judgmental.

On the face of it, it seems an impossible task.

The only thing that I can think of is to teach to the positive, not the negative. To try to reflect as many healthy behaviors in my own life as I can (while knowing dam’ well I’ll never be perfect person, let alone a perfect parent). To point out good role models (relatives, athletes, fictional and nonfictional heroes, etc.) while not pointing out seemingly *bad* role models that we pass on the street.

What do you think? Parents, how have you handled this with your kids? Whether you have kids or not, do you think this approach makes sense? What can be added?

P.S. Stay tuned for the “Manifesto of a n00b parent”, coming soon!

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3 Responses to “Teaching to the positive, not the negative”

  1. Jennifer said

    Just so you know, you will screw up and fail at parenting. I don’t mean this as a personal thing. I mean that we all screw up and fail. Good parents will recognize it, address it, and try to do better. Yes, absolutely teach the positives, but there is value in warning of the dangers too. Obesity is unhealthy, but an obese person does not have less value. They are not defined by their body.
    Above all, be honest with your child. The core values that you attempt to model and instill in your child must be your true values. If you don’t believe it all the way to the core of your being, your kid will know it. And when you fall short, own it-don’t try to cover it up. Kids are amazingly observant. Everyone screws up, it’s what you do next that matters. Do you learn from it and become a better person? Or do you give up and accept failure? I think you know which lesson you’d prefer your child to learn.
    But what do I know anyway? I’ve screwed up and failed at parenting. And my teenager impresses me every single day with the man he is becoming.

  2. Brad Kruse said

    1) Discipline is the will to complete a task.

    2) So-called “disiplinary action”, intervention to change another’s behavior requires both the responsibility to correct the other’s actions, attitude, and values, and also the authority to intervene in another’s life. Parents have this responsibility and authority in their children’s life, prison warden’s, work supervisors, military superiots do as well. Bullies, thugs, and busybodies do not. Nor do neighbors.

    3) Character counts. Associate with those of good character, those honest and honorable. Deserve their respect to belong to that community.

    4) There are two distinct communities. The formal economy is based on cash, and includes stuff like wages in money, allowances, tuition and food costs, etc. The informal economy is the interaction of people that is not measured in cash, between family and community members, polite and courteous gestures and helpfulness are entirely informal. Chores like cleaning your room, caring for your mate or child or parent or friend are informal. To be rich or even well-to-do, you *must* rise above the “poverty” line in both economies, simultaneously. Focus too much on one or the other, and you risk being taken advantage of, or being impoverished one way or the other through foolish sacrifice. Though I think the informal economy might be the most important to survival of family and community. Raising a garden, stretching dollars ’til they squeak among friends and family in an atmosphere of mutual respect and contentment seem a lot more enduring than mere dollars in the bank or in the hand. You seldom buy character or real respect.

    5) Even the village idiot has a story to tell. Conversely, it does no good to yell “You are an idiot,” at the village idiot; it makes you look silly, and it does you nor the idiot any good.

    6) I asked Senator Dr. Coburn (R, OK) about various obesity factors (chilled foods and drinks, corn and artificial sweeteners, time spent sitting — all things that exploded about the same time as the rise in obesity). He responded with a link to the National Institutes of Health page on obesity, http://www.obesityresearch.nih.gov/. Ahem. This looks more like a roster of federal spending than useful information for someone trying to recover/avoid obesity. (John Tesh’s “Intelligence for Living” reports that when vertical, pressure in the butt and legs *turns off* the hormones that cause the body to store fat. Who knew?) One radical approach might be Dr. Wahls veggie diet (http://youtu.be/KLjgBLwH3Wc) — I figure any dabbling in her recommendation is better than none, two to five times a week instead of her three times a day.

    7) There is no humor without pain. Humor requires someone to be hurt, humiliated, denigrated. Joy, on the other hand, only grows in a respectful context. Excitement depends on fear and danger; satisfaction and contentment are sustainable without danger or fear.

    8) Fred Jones wrote a book “Tools for teaching”, that explains some of the background and useful techniques for classroom discipline. I found that much of it applies for parents, both explaining why a good teacher does some things, what the expectations are about the child, and how important the parent is in the child’s learning success. There are many important tips, such as adrenaline — anger, in the example — takes 28 minutes for the hormone to stop affecting behavior and judgement (of the teacher, in the example), but it takes minutes to build to a peak. Take a calming breath when you start to feel the effects, to reduce the peak level of effect, and allow for the distortion in judgement for the affected period.

    9) Character and the aptitude and interest in a shared life, in being co-parent, are important in a prospective mate than physical attraction. Dates should *confirm* a prospect as a potential partner; mere social recreation is a slippery slope. The ability to attract dating (or more intimate) partners is a horrible life-skill in a mate; people don’t lightly put aside that kind of skill for long.

    10) Time spent in work with parents is more important than time spent merely near, or in play. Children listen and watch; watching and hearing parents on the cell phone or computer rob the child of the concepts of communication and language development. Time spent with electronics (TV, computers, portable music and video players, electronic games and cell phones) also grew as the obesity and ADD/ADHD problems grew.

    11) Marketing and advertising at the store and on electronic channels are intent on solving the merchant’s problems, not enriching your life or mine. False values about fashion, about recreation, about quicker-easier-more prestigious enrich others in the formal economy, often to the ruin of the informal economy.

    Enjoy!

  3. guffaw1952 said

    What everyone else said.
    And hug them EVERY DAY and tell them you love them!

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