Why families should tell TRAGIC stories to their children

 

world

In every culture that anthropologists have ever studied, people tell stories. Families most frequently tell stories around vacations, family reunions and the more children know about their family history, the healthier and more resilient they become. My grandfather was a great storyteller who used ‘parables’, when I was a child, to offer a life lesson without giving a lecture. Very effective they were, indeed!

Proposed by Journalist Christopher Booker, there are 7 basic plots that most often characterize these stories. They are:

  1. The Quest
  2. Voyage and Return
  3. Rags to Riches
  4. Tragedy
  5. Comedy
  6. Rebirth, and
  7. Overcoming the Monster

Read more here: Column: Why you should tell your kids tragic stories this holiday season

Good Parent- Bad Parent…Are You Certain?

airport hands

Situations, circumstances and contexts are important factors that influence our behaviors, attitudes and perceptions. Here’s why! The other day, while perusing the mall, I took a break from shopping to get something to eat. I headed for the food court, and decided to grab a bite from the Burger King. Standing in line ahead of me was a young African-American mother and her two children. One child, a boy, was crying and begging for a toy that he had just seen in a toy store. The children were about 18 months and 4 years old, I would guess.

So, she was holding the youngest child on her hip, and the 4 year old was standing beside her. Knowing children as I do, this 4year old had to have been crying and whining for quite some time. I mean he was uncontrollable and inconsolable, and certainly this woman was at her breaking point. They had probably been going in and out of stores for some time. Taking children shopping, small children, into store after store, in a mall, is challenging for the strongest of mothers.

In line with this crying 4-year old, they had  everyone’s attention. Well, she turned to her son and smacked him, but good. No, not in the face, but on his rear end. Not just one time, but she began to spank him, and it was as though she unleashed all  frustrations on this child. The result: more crying, and with all eyes upon her, she turned and looked up at one of the onlookers and said,” What are you looking at? Mind your business!” Oh, she had ‘attitude’, and I get that, though.

The cashier from behind the counter called out, “Next customer”, and the woman calmly placed her order. I know you’re thinking that she should have left the children at home. Some may even consider her an unfit mother, by witnessing that form of discipline and the pain inflicted upon her child. We may even consider notifying the authorities, or a child welfare  agency, who would have likely removed both of her children from her care. We don’t know whether she had any more children at home, but such an act, with good intentions, would have caused her family to enter the ‘system’ of monitoring, reporting and  referral mandates.

Would that have solved her problems, though? Would she have become a better, more effective and tolerant parent? Not necessarily! She would have to jump through hoops, and that is assuming she wasn’t involved already-social service, etc…However, if we take time to look beneath the surface, we may see that she is a wonderful mother, a single mother who works 6 days a week to take care of her family.

We may want to consider that everyday she worries about managing her budget while trying to pay rent to keep a roof over their heads. She struggled to keep food in her refrigerator, make sure that everyone had clothes that fit, and the baby had diapers. Her electricity bill was due,  Also, there was the need for transportation/bus fares for the daily work commute,  childcare fees, and so this mother juggles all of her take home pay to meet these demands.

She ran short of money this month, and went to a friend for a temporary loan.  Unfortunately she didn’t get it, and ended up going to her local social services office for assistance. She arrived early in the morning, which also meant taking a day from work. She rarely misses even 1/2 day from work, and usually doesn’t leave the offices until late afternoon. I would say that she was already frustrated before letting loose.in the line at Burger King. Had you not known this background information, the conclusion regarding her behavior or her response to her child in the midst of a tantrum, would be that she was unfit, abusive and should take parenting classes, and anger management too. Is it her fault completely, or the ‘system’ that surrounds her daily life? Just asking.

My conclusion regarding this scenario is that by anyone jumping to a conclusion that would have contributed to her stress, disrupt and traumatize this family, we would essentially punish everyone for her anger and form of discipline. Too often, as we encounter parents forced to make disciplinary decisions in public, we deem that parent ‘uncivilized, mean, too harsh. Rarely does anyone take into consideration the events that may have led up to the yelling, cursing, and threats they ubleash upon a child. We shake our heads and think, “shame, shame, shame” . Heaven forbid the parent is from a different race, because stereotyped perceptions also emerge.

Anyway, what happened to this boy? Well, he got an ice cream cone with his meal at Burger King, and she promised him the toy, if he was an obedient child with the babysitter and at home. That is fair, no? So, the moral of the story is: Never judge too quickly until we have walked a mile in the shoes of another. Also, if we find ourselves facing such moments, vow to be part of the solution, not the problem. Offer a hand in some way, or perhaps distract a child, empathize with a parent, nicely and respectfully offer a tip from your best parenting practices….part of the solution!

 

Why School Leaders Promote Racial Literacy

 

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School leaders must slow down long enough to take a good hard look at this imposing, yet routinely unacknowledged presence of racial tension. When we stop avoiding it, when we stop pretending it’s not there, when we stop thinking that it’s not an issue that deeply affects schools, we can make huge strides in our diversity work and focus on teaching and learning.

It is the unacknowledged silence about the racial disparities in the school climate, a silence that makes it hard for teachers of color to raise, discuss, or face conflicts related to race. The silence is generated by the dominant culture, undermines the experiences of teachers of color, and perpetuates policies and programs that make true advancement in our respect for diversity difficult, if not impossible.

The question that rises to surface in all such situations is in regard to how a school community responds to such knowledge. There is a tendency in schools to deny the existence of the issues of race and privilege raised by faculty of color, or, if acknowledged, there is little room to discuss them and fix the culture accordingly. It’s also clear that much of the power for making the cultural change needed starts at the top.

Quite simply,  school leaders set the tone for how and how often a school community engages in conversation about equity and inclusion. There’s great value in hiring a “diversity/multicultural/equity and inclusion director” or “Integrated Equity Executive”, but the existence of this position does not absolve the head from taking leadership in this work.

Part of paying attention to issues that undermine the experiences of teachers of color means that heads also examine their school’s hiring practices, beyond just aiming to have a finalist of color in every candidate pool. But the number of ‘interview-weary’ teachers of color remains too high.

It has taken some time to really grasp the essence of diversity, equity, and inclusion work and, thus, understand what undermines the success that schools strive to reach through this work — and to address issues that are consistently voiced by diversity practitioners. In the collective research, a key theme is how privilege, power, and fear of talking about race have prevented schools from creating an inclusive and diverse school community. Collective organizational vision draws its power from the narratives of the majority group. A school that resists or dismisses opportunities to understand or question that narrative is less likely to have practices or policies that address diversity. If we wish to teach and graduate globally competent, college and career ready learners, then we must exhibit and embrace our own global competence. That means that, collectively and individually, schools must demonstrate that which we wish to see.

 Talk the talk! Walk the walk! Walk the talk!

The most socially responsible thing we can do is to prepare our students to be culturally literate in an increasingly global community, equipped to interact with a broad range of people. But we can’t complete this work without a well-functioning diverse adult community in our schools. And we can’t have a diverse adult community in a school without addressing issues of inclusion and equity. Cultural or racial literacy won’t appear simply because we use the word “diversity” on a daily basis. Even when diversity policies are in place, we aren’t guaranteeing a racially literate organizational climate, practices or perspectives.

Learning how to negotiate racial conflicts won’t become less stressful because we remind our schools about the ideas of social justice in our mission statements. Learning how to accurately read and interpret racially stressful social interactions in our school politics and relationships to engage  assertively and competently takes courageous leadership ….. and takes practice.

In school settings, leadership in racial literacy means being able to:

  • face racial conflicts as challenges rather than as threats;
  • resolve your own stress during the moment of a racial crisis;
  • evaluate your stress vulnerability and management after each crisis;
  • use relaxation strategies to resolve stress responses that ignite avoidance of racial encounters;
  • seek help from experts to resolve any racial conflict;
  • keep a log of case studies of racial conflicts that allow you to learn from mistakes and triumphs; and
  • develop mission statements that support the aim of a well-functioning diverse faculty.

Acknowledging racism, implicit and systemic bias, disparities and privilege, while a good first step, is not enough. It will only allow schools to treat the symptoms of racism and privilege, and does not address the root cause. Organizations serious about authentic change will need to draw upon the narratives of individuals from multiple groups in order to better understand their racial realities and embrace the differential stressfulness of those realities. Helping the school community develop intercultural competencies through practice can move education further than just relying on fixed and rigid diversity plans and policies.

Outcome: As we become racially literate, our practices can positively facilitate proactive change and reflect ‘culturalinguistic’ proficiency/ racial literacy. You may call it innovation, I call it progress!

How Family Meals ARE Absolutely Beneficial Quality Times

fam table

In today’s family, regardless of structure, busy schedules of both parents and their children make it harder than ever to have “family dinners”. Some families may not be aware of the benefits that come with everyone eating meals together at the dinner or kitchen table.

In fact, family mealtimes are a hot topic in social science research. Research suggests that having dinner as a family at least 4 times per week has positive effects on child development, nutrition, education and communication.

Family meals have been linked to lower risks for obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and increased chance of children graduating high school.

Eating with the family provides the opportunity for real conversation without distractions. No phones, TV, PCs, and no mobile devices- just the family!

When parents engage their children in conversation,  they teach listening skills and provide opportunities for children to express themselves, as well. No longer is it acceptable to subscribe to the adage ,”Children should be seen, and not heard.” Give them their voice at home, and they will learn to use their voice outside of the home. Becoming assertive, not aggressive, your children will learn to speak their minds, respectfully, ask questions and speak up for themselves, as self-assured self-advocates, too.

 

At the dinner table, parents can promote vocabulary expansion and accelerate reading abilities, regardless of family income or socioeconomic status. Every parent or caregiver can make the most positive contributions to empower their children with foundational academic readiness skills, and enhance their children’s existing school performance.

Participation in dinner table conversations offers children opportunities to acquire vocabulary, practice producing and understanding stories and explanations, acquire general knowledge, and learn how to talk in culturally appropriate ways

Every family member can, while enjoying a nutritious meal, encourage conversations at the dinner table.

Consider these suggested approaches to dinner table conversations:

  • Discuss current events and world news that’s age appropriate.
  • Let every person talk, and practice active listening.
  • Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to hold a conversation. Even your youngest will respond to conversations that stimulate and offer invitations to speak at the dinner table, particularly when it may be that only the adults do the talking.

The sense of security and togetherness provided by family meals helps nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults. Frequent family dinners have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem.

Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand and follow the boundaries set by their parents. A decrease in high-risk behaviors is related to the amount of time spent with family, and especially during family dinners.   To make the most of your family mealtime, try to set your mind on positive bonding, keep the outside world where it is-outside. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Turn off your devices, the television, the radio, etc…, during dinner.
  • Have family dinners at least four or five times a week.
  • Keep conversations positive while everyone is at the dinner table.
  • Spend or dedicate an hour eating dinner, conversing and even while everyone cleans up the table, dishes, and putting away leftovers.

Eating dinner together as a family also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a model for children to carry into adulthood. Families who eat dinner together tend to eat fewer fried foods and drink less sodas.

Some mealtime suggestions:

  • Cook as a family and include everyone in the process.
  • Try some fun and creative recipes.
  • Remake old recipes with healthier alternatives.
  • Have “theme” nights such as Mexican, Italian, Asian….         Tip: When planning your themed meals, you can increase your child’s cultural awareness, and appreciation of diversity. For each cultural ‘theme’, do a little research about the main dish and  share your cultural insights with the family.  As a topic of discussion, everyone learns. If you plan meals a few days ahead of time, ask your children to gather one fact about the culture to share at dinner time. Everyone learns once again!
  • Know your child’s favorite meals and make them on a rotating basis.
  • Create your own recipes.

whiskSo, quit eating on the go, and take time to engage the family in quality time and enjoy nutritious food for the body and the soul, made from love!