Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review
When I read the Amazon reviews for this book, I noticed a very telling comment: "I wish I had this book when my children were young." The same could be said about our own childhood. When we were kids, bullying was just something we dealt with at school. We had to deal with homework and with academic pressure, and we had to deal with our changing bodies and our changing identities, and we had to deal with bullies.

Well, there are good news and bad news. The bad news first: Bullying is taking on new forms. Bullying is not just the kid blocking your way in the hallway, and it's not the group of girls talking about you while you sit alone during lunch. Now bullying extends to text messages, to Facebook pages, to websites devoted to making fun of other kids, and more. But there are also good news.

Bullying is no longer a given. It is no longer acceptable to raise a bully--a bully is now a stain on the family, rather than a sign of a strong personality. Families of bullies fight bullying, families of victims fight bullying, teachers, principals, cities, states, and countries do not accept bullying as an inevitable part of childhood anymore.

This book, The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention, follows the recent movie, Bully (created by one of the co-writers of this book), which aimed to shed a light on the phenomenon. The book, however, continues where the movie left off: illuminating a problem is not enough, and this book is more interested in moving the conversation the movie started onto the next stage: solutions.

Some of the chapters in the book include theories about bullying, others point at different types of bullies and of bullied kids, and most importantly, the book contains steps we can take as parents of bullies, as well as of bullied kids and of bystanders--the kids who let bullying happen, and who may be the key to solving the problem.

There are some issues I had with the book. When you try to write a chapter about types of bullies and about the difference between bullying done by males and females, for example, you end up using broad generalizations. These may be necessary to use in this type of book, but it is still unfortunate that they exist.

I also had a philosophical problem with a chapter dealing with steps we can take to help a bullied kid, by teaching him he stands more of a chance to be left alone if he learns to appear more assertive by looking the bully in the eye. It may be true, and it may be very helpful, but I had a problem with the message it sends: that bullying is a result of a victim's perceived weakness. Again, it might be helpful, but does a bully really deserve society's attempts to appease him? I'm much more interested in ways for schools to act to stop bullies, and for parents to make sure kids don't turn into bullies.

Fortunately, these issues are dealt with as well, later in the book. There are also chapters on educating the victims--telling them that what happens to them is not normal and not a natural part of life, but something that must be stopped.

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

"Your reaction to the kinds of behavior your child is experiencing can help him see that bullying isn't okay, and he doesn't deserve it."

There are chapters that include "Plans of Action," once bullying has been discovered.

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

And there is even an appendix that includes samples of pledges and letters we can use in schools, or send to other authorities, in case dealing with a school does not bring the result we had hoped for.

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention And Intervention -- Book Review

This book is an indicator of a positive change on the one hand, and of the long road still ahead on the other hand. But more importantly, it is a tool people can use to change society class by class, school by school, and city by city.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breaking News: Dads Search for Balance Too

A few weeks ago, a small controversy erupted after Lisa Belkin wrote an end-of-2012/beginning-of-2013 article on Huffington Post: Trends in Parenting: 13 Things Moms and Dads Should Expect to See in 2013. The problem some people (me included) had with Belkin was that the article was very momcentric. 12 of the things parents should expect to see in 2013, according to Belkin, relate to motherhood, and one item deals with dads. Basically, we should expect dads to keep on daddying.

Belkin's response to the criticism was that she wasn't being momcentric, but simply reporting on the current (and future) issues that made news, and that motherhood made news. Fatherhood, on the other hand, was just there. Men observed, helped, and sometimes complained about diaper commercials, but ultimately, parenting was a women's issue.

Which is why I think I need to jump in and deliver the first great parenting story of 2013, which surprisingly stands in direct contrast to Belkin's predictions: Dads search for balance too.

I know, who would have thought.

The story of moms searching for a family-career balance made Belkin's list. It's a very interesting story, don't get me wrong. It's a story about changing identities, and about society, and about types of jobs lost and gained in a service-based economy, and it's a story of shifting priorities. But it's not only a motherhood story, and that's where Belkin got it wrong.

For every mother who is no longer content in being "just" a mother, there's a father who now sees his life as a failure if he doesn't spend enough time with his kids. For every mother tipping her personal balance toward career and self-fulfillment, there's a father who realizes self-fulfillment can also be found in a game of Candyland.

Being a man, and more specifically, being a stay-at-home-dad, I am naturally more drawn to stories about fatherhood. I assume the same is true for Belkin with stories about motherhood. The reason she didn't write about fatherhood in her article wasn't that there weren't valuable stories to be told, but that she didn't look for them.

But every story about a mom looking for balance has a male equivalent.

Every story about a mom who was asked to leave a restaurant because she was breastfeeding can be followed by a story about a dad dragging his infant twins around an airport, searching for a changing table in a men's room.

Every story about the way mothers were sought after by both political parties at the conventions can be told alongside a story about the way fatherhood was ignored by both parties.

Men search for balance, and men search for their true identities in a changing world that will define them and relegate them to #12 in a list of 13 if they don't define themselves. The world is changing, and we are changing with it. And our stories are worth telling.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Auto-Pilot: Pros and Cons of Staying Home With the Kids

Honestly, I can't complain.

I've got it made: an amazing wife and kids, and an old dog that sleeps 23 hours a day. I have high speed Internet. I have a machine in the kitchen, that when I pull a lever, cold clean drinking water comes out. And I have another machine in the bathroom, that magically takes away stuff I don't need, and makes it disappear. I have it better than 99% of the people in the world, seems like.

And as a stay at home parent, my job is not to bring home a paycheck, but to bring up good kids, and that makes me an incredibly lucky person. I hated office politics, ties, smoke break abuses, sticky notes on food items, passive aggressive signs in bathrooms, and forced interactions with the uninteractables. I've been away from that insanity for 5 years, and I haven't missed it for one day.

People who think about staying home with kids, though, must know the cons as well, because these are not things anyone can imagine before making the decision.

Being around kids is inspiring. They are these unbelievably honest creatures, and the cliche about learning from them as much as they learn from you happens to reflect reality. They are untainted by prejudices and unmoved by justifications and false excuses for morally ambiguous decisions. The world is what it is in their eyes, and we are what we are, and every time I take the wrong path, I see things in their eyes, and realize I should do the right thing.

They inspire me, but that inspiration ends there, since most of the day, I don't have time to think. Stay-at-home parents spend most of their days on auto-pilot, since any deviation means not getting through the morning routine on time, which means being late for school. It means lunch will be late, which means nap time will be late, which means either a tired kid who falls down a lot after a short nap, or a 2-hour struggle to put the kid to bed at night.

Stepping away from the auto-pilot to do simple things, like talking on the phone or watching that short segment on the news, or god-forbid, writing a blog post, means our kids see us ignoring them, and they either internalize it quietly or complain loudly. If my kids feel ignored, then I'm failing at my job, and if they complain loudly about it, well, I can't talk on the phone or write anyway.

So we reward ourselves a little with mostly brain-dead activities. Five minutes on Twitter, four on Facebook. We leave a comment on Instagram, and find a funny GIF on Reddit. Like this one.

And then we look back, at a rare moment of reflection, since a longer moment of reflection is something we simply cannot afford, and we think, "What the hell happened to us? We used to be cool, and we used to be edgy. We used to listen loud music." (And we used to be able to reflect on our own lives without resorting to a more distant WE as a lame defense mechanism.)

So let me use an I from now on.

I can't say I'm completely brain-dead, and honestly, my 40th birthday is coming up, so the brain-death might be simply about getting older. Back in the olden days, after all, 40-year-old great-grandparents would be asked to leave the camp, so no wonder our evolution didn't see fit to keep our brains developing past 28.

I end up with tiny slivers of virtual me-time on Twitter and on Facebook, because I don't want to wake up my brains and fool it into thinking I'm going to use it until after the kids are asleep.

Two things happen after the kids are asleep, though: First, you're still on the clock. Kids wake up. My five-year-old only recently stopped doing that, just in time for the 2-year-old girl to start her night-time routine of asking for water, then asking for help in the bathroom because she drank all that water, then one of her dolls falls on the floor, and then she can't find her paci in the dark. Making the switch away from auto-pilot takes a long time, then, but eventually everyone is asleep, so I make the switch, and I'm a human being again! I can think and reflect, and read, and write, and I can do all these things I had been taking for granted before I stayed home, and then, 10 minutes later, I fall asleep too.

I don't dream of a better world, and I don't dream intricate plot twists for a book. My sleep is too messy, too fragmented to think big thoughts, since I can be woken up at any second. I'm on call.

So I close my eyes, and see that dancing dog, over and over again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013



I've recently discovered Lunarbaboon (via Reddit), a self-described "half man/half moon monkey trying to make sense of it all." Hey, aren't we all.

Lunarbaboon lives in Canada, a place where people don't officially pursue happiness the way they're legally mandated to do here in the US, which seems to make life in Canada that little bit more introspective than it is here.

I'm shamelessly stealing sharing one of his comics below. If you want more, click HERE to see the rest of his comics.

Lunarbaboon Angel

Oh, OK, one more:

Lunarbaboon Two


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