Kindness Begins at Home

instagram kindness begins at home

You is kind.

You is kind.

Dare I say it again? You. Is. Kind.

This is one of my favorite lines from the book The Help. I love everything about those words, and the accompanying words in the novel of You is Smart and You is Important. Everyone needs to to remember that about themselves daily.

Unless…you aren’t really.

I am not an expert on intelligence and importance in the world, so I don’t feel really qualified to give an indicator of where someone else stands on the scale. Because of that, I’ll let anyone who wants to be smart and important have it. You is smart. You is important.

But truthfully,  you is not always kind.

I see it, your friends see it, your teachers see it and experience it probably worse than others. And your siblings….

If asked, could your siblings say you is kind? Is kindness a word the people you share a bathroom with would use to describe you?

As my friend Gillian says when she wants me to dig deeper about my fears, let’s unpack this a bit further.

My kids are very close in age. I don’t think there is a time they remember not having siblings. As the youngest, Jada obviously wouldn’t remember it but when asked, the older two don’t remember the single life (or the twosome life) either.

According to the kids, I am out of touch with sibling dynamics. Or as they say it, sibling code. Because apparently my children believe they can say anything to one another, no matter how rude, insensitive, or inappropriate it is, and its okay because they are siblings. As an only child, that was not my experience.

When they were little, the arguments over toys were expected. I could even mediate the “she said she’s your favorite” discussions. But at the ages of 12, 14, and 15, when the scowling and expressions behind my back resemble that of a fight scene from West Side Story, I have to draw the line. They know better.

And this is what I preach and live and fuss and study and preach some more about every day. I’ve demonstrated kindness, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to allow the children to see me being kind to others and I’ve talked about why kindness matters until I’m blue in the face. We even have a list displayed on the refrigerator of possible random acts of kindness that we could all do for people to make a bigger impact on the world.

However, I’ve found that buying the person’s drink in the Starbuck’s drive through  line behind me means nothing if I’m treating the people I say I love like crap.

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Last year my phrase was People Over Things. As I can’t seem to remember how that came to be my phrase, I can remember that I wanted to perform more intentional acts of love to the people I love the most. If you need a refresher, I blogged about it here and here.

And this year for Valentine’s Day, I gave each of the kids a set a cards they could hold on to over the next 10-12 months as a reminder of how much I love them. I did this because, well, I’m teaching kindness.

Or so I thought.

Last fall, as a family we committed to performing Random Acts of Kindness. The agreement was that all four of us would do them as often as we could. One of us even wrote a speech about performing Random Acts of Kindness for a school project. That speech won all kinds of praise from teachers and classmates and from me as a proud mom.

When we arrived home from school the very day of the kindness speech, no less than hour after telling the world (or the whole middle school) that we are kind, something no-so-kind happened. The angelic  child who was so full of sharing kindness with the world stuck a middle finger up at one sibling and told the other sibling to go to hell not even five minutes later. The reason? Oh, it’s because they were all in the hallway at the same time.

Who does that?

As I witnessed that exchange I realized that I needed to become a participant observer of the habits that occur daily  in my house. (Shout out to the sociology classes I took in college.) Y’all, it didn’t get better. It was not an isolated circumstance. I was shocked.

My kids are not kind.

I realized that as a parent my shift and my focus on this whole kindness thing needed to change. Since we’re being honest here, I’m sharing my story, but it’s very possible that yours might need to change as well.

Please, stop teaching your children to perform Random Acts of Kindness. Instead, teach them this:

  1. Kindness begins at home. I cannot teach my children to be kind to others if we are not kind daily to one another. We have to live kindness in order to be kind.
  2. Kindness is intentional. Each day I have to remind myself to be kind. It’s a must. If I don’t do it, well, in the midst of laundry and dinner and after-school tutoring and life it’s easy to forget.
  3. Kindness makes life better for someone else. My kids like to say, “Well I moved the chair for you. Isn’t that enough?” The answer my friends, is “No, it isn’t enough if the chair wasn’t in my way.” Sometimes we think are performing a service or an act because we think it will help a situation. The truth is, it doesn’t always. If your act of kindness doesn’t make like better for someone, it’s null and void.
  4. Kindness means you are not the center of attention. The intent on being kind is to move the focus to the person receiving the act. It’s not about you.
  5. Kindness may mean you are temporarily uncomfortable so someone else can be comfortable. Yep.
  6. Kindness is issuing a sincere apology. You know that children learn very early in life to apologize when they do something wrong. Guess what? We’ve taught them to say sorry almost instinctively, without really thinking about actions and consequences. “Sure I told the guy you have a crush on that you serenade him every night in the shower. Sorry.”
  7. Kindness is asking to borrow something and returning it timely. For me, this one is pure karma. When I became a teenager, I discovered the wonderment of my mother’s closet and jewelry box. She maintained I could borrow anything I wanted but I needed to 1. Ask first, and 2. Return the item once I finished. I didn’t do any of those. I now have two daughters who have created second homes in my closet. You can have access to my carefully-procured collection of Converse shoes if you follow the two basic rules of ask and return.
  8. Kindness is saying please and thank you. All the time.
  9. Kindness is not violent, and does not threaten violence. That is just not acceptable.
  10. Kindness is doing your chores the right way the first time so the next person doesn’t get stuck with your crap. Namely, your mother.

Kindness says, “I’m glad the universe put us together at this time and in this space.”

And if I could be just a bit more candid here, let’s start practicing these ourselves as adults. It’s not only the children that need to be taught about kindness. I’m just saying.

Twerking, Porn, and Drugs

TWERKING PORN AND DRUGS

This is a story about grace and mercy.

We’re not really going to talk specifics about porn and twerking. I’m thinking you can find that on Google if you’d like to know more. We are going to talk about the hidden lives and moments that teenagers have. The things they discuss with their friends. And  the things they look at on their computers and phones that we as parents have no idea about. And the things that other teens do that indirectly can affect our families.

This happens entirely too often. This happens in families where communication lines are open. This happens in families that are grounded in faith. And even when our kids absolutely know better, there can be a lapse in judgement.

Now before you shake your head, go off, and start to tell me about the values in your household, I need you to listen. Because it’s not just your daughters  and sons I’m talking about, it’s mine too. All three of mine to be exact.

And it’s because of one simple thing – curiosity.

Again, calm yourself down so I can explain myself.  I am not telling everyone on the internet that you have given birth to a stripper. I am telling the internet world that as parents we are raising a generation of children among influences we can’t control.

And even though our children may not openly subscribe to those influences, they are still exposed, and just like with medical illnesses, with exposure comes the risk of infection. Remember Ebola?

When CJ was in the 5th grade, he couldn’t wait to come home and tell me about the moment he saw a drug deal occur on the school bus. While he recounted every detail, the most exciting thing to him was, “I actually saw crack.”

Imagine the look on his face when I asked him what the crack looked like, and then had to tell him that it wasn’t crack, it was marijuana. And while marijuana is bad (in Texas anyway), it didn’t have the same exotic appeal to him as witnessing the crack deal. Yes, I know. There are several things wrong with this picture.

When Tyra was in 5th grade, two of her classmates were caught smoking marijuana in the school bathroom. From her classroom, she could smell it. And even though the school handled the situation appropriately, there was an overwhelming feeling of,  this is just the world we live in today normalcy.

And yes, it’s even happened to Jada, who had to witness a friends she’s had since the 1st grade be picked up from school in handcuffs for guess what, marijuana possession.

Grace and mercy.

In elementary school, one evening at the dinner table, CJ and Tyra mentioned twerking and physical education class in the same sentence. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Twerking?!?! Surely that couldn’t be the same dance that my college students talk about…surely not.

But it was the same dance…and when I asked them if they knew how to do it, they did. “Not because we do it Mom…we’ve just seen the other kids do it.” Right. And to believe that would also lend me to be a good candidate to believe I will find oil in my backyard and strike it rich. I’m just saying.

It now hit me that my children had been exposed, and to a degree infected. Because even if they aren’t twerking in public, the fact they can mention it so casually was a sign of a bigger problem.

Fyi, they really did know how to twerk. I know this  because I acted like I didn’t know the dance. And when I attempted to do it (opposite of what it is), they quickly told me what I was doing wrong and gave me advice on how to correct my proper form.

Grace and mercy.

So we had to have a little discussion. A discussion about our bodies and how we choose to showcase rhythmic movement. And that we should honor our bodies. I told them (with a straight face, I might add) that I do not twerk and they shouldn’t either. To me, twerking encourages the visualization of sexual images that are uncomfortable to have…especially at school. They looked confused. Sigh. So I reminded them that it’s no secret in our house that I am a fan of hip hop artist Ludacris. I sometimes even refer to him as my younger, richer, hip-hop boyfriend. I told them that thinking certain thoughts about Luda is perfectly fine for me, but if I am teaching a class at the college and supposed to be helping my students, thinking about Luda is not appropriate because it is not the correct time nor the place.

School is not the appropriate time or place to be thinking about twerking or drugs. I personally don’t believe 11- and 12-year-olds should be thinking about twerking or drugs at all. AT ALL. I made that clear. And I also made it clear that our house is a no-twerking zone.

And then there’s porn.

It’s now 2016.  We are now in the presence of two teenagers and another child who will be a teenager in less than six months. All three have cell phones, mobile tablets and laptop computers. All three are at risk of contracting the twerking and pornography bug. Because at school that’s what some people their age talk about. I have found that with my kids, those talks and mentions at the lunch table have led to some not-so-appropriate internet searches.

Lesson #1: Check the Internet History on any computer your child uses regularly. It’s okay to be taken aback slightly should you find something, but you should always address situation.

 

Things I’ve Learned – Suggestions for Moms’ New Years’ Resolutions

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BY TRACEY CLAYTON

RESOLUTIONS FOR MOMS

 

Being a mother of three kids certainly puts you in a faster gear, and if you didn’t use to multitask before, you will certainly have to start. There are many of your children’s needs to be met, you need to take care of their physical, emotional and cognitive needs, as well as their play time. It can easily get overwhelming and stressful if you are not well organized and really know your priorities. We all learn as we go and we often need to change our course to make life easier for everyone. This is what I have learnt from my experience of being a mommy of three little girls.

Being lenient means trouble

We all know it is very difficult to be strict with your kids, especially if you are a mom and they make cute little faces at you. However, discipline is a must just because the lack of it can snowball into complete anarchy in your household. It is important to set rules, let the kids know these can’t be broken, and then apply reward and punishment accordingly. It doesn’t have to be harsh, but it has to be felt. For example, if one of the kids’ aggressive behavior is tolerated even a couple of times, soon the others will try to get away with it and you might end up with a little battlefield that’s out of control. Muster up the strength to be a good disciplinarian and cut problems at the root.

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Praise them more

Kids yearn for acceptance, approval and words of praise. We usually notice when they do something wrong and criticize them much more often than we praise them. Make a point of focusing on their accomplishments and good behavior as well. Also, when you praise one kid, try to think of good things to say about the other kids as well, in order not to make them feel less worthy. They take things personally, get jealous easily and think they are not good enough. When you say something nice about them, mean it.

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Use everything to instill values

It is easy to let your kids play on the computer, watch cartoons and movies. You can switch your brain off for at least a little while. I have allowed cartoon characters, princesses and superheroes to become the focus of my kids’ lives. However, I have been thinking about a good way to make this work to my advantage. I started thinking about the reasons these characters are good role models and I came up with some basic values I can teach my kids: they fight for justice, they protect the poor and the weak, they are always well dressed and there is a distinct difference between the goodies and the baddies. So now, before we take the kids to amusement parks or organize superhero parties, this is what we talk about: Spiderman is cool because he can fly, but he flies in order to help people in trouble, and that is why he is a true superhero.

Keep it simple

It seems that nowadays the parental role of a provider and caretaker has gained a new dimension – that of an entertainer. Never, in the history of the world, has there been a larger selection of toys, games and gadgets available for kids to play with, and never have kids been more bored with their lives. The more toys they have, the less entertained they seem to be. I have realized they are simply over-stimulated, so instead of buying more and more toys at a rapid pace, I have decided to cut down on buying toys for them. We donate the toys they don’t play with anymore and I don’t replace them with new ones. Instead, I let the kids get creative and come up with their own games. They draw, do crafts, they go outside much more, they sing and dance, they play with paper cups, pots and pans and the good old ball. I plan to continue moving in this direction.

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What our kids need most are our time, love and attention. No amount of modern gimmicks can replace quality time with your kids, and a good balance of love and discipline will give them a healthy and safe place to grow and develop. It is ok to keep it simple!

About author:

Tracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She loves cooking, baking, sewing, spending quality time with her daughters and she’s passionate for writing. She is contributor on High Style Life and her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.” Find her on Facebook.

Technology Knowledge is a Requirement, Not an Option

Learn why we require computer science training.

Coding is the new Spanish.

When I was in high school, the best advice I received from an y adult willing to give me advice was to learn a foreign language, preferably Spanish. I was advised that I would never have a problem finding a job if was bilingual. And for the most part, that advice was correct. In addition to learning to speak another language, I learned to appreciate another culture, and I’ve had several opportunities to meet people from all over the world.

When I started on the parenting journey, I was convinced that my kids would have the same opportunities as I’ve had, as long as they learned to speak Spanish.

So I did what most parents do, and demanded they learn Spanish and enjoy it. But because I was so busy demanding, I didn’t stop to listen to them or look at the world around me.

Code.org reports on their website the following facts:

1. Computer science drives innovation throughout the US economy, but it remains marginalized throughout K-12 education.

2. Only 27 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation.

3. There are currently 586,107 open computing jobs nationwide.

4. Last year, only 38,175 computer science students graduated into the workforce.

When I took a minute to take note of these trends, I realized very quickly that while Spanish was nice, my kids really needed to learn how to code. And so they did. And they enjoyed it. So I took it a step further.

They’ve participated in a hack-a-thon, summer pre-engineering program,  STEM camp at a local university, and recently  attended a STEM event sponsored by Microsoft. I’ve made sure that despite their artistic and athletic endeavors, they have a good foundation in computer science.

In this digitally-driven world we are living in, it is imperative that children know and understand computer technology, internet safety and security, and the basics of coding. It even appears that like Spanish was for me in the 80’s and early 90’s, computer science graduates should never have a problem finding a job.

Our children need to have a foundation in computer science in order to be prepared for the future.

As a matter of fact, children as young as five years old can learning coding techniques on the www.code.org website. And this summer when I decided to upgrade my skills in hopes of advancing my career, I learned a lot about information technology — including coding.

And for the first time since 1990, I haven’t used my Spanish skills to advance my career; instead I’m using my computer skills and that training has paid off.

Grab a  copy of our technology contract for families: techcontract

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Click through to see our technology contract for familiesRead about our experiment wearing Converse everyday.Read more about what Starbucks cost me in one visit.