Valuable lessons learned from a Nintendo 3DS

“I bit my 3DS [Nintendo] because I was so mad [at] losing. I should not do that because it may give me germs. I could have lost it for good. They [mom and dad] should give it back to me because I’ve done a lot of good things. I found my mom’s [diamond] earring. I’m always good in school. I always get good grades.

I learned my lesson. I could have been grounded. My dad and mom don’t have to give it back to me. Mom tells me to be happy because she says [a lot of] kids don’t have the stuff like our place. They don’t have the money to buy toys, computers, food, bathroom, [a] Kindle, [Sony] DS, movies, TV’s, [a] pool, beds, fireplace, playground, clothes, [a] backyard or rooms, so I should make myself lucky since I have my DS.

I’m happy because I have a dog; I have toys, a sister, a mom and dad, a[n] uncle, a grand mom, a 3DS….”

This is a large part of an essay that my 9-year-old son wrote. He broke his 3DS about two months after he received it as a birthday present. Three months went by before my investigative nature discovered why his Kindle Fire was being used more for games and less for reading.

He’d done wrong. He knew that his actions were wrong.

So he hid his actions from mom and dad.

Although his game was replaced by the manufacturer, we did not give it right back to him. He needed to understand the severity of his actions.

To help my children think about their actions and behaviors, one strategy is to require them to write. They must write essays about the lessons that they learned from making poor choices and better ways to handle similar situations.

Writing an essay is productive. More productive than some of the consequences that I endured as a child. Writing involves being still, being quiet, and constructive thought time. Every child and adult can benefit from the process. To clear my mind, I often write.

After he wrote the essay, I wanted to know more from my son about his potential actions when playing his game in the future. So I asked him, what will he do the next time that he gets frustrated or “mad” because the game is beating him. In a slow and deliberate manner he said,

“I’m going to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Calm down and try again. That’s what I did to beat Super Mario 3D Land.”

Where does the “deep breath” come from? On and off (more off lately, but we’ll get back on track over the summer) from meditation.

Meditation is good for everyone, including kids. If you recognize that you feel stress– you make a conscious decision to address it constructively. Meditation is a positive way to relieve stress and to refocus. Best of all, you can meditate anywhere.

While his essay may not be written grammatically perfect, neither are some of my writings without consistent and precise editing. Another day he will put on his teacher’s hat and edit his work.

The idea isn’t for him to write a perfect essay. The point is to teach him to think about his actions, choices, and understand that consequences are the result of his choices. Children grow up to become adults. As adults we must also face consequences; some good some not so good. Either way, if we can help our children to understand the connection between the two at a young age, they should grow up to make smarter choices. Making smarter choices doesn’t equate to a perfect life, but it can definitely make life more fulfilling.

I’m fulfilled in what I do… I never thought that a lot of money or fine clothes — the finer things of life — would make you happy. My concept of happiness is to be filled in a spiritual sense.
Coretta Scott King

Do not enter unless you are brown

When it comes to educating children, I am a firm believer that the opportunity to learn takes place more often in the absence of a formal curriculum.

It is the everyday life experiences that present these opportunities for parents to teach children good values and to develop them to become moral, socially conscious and responsible adults.

My husband and I are open-minded and enjoy relationships with a diverse and unique group of friends.  Race and ethnicity is never a criterion for friendships.

So imagine our surprise when one of two signs on our son’s door read, “Do not enter unless you are Tailor! or brown and knock!”

Unbeknownst to us, before leaving for school, he’d taped the signs on his bedroom door.  No one else in the house has a do not enter signs on their door.

We were okay with the first sign, but it was the second sign we took issue with. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, we decided to get clarification from him after school.

When I asked our son about the sign referring to “brown” people, he did not speak.  I made sure to ask in a non-confrontational or threatening way because I really wanted to determine exactly what he was thinking when he wrote the sign.  The moment I questioned him, I think he sensed something wasn’t right about his actions.

I reassured him that it was okay to speak his mind.  So he did.

“Mom, I’ve only had brown people in my room.  I’ve never had anyone white in my room.”

That was a wow for me!  I thought about it and told him that wasn’t true and reminded him of another friend that visits occasionally.  He said, “Oh yeah!  I forgot about him.”  Our conversation continued as I questioned him about how he’d feel if he went to a friend’s house and the friend had a sign posted on their door that stated, “Do not enter unless you are white.”  He commented that he would be angry.  I asked why and said that it wouldn’t be nice or fair.  I talked to him about the importance of treating people the way that he wants others to treat him.

The conversation continued into a talk about treating everyone the same, regardless of their skin color, religion, etc…

My son’s intentions were not malice in writing the sign.  It was an innocent act based on his perceptions and realities that occur on a daily basis around him.  With the exception of the summer and holidays, most of the school aged visitors to his room, look like him; they are brown and are usually family members.

When situations like this occur, it is critical that we avoid laughing it off with the notion that kids will be kids.  It’s vital that we teach our children a better way to think and to view others.  Ignoring these types of incidents gradually and informally teach our children to develop racists and bigotry attitudes toward others.  It may seem cute when they are young (which I don’t think it is), but when we’re confronted by adults with negative, discriminatory, and racists attitudes most are appalled and highly offended.

It’s scary with our kids, because when they’re younger, we control their environment and what they are exposed to.  However, once they reach high school and sometimes before, their friends often have a greater influence over them their own parents the peer pressure can be intense.  Once can deny this if they want, but it is true.

How do we counteract this tragic trend?  I say by talking to our children every day and trying not to judge or react to their shocking comments, questions or opinions.  That’s not always easy, but if we stay conscious of this fact, it can help.

Our son knows that both mom and dad question him every single day about school.  Sometimes his response is, “fine.”  But he can expect us to probe more into his day.  In turn, he asks about our work day.  I try to remember what I expect of him and give details about my day… even when I really want to say, “Fine.”

My last thought on this post is that his action is another excellent reminder that the unspoken, our actions, are even more powerful than what we say… Stay conscious!

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BOARDING SCHOOL: Part-Time Parenting?

>Recently I ran into a friend and former colleague, whom I haven’t seen in many years. We briefly chatted about our careers and our families. He mentioned that his job required him to travel so his children attended boarding school. All of his comments about boarding school were positive. For some reason, the one comment that stood out in my mind was that, “it really helped with the homework thing.”

His comment really got me to thinking about boarding school. Could I send my son to a boarding school? Would he receive a better education there? What else would my son learn? I certainly understand what he said about homework. Any responsible parent, who lived through the arduous experience of helping their child with homework, will tell you it can be exhaustive, challenging, and a real test of your patience.

A part of me believes that sending my son off to boarding school would be “passing the buck” on my parental obligations.

What about sports and other extra curricula activities? Yes; some boarding schools have strong athletic programs, but what about being there to show my support for him. I’d miss out on the cherished memories of continuing to watch him grow as an athlete, as a young adult or miss his performance on the debate team. Sure, I’d attend some games and other school activities, but I would certainly miss more than I could attend.

As a parent, how can I be certain that my son is being treated equitably? Yeah, I would miss a great deal of treasured moments with him. Most of all, he would miss the positive influences of his dad; which cannot be replaced by any academic program.

The life and personality of a teenager evolves slowly. If my son attended boarding school, both of us would miss out on all the life learning opportunities that take place everyday at home.   Of course, I know first hand experience that raising a teenager is one of the most challenging experiences of parenthood.

I can be honest and say that having my teenager away at school during some of the most tumultuous year’s sounds appealing. After all, the staff would have the responsibility of making sure he made it to class on time, that he had adequate study time. The staff would have the heated and ugly debates on why he has a curfew, and making certain that he went to bed at a reasonable time- All I would have to do is call him daily, pay the tuition, and be a loving & dutiful full-time parent on the weekends, holidays, and breaks. Some parents wouldn’t dare speak these words, fear of being perceived as a bad parent, but it’s just a thought and I’m certain that someone out there shares this sentiment with me.

The Art & Science Group, a marketing research & consulting firm based in Baltimore conducted a comparative study for The Association of Boarding Schools (TAB). This “contemporary study of secondary school education” reported that 91% of boarding school students found their school was academically challenged; compared to 70% private & 50% public school students. The study also reported that boarding school students spent more time doing homework felt more academically prepared for college, felt more prepared for “non academic life,” and earned more advanced degrees than private and public school students. I wondered about the quality of relationships that boarding school students have with their parents and siblings; the study generally reported that 86% of boarding school students reported being very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their family life. It did not give any in depth details about relationships with  parents or siblings. To read the complete report, I contacted the marketing firm who conducted the study and was told that the research data was proprietary information; TAB would have to approve release of the information. If TAB is genuinely concerned about educating the public about boarding schools, they should publish complete reports and not partially edited data that could mislead readers.

Did the study change my mind about boarding school? No. It did however; interest me enough to want to further learn more on the topic. As a parent, I firmly believe that I should be well rounded and well informed. Being open minded enough to educate myself on unfamiliar topics related to parenthood is important to me and to the overall well being of my family. Will my son attend boarding school? Probably not, but ask me again in seven years.