The Positive Power of Peer Pressure

tex playing video games
tex playing video games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Competition for kids is not only good for them, it is essential to their well-being.
The approach of parents and schools to reduce competition is, in my opinion, misguided. It seems to me that as in many things, nowadays, the real value is overlooked in favor of “kindness”.

Johnny wins the spelling bee. Sally tried very hard, studied very hard and wanted the shiny medal very much. She cries for a moment when she loses. Johnny, on the other hand, jumps up and down and shakes the medal at Sally.

First, crying and being disappointed isn’t fatal. But let the scene play out.

Johnny’s applause fades quickly (due to his flaunt) and classmates move in to console Sally and give her an “atta girl” rally. If she cries for too long, though, she’ll learn sympathy has a limit.

To interrupt what seemed to be a cruel scene in the beginning, would have stripped every kid of lessons in sportsmanship and human decency.

Johnny feels embarrassed for flaunting and sorry for Sally, whom he never intended to hurt. All the kids, notice that. Sally got the reward of friendship and support. All the kids, notice that too. Both kids survive the event with a clear message that losing is not the worst but poor sportsmanship is ugly. 

Society has weakened the effectiveness of peer pressure by regarding it as, primarily, negative. I’m asking you to consider what we lose when we deem competition and peer pressure unhealthy? Just as a body kept safe from germs fails to build antibodies, children kept safe from competition fail to build character. Peer pressure is the key tool in directing a positive result.

Both Johnny and Sally survive their embarrassment and disappointment, respectively. (Surviving adversity is one fine lesson, as well.) Each will react differently the next time they are exposed to competition. I’d advise, keep it coming until it becomes as much a part of them as saying, “Please and Thank-you.”

Dog trainers all agree that, in order to have a well-rounded happy pet, owners must socialize them while young. Their brilliant premise is built upon other dogs correcting un-dog-like behavior while dogs are formative.

No, I don’t think kids are animals but as human beings (who are basically very good and much more complex) they have an awful lot to learn from peer pressure.

Now, consider kids who have been protected from “real life” lessons (tears, anger, sympathy and hurt) and plop them in front of video games. No peer pressure in video games. There is one objective…WIN. Nameless, cold opponents don’t cry. Flaunting is encouraged AND if you don’t win, you can quit by pulling a plug!

Funny thing is, another misguided solution would be to take the video games away too. Apparently, some people aren’t getting the BIG picture.

Broader Horizons: Brain Development in Kids

Early virtual world: Ultima Online
Early virtual world: Ultima Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It occurred to me, as I watched my day care friend (age 10) navigating through Minecraft this morning, that our kids are guinea pigs. For those of you who aren’t aware of Minecraft, it is an interactive, online world of adventure which is very popular with kids. My granddaughter (age 7) also plays this game.

As I watched, the 3-D images twisted and turned in a fascinating array of viewpoints in a virtual world. The 10-year-old was able to follow the images with amazing speed. I felt slightly dizzy. This made me wonder how this generation may bring new tools to viewing the real world from this early 3-D training. I am neither qualified, nor interested, in making a pro or con judgement.

I’m willing to bet, though, that the visual art world will definitely have some amazingly fresh, new expressions in the near future that will come from this early exposure.

My generation was the first group of kids who spent Saturday mornings watching TV. We experienced a new kind of visual stimulation and I believe it gave us a new way of processing our world. For better or worse, we learned a new perspective.

I frequently hear grandparents, and great-grandparents, exclaiming, “Kids are so much smarter today.” I don’t, for a second, accept that statement as true. What kids DO have is an earlier exposure to more information in unique formats. This does ultimately offer real “mind altering” potential.

Anyone who studies brain functions has this current generation of guinea pigs to study. There will be discoveries, both positive, and some negative, specifically pertaining to modern ways that children’s brains are wired from technological exposures during brain development.

Gosh, I find this a very interesting scientific field of study. I believe our newest generation will definitely, “Go where no man has gone before.”

Camping Notes 5/6/13

I realized that on Mondays, I am usually overflowing with camp observations. Thought I’d share some, now and then.

It was the first gorgeous weekend of the 2013 season. Temperatures that I would happily keep year round, 70s, by day, and upper 40s, by night.

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To the right, is our original site which my husband, Ed, had cleared and built. The whole area was thick forest when we began over 15 years ago. This is Ellen and Kory’s place now. (They weren’t here this weekend.)

We have a small Walmart sunken pond which is my first stop every weekend. It provides a wonderful vernal pool for amphibians. The visitors are fewer,so far, and  I have a good theory as to, why?

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010It has been recently dry and the spotted salamanders and wood frogs migrate farther during rainy weather. Only the green frog “locals” and one mature Red Spotted Newt are currently present. This is a first for my pond. This week promises some rain but I’m afraid that their egg laying, for this year, might be over. 😦

So off to check out my plum blossoms. Last year, I was alarmed by how few honeybees had tended to pollination. This year, I spotted a few but the numbers are still dismal compared to years past. I’m hoping that our chilly Spring has not yet awakened the masses.

honeybee

As the day progresses, I plan my garden. We have suffered for 4 years with a terrible fungus blight. This year, I plan to grow corn and I’ll be trying an above ground method for tomatoes using wooden skids.

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Ollie, my Jack Russell, is the happiest camper. He’s able to run loose and dig to his heart’s content. He is now 9 years old and requires more breaks in the sun. Of course, he has his own chair.

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Ed and I camp in an area that he prepared for our 5th-wheel. It is just below the old homestead and is our little piece of heaven.

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Ed keeps very busy. He gathers wood and splits it, as well as, maintaining the lawns and building wonderful stone flowerbeds. His four-wheeler has all that he needs. Yes, a rifle and a chainsaw are both necessary here. Actually, Ed had arrived the day before I came. Our gas grill had been knocked from our deck and one (empty) cooler was out in our yard. Our friends, with a game camera, have evidence of a large black bear in our area. Coyotes and a fisher have also been spotted. We leave no food or garbage out to entice them!

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I was pleased to see the first of Ellen’s tulips open. The daylight hours are shorter in the woods, so our campsite is a bit behind what we have at home.

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I was also happy to see some forget-me-not seeds had taken where I’d hoped they would fill in on a banking.

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I never fail to search our piece stone before we leave. It was quarried in Hudson, NY and has many seashell fossils from a time when New York was an ocean floor. I have always loved rocks! I’m thrilled to look for fossils and, sad that so many were ground up, too. I guess I would have never had the chance to find them if that had not happened.

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So there you have a glimpse of the “good life” I find in the forest. I also had time to read in a lovely shaded area beside my dog.

Further updates will show my flower beds and garden. See you later!

Birding with My Granddaughter

2651594282_ef987cc879_bThe human brain is a fascinating subject. I can’t get too much information about what scientists are finding to be “the way we learn and remember”. As an early childhood educator, the little “sponges” around me have me in awe.

I remember showing my daughter her first glimpse of a butterfly in the wild. She was about 18 months old and quite a chatterbox. She returned to the same spot…same flower, the next day and asked, “Butterfly?”. My first parental reaction was, “Wow! I have a genius on my hands!” Then the truth grabbed me. Of course she’d think about butterflies in that spot. That’s the only place her brain has ever witnessed one.

Adults have so many more experiences and, therefore, filter and connect images and ideas in a “wasteful” way. We have to cast off some of our information in order to keep a tidy collection. Kids are that wonderful “clean slate” that we adore. It’s no wonder that kids can learn multiple languages far more easily than adults. They have no competing categories or files in their brains to interfere with their memorization efforts.

Keeping this in mind, I have tried to make up little games with my granddaughter in order to teach her to notice and identify birds by their songs. I must have done this instinctively with my day care babies because I was stopped in the grocery store by a few parents and grandparents who pointed the “blame” for their nature walk interruptions on me.

“He just froze and said, Hear that Grandma? That’s Mr. Blue Jay singing.”

“She kept shushing me as we walked so she could listen for the birds.”

I just love hearing such “complaints”!

As for my granddaughter and me, we make up our own little phrases for familiar bird songs. I don’t know if there are different bird dialects but sometimes the professional translations just don’t fit the sounds that we hear. The only one that seems universal is the Chickadee. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” is our translation too…but we also know there is a sound that Chickadees make other than their name. We think it says “JEAN-nee”.

Eastern Phoebes are our favorite. Their first part sounds something like “Phoebe…Phoebe” but it ends with “She DID it!”.  At least that is our own label and it always makes us laugh.

When we look through books, I will point out the birds and reminder her of our own game and the sounds. Recently, I pointed out a Nuthatch in a book and reminded her of that bird who’s always laughing at us from the trees.

I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful world we can open up to kids when we teach them to listen and notice what too many adults have no time for.

Random Word Story #25~Carl’s Adventure

An area of the Sierre Madre jungle
An area of the Sierre Madre jungle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Random words generated by creativitygames.net

bird…threat…shadow…capital…sand…chewing gum

Here’s my story:

The jungle was thick, steamy and oppressive. Carl had no idea when he’d become lost. Guess that’s how getting lost happens. It poses more of a threat, though, when you’re in a jungle rather than on the highway.

The humming of insects was deafening. He faded back and forth, noticing the din, then ignoring it …feeling afraid, then exhilarated. His vacation was almost over and his adventure was only beginning. He fumbled through his backpack taking inventory of his supplies. A compass…dang, why hadn’t he asked someone how to use it?… One unopened apple juice box …and one piece of chewing gum.

He felt helpless, yet for a moment, he was amused.

He thought, “MacGyver would even fold with these tools. Sucks to be me.”

Carl was a level-headed fellow. He considered himself safe until he wasn’t safe. No need to panic.

As the grin was fading from his face, there came a shadow from over head. A brightly colored bird was circling. It reminded him of a vulture from those Tarzan films he watched as a kid. When vultures arrived, folks knew they were in trouble with a capital “T”. He decided it might be a good idea to follow the bird. When he looked up again, he was hit in the face with a tremendous, wet dropping!

It was sandy and warm. His arms flailed! He couldn’t see! He couldn’t BREATHE!

“DUDE! Chill! It’s just a towel.”

Carl’s first sight was a purple kite flapping in the wind overhead. His next sensation was sound. Waves of the approaching high tide were drumming. His heart felt as though he’d just run a marathon. There was an afternoon steam rising from the over-baked sand in front of his beachfront accommodations…

It was then, the lifeguard retrieved his wet towel from Carl’s chest and walked into the sunset.

Up We Go~Poetry Challenge #5 Games

Book illustration, pen drawing
Book illustration, pen drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter called them “We goes.”

What a funny name.

“Up we go!” is what I said.

Swinging was the game.

It appears to have no structure.

Silly, you don’t know?

The object is to kick the sky,

The higher that you go.

Now comes the end and dismount.

                                                    Timing is so fine.

                                     I ‘ll stop pushing and you’ll jump.

                                                  Now, the turn is mine.