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.

Number Worthy

As we get further from human contact with busy lives and social media, how will we get the valuable “first impressions” of people? Whether we like the idea or not, it is essential to have some kind of filter. Certainly, everyone doesn’t qualify for friendship, to be a trusted tenant or employee. It has become politically incorrect to judge other human beings on appearance, behavior, or even skills( Affirmative Action), but we have always needed to judge each other for many things. We do it and it is valuable.

At least, in the past, a sparkle in someone’s eyes and clean appearance gave them a chance. Nowadays, our society has chosen numerical scores to apply values to people.

It wasn’t very long ago that grading and testing were considered unfair and unclear. We have forgotten that many of our greatest entrepreneurs and inventors, dropped out of school, and off of that grid, yet we continue to weigh numbers so heavily. Why?

When it comes down to it, numbers cannot ever measure human value to each other and society. We all know, as well, how often numbers can be manipulated. Most of us, forget that fact, and wave them around as “proofs”.

The urban legends of “Numbers don’t lie” and “Everything in print is true.” are alive and well, my friends. Try making a “tongue in cheek” remark on Facebook if you doubt me.

My most recent pet peeve is the BMI (body mass index) applied to people in an effort, for some, to calculate health risks. The greater hidden agenda is about health care costs, period. In a doctor’s office these stats may be useful. In the public domain, they will discriminate and foster feelings of inadequacies rather than help. Our schools are about to apply a value (their explanation is , to teach.) on our kids. It’s surprising that in our modern information age, anyone who cares, could possibly remain uninformed about diet and exercise but the schools believe we are not informed. I think they consider us dumb. Furthermore, I believe the healthcare industry is scrambling to get health care stats out in the open. One way would be to allow schools to start collecting data. Hmmmm…tricky?

With my argument voiced, I could not help but find some humor in the revolution of numerical stats as a measure of human worth. I have a few ads we may see soon:

“You could be my sweetie-pie if not for your BMI.”
“I think that I would love you more, if you improved your credit score.”
“You may think outside the box but I hate your choice in stocks.”
“Popularity begins and ends, with your number of Facebook friends.”

Numbers are no way to measure the worth of anyone, yet, we are beginning to use them that way. Let’s not allow them to carry too much “weight”.

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Schools-what do we learn?

homeschooling afternoon
homeschooling afternoon (Photo credit: hbakkh)

There is an urban myth that public schooling is the best method by which we can teach children social skills. In fact, that is the primary argument against home-schooling. I beg to differ.

There’s a growing concern that public schools are failing our kids in a BIG way. There are many dedicated teachers, who do an excellent job, but the teachers’ unions protect not only the good teachers but the bad ones too.

When we are faced with the expensive and ,I believe, better alternative of home-schooling, there is the concern about the proper “socialization” of these kids.

We don’t do “sex education” before we feel a child is mature enough but we send kids off to school, at a tender age, for their first exposure to bullies, ridicule and peer pressure. They will be measured by grades and learning styles and will be kept in the classroom for the great majority of their learning experience. Hopefully, this classroom will have an orderly atmosphere and a small group but that is not guaranteed. Actually, it’s a “crap shoot” that your child’s classmates will be a “good” group. Sometimes, there is a larger number of “mis-behavers” and that is simply up to chance and timing. Teachers are not to blame,at all, but ask them and they will volunteer, readily, their memories of “good groups”.

A home-schooled child can visit real-life situations (grocery stores, parks, libraries etc.), as often as, Mom or Dad deems necessary. A “busy” child can be offered hands-on experiences and more breaks, as often as, he/she needs and the parent can correct bad manners as they present themselves in those real life situations.

There are youth sports and music organizations, available to the public, for the lessons needed in cooperation, and the taking of instruction from authority figures other than parents. The education is ongoing, year round, when the “teachers” are always present and fully aware of the curriculum.

It is so very sad that most parents haven’t the option of home-schooling. I do expect a growing trend of home-schooling, though. Families may re-evaluate the need and budget in a way to make it happen. Actually, the current stress on incomes causing grandparents to become household members, may offer them as home-school teachers or helpers with the family budget, affording parents the chance to teach.

The whole idea of home-schooling being a poor option is simply, not true, and cannot be supported by urban legends.

Those who have the ability and means to do it, have my thumbs up.

Searching for Clues: Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories
The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (Photo credit: dalcrose)

A well-written short story is ripe with clues.

In one of my more recent blog posts, (In Defense of BIG kids…) I make a point about how often people can overlook keywords and how it can be responsible for misunderstandings.

Today, I added a blog post to my category Random Word Stories. These are short stories that I create using random words. The fun part is that I create the stories as an exercise. I limit my writing to “one sitting” which has never gone on for more than an hour. When I polish my ideas for posting, I find the adding of details, as clues, to be the deciding factor between just a story and a good story.

It occurred to me, shortly after my exercise, how valuable short stories are when training young readers to recognize clues. This would translate very well to the greater purpose of kids learning to discriminate among clues and keywords they deal with elsewhere.

http://wp.me/pTYEI-1RM

I’ve provided a link, above, to my newest story.

There are poignant questions that could be asked about the story.

  • What may have clouded Mia’s judgement in selecting a roommate?
  • Did her occupation affect her judgement?
  • What might she have done differently?
  • What may have been warning signs of Holt’s problems?
  • The story ends on a humorous note…what may she have asked on the questionnaire?
  • What did bubblegum have to do with anything?

Certainly, there seems to be much material for discussion in such a short piece. Short stories make great homework assignments too. Their weight is not encumbering when it comes to time spent.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon a marketable use for my better stories? My new project will be to make them age and subject appropriate, of course.  🙂

My Thoughts… My Sympathies

English: the picture consist of articles on bu...
English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since this blog is primarily a journal of my thoughts, I’m exploring my internal philosopher again and you are invited to listen and comment.

I had an energized discussion yesterday (on Facebook) over my previous post. Bullying is an emotionally charged subject that brought many varying opinions and experiences to light. While considering what I learned yesterday, I kept returning to my own life experiences. I’ve been very blessed by having positive role models in my life.

 There were many times that “bad” things happened to me, though. My reaction to them, seems to me, the only power I had then and to this day. It is a power we all have.
First, I do not believe in a pre-written design to anyone’s life.

Second, I have not had “troubles” any greater than others,in fact, I’ve been fortunate and my troubles have been lesser than most, so far.

My questions remain the same:

Do any of a person’s troubles come from their own attitude? Does any of their good fortune come from their own attitude?

I’d like to believe it does, otherwise, why bother to try? We would be without any responsibility in the direction of our journey. People would be like balls in a pinball arcade game, subject to only outside forces.

When I see a family of underprivileged kids and witness some of them “do well” and others get hopelessly lost, I ask myself, was it only because the forces of luck favored the successful ones or was it, in part, their own doing?

 Success is defined, in this context, as leading lives of good citizenship, harming no one and pursuing happiness. We discussed that bullies often come from bad environments. Why don’t all kids from “bad environments” become bullies? My search for these answers is often mistaken as an insensitivity to the problem. I am looking for answers because I believe there are solutions to discover and we are capable of affecting changes. I also believe we (people) can only control our own actions and reactions in any situation. Sorry, making laws, rules, regulations don’t cure problems…murders are illegal, ya know.

Yes, I do have sympathy for bullies, as well as, victims of bullies. Once I state that bullies are created not born (sociopaths excluded), don’t they deserve my sympathy? I don’t understand why my sympathy for the abuser takes away from my wishes to protect the victims?

There is an extraordinary effort to reduce bullying in schools. Victims of bullies become scarred for life and there is not one moment that it should be tolerated!
My cause is to make victims harder for bullies to locate and maintain. One way, is to arm kids with skills to ward off bullies.I will call these skills “social”.

“To behaviorists, social skills are learned behavior that allow people to achieve social reinforcement.”

Labeling every kid who hits, or says something cruel, or takes part in a group motivated unkindness, as a bully, is as detrimental to the effort as ignoring that bullies DO exist. I think the “over labeling” is a real, imminent, threat in schools. Over-crowded and understaffed, schools have little time to investigate every report and will have to err in favor of the “victims”. It’s the only choice.

I’m convinced that the gusto and emotion this problem invokes will cause another problem if we aren’t careful. I’ll call it “free-range victimship”.

What do all kids want…attention. They learn very early that attention is most swiftly attained when they are wronged or believe to have been wronged. I hope adults will weigh each and every complaint carefully. Wouldn’t want to end up like our court system which we all know is overflowing with “victims”.

What IS a bully?

English: A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Be...
English: A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My sister and I just had a conversation about bullying which made me realize what a complex subject it is. The discussion began, as most bullying discussions do, with a specific example of a kid she knows who is a “victim” of bullying.

Now, you may ask why I put victim in quotation marks? Well, it seems in cases of bullying often there are many players and the victim just may not be easily identified. Don’t shake your head. It isn’t always the big scruffy kid and it rarely is totally one-sided.

No, it is not alright to pursue and badger someone incessantly.

No, it is never okay to hit someone.

How can we be sure that they, the “bullier” and the bullied, are victims of the purest form? Are we to believe that in our society the preponderance of bullying involves one weak, unsuspecting victim and one mean spirited person who picked them at random?

C’mon.

There’s a quote from the 60s TV show Adam-12 that seems appropriate here. The two hero/police officers are standing beside their police cruiser after a day of crime fighting. One turns to the other and says, “The only thing that is black and white in our job is this car.”

Kids who are small, girls who cry, people of minority status, people with physical infirmities, etc. start off with the sympathy barometer needle tipped on their side, and they are aware of it. It shouldn’t matter that much because we are all aware of their “edge” but it has become a powerful tool in our modern, politically correct society.

Example:

Once upon a time, if Earl was an unfriendly sort of kid who tormented others, Earl would not get invited to Birthday Parties or be asked to play games. Earl just might have a chance to see the error of his ways by the natural course of things and learn to play nicely.

Nowadays, Earl must be included. Many Kindergarten classes insist that all kids are invited to play, no exceptions. The natural order of consequences are disturbed and Earl realizes he need not get-along at all. If anyone attempts to straighten Earl out, and Earl has a special need, he realizes he is ALL powerful because, after all, the kids are automatically (Get the black and white deal?) discriminating against him. Earl is not stupid and learns that he need not even try as long as he can use the “D” word. Ah, discrimination is the most powerful word.

I know! All you can imagine are poor special need kids or minority kids huddled in a corner abused and forgotten. We must make sure that they are treated fairly! No we don’t. Their siblings and friends will be there. The only kids who need protecting are those with the inability to learn social lessons, such as, autistic kids.

Little kids are not like that and I maintain, the Big kids without compassion were once little kids who never learned the social lessons. I trust little kids more than anyone else (except for dogs) to have compassion. Small children almost always like anyone who plays nicely. Don’t forget, minority and special needs kids are capable of being brats. Being excluded for bad behavior would be the best medicine for any and all brats. Besides, the perceived weaklings are more than their disadvantage alone. By considering them disadvantaged we label them as disadvantaged!

Gosh, I remember being protected from getting hurt on a baseball field because I was a girl. I thought our society was interested in equality. Wearing labels just works contrary to that, don’t you think?

As for bullying, this blanket protection of the crying and weak has a direct hand in the increasing incidences. To step in when kids are “at odds” keeps them from learning the social lessons they will need. Which are:

  • play fair and consider the feelings of others or you will not get along and have friends.
  • being too sensitive doesn’t work and it’s your own job to get along. (Just this morning, one day care child kept telling me another wasn’t “being nice” to her. Upon investigating the crime, I realized, the child who was complaining just wanted the other one’s attention. My answer was, “Well, invite her nicely to play.”)
  • a person’s character is who they are, not any other variable.
  • Everything is NOT always fair and that is a fact.

While I am making this old-fashioned and controversial presentation, I want to add another insult to the politically correct utopians. Yes, there are varying degrees of being a victim too.

WHAT? <GASP> A victim is a victim!

No…a person who leaves his/her keys in their car and has it stolen is less of a victim than one who has their car hot wired and stolen. Stealing IS wrong and shouldn’t happen. NEWS FLASH…it does happen.Take some responsibility people.

And if you swim in a canal in Florida, there’s a chance an alligator may bite you too. What a world, what a world! 🙂