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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War on Punks

English: Suspect in a possible hate crime in V...
English: Suspect in a possible hate crime in Vancouver . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/21/police-say-teen-shot-australian-student-in-oklahoma-for-fun-it/

The link above is to the recent news article about the tragic killing of an Australian young man by some “punks” who were reportedly bored. The news media has offered many reasons for this atrocity. To name a few:

  • The US gun culture…
  • A racial hate crime…
  • Violence inspired by game playing…

I believe that I stumbled upon the real deeper cause when I commented in a reaction to this horror … “We need a “war on punks”!”
A punk, in my mind, is a young male who is striving for manhood by means of intimidation and violence.
Sadly, and dangerously, our society has lost the traditional definition of manhood.
Some of the reasons are economic but many stem from a “watering down” of the roles men play. Confused? So are our sons.
Back in the day, men were the providers of protection and the essentials for family survival. Since caveman times, the males had a clear role and spent (testosterone inspired) energy to fill that position.
Enter the women’s movement, government assistance, modern conveniences, absentee fathers and unemployment and you have idle time in the hands of males without direction.
Remember, to every action comes an equal and opposite reaction?
The women’s movement was a GOOD thing. This is not a puritanical conservative documentary, in the least. It is, however, a thoughtful wondering about the male experience in an attempt to shed light on a grave predicament in our culture.
“What makes a man?”
Punks seem to believe it is an adrenaline rush inspired by a dangerous act.
How did that happen?

First, we have taken the pointed scissors away from kids. That’s right. This cushioned, ultra-safety oriented, society has had a hand in making boys into sissies. Their confidence and male bravado has no inspiration.
I asked a 10-year-old to help me with lawn mowing, the other day. He said he’d never been asked. There must be a warning label, somewhere, which claims that my suggestion was illegal! (ATVs have labels too. “No one under twelve can operate them.” Funny though, the youth-sized ones are generally too small for most twelve-year-olds.)

Secondly, fatherhood is a duty not a choice. Modern society has lost sight of that in a nutshell. Boys need quality men to show them how to become men of quality.

Thirdly, Idle time and video game playing are not allowing for physical exertion. Scientifically, the lack of physical exertion MUST have an adverse effect upon testosterone fueled adolescents! I’m sure there is a study somewhere which would verify that adrenaline is a necessary drug in a young man’s life.

There must be a way to counteract the poisonous conditions of our sons’ environments.
Sports teams are one way. But many have not the means, nor interest, to take part in sports.
May I suggest, that in dealing with boys who have been expelled from or have dropped out of school, who have had scrapes with the police or are members of gangs, that we seriously entertain a type of boot camp. (Yes, those who have no pre-existing  disability, only.)
Of course, the boot camp would be the bottom line but they could be exempt from going if they entered a mentor program or volunteered in community service opportunities.

NOW, the race card would be thrown at this idea. The chances are, the black community would be in high attendance. (Unemployment and absentee fathers the catalyst.) BUT, instead of thinking this was an effort to marginalize minorities…why wouldn’t we consider it helping where the help is most needed?

These are just infant ideas for a possible cause and solution for a deep problem that just won’t be going away. What do you think?

Cultural Dissolve

Homecoming "He's everything I hoped for a...
Homecoming  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No political correctness
No political correctness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a dissolve going on in our culture. Very few actions, that bear a burden of public shame, still exist. That fact, is clearly an alarming example of the erosion of our cultural foundation.

Consider what having a baby out-of-wedlock or being in tremendous debt used to mean. Our culture policed itself by frowning upon such things in years past. Now, those things have no stigma and, therefore, have become culturally acceptable.

The feminists were so zealous in their quest for workplace equality, that they ended up redefining the art of being a “lady” and the act of being a “gentleman”, which I maintain are still worthy titles. Strange how being thoughtful and polite are now viewed as weaknesses? A bad sign, me thinks.

The equal rights defenders have made the fight for justice such a racial endeavor, that it divides us, and distracts us, from our American oneness.

Fairness has replaced, justifiable, in every argument and there IS a difference. Things that seem “fair” quite often don’t justify the burden placed upon others to create such a utopia. Might I add, Utopian ideals belong in the land of unicorns where, I understand, there is no unemployment, debt or greed.

The steps to citizenship have turned into an elevator, with buttons labeled in 7 languages, rather than a goal worthy of being hard-earned.

We accept that all politicians lie, and justice is for sale, without “blinking an eye” while we squabble about semantics (political correctness) to the point of ignoring our common cultural erosion. There is not one problem, other than foreign terrorism, that cannot be explained by and blamed, partly, on our ailing culture.

We don’t recognize that by creating new laws, we also are defining new categories of criminals for an already over-burdened justice system and refuse to realize that the overburdened system, is the reason the current laws aren’t already enforced.

Our media takes advantage of our busy distractions and choreograph our outrage by carefully choosing or boycotting information according to their own tastes and addiction to sensationalism.

Parenting used to be a cultural obligation to our children. Parents who did not take their roles seriously were treated as deadbeats.  Look around, parenting has become a choice according to personal comforts, decided after kids are born. There is no backlash, no stigma, any more.

Look at our current culture and ask, “Is there no shame?”

Seems to me, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

In defense of BIG kids…

soccer2011 025Maddie 2

Kids, who are bigger than their similar aged peers, get a bum rap.

Kids who are “big” are considered to be older and more restrained than little kids. They cannot return a smaller kid’s push without risking the “bully” label but, somehow, are expected to be more mature.

Big kids are expected to be smarter because they “appear” older and ,because of this, can be measured at a glance, as dumber. A rock and a hard place that is!

Big kids who cry, seem more babyish than little ones. C’mon now, we all know they do.

The prejudices are not exclusive to size either. Parents are eager to accept that their slightly younger child is as knowledgeable as an older one but just won’t budge when it comes to considering that their older child may be as immature as one slightly younger.

The key words in many descriptions are too often overlooked. The key word in the term “big kid” is kid.

With all this in mind, isn’t the key word in “gun violence”, violence?

Food for thought…watch for key words in every label. They’re there, the problem arises when we don’t recognize them.

https://sillyfrogsusan.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-bully/

Wishes, Expectations and Perceptions

I was sitting at my kitchen table with three friends. We were snacking on potato chips. A lull in the conversation inspired me to examine my chip.

“Is this a chip or a crumb?” I asked the group. They all responded, “Chip”.

Then I took a bite of it. “Well?” The group had a variety of responses and the discussion came to life.

We sat and pondered the criteria that each individual used to reach a conclusion. One member insisted that in order to be called a potato chip it had to have a roundness. I suggested that a chip was anything that could withstand dipping beyond my clasped forefinger and thumb. We all then agreed immediately that dipping rules can vary and it depended whether  the dipping were at home or in public. Everyone knows that “home dipping” allows the fingers to touch the dip and “public dipping” does not.

There are so many ways to consider things that it amazes me how people have such a close idea of undefined measurements. Society and experiences must be out training ground.

If you ask a four-year old about porcupines, they all tell you that the sharp quills are called “porks”. No exceptions! Their grasp of language rules and concepts is greater than their understanding of the world itself.

Our book club got together this month to discuss “The Next Thing on My List” by Jill Smolinski. It is about a woman who becomes the custodian of a list of accomplishments another woman has written and hopes to complete. The creator of the list is killed and the woman who feels responsible for her death, decides to complete it for her. Although the book is comical and enjoyable, the idea of keeping a list of “hopeful things” made our discussion personal. We each took turns reciting 5 things from our own list of hopefuls. While listening to others, I realized that hopes and wishes have a blurred, overlapping territory. I hoped to one day learn how to operate a backhoe. Another member dreamed of knowing that her kids were comfortable,settled and happy.

Our lists proved so very interesting, we learned about each other in ways we hadn’t imagined. Even after the meeting, people paired off to compare notes on specific items brought up from our lists.

This whole piece is dedicated to the varied and communal sides of our human experience. How we somehow know when a rock is a boulder not a stone and a chip is a crumb.