gossip girl

When my son was in preschool he came home with this mantra one day, “Secrets, secrets are not nice… even for little mice.” When he came home with this little gem, I thought about my own secret keeping skills. But the more I thought about this little chant the more I thought, “This is SO wrong!” The leading sentence should be updated to: “Gossip, gossip, is not nice…” It’s not the secret that causes the problem but rather the spreading of secrets that does.

Gossip runs rampant in a school community. Amongst students, gossip is a behavior we try to abolish through education about empathy, open-mindedness, perspectives, and compassion. But gossip amongst the parent community can have detrimental effects on a school community and schools have limited ways to curb the tempers that ensue.

In my years of teaching, I’ve had a number of parents talk to me (as a teacher and parent) about other students in their child’s classroom community: “Can you believe that Ethan* has not been suspended from school after he kicked Janice on the playground?” or “I think Mrs. Smith lets that boy get away with anything he wants to in class” or ” We won’t be inviting her to our daughter’s birthday party because she is such a naughty child.”

The truth of the matter is–we all only know half of the story. And even if you were a participant in the event that has lead to the story that is being spread, you have your own perspective that can skew the story.

So here are my 4 best tips for curbing gossip:

  1. Avoid. Don’t participate in it! It’s as simple as that. If you hear someone start gossiping about a student, parent, or colleague you need to take control of your behavior and say something, change the subject, or walk away.
  2. Pause. Take a minute to reflect on why you are listening to the gossip. If you choose to  listen and/or spread gossip, consider what it say about you and your character.
  3. Empathize. Think back to a time when someone gossiped about you. How did it feel? Were you mad at the gossip creator or the one(s) spreading it? So why are you part of that same cycle?
  4. Speak up. I can tell you, this is the tip I find most challenging (as a parent) but quite easy as a teacher. When parents come to me as an educator, I sort of have the upper hand and can tell them that I need to listen to all sides of the story with an open mind. As a parent, I find that gossip is so pervasive at birthday parties and social events that it’s hard to avoid and even harder to quash. As often as I feel confident, I try to speak up and say something of value about the person they are gossiping about. Defending the person at the crux of the story often stops the gossipers in their tracks as people often gossip when they feel that their audience has a sense of disdain for the person being talked about. A compliment skews their perception of me and gives the person a good quality–and it’s hard to gossip about people who are good.

As a teacher, I would add one additional thought I’d like you to consider: If you are listening to parents talking about how that “Mean girl hits other students” keep in mind, you and your child may be the next target of such gossip.

What will you do differently tomorrow?

*Names have been changed for child protection.

Angela

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new year, new routines

Every December 31st, people around the globe write a list of resolutions that will help them be the best version of themselves in the year ahead. Unfortunately, by the end of January, most people have failed themselves by neglecting their resolutions. But if you have school-aged kids, you’re lucky… you get to reboot every September.

Each school year rings in “newness:” New teachers, new clothes, new school supplies, and new routines. So here are my top 5 routine busters to help you and your child(ren) get (and stay) organized.

calendarize your life: Calendars help people see what’s happening next. This, in turn, helps limit tantrums (from the kids and adults alike)! Depending on the age of your child and the chaos in your life, you’ll need a different type of calendar. For little ones, I always loved Melissa & Doug’s magnetic calendars because they allow kids to begin developing a mathematical understanding of numbers, months, and holidays. For older kids, a fridge calendar may be just what need to see the days’ events at a glance (our family’s calendar is color coded and added to as events come up). For tech-savvy families, create and share a Google Calendar. The events will be visible to all family members and will automatically update when someone makes a change.

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get everyone to pitch in: There is no rule in child-rearing that states that the adults have to do it all. Why do think the word “chores” was invented? That said, everyone has got to pitch in. It doesn’t mean the work load will be equitable, but each family member should pitch in and help in an age-appropriate manner. What is age-appropriate you ask? Well, you know your kids best so you decide. But Your Modern Family has some great ideas to help you get the ball rolling. With our older children, we discussed the chores that need to get done each day and then we divided them accordingly (keeping in mind the kids’ schedules). At our teens’ age, we decided to compensate with money which helps build about financial independence.

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stay connected: During the school year, days quickly turn in to weeks, weeks turn in to months, and, before you know it, we’re back around at summer again. Don’t let the time get away from you. Step away from the hectic reality of life (and the glow of your devices) to make contact with your child(ren), your partner, and your tribe! Go beyond the “How was your day?” gibberish because, really, there is no good answer to that question. Dig a little deeper and ask more meaningful questions. My favorites are:

  • What did you do to make someone smile today?
  • If you could do today all over again, what would you have changed?
  • What is one thing you want to remember about today?

I haven’t cornered the market on great thought-provoking queries as I sometimes find myself asking the banal, “What did you learn today?” question. …And I’m not sure these moms have figured it out much better than I have, but they’ve got some prompts that might help you get started (though I would avoid any “tattle-type” questions myself). [Questions from Motherly and FabulesslyFrugal]

Here’s a bonus idea for staying connected with tweens. This idea directly correlates with the calendarize suggestions mentioned above: keep each other in the loop. Back in “little kid” days, my husband or I would be asked to “Bring the family ’round for dinner.” “Sure, no problem” we’d respond with the assumption that kids would enjoy the night out.  We’d load up the kids, grab a bottle of wine, and be on our way. But that is not the way to do it with tweens and teens. They’ve got their own agendas. So I suggest you start a family chat to help with those “I was just invited…” plans that come up at school and work. We’ve observed that the chat has alleviated a lot of stress because everyone knows what is coming (“We are going out to dinner with the Smith’s on Friday”) and reduces the inevitable parental taxi strain (“Can you drop us off at the movies at 7? Her mom will pick us up!”).

set up a lunch line: With the invention of refrigerators, lunch-making has never been easier. But I’m shocked at how many parents I catch complaining about having to wake up early to put together the day’s lunches. Stop it. There is a better way! Get everyone involved in making their own lunch. We started getting our kids to make their own lunches when they were 3 years-old. My husband would cut up stacks of veggies (and the kids would pick two different kinds) while I helped the kids slop mayo, mustard, and veggies on bread. The kids would fill reusable containers with yogurt, fruit salad, and/or fruit juice and they’d toss in some cutlery. Done! Now that they are teens, it’s even easier. I make the salads (for the adults) while one kid makes sandwiches or portions out leftovers (for the kids). My husband is still on veggie duty, and the other kid helps where needed: fruit duty, extra protein on sport’s days, or a bonus treat from the weekend’s baking extravaganza.

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The main reason my family keeps me around–I’m the only one who can Tetris the fridge so a week’s worth of shopping, pre-cooked dinners, and all of our lunches fit inside.

don’t sweat the small stuff: It’s OK if the laundry doesn’t get done tonight. The memory of cuddling up with your child and reading a favorite book, drawing a picture for grandma, or listening to them play an instrument (no matter how good or bad) is far more important in the grand scheme of things. Choose to live the best life in the moment and let the rest go!

Angela

 

 

time to start anew

Every January 1st, many adults make New Years resolutions to begin the year anew. But setting goals is something we can all do. At any age and at any time of year! By helping your child to create an age-appropriate resolution, you will help them learn the importance of reflecting on the past, setting goals, and working towards success (despite the pitfalls) for the future.

Some ideas for resolutions which can include your entire family:

power down: turn off technology more often. Carve out family “sacred time” where technology is not allowed. Spend time being together as a family and reconnect with one another. Whether it’s daily dinner time, weekly game night, an activity in which you and child work together to learn something new, or take the dog for a walk on the beach– this quality time with your family (and not your mobile or tablet) will be invaluable.

say NO to sweets: whether you’re trying to exercise more or eat healthier this new year, your child’s healthy eating habits begin at home. Make sweets a “special time treat” instead of a regular part your day. Substitute a bowl of ice cream for apples or yogurt. Make sweets a weekend-only or “party” food and never make dessert an incentive to clean their plate. Don’t bargain with your child. Set the tone because you’re the boss.

have more fun: sometimes our daily routines are SO stressful that we forget to take time out and enjoy the people we love the most in this world. Make a decision to stop this vicious cycle. Take time to get silly with your child. Have a dance party or pillow fight. Draw together or tell goofy stories at bedtime. Let your children see you smile, laugh, and bring out your own inner child!

If these ideas aren’t quite inspiring you…PBS has some great family-focused ideas for some other family resolutions. Happy 2018!

Angela