Teaching Kids When to Walk Away and When to Stand

I pulled my van to the carline curb and I could tell by the look on my happy kid’s face, the day didn’t go so hot.

Before his seatbelt was fastened, the words tumbled out. He was wringing hands and his voice shook and my heart right along with it.

“I have to see the Principal tomorrow. I got in a fight,” words I’d never heard from his lips.

I waited for the punchline.

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His teacher waved my car over and motioned for me to roll down the window. I knew it wasn’t a joke by the look on her face. She told me my son would explain and then this God-sent teacher said, “Don’t be hard on him, Mom. It was a natural response.”

Within minutes I had the story: A couple of boys started picking on my son at lunch. The same intimidating boys we told him to walk away from months earlier when they started name-calling. My son did it and it held off the bullies. For awhile. When it started back up, my son walked away. Again. But this time, one of the boys rammed him with his shoulder. My son did the same back. A lunchroom aid told them to knock it off.

My son is a peacemaker. He’s kind and probably one of the most tender boys I know. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he walked away for the third time after the reprimand. That’s when he was pushed from behind, so hard he stumbled forward several feet.

He turned around and pushed back just as hard.

And that’s what you call a school fight. Thankfully, teachers broke them up and separated them. They collected stories and witnesses and nervous boys.

After school, my son was worried we would be upset with him.

I realized we had clearly taught him when to walk away, but not when to stand.

He learned that lesson all by himself.

I told him how proud I was of his choice to walk away first and defend himself second.. “Maybe I should have punched him? I almost…” and the testerone flowed. I told him we don’t advocate fighting and fists never fix things.

“Mom, I think the name calling is over,” he said and smiled for the first time since being picked up. I told him there might be a consequence at school for pushing back, but it didn’t matter. He did the right thing and if the right thing was punishable, we would take that too.

He gave his side of the story to administration the next day.  I got a phone call explaining that the bully situation was being dealt with seriously. And then she commended my son for doing the right thing.

“Your son did exactly what we want our students to do. He walked away and then when that didn’t work, he stood firm,” she said.

What we need to teach our kids concerning bullies:

  1. Define it: “Bully” is a loose term these days. My kids even use it at home referring to each other. We define it as someone who is consistently trying to intimidate you with their ugly words or their bodies.
  2. Avoid bullies: These kids aren’t cool, don’t try and be a part of their group or win them over. And don’t join them being verbally abusive to someone else.
  3. Walk away: Sometimes the most powerful response to a negative word is to simply ignore it. It’s like letting air out of bulging tire. Many “bullies” are just full of hot air and walking away diffuses the situation.
  4. Tell an adult: It’s always okay to tell your parents or a teacher when someone is name calling or making your feel inferior with their words. There’s a fine line between reporting a bully who is relentless and tattle tailing for every little thing. But if it’s something that goes on regularly and is a problem, our kids need to feel safe in reporting it.
  5. Stand and defend yourself: There are some situations where you need to stand tall against them. This act of bravery is often enough to send them scampering.

The boys had to “serve some time” (my son’s words) and when they said their “bullying had just been for fun” the teacher asked my son if he thought it was fun. The boys were sorry and offered a sincere apology.

My son learned when to walk away and when to stand. It was a good lesson for all of us.


What Special Needs Kids Have Taught My Children

“Mommy! Guess what?” my first grader said excitedly at the beginning of the school year.

“What,  honey?” I asked.

“There are two special needs students in my class this year. Can you believe it? We are so lucky,” she said and ran off to play.

I wasn’t really surprised by her enthusiasm, but it touched me just the same. Her life has been shaped by the impact special needs kids have had on her siblings and our family. Her older brother received a Community Award in the third grade for serving Paul, a boy with learning disabilities. He shrugged off the award because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. “Paul is my friend, Mom.”

When her older sister was in the sixth grade, we attended the end of the year Awards program and the school gave several special needs kids trophies for their hard work. I wept in the middle of the row as I watched my daughter’s friend with Down’s Syndrome jump up and down and wave her trophy wildly in the air and do a victory march.

And then I’ll never forget watching my children serve a meal at a children’s home in Africa that housed some of Kenya’s most vulnerable handicapped children. I thought they might be afraid of the loud noises, the smells, and seeing mentally ill crippled children walk on their knees. But they boldly loved on these beautiful people and I they taught me so much about Jesus that day.

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We proudly wear our “This is How We Roll” shirts to advocate for our good friends whose son is wheel-chair bound. My kids love books like I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice and are learning to see special needs students as more like them, than different. And when the high school in our town voted in the Homecoming Queen a few weeks ago, the newly crowned student wheeled her chair onto the court, we all smiled at each other. It made us proud to be a part of a school that values everyone.

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I have great kids. While they are 100% normal (and by that I mean, they stuff dirty clothes under their beds and leave empty toilet paper rolls regularly and spent an hour yesterday pulling weeds because they needed an opportunity to get along. ahem), they also understand that life is really about loving others.

Here are 4 powerful things special needs kids have taught my children:

  • Don’t Give Up When It’s Hard: Day in and day out, my children work alongside children in wheelchairs, with safety helmets, cochlear implants, autism, behavioral issues and who are non-verbal. I love that kids with these struggles are integrated into every classroom. My kids watch them tenaciously struggle and achieve what comes easy for others. They are inspired by these children who refuse to give up.
  • Compassion Makes You a Better Person: It really comes down to love for others. It’s a God-given emotion to want to come alongside someone who is facing a challenge. Every special needs child we have know, loves without limits and are compassionate.
  • Gratitude: My kids have learned to be thankful. They see their friends achieve great feats and are proud of them. It’s also hard not to be thankful for health and perspective when they realize their struggles are different. They watch their teachers come along side and cheer on kids and it spurs gratitude.
  • It’s Ok to be Different: I’ve written before how my kids sometimes feel different in our culture because of some of the choices we’ve made. Special needs kids have taught them how to celebrate being unique. Different is good.

Last week at my first grader’s parent-teacher conference, I got an update on my daughter’s reading level and looked through her test scores and worksheets. But when her teacher said, “Your daughter is kind to everyone, especially our special needs learners who are non-verbal. She always makes sure they have a partner and are included in the class activities.”

I felt like I’d won the lottery.

Because nothing-not straight A’s or clean bedrooms-makes me more proud than the way my kids have allowed special needs children into their lives and impacted them to be better people. It’s not just about rooting for the underdog, it’s about seeing our special friends as they are–strong and beautiful and a gift in our lives.


Raising Boys to be Men of Faith: 4 Things We Can Teach Our Sons

When nurses handed us our swaddled babies, we sighed deeply. We might have kissed their downy heads or examined them head to toe. We might have felt a bubble of joy deep down or wept openly. We might have done all of these things. And while the words may not have been spoken openly, in that moment we had achieved what women from the first century and still in many countries today deem the highest act of motherhood: we had produced a son.

I have one son. He was fathered by my husband, an only son, too. With this child, a family name continues. He is now 11 years old and he has lived up to the words scrawled over his crib. Definition of a Boy:// Noise with dirt on it.

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Yes, he is typical. He is his Dad’s shadow, loves to taunt sisters, doesn’t mind a stain or two, generally has messy hands, runs instead of walks, eats and eats and then asks for a snack. His backpack is a disaster, he forgets his lunch in the car and leaves his clothes on the floor.

But there were things I didn’t expect along the way: like the way he reaches for my hand, is naturally kind to others, always roots for the underdog, how he feels joy and pain deeply and is ruled by a desire to make peace. I didn’t expect to be his first love.

Lately his Daddy has been talking to him privately about boy things. And girls. With it has come a maturity, I didn’t expect. It’s a necessary hard part of parenting. We must remind ourselves if we don’t teach them, the world will show them. I can’t help but think about my son as a grown up man, someday, someone’s husband, a father. It makes me want to raise the kind of boy I would want my girls to marry. It makes me want to look ahead because the future will be here tomorrow; it makes me want to raise a man of faith.

I want to encourage you, Boy Mom, whether your babe is in your arms or his shoes are smelling up his room right now,  teaching your son now about grace and girls, sex and faith is not only building character today, it’s preparing him to be a good man, husband and father in the future.. You’re not only his mother, you’re his example. So much of who my son will be is being formed now and who he is today was influenced years ago. You can never start too young and it’s never too late to start.

Click over the MOB Society to continue reading the 4 Things We Can Teach Our Sons….


Parenting 101: A Guide from an Older Mom

Something weird happened a couple of years ago: I became the older mom and younger moms started assuming I had answers to their parenting questions. (I know. I can hear my kids laughing at the very thought.)

But instead of wearing a permanent sticky note on my forehead declaring I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING EITHER, I thought I’d put together of little guide of my sage advice in dealing with some parenting issues. I hope it is a source of encouragement and help. (I also hope you appreciate sarcasm.)

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Temper Tantrums

We’ve all experienced them, right?

If your child has never had one, HOLD ON. It’s coming at some point.

Tip: If ignoring and stepping over your thrashing child doesn’t work, I suggest throwing yourself on the floor. Add in a bit of kicking and screaming for good measure. If it doesn’t distract your child, it might scare them into behaving or at least give them some company. Plus, it’s good to get a view of your floors this way and it might make you feel better.

Talking Back

You might be staring at your tiny baby on your lap right now and be thinking “It’s just not possible.” Oh, bless your heart.

Tip: When my kids are disrespectful, it takes a lot of self control on my part to RESPOND correctly, which mostly means not being disrespectful right back. Or yelling. Remaining calm and in control goes a long way.

But if that fails, see Temper Tantrum above or break down and sob uncontrollably about your hurt feelings. Sometimes they just need to remember you’re a person, too.

Chores

Tip: If you’re struggling to get your kids to pitch in around the house, simply stop doing it all yourself. It’s sort of a shock to their system when they have to dig dirty clothes out of the hamper. Unless they are a teen and then they don’t mind at all. In this case, I suggest sliding an invoice under their door for rent. Also known as a WAKE UP CALL.

Cleaning Up

The other day my kids avoided a nasty hairball on the floor, only to point it out to me (from upstairs). In this situation, I’ve found it’s best to quietly pick up the vomit with 17 paper towels and then chase your kids around the house with it for a bit. It doesn’t really teach them much, but it’s really fun.

*Updated: My cat left another gift on the kitchen tile before I published this post. My son walked right in and grabbed paper towels and cleaned it up. Miracles happen, y’all.

Sibling Rivalry

Let me tell you what not to do: Don’t send your kids into the back yard to “work it out.” Because one of your kids might just get punched in the nose, not that I know from experience or anything.

Tip: While I really hate hearing my kids fight, arguing is often the best way to work something out or compromise.

Now, I just go to the backyard.

Paying for College

Um.

Dating

I’m banking on the Second Coming of Jesus before I have to figure this one out (sticks head back in sand)

Sleep: Naps, Sleeping Thru the Night/Sleeping In

I have one kid that has always required half the sleep I do.  Tip: Might I suggest room darkening curtains for them and ear plugs for yourself? And that whole don’t wake a sleeping baby? It’s truth.

Picking Your Battles

I once saw a child wearing the strangest assortment of mismatched clothes with church shoes at the store. I remember thinking my child will never go out in public looking like that. And then a few years later, I realized I was a really great mother–before I had kids.

That’s all I’ve got, people.

Y’all have a happy Monday.


Signs You Might Be a Mom

I cleaned out my big blue purse this week. You know since it was taking me 9.2 minutes to find my keys in the sea of stuff. Plus, I thought I was imagining an odor coming from the bag. Besides all my junk, I pulled out a progress report, a Pictionary Card Game, a smashed granola bar, two hair bows, a battery,  a plastic lizard, a small screwdriver and behold, two of my son’s dirty socks.

If my purse was ever stolen, there would be NO DOUBT I was either a mom or the Unabomber.

Some signs you might be a mom (from me and mostly the best Facebook Community ever):
You double-knot everything you tie.

You find yourself humming “What would the fox say?” (I dare you not to look it up on Youtube).

You really want Repunzel to GET A HAIRCUT.

You ask your husband if he needs to go potty while you’re on a date.

You can discipline your kids with JUST A LOOK.

You count to 5 constantly (keeping track of all the kiddos).

You have wipes and Kleenex in every room/car/bag.You go to grab your wallet and you pull out a Baggie with a tooth!
You point out diggers/construction trucks/animals out loud even when you are on your own.
You might be a mom of boys if…you find a snake head in a bowl of water on the kitchen counter!You dish your husbands dinner, making sure nothing touches, and cut his chicken into bite-sized pieces.You read closed captions out loud…even when alone.

You can stop any argument or fight with the kids by just shouting, “wow pow pow pow pow pa pow!!” And then they all break into dance.

You go to a meeting and pull a cheerio out of your pocket with your business card.

You have a pair of Star Wars angry bird underwear in your purse.

You find miniature ninjas in the bottom of your coffee cup when you finally finish drinking it…

You are constantly humming kids songs and don’t even realize it.

All sorts of things come out of your washer/dryer that were hidden in your son’s pockets… coins, rocks, sticks!!!

When your husband has a little something on his face, you lick your finger and go to clean it without thinking twice about it.

You call random people you know by your kids name, especially when they are ticking you off.

You say “so help me” several times a day.

You have a Hello Kitty bandaid on your leg, and a Batman bandaid on your finger.

You find yourself uttering all of your mom’s sayings from your childhood…”give me strength” or “I hope your child whines half as much as you do one day”.

You send the kids outside to play so you could watch Mr. Rogers in peace and quiet.

The only money in your wallet is plastic play money.

You go to the bathroom with little eyes staring at you.

You find yourself enjoying the toy aisle to see what’s new when you’re supposed to be grocery shopping.

You unscrew the top of the sippy cup and drink.

You can snap your fingers and their heads snap to see who’s in trouble.

You use your own shirt as a Kleenex, mop, napkin, and pouch for carrying toys to the correct toy box.

You look at one of your children that is just like you and get scared of the future.

You realize that your mom was right about you having one just like you and then you laugh because she gets to babysit.

You find reasons to discipline your child with an early bedtime just so YOU can go to bed early, too!

You  accidentally called your husband “daddy” in public (probably more than once) when the kids weren’t with you.

You have baby wipes stashed in multiple places in your car and house…and you may have whipped them out to wipe tomato sauce off a colleague at lunch recently

You know you’re a mom when you drive hours, sit in freezing weather, and rearrange schedules just to watch your child play an hour of soccer.

Moms, have a great weekend!  You deserve it.