They Are Watching Us (spoiler: They are Learning from our Behavior!)

cares

Did you see or hear the news last tonight? It seems a lot of us are on edge. Even for those of us who are doing our best to make sure this is a “regular Tuesday” and a “regular week,” neither are regular.  This is a week that will make history. Today is a day that (hopefully) will bring some closure to weeks of name calling, poor behavior, degrading others, and generally showing the worst of humanity. A high schooler told me yesterday  she worries “tomorrow will be the worst,” as in the worst day for our country and “the worst election ever.”  She’s not even voting. But she’s watching others.

It’s time to move on to civility, decency, empathy, and proactive behavior on social, political, economic and world issues. Let’s not let what may or may not be the “worst” campaign season and election become the “worst” time in our history.

It’s time to  move ahead for ourselves,  and so our spectators to see us be and do better. Cooperatively. Peacefully.

voteNo matter what your political beliefs are, people are watching and judging each other. It’s  the kind of judging that doesn’t  engender itself to kindness and compassion, let alone productivity, cooperation, and efficiency.  I can’t think of one adult that has not been distracted or disgusted by politics. Even friends living abroad and those of us in-country have lost time from our work, family and priorities to take part in this divisive campaign.  Admittedly, many are working proactively to get folks out to vote (BE. SURE. YOU. VOTE.) or lobbying for their cause.  But there have been distractions and diversions and – my issue d’jour –  what we model for our children. They are watching. And wondering. And learning. And puzzling why some adults are doing precisely what the tell children NOT to do.

Yes, they are all watching us and taking this all in. By “all,” I mean:

  • Yell
  • Call each other names
  • Misrepresent facts
  • Go on defense 
  • Lie
  • Blame
  • Accuse
  • Deflect the issue

The  list of undesirable behaviors could go on…
They are watching acquaintances and family members and people they know only in images  behave like this. They are seeing people they look up to behave like this and often, disagree with others they  love, behaving in unsavory, undesirable ways.  Often this adult behavior is precisely the same ways we tell our children they are not to behave.  “Don’t lie to me! ”  “Stop yelling and use your words!”

In a world where many of us are dedicating our life’s work to teaching kids prosocial skills – like cooperation, assertiveness, respect, empathy  and self-control – there are so many adults who are not demonstrating these basic human skills.  While they are “basic,” they are also in high demand but often not taught nor utilized.

It’s fine – and necessary in a democracy – to have different opinions. Sharing these diverse views requires one to listen to the other side and to make an argument respectfully with facts, with a sense of cooperation to solve a greater issue, and often with empathy so that the problem can be resolved. The interwebs are fantastic.  However, just because it is on-line, that doesn’t make it true, necessary, or desirable. Our kids are hearing and seeing images of poor behavior and ideas that morph from beliefs to thoughts to words and action. As Gandhi said:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

These aggressive, antisocial words, actions, and habits cannot become the values and destiny of a generation. It’s no way for any of us to live.

We need to take a huge, collective breath as the numbers come in.  We need to recommit ourselves to treating each other with care and respect, to discussing issues from a place of cooperation and integrity, and to developing solutions with civility, empathy and advocacy.  It’s time to  get on with the work and joy in our life, rather than being distracted by an election squabbles. This election is  immensely important, but it seems to be keeping us, individually and collectively, from being our best.   We need to up the game, if nothing else, because our kids are watching and learning from us.

Go vote. Go be kind. Go do good. Show those who are watching you how you want the world to be.

Take care,

lisa

 

 

 

LWells

Busy? Or Productive and Full?

george

There’s a lot of talk these days about being busy.  There has been for months, so the fact that we are still talking about it means, we haven’t harnessed the beast called Busy.  I’ve come to dislike the term, this so-called  badge of honor.  But why be proud about scrambling around?

Confession:

I used to brag about being busy.  It felt like my obligation to be busy. It was a sign of accomplishment, pride, power over my crazy life. And there are certainly still times that my planner and calendar are filled, and many more times my mind and body are filled.

 

Then I read this from Alina Dizik in BBC.com

“We burn valuable time doing things that aren’t necessary or important because this busyness makes us feel productive,”

Yup, feeling productive feels good. Until I realize I am not doing much that is important or necessary. Ouch.

But there’s really no power in being busy. For me, there was also not a heck of a lot of joy, because the business of being busy wasn’t my choice.  But often, I look good being busy.

Why is it that  we in this country, especially women, feel the need to be busy?  Many women certainly have multiple layers of obligations (as do men).  We’re employees, friends, parents, humans. The juggle is not easy and it’s often not about balancing like the classic image of Lady Justice keeping things even. More often, it’s like keeping those (very full) plates teetering on top of those poles.

plates

For the past several weeks, I’ve had an unofficial experiment where I have decided NOT to use the word busy (unless it’s in reference to a phone call that doesn’t ring through).  While I have absolutely no data, I have noticed that if I don’t say “busy” I hear it less often from others.  This includes busy’s kissing cousins named “crazy,” “insane,” and “hectic,” as well as the second cousin recognized as the eye roll and palms raised.  Don’t’ put it out there and see what happens.

For the most part, our schedules are full. But when you put out there that you are “busy,” you’re likely to get that right back. Busy brings the connotation of full, but not to my liking – or full and I don’t want to be doing these things.  

I could easily describe myself as “busy,” too.  But I’m making a concerted effort to have a full calendar and full planner by making conscious choices about what I want and need to be doing.  I’m also not letting those endless little fires build momentum.

So I’ve changed my dialogue – when asked “how are you?”  Often, I simply say “well” and smile and ask, “how are things with you?” In return, I’ve heard lovely stories of kids and work and personal accomplishments from folks I chat with. I’ve also heard details of challenges in work or family life – but these anecdotes generally don’t include the word “busy.”

Oh, and that feels good. Like breathing space to listen to each other.

I can’t do this alone. I’m just not that smart, clever, nor disciplined.   I have tools.  More next time on those tools.

Until then, try not to be so busy.  Breathe, listen, enjoy.

 

Take care,

lisa

 

 

 

LWells

 

 

 

Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1

NOTE: As I was about to move my home office, I read a post by a friend who suggested those of us in a coaches group post pictures of our home office.  This was motivation to get crackin’ and make things look good. Or at least, better.  A day later, Jess Lahey and KJ Del Antonia were chatting on #AmWritingWithJessandKJ about their lack of workspace, reminding me how lucky I am to have a space and how needy that space was for some love.  So the move and requisite purge began with a little kick in the pants from these three friends.

 I. HAVE. BOOKS.

At last count, four bookcases in my office and one in the basement. Stacks around the house and stashed in tote bags and baskets. About a dozen bankers boxes with children’s books.  After our fire in 2005, one of the movers said, “Lady, are you a librarian or something?”  “Nope, I am the Trifecta. Teacher. Parent. Reader.”  He didn’t get it.

bookshelf

We replaced dozens of the books lost in the fire.  A decade later, I have SO many books – Kids’ books. Teacher books. Grown up books. Picture books. Well-read books. Unopened books. I am now trying to part with some of them, because… well, I really do not need all of them and they need more love and care than I can give.  It’s more emotional than looking at a scrapbook or photo album, perhaps because I never managed to keep either of those.  I AM really good at keeping books.   Continue reading “Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1”

Judy Judger, Parent

It’s been a while since I wrote. Maybe you missed me or maybe you didn’t notice.  I did write, but like most writers, only a small percentage of what I write ever shows up where others will read, and lately, most of my writing was crap.  Writing is one of those things I  file under my mom-judging practice.  I know…. there’s no point in that.  (My self-criticism was mitigated after listening to the inaugural episode of #AmWriting With Jess and KJ as  they celebrated procrastination and writing.). A story on the  Today Show this week reminded me how unproductive mom-judging is, no matter what the source, so it was time to stop judging and revise some writing.

writing

Most of us do  shame and judge ourselves at some point unless we work hard to combat the tiny heckler that rides on our shoulder.  When I’m aware enough to notice that heckler, I try to say hello and then I say goodbye.  Sort of like welcoming an unexpected guest to a cocktail party and quickly dispatching them on an unsuspecting guest who will engage in conversation with them when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do it yourself.

 

I’m also aware of how often we  – parents, teachers, caregivers – all judge each other and ourselves. My curiosity was piqued by my friend Cynthia’s post,  Keeping Things Cool,  where she identifies the many flaws in Judy Judgers‘ visits and why we need to keep our own Judy under wraps, or at least far away from us at the internal cocktail party.  Judging others rarely serves us, right? If you really feel the need to speak your truth to friend or foe, then for goodness’ sake, take a deep breath and find a way to do this respectfully, maybe even in the future when you can respond rather than react. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism nor speaking the truth, but there is also no need to rush to judgment, inflict shame, or rip someone apart just for sport.

 

If you’re a parent, you know this happens, and not just with kids.  I’ve witnessed moms in coffee shops look  at strangers and wonder aloud how she got out of the house “like that.”  I’ve heard parents muse about how one could simply “not” get their kids into SAT tutoring as high school freshmen. I’ve heard men speak unkindly about the physical appearance of another guy’s wife. As a teacher, I’ve wondered what makes a parent send a first grader with a lunch that is 97% refined sugar.  And then there was a period when people wondered how I let my four-year-old son out of the house in a Disney Princess bikini (in retrospect, the bigger issue was why we even owned such a sequined-get-up).

 

I’ve also witnessed, and participated in, the self-shaming that comes when Judy Judger looks in the mirror.

  • “Ugh…should I  bring my kid his homework/lunch/cleats?”
  • “My daughter hates me because I took her phone away.”
  •  “I really need to make my kids a more healthy snack/dinner/breakfast.”
  • “My teen hates me… I can’t seem to say anything right.”
  • “I should really purchase clothes from this decade.”

These are real and they  could even be your thoughts.  Some of these are old-fashioned natural consequences – often hard for kids and parents to accept. Forgot the homework? The kid will learn new skills so she’s more likely to remember next time.  Take a phone away?  If it’s related to the misbehavior, he’ll learn actions have consequences.  Need more healthy meals – enlist the kids to help out since you’re definitely not the only one who eats.

 

The point is, we are all imperfect.  We mess up, we learn to fix things, we learn to move through the tough stuff. It’s easy for Judy Judger to show up  when we’re feeling stressed, vulnerable, and human. But that does not mean you need to engage in conversation with her.

judy

 

Parenting and family life is messy for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated by judgment.  We each have skills, strengths, and flaws.  Our kids, whether they are four or seventeen, need to see us as flawed humans who are doing our best and who are lucky enough to have the support of others.  They need to see us struggle, fail, and pick ourselves up.  They need to see us exercise the compassion to help others do the same.

 

Even though you feel like you have so much control and influence over your kids’ lives, the day will come (very) soon when you will not be able to shield them from struggles.  They will need the skills to navigate challenges on their own  and they will experience failure.   Our mission as parents is to raise them to fly solo – with us to observe, listen, and coach.

They can’t do this if they see witness us judging ourselves and others as if we expect perfection.

 

Let’s make room to allow ourselves and our kids do their best, live with natural consequences and learn from the process.  We’re all in this together – and we will be better – if we just sequester Judy Judger and instead, act with compassion, honesty, and integrity towards ourselves and others.

Take care,

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Lisa Dewey Wells

 

What is Creativity?

creativitycre·a·tiv·i·ty – [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh-] noun

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.

 

Creativity may be becoming a lost art, no pun intended.  Days of roaming the ‘hood or just messing around in the back yard are dwindling for many kids.   We – parents and kids – are scheduled, overscheduled and busy, distracted.  Just look at the proliferation of adult coloring books as a creative and mindful antidote to adults’ busy lives. Or look at the wide variety of pre-packaged creative projects available to kids, so long as they follow the directions to complete the craft. Or look around in a public space and see the heads (big and small) with necked bent forward over a screen instead at another human being.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”  – Dr. Seuss

What does this lack of authentic creative processes mean for our kids?  How do we let them tap into their creativity, let alone nurture it and find meaningful ways to tap into it? Why does this matter, now and as they develop?  Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, cites research from Dr.Kyung Hee Kim (College of William and Mary) that says:

“creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.”  

Furthermore, as most working adults know, few questions have one black and white, single correct answer.   A creative thinker can look at a problem from different perspectives and offer different solutions.  Schools face their own challenges and demands which, unfortunately, often stifle this type of creative problem solving and thinking.  At home, kids often have to overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure to find their most creative selves. But then cannot if they are scheduled and entertained. If you’re looking to spark creativity and let kids learn to be bored, what can parents and caregivers do to foster creativity at home?

I’m curious to know how you allow your children the space and time to explore creativity?  I asked this recently on the WOC Facebook page.  Some response includes science experiments seen on video, freedom to explore outside, craft projects are done around the kitchen table.  What opportunities are available to them to explore outdoors or with materials inside? Where do you allow them the freedom to try things and perhaps fail? To learn and grow and feel self-efficacy?

What else do you do? What are opportunities available to them to explore outdoors or with materials inside? Where do you allow them the freedom to try things and perhaps fail? To learn and grow and feel self-efficacy?  Please drop a note in the comments below or just shoot me a note at wonderofchildren@gmail.com.

One final note, with a full disclaimer that this falls under the heading of “parental pride.”  My son, one who struggled and persevered through school, is now a senior, destined for art school next fall. Years of wondering how all his creativity and quirky tendencies will play out – and still wondering – we are thrilled that his efforts have allowed him to develop art like this:

Nathan Barrier Ollie by J. Wells

 

Creative art like this mixed-media, has won him national recognition with a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art Awards, along with a couple other Scholastic Art Awards. Our family is not one to college trophies and awards, but this is an amazing affirmation of the kind of stuff he can create and as parents, the affirmation that letting your kid be who he is destined to be is a joyful process and sometimes, comes with external recognition. If you’re in NYC this spring, NYC students’ creativity recognized with Gold Key Awards will be exhibited at the Met, March 11th- May 30th.

Here’s to a creative week!

Take care,

lisa

 

 

LWells