Putting Bullies to Bed

1297 Relax and Succeed - Grandpa Mom's not right

“Grandpa.”

“What?”

She takes a moment. She feels like maybe it’s an idea too hard to sell. “Mom’s not right about everything….”

Grandpa chuckles. “Oh, I know honey. I remind her of that probably a bit too often for a guy that wants a healthy relationship with his daughter.”

“I told Mom that Sasha and Mercedes were picking on me. But she just said I should ignore them. But I can’t. They’re in my school!”

Grandpa frowns, with his hands on his hips. He’s clearly thinking about something seriously. Then: “I’ll get a bunch of the guys I play cards with and we’ll go over to the school and we’ll beat your bullies with dead snakes and then drive over them in our scooters. How’s that?”

The kid giggles. “Grandpa. I mean it.” She pleads, “They’re mean.”

“No snakes eh….” By the time people are grandpas they’ve often learned a lot about being a human and about how adults get formed by childhoods. He can tell this might be a big moment, so he drops down beside her and slows himself down.

He restarts by tucking her in tighter, which she always likes. “Well sweetie, you know your Mom and I disagree about all kinds of things because we’re different people who do things different ways. But we both love you, which is why I agree with your Mom on this one.”

“But you can’t just ignore people when they’re there grandpa!”

“I ignore you when you bug me for candy.”

The kid finds this defense exasperating. “That’s candy. This is people! It’s not the same!”

Grandpa rears up. “AHA. There’s our answer right there.”

“Where? What answer?”

“You think candy and insults are different.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“No, you want the candy, not me. I don’t want candy. To me you’re just some kid bugging me for candy while I’m trying to read my book. That’s kind of like those girls trying to bug you while you’re playing. It’s the same.”

It is, but it’s not. That’s frustrating for her because she wants her pain. “I’m not confused. They’re mean to me.”

I tightens his embrace around the cocoon of comforters wrapped around her. “Aww sweetie, I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt if that’s what we’re focused on. But I want to save you from that and we can’t make those girls go away.”

He just pets the child’s head for a bit before restarting. “Look, I don’t mind so much when you want candy. But it’s still not good for you to eat all that sugar, so as the grandpa your Mom deputized me in the candy police–

“The Candy Police???” Even a little kid thinks he’s getting a bit rich.

“–yes, because you’re too little to do what we adults call the ‘self-regulation of impulses.’”

“The what?”

“Nothing. Grandpa accidentally tossed a $20 dollar word into a $5 dollar conversation. My fault. What I meant was, adults know when it’s okay to do what we want, and when we shouldn’t. At least mostly. Except maybe your uncle Danny. Anyway, the deciding what to do and what not to do –that’s most important part of life.”

“So how do I make them decide to stop being mean?”

“You can’t. They’re free, just like you. You don’t want to be forced to do what they want you to do –do you?”

“NO.”

“Then you can’t tell them what to do either.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“But I don’t like it!”

“Well that makes sense, they’re being mean. No one likes that. But they don’t control what you focus on. That’s the thing you get to decide. Your Mom’s right. You can ignore them by deciding to focus on something else.”

The kid rolls her eyes. This grandpa has clearly never been to school. “Grandpa, you can’t just not listen. They’re right there.”

“No, I get that sweetie. There are times when you can hear the sound waves coming out of their mouths and those do hit your eardrums. When you’re there. But they’re not here now, right? They’re not in your bedroom on a weekend?”  Just in case, he checks under the bed.

Where’s he going with this? She’s so confused she can’t even figure out how to respond, so he just gets an exhasperated “Grandpa…!”

“No, I mean it. I’m serious. I swear, you’re confused about something. You don’t have to believe me. I’ll explain it.”

“I’m not confused.”

“Just about this one thing –you just haven’t had anyone explain this to you. I’ll make sure to give your Mom heck for not teaching it to you yet.”

This can be Mom’s fault? That makes the lesson much more palatable. She leans a little further into the idea her grandpa is pitching. He can see a common enemy has got them allied. That makes presenting an idea much more likely to succeed. “You like when we go fishing, right?”

“What’s this got to do with Sasha and Mercedes being mean to me?”

“That is a very good question and I promise to answer it. But first you have to tell me if you like fishing and if you do, tell me why?”

“You know why.”

“Why?”

She protests being forced. “Grandpa.”

“You like riding in Grandpa’s boat, right? You like when we stop the motor and just float, and you like how the shiny metal makes the bright lines on the water and the sound the waves make when they hit it.”

She restresses: “Sasha and Mercedes Grandpa, Sasha and Mercedes.”

“I’m getting there. I promise. In this story they drown –sort of.”

Now the kid’s more interested. “Really?”

Grandpa suddenly goes Zen and asks the obvious. “What’s a boat?”

“What? It’s a boat. Like your boat. The thing we go fishing in.”

“Yeah, but what is it. What does it do?”

1297 Relax and Succeed - Does a boat float on the water

“Boats don’t do anything. They just float.”

“Float where?”

Is he serious? “Grandpa. On the water.”

“On it, or in it?”

“Well…” she gives it super serious consideration. “…mostly on, but some of it is in –the parts where our feets go.”

“So then, a boat is kind of like a hole filled with air, down in the water?”

This is a crazy funny idea. “Grandpa, water can’t have holes!”

“Sure it can. They’re called ‘boats.’ If the sides of the boat weren’t there but the water still stayed back, wouldn’t there be a hole in the water where the boat was?”

“You mean if there was no boat?”

“Yeah, but the water stayed where it was.”

Okay wait, maybe he does have a point she’s starting to think now that she’s picturing it…. He’s getting an affirmative look so he continues.

“Okay. So a boat is a little like a hole in the water where we put our feet when we fish. But what makes the boat float is that the water can’t get in, right?”

“It would be a dumb boat if water got in Grandpa.”

Now it’s his turn to laugh. “They needed you on the Titanic.”

“What’s the Titan…”?”

“It was a big boat, but they forgot to keep the water on the outside.”

“That was dumb.”

“Suuuper dumb. But we gotta get back to Sashes and Mercedy there–“

She rolls her eyes and stresses, “Sasha. And. Mercedes….”

“Whatever; the ones that drown. So here’s what your Mom means by ‘ignore them.’ She means that your mind is like a boat you own. You can invite anyone you want into your boat, but the boat only floats –ours minds only stay healthy– if we keep the water out. And Sasha and whatshername are all wet.”

That gets him a giggle, but mostly she’s thinking, brow furrowed. “Sasha and Mercedes are made of water?”

“Well, not really them, it’s their thoughts that are the water.” He takes a moment to think of a way to describe it. “You know how you can’t run fast in the water when I chase you at the pool? That’s ’cause water slows us down. When you hear Sasha and Mercedes say mean things, that’s like hearing the water against the side of the boat. But when you put their water in your head it slows you down. But the water never gets into the boat unless we decide to think about the mean things that people like Sasha and… Merrrrr….–“ Oh oh.

“MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES!”

“–MERCEDEEEESSSS– say. Right? Get it? Them saying mean things at school is the water hitting the side of your mind –the side of your boat. But you thinking of them here in your bedroom, tonight, days later –that’s you pouring their water into your boat. Remember, boats float in water, not on it.

“So all our lives people will splash mean things in our direction, but none of that matters if we stay dry in our boat. So that’s what your Mom means. You sitting here in bed thinking about insults you got hours or days before now is you inviting those girls into the space in your boat when you could have been thinking about me….” Grandpa hangs his head, dejectedly.

She realizes he’s trying to steal her victim thunder. “Grandpa…”

“It’s true. You were thinking of them instead of us going fishing. Who do you feel better spending time with?”

“You. Of course.”

“So take me in your boat instead of them. I take you in mine. That’s why I miss you when we go to Arizona.”

1297 Relax and Succeed - You can invite anyone

She’s not sure she likes this. She’d like this to be Sasha and Mercedes issue to manage.

“Come on. Whose boat is it?”

She tries to wait him out, but he only raises his eyebrows until she reluctantly clucks out a quick, “Mine.”

“Exactly. Your boat is your mind and your job as the Captain is to keep the water out. Right Captain?”

“Can I get a hat?”

“A Captain’s hat?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll see what we can do. But do you think you can keep Sasha and–“

She warns him with a look–

“–Mercedes,” he adds carefully “from getting inside your boat?”

“I don’t want their dumb mean faces in my boat.”

“Perfect. Then just don’t think their thoughts. Their thoughts are the water. You only take a thought when you need a drink. They’re not for filling boats. Especially polluted water like theirs.”

“Yeah. Polluted.” She looks like maybe she feels better.

With kids he knows it often will take a while for an idea like this to stick so he reminds her one last time. “Okay, so where’s the boat we want to keep dry?” She taps her head. “Right. And who’s the lake?”

“MERCEDES, and Sasha.”

“Right. And what’s the water?”

“What they think.”

“Their opinions. Right. And so who’s the Captain that keeps water from getting into your boat?”

“ME!”

“RIGHT! See. They can bang water against the side of your boat all day. But you practice keeping that water out then your boat will not sink my dear. Every boat gets some water in it because storms make the waves big. But we can always bail out what got put in, so you just remember to keep the inside–“ he taps her on the noggin “of your boat as dry as you can, okay?”

“Dry as a bone grandpa.”

“I believe that. You bonehead.” He lightly raps his knucks on her noggin.

She giggles. “I’m not a bonehead.”

“Sure you are. Your a chip off your Mom’s bonehead.”

Now she loves when he does this. “Mom’s not a bonehead!”

“She was when she was a teenager, ask your grandma.”

“Did she put a lot of water in Grandma’s boat?”

Grandpa stops and refocuses, sensing an opportunity for some fun and a chance to be a good husband. “You know what? That is a very good question. It’s such a good question that; the next time your Mom and your Grandma are together –and it’s a time when your Mom is really mad at Grandma– that would be a really good time to ask your Mom about the water she splashed into Grandma’s boat when she was in high school. If she’s mad at Grandma that would be a good time for her to remember the times she got Grandma all wet, don’t you think?”

That gets a big few nods in the affirmative. He gives her a little nod of agreement. They are on the same page. He switches to an official tone. “Ready for sleep mode?”

She nods her agreement.

“Okay. five deep slow ones.” The little girl takes five very slow breaths in and out in time with her grandpa. It sounds like they’re already asleep. “Good. That helps slow the machine down. Now you just keep breathing like that, and soon you get to dream! Tomorrow morning you can tell me about all the things you did in your dreams, okay?”

“Thanks Grandpa.”

He kisses her on the head. “Boat dry sweetie, okay?”

She nods, he smiles, and out goes the light as the bedroom door closes.

From the darkness, a confident little whisper responds, “Aye aye, Captain.”

peace. s

People in the House

Parents see it as parents and kids, but kids too-often see it as humans and tyrants because too often it is. As often as I’ll see it in a boardroom I’ll see it in a family; a total lack of awareness of the state of affairs prior to introducing something new. The kids act like idiots just when Mom and Dad were already at the end of their rope with a rough day at work. Or the parents are bending over backwards to help and the kids are attacking them as though they are the lowest life form on the Earth. These reactions are counterproductive to our own interests.

697 Relax and Succeed - Speak in such a wayWith interpersonal leadership from the parents, kids can be taught to communicate their mental weather. If a parent is losing their temper they can say to the child at that time, “Okay, I did not have a great day with my boss and now I’m getting upset with you—let’s talk about this when I have more patience because I don’t want us to treat each other disrespectfully.” Of course they’re little and can’t uphold their end of the bargain but that doesn’t matter—you’re teaching them, not the other way around. You can explain to them when you’re grumpy or tired or hungry or worried and by doing that you will teach them to eventually do it too.

The people who live together need to be aware of each others state of mind. That is the context in which all events take place. It doesn’t matter who’s younger or older or who’s the parent and who’s the kid, everyone contributes to the overall personality of a household and unaware parents are just as damaging to that peace as unaware kids. But parents who strive to maintain emotional awareness will also teach that skill to their kids.

697 Relax and Succeed - I used to think I was overreactingIf you’re a teen it isn’t unreasonable if a parent comes home worn out and is hurt that you couldn’t show your love for them by helping start dinner. Likewise it isn’t unreasonable for a kid to be tense and easily upset if they’re being bullied all day and now their parent is all-demands. It isn’t unreasonable for a parent to be upset that something they worked hundreds of hours in after-tax dollars to buy, ends up broken by their children through pure carelessness. It isn’t unreasonable for a teenager to be tired in the morning—when that is essentially biological.

Yes, we can greatly mitigate reactions to daily experiences, but since we have the emotions to express negative things we will express them because that’s how the world is built. Otherwise nature wouldn’t have built those reactions. It’s just that before we’re enlightened we don’t like it when we inevitably have the less pleasant experiences. But that’s what Yin and Yang mean. Together they create the world. You can’t have one without the other.

No story can be all high notes. That would be boring to read, watch or live. Your life is a story. And your family’s life is a story. Use your awareness of that fact to make both yours and your family’s a truly a great one. There’s nothing stopping you. You are the author of your own pages. It is you who gets to write out an angry reaction—or an upset reaction to someone else’s angry reaction. But you can also write something more peaceful. You can see your character from a bit more distance which will allow you to make calmer choices. Over time we can take upset family members—and ourselves—and learn to slow the energy down, just as we’ve been inadvertently taught to speed it up by being impatient with anything short of perfection.

697 Relax and Succeed - How to really love a childDon’t try to win or get your way. Families ultimately want to go in fundamentally the same healthy directions, so focus on those commonalities and request that everyone keep in mind that everyone has their interior lives and that some graciousness and patience would go a long way.

Don’t shoot for perfection. Healthy families find healthy ways to deal with conflict by having to deal with conflict. As long as the parent leads and provides some time for mistakes and growth, this process can bring families even closer together. Even if on some days it feels like it’s doing the opposite.

The one thing you can count on is most kids turn out far better than their parents imagined they would and, in the end, that’s as good for the parents as it is for the kids.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Disadvantaged Youth

452 Relax and Succeed - I am twoWhen parents talk about kids having it easy, they’re talking about the fact that they’re not dealing with either money or relationship issues. But to the child their challenges are very real and the emotions they face as a result are the exact same ones we face.

This means terrible disappointment feels like terrible disappointment whether we’re broken up about a divorce, or broken up about the fact that we can’t play at our favourite friend’s house. Relatively speaking, the disappointment is just as big and it’s felt just as strongly and we would do well to remember that.

Another thing worth remembering is the fact that kids are human. We see this all the time. A child is considered to have misbehaved every time they do something other than exactly what the parent wanted. They essentially get scolded for being their age.

Kids learn through interaction. They learn through trial and error. To be scolded for that is to be scolded for being human.

It’s understandable that parents get frustrated when their kids repeatedly drop stuff off their high chair in their attempt to understand concepts like gravity or here and gone—but we put up with it because they’re babies or toddlers.

Notably, as soon as kids can talk they’re treated increasingly more like employees or soldiers. They’re simply supposed to do what they’re told and anything else is classified as misbehaving.

There is a very good reason for a parent to have time sensitivity in the modern world,  but there is also a very valid reason that explains why making adult choices about time management are impossible for a kid. These are often days where parents can create teaching moments regarding how to apologize.

452 Relax and Succeed - So often children are punishedThere are days where you get a bad sleep. Maybe it was the way your body was positioned. Maybe it was the dreams you had. Or maybe you’re ill and don’t know it. But everyone’s woken up feeling less than ideal and it makes the day a lot harder. Diets can impact our moods as can the various bacteria and virii that compromise much of who we say is “us.”

Again, notably, adults can have those bad days. Kids don’t get bad days. Kids are being bad when they’re disagreeable. They don’t have the luxury of a grumpy day from a rough sleep or through not feeling well. We won’t give them that latitude. If a problem’s not visible, we act as though they are irrelevant.

Kids can’t want something different, they can’t need some time alone. Every disagreement is seen as bad behaviour rather than recognizing that it’s very often just being created by the simple and very real differences between the parent’s personality and the kid’s. In short, a kid isn’t obstinate and difficult—they know who they are and they know what directions feel like theirs.

The fact that society makes demands on them that are unnatural doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the kid—the concept of society itself is just a subconscious agreement we all make to follow largely silly unnatural patterns. Just because some guy invents the concepts of a clock and a job doesn’t mean that an actual individual human being is wise to live their life according to those two things. (See: Intentional Being Video)

452 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressed in clothesIf we want to be truly healthy we have to respect what we are in nature and stop forcing ourselves into the shapes that society demands for conformity. Kids are still wise enough to resist that pressure as unnatural. Adults get subdued into a state of mind where they just follow the patterns and lose all consciousness. And then they wonder why they barely laugh while kids laugh all day.

Yes, kids need to learn society’s systems because those are mostly formalized methods societies have developed to manage large numbers of people, like traffic or the tax system, or how business works. Being able to flow with those things is helpful, but we do not want to do that at the expense of losing our Selves.

Humans are imperfect beings that learn as they go. Because of this, parents must maintain their emotional resilience while their kids test limits and make mistakes. Without that, we steal every individual’s ability to grow.

We all need to avoid an expectation of perfection from kids. We need to start to understand their behaviour not as something that’s not only relative to us and our rules, but as something unto itself. Because that’s what egos do—they assume everything has to do with them. So when a kid has a tantrum in a public place, the kid is making the parent look bad, rather than the kid is having their own very distressing experience.

Do we think back in our tribal history that when we saw a kid freaking out that our reaction was to try to get them to conform so we would look good to our fellow tribesmen? Or do we think we would have watched them in an attempt to understand their actions. Might we then see that the kid is discovering how the world works, or maybe they’re actually noticing something valuable that we’re missing?

452 Relax and Succeed - Childhood is not a mental disorderParents will have conflict with their kids when they try to talk them out of a noisy instrument like drums in favour of some musical instrument they have zero interest in. If a kid loves drums and we buy them a guitar because it’s quieter, then the kid isn’t being difficult by not wanting to go to guitar lessons—he or she is just being a drummer.

Largely we spend too much time reciting complaints and shortcomings to kids. We need to stop and ask ourselves if what they’re moving toward is really a problem, or are we creating one by wanting them to do what you expected rather than what was natural for them?

As an example, some people are naturally nighthawks and some people are natural early-risers. An early-rising parent who forces a nighthawk awake is placing a greater value on society’s external rules than on nature. Even their love for and appreciation of the individual that is their child doesn’t overcome that. We may not find that fact convenient but it’s true.

Cities and nations etc. make us conform. We have to surrender who we are to some degree to function smoothly with others. But beyond that a lot of people will still demand changes just to suit them personally. We can’t blame kids for pushing back against any unnecessary restriction–because they’re right. It’s not them that’s wrong; we’re the ones who’ve been brainwashed and convinced to subjugate our own natural impulses just a little too often.

452 Relax and Succeed - Play is often talked aboutWe need to watch ourselves around kids to make sure we’re behaving less as a corrections officer at a prison camp filled with rules, and more as a fellow human being who is co-discovering the world alongside them.

In the jungle there are no bedtimes, no wake times, no school and no rules. There is the world and how it works and after that everyone’s allowed to be who they are. And it works, because that kid in the jungle will know and understand his world far better than any city kid who only sees the world as a set of pre-organized concepts that can only be manipulated in pre-decided ways, like life is a Transformer that can be this or that, rather than it being like Lego where it has the freedom to be anything.

Kids are people first and the children of their parents second. It helps them if we respect them as individuals. Instead of telling them what to do we need to try listening for who they are. What do they place a value on that we don’t?

Maybe no one in our family plays an instrument but our kid sits at every piano he sees. Now that’s a kid to put in music lessons. Maybe we want them to sit still and they can’t. Well maybe they’re a kinetic kid who’s a dancer or an athlete. Maybe our kid likes to be off alone drawing or reading. That’s not anti-social, that’s a dedication to practising something important.

We all need to respect children. They do need our help establishing healthy limits. But we shouldn’t always assume we know best. Yes, for practical daily reasons sometimes they just have to water-ski along behind our days. But whenever possible, we really should do our best to try to see their behaviour as having less to do with us and life’s rules, and more to do with their own individuality and how that meets this great big world.

Ultimately a parent’s job isn’t to teach a child who to become, it’s to stay aware enough to be able to help each child realize who they already are.

peace. s