Do you get angry?

word of month character

Everyone gets angry or sometimes has anger lingering in them.  For a young person it may be having a toy taken away from them by another child.  It may be not getting their way or what they want at that very moment.  As we get older though we may be angered because of being lied too or we may be frustrated, feeling guilty or it may be due to a fear that we have.

I will tell you my own example.  My father died when I was 13 years old.  I did not even realize it – but it made me angry that he had left me alone at that time.  That feeling followed me for a very long time and it was not till I was close to 30 years old that I realized that my anger about that unfortunate circumstance was having an affect on other parts of my life. 

How we feel anger can be different too.  It may be that we frown, clench our teeth, wrinkle our brow, feel it in our stomach, head or throat.  Some may react by clinching their fist, crossing their arms, stomping their feet or screaming mean words.  Others may just become very quiet and internalize their feelings.  So as we begin to discuss anger management we recognize that it is about how we handle anger in a safe, fair and positive way.  Of course it is OK to be angry, but its not OK to just someone with our words or physically because we are angry.

Empathy: our actions affect other people

word of month character

Can you make someone else smile, feel good, sad, angry, frustrated?  Most of us know that we have that power just by what we say or do.  In fact it is by our choice of words or actions that others many time are affected and can have very strong emotional reactions.

One action like a smile or hug may make someone happy, another action like leaving someone out may make them sad.  Now it is not always possible to make others happy with our actions, nor should we, but we should be aware of and in fact we may want to predict the affect on others prior to taking a certain course of action or making certain statements.

There are some goals or actions that we can set for ourselves though that help both ourselves and others. What if we chose to help out a charity group with some of our time or to tutor a child who needed to improve in their reading.  If we are a young person, what if we helped our brother or sister with some of their work or read to a senior citizen.  All of these things demonstrate empathy and will no doubt make others happy.

Here is one more question on this subject though.  What is it that gets in the way of our seeing how our choices or behavior affects other people?  I think back to the time when I was a teenager and I do not think that I thought very much about how my actions would affect those closest to me.  Some of my actions brought pain and worry to my mother.  Was I that self – centered that how she felt just was not that important to me? 

When I look around and I see the hurt of some young people and their parents today. It goes both ways.  Some parents are so busy with their “lives” that their children are feeling very hurt and are affected by the lack of closeness.  One young man (17 years old) said to his pastor one day, “All I want is for my mom and dad to stop fighting about money and just spend some time at home with me.”  He said this just after his parents gave him a brand new BMW to ride around in. 

It is the hardest thing in the world to know how another person is feeling.  So the question is how can we adjust?  How can we do this first and foremost with our own family and then with others.  This is just a thought but I believe it takes deep listening and time.  As we start this year off, I for one plan on making empathy a bigger role in the decisions and choices I make.  That is one way to make a difference in the world that we live in.

Setting priorities keeps us dependable

word of month character

We have talked before about all of the things that we have to do and of course there are all of the thing that we want to do.  I am 55 years old and I still like to do the ‘want to do’s’ before the things that have real priority in my life.  

When we look at priority items they are generally things that affect other people, many times those who are the closest to us.  As a young person though it was easy for me to think that it did not matter, or that I just did not want to do this or that now and could see  no reason to do so.  How do we help our students think beyond that thought?

First: Help them to list all of the things that are on their plate.  School work, work at home for the family, friends and of course their own fun things to do.  Then give each item a priority label.  You can use something as simple as High, Medium or Low – A, B, C or if they are young a color code.

Second:  Discuss how each item has an affect on other people when they complete them or choose not to complete them.  The higher the priority the more affect it has on others and them as individuals.  This is all about recognizing the perspective of dependability.  You may even discuss how your actions affect them personally.  

Third:  Give examples of those in your family or people in history who kept their word and demonstrated dependability.  Many times the story is better than the lecture or just your desire for them to act in a certain way.

Fourth:  One of the things you will hear me say over and over again is that “we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do”.  I so believe this that I do not believe in bribing a child to do the right thing or dependable thing.  While we can help them think through what the consequences might be for making a bad choice, do not bail them out from choosing to act in an undependable way.  

If they do not tell you about the science project the night before it is due allow them to suffer the consequences.  If they leave their bike out in the rain – let the natural consequence take place.   These are awesome teaching moments – even if it is hard for us as parents to see it happen to them.

One final story.  We have 4 children and have promised all of them to pay for 4 years of college (none of this 5 & 6 year plans) and 6 months of living expenses after they get out of college.  After that, they are on their own.  You can imagine how when the first one got to the 6 month period and wanted more support – it was hard to stick to our commitment.  And it was our only girl, that made it that much harder.  But in the end she figured it out – she got through it and is doing very well today.   This was not just a great lesson for her but for the 3 boys that followed.  Believe me they all knew that we were committed to our word.  We could be depended on both for the good and the “Oh that hurts”.  

In the end the best way to teach dependability is to demonstrate it – even when it is challenging to do so.

Fathers Day thought

word of month character

Your dad is a very special person.  It was something that I did not really have in my life.  My father passed away when I was 14 and had been sick and bed ridden from the time I was about 5 or 6 years old.  There was no ball playing or him attending any of the activities I was involved in.  In fact there were very few activities for me.  My time was spent as a young person when not in school as a caretaker and a baby sitter, even when I was very young.
Having said all of that though, and after watching the reports on TV about the passing of  Tim Russert there are a couple of thoughts that come to mind.  I hear too many children of all ages, including Tim, that report that their dad was not one to tell their children that they love them, to actually use those words.  I have that memory too.  Now I am not sure how true it is, but I would think that my own children would probably say that too.  As a dad I am going to make a commitment to myself to not just demonstrate love in what and how I do things with the kids, but actually say the words – not in passing – but in a meaningful way, often.
Fathers Day is a special day for telling dad you love him, but maybe it can be a day for dad to think about how we as fathers interact with our loved ones and especially our children.  HAPPY FATHERS DAY!