Books

BOOKS

I just finished reading Anthem by Ayn Rand for the second time in my life.  I read this the first time when I was in high school and then the second time this week.  I was surprised at first at how short this was.  My memory of this book is much more vivid and detailed than what I read this week.  In the future there is no individuality, no families, no choice.  From birth to death all is decided for you.  Choice and free will are gone.  This story tells about Equality 7-2521 and the struggles he has because he is unable to comply with societies demands no matter how hard he tries.  My childhood self developed a colorful story to flesh out this novella.  I kept feeling like something was missing this time through.   Where was the richness?  Where was the exploration?  How could this be real?

***Spoiler***

I wasn’t too impressed with the female character in this story.  Equality may have gained his freedom but she sure hasn’t.  She follows him.  She does what he wants her to do.  She does not discover herself in this story but in all fairness this isn’t her story.  Maybe she rises up and says – hey I have rights too!  I feel like being something other than a baby factory for you.  I was also concerned with the violent measures he was willing to take to protect his freedom.  Society was violent in this story but in such a way that I felt it was unlikely that he would think the way he did once freed.  I would recommend reading this if only to get yourself thinking.

I’ve also started reading Don’t Give Me That Attitude! 24 Rude, Selfish, Insensitive Things Kids Do and How to Stop Them by Michele Borba, Ed.D.  Wow – this is definately worth reading if you have children or work with children.

It reminds me of when I used to work with teenagers at a summer camp during my time with the Americorp program.  I was an assistant staff that floated between the 5 components (backpacking and camping, Ropes Course, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, and environmental studies.)  There was this amazing camp counselor who taught the kids backpacking and camping.  He always had this way of turning things positive and I enjoyed working with him.  Every day he asked this question – “What’s the difference between a positive day and a negative one?”  After he would ask this the kids would all yell, “YOUR ATTITUDE!”  Happy people don’t have less problems than non-happy people.  Our attitudes create a lens through which we look at the world.  A negative attitude is like a grimy, cracked contact lens.  Nothing looks good through it and it’s uncomfortable.  A positive attitude is like when you take a brand new lens out of it’s factory sealed case.  It’s cool, refreshing – everything looks brighter and clearer.

This book talks about attitude.  Part 1 is about Confronting the Crisis – I found this interesting because she talks about the different types of “spoiled brats”.  There is the little princes, the con artist, the Donald Trump Clone, the Drama Queen and more.  My daughter fits into the “Poor Little Me” category.  Whenever she gets into trouble she starts crying about the hurt knee or the sore fingers or a stomach ache.  “I’m too tired to dress myself.”  “I have no friends.”  “No one plays with me at school/daycare.”  I know that she has friends because she talks about them, they run up to her when they see her in public, and she gets invited to parties.  I know that people play with her because I see her playing with others when she doesn’t know I’m there and her teachers at school and at daycare state that she is always playing with other kids.

I strongly believe that parents love their children – even the abusive or neglectful parents.  I also believe that good parents fall into negative patterns of interacting with their children because they love their children.  I was enabling the “poor me” behaviors with my daughter because I hated to see her sad or upset.  Once I could see what was happening I could change and now the “poor me” is fading away and a more confident child and parent is emerging.  Yes – she dresses herself now and brushes her own hair.

The book goes on to explain the difference between attitudes and behaviors which was very helpful.  I especially loved the section of this book where she explains where this comes from.  Many parents that I work with who have “spoiled brats” do it with the best intentions.  The ones that rang loud and clear for me were guilt, wanting something better for our kids, and stress and exhaustion – I’ve seen this countless times with the families that I work with and in my own home.

I often hear stories about how they had very little growing up and they just want their kids to have a better life than they did.  These parents will go broke just to make sure their child has the “best” birthday party or the latest toys or games or clothes.  I’ve seen babies wearing $60 boots while their parents are homeless living in a shelter.  Guilt is dangerous especially when it comes to our children.  If we give them everything they ask for they never learn to cope with no or with doing without.

Parents have a responsibility to provide 1. Safety 2. Needs (food, water, clothing and shelter) 3. Rules and Guidelines 4. consistency and 5. love.  I believe these are the most important things a parent can provide.  I place safety first because it is the most important – if your child is not safe the rest does not matter.  A lack of safety causes your child to forever live in the flight vs. fight frame of mind.  That is our most primal instincts – when that part of our brain is active nothing else matters.  Needs are very important but often confused.  Food – very important but confused.  Shelter clients would buy crab legs and individually packed snack foods with their food stamps and by the mid to end of the month have no food.  food is a necessity – crab legs is not.  You can feed your child the same thing every day and it’s okay.  I remember growing up poor – lots of spaghetti with sauce (no meat).  Peanut butter sandwhiches, canned vegetables and beans.  Eggs were almost daily because eggs are cheap and a good source of protein.  The food stamps lasted all month.  Did we cry out for ice cream?  donuts?  candy and treats?  of course we did – we were kids but my mom did what was right – not what was easy.  Water can come from a faucet – or a Brita filter.  Water doesn’t need to come from individual disposable bottles.  Clothing came from Kmart and Walmart, hand-me-downs and thrift stores.  This was not abuse – this was parenting.  Did we as kids INSIST on name brands?  of course we did.  Our mom did what was right – not easy.  Rent comes first, then utilities – not name branded clothing.

Reading about why we need to change bad attitudes is helpful.  Even more helpful was the characteristics that emerge with the bad attitudes to help parents see where the problem lies so a fix can begin.  The 7 worst mistakes should be made into a poster and hung up because I feel they are that important –

  1. Thinking “It’s Just a Phase”
  2. Being a Poor Model
  3. Not Targeting the Bad Attitude
  4. No Plan to Stop the Bad Attitude
  5. Not Cultivating a Replacement Attitude
  6. Going Alone
  7. Not Sticking with the Plan.

The book goes into detail about each of these.  I’m currently at the Bad Attitude Antidotes and Replacements part of this book.  What do we want to see instead?  For a child who is uncooperative we would like to see cooperation, friendliness, caring.

We need to turn the negative into a positive.  I like this alot.  When I go into homes and work with the parents on rules – the rules are often very negative

  1. No running in the house
  2. No hitting your brothers and sisters
  3. No eating in the living room.

I encourage taking these rules and turning them to a positive statement

  1. We walk in the house
  2. We use our words when upset
  3. We eat at the table

If your child is selfish what kind of things can you encourage that is more selfless?  The flood was huge in our area this September.  I remember showing my daughter pictures of the damage.  We were fortunate enough that we were untouched.  Many of my daughter’s classmates were not so lucky.  I showed her pictures and we talked about what happened to others.  We went to the flood shelter to offer assistance.  She chose on her own to go through her clothes, toys, art supplies and books to give to other children.  She was able to step away from the selfish tendencies and become a more selfess person because I used what was going on around us as a catalyst for positive change with her.  I did not force it but layed it before her to make that personal growth.

For fun I read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them by J.K. Rowlings.  It was funny and a quick read.  My only complaint is that it didn’t have illustrations of the beasts.  It could have had a charming field guide feel to it.  but no.

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