Friday, February 25, 2011

Contributing to the Delinquency of my Minors?

Wonderfully Dysfunctional
Some families play Monopoly, some play Chutes-n-Ladders. In my house the game of choice is Poker.  Texas Hold ‘Em.

To make it even more deplorable, we don’t play for silly prizes or trinkets. No way! We play for money, green hard cash. If the kids want to play, they know to bring their piggy banks because Mommy doesn’t bank roll their gambling.

Not everyone appreciates our love for Poker.  During family parties, my children are banned from the poker table.  Family members scold: “It’s inappropriate… You’re raising degenerates … Gambling leads to crime.” And my personal favorite, “What next?  Money laundering?”  But they’re scolding me while counting chips and peaking at their own poker hands.

Why do I let them play Poker? Because poker is our equalizer. It bridges the gap between our ages. My teens become people. We interact, laugh and talk. It works for us.

Why not play board games? I wish I liked board games. Really I do. But I’d rather stick hot burning embers in my eyes than play with paper money or dice. I hate board games and my kids can tell – they know when Mom’s bluffing ;-).

A well-known Harvard law professor Charles Nesson wants to teach kids the skills of life using poker. He says, “Though just a game, poker teaches survival skills and encourages the development of good instincts. A good poker player learns to size up the competition quickly and decide where potential risks lie."

Acquiring math and life skills is just a bonus. I spend a lot of my time teaching, lecturing, or punishing my kids. Poker allows me to just play with them.  Don’t worry, it’s not casino central every night. Here are other equalizers we’ve found:
  • Cooking Channel – A compromise between their teen-trash and my chick flicks.
  • Colombo DVD series –Colombo rocks and is good for ages 9 and up.
  • Trampoline – Jumping on the trampoline reminds the kids that Mom’s not so old.
  • Set – A card game that doesn’t include betting and bluffing. Yes, we have some!
I’m not saying Poker is the answer for you. And I’m not picketing the schools to get poker into the classrooms. I’m saying find what suits your family and don’t be afraid to look outside the norm.

What are your equalizers?

Thanks for stopping by.
Please support me with your honesty.


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Friday, February 18, 2011

Entrepreneur or Thief?

The Principal called me last night and said, “We have a big problem.”

She must have dialed the wrong number because my kids are perfect.  I said, “Really?”

“Your son is selling the use of his iPod.”
“Oh, that.”
“He was polite and honest when I confronted him. Did you know he's collected over $60?”
“I know. Pretty smart huh?”
The principal barked, “It’s against school policy.”

Wait a minute. What about your fundraisers? You gave my son wrapping paper and candles and sent him out like a traveling sales man. You enticed him with promises of a Super Grand Prize that he was convinced he’d win. Hmmm… I wonder where he got the idea it was okay to sell at school?

The principal continued, “We expect your son to return all of the money.”
“He didn’t bully anyone. He wasn’t charging for friendship. He was providing a service and they bought it. It’s an iPod, not crack.”
The principal said, “I’ll be contacting the parents of the other kids.”

Great. Let’s really punish those kids for participating in the foundation of our country’s economic system. Kids have been putting quarters in pinball machines for years. They get value and the owner of the pinball machine gets compensated. It’s called Capitalism. I agree my son should not be breaking any rules, but return the money?

“No problem. My son will bring back all of the money tomorrow.”

He’ll also be bringing in some wrapping paper and I’ll be expecting a $45 refund too. It’ll be a great lesson for my son about how the customer is always right and the duty of a business to provide refunds.

I wonder what the other kids will learn from this?

* Disclaimer for the lawyers: The conversation above is a representation of a real conversation.  My mind is not capable of recalling the exact words. I am in no way condoning breaking school rules, nor am I criticizing the actions of the principal. We all have our jobs and mine is to parent.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Taming the Bully reports, “The Department of Education estimates as many as 160,000 children a day stay home from school because of the threat.”

There are all degrees of bullying and sometimes kids can even be bullied by adults. On her second week of First grade, I asked my daughter, “Why don’t you want to buy lunch at school anymore?”

She said, “’cause the Lunch Lady screams at me.”

Fighting back all instincts to race to school and kick some crotchety-ass, I said, “There’s only one thing we can do. Bake her cookies.”

We baked the cookies together and imagined why the Lunch Lady was so mean. Maybe she just had a hard life. Maybe she planned on retiring to Florida with her high school sweetheart, but he died before they ever made it out of New Jersey. Now she’s stuck making grilled-cheese sandwiches and mopping floors. Or maybe she just hates the way she looks in a hairnet. We don’t know her story.

My daughter packed the cookies into a brown lunch bag and wrote: To My Lunch Lady, Love Amanda.

She brought cookies to school and handed them over, reluctantly. The Lunch Lady didn’t even glance down. She screamed, “Move it!”

But when Amanda turned around to look at the beast she saw it.  It was so brief and subtle anyone else would have missed it completely. A wink and a smile. Lunch Lady never screamed at Amanda again.

Not only did my daughter tame the heart of the bologna-beast, she also learned a few life lessons:
  • Don't be the victim
  • You have more power than you think
  • Love is much stronger than hatred
  • Trust your Mommy
Not all bullies should be tamed. I teach my kids the first step is to tell someone.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don’t Judge the Bully

Even in our sweet little country town, there are bullies masquerading in clean-cut haircuts and Abercrombie polos. They can be found in the schoolyard, on the bus, and even in my neighborhood. They taunt, push, spit, steal seats and say stupid things like, “Nobody likes you,” and “You’re gay.”

In the Yahoo News article by Steven Nelson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signs ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ into law, State Sen. Diane Allen said, “We cannot change human nature, we can change how government and school officials respond to unacceptable behavior.”

Bullies are not new. I remember watching them beat up the same kid every day. I didn't know what to do and I still regret not doing anything.  My kids will not regret.  I put together four simple rules for my kids to follow:
  1. Don’t be The Bully. You can’t control others, but you can yourself. Joining a Bully makes you a Bully.
  2. Help the underdog. You don’t have a choice. You must help. Even if you feel weird, even if it makes you unpopular, and even if you’re scared. Helping may be telling a teacher. Doing nothing makes you a Bully.
  3. Never hit first. Always hit back. If someone lays their hands, feet or teeth on you, hit them back harder.
  4. Never hit a girl, even if she’s The Bully. Let God take care of her punishment.
I tell my kids to think about what a terrible life The Bully must have. Maybe The Bully has a mean daddy who hits him every night. Maybe The Bully has a mean older brother, or a dying parent.

Don’t be The Bully , Don’t put up with The Bully and Don’t judge The Bully.

How do you teach your kids about bullying?
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