Impulse Control

I am astounded sometimes by the lack of impulse control so many people seem to have these days.  I certainly expect children to not be able to refrain from giving in to every impulse they have because they haven’t learned not to yet, but it amazes me how many adults never do.  The number seems to be on the rise.  So of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that teenagers who are learning by example seem to have difficulty with this as well.

Now that I am back in the classroom at the middle school level, it seems to be the biggest challenge.  Many students can’t refrain from sharing every thought that comes to mind at any time.  Or they just get up out of their seats and wander around the classroom if they feel like it.  They don’t understand that sometimes they need to wait to go to the bathroom because they’re going to miss some important instructions or information if they don’t. Any question is fair game at any time, even if they could easily figure out the answer for themselves.  There’s no sense of whether they should or shouldn’t do or say something because it might not be an appropriate time.  They can’t seem to do anything without talking while they are doing it.  And they don’t ask permission either.  They just do it.  It makes me wonder if anyone at home is teaching them to be conscious about this, whether this has just become more acceptable to more people, or whether it’s not really a choice for more people (because I know that is difficult for people with ADHD, for example).  It’s probably a combination of it all.

I wonder what kind of adults they are going to be if they have SO little impulse control as teenagers.  Thank goodness it’s not ALL of the students.  That gives me hope. However, when you combine the lack of impulse control to do the things that they want to do with the lack of motivation to do the things that they need to do, then I worry.  I see that in my own kids too.  I can be impulsive sometimes  and end up doing things that I hadn’t planned on doing (like when I sit down to write these blog posts), which prevents me from doing the things I should have been doing, but I manage to get done the things I really need to do and eventually find the motivation to get the rest done too.  It takes me longer than I would like sometimes, but life can’t be all work and no play.  It’s a balance, and it seems like too many people can’t seem to find that balance because they’re too impulsive.

Unfortunately, I think the vast amount of information at our fingertips and number of ways we can entertain ourselves with some sort of electronics these days plays a role in that too.  It’s too easy to impulsively pick up our phones and start scrolling through whatever social media accounts we have or text someone just to say hi.  How many times a day do we all do that?  Too many.  I’m guilty too.  It’s that instant gratification that’s hard to ignore. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of the problem.  We’re so used to instant gratification that we can’t go without it for very long.  So now those middle schoolers who were already hard enough to manage years ago because they are still children who need instant gratification are even more difficult to manage now.  They can’t wait to share a thought or ask a question because they thrive on instant gratification that they are so used to getting, now that they all have their own phones or other electronic devices.

It’s something we all really need to be conscious about … how impulsive we are, and can we set a better example for our children and help them learn to not be so impulsive themselves.  My job would be a whole lot easier if more people did that.

Honesty

Honesty is something some of my family members seem to struggle with, whether it is out and out lying, being deceitful, or purposely withholding information to be manipulative.  I have a child who prides himself on how sneaky he can be getting away with things, and he very much reminds me of his dad who has modeled that behavior for him over the years.  And he learned it from his family growing up, along with how to manipulate people, which he has also tried to pass on to the kids.  I’m sorry, but that isn’t a family trait to be proud of, how good of a liar you are or how good you are at being deceitful.

The thing is, there’s really no need for all of this.  Part of the problem is there is an assumption made that whatever it is that they want, they are going to get told no, so then they start scheming to figure out how to get what they want at all costs.  It’s more important to get what they want regardless of how many lies they have to tell in the process.  I am always more upset at the lies and the scheming than whatever else.  And much of the time, I would be agreeable to what they want in the first place, so it’s really not necessary.  I am a very straight forward person who doesn’t like to play games, so I would rather just have them tell me what’s going on or what they want and talk about options than to deal with all the dishonesty.

Another part of the problem is that they expect to always get what they want, which can’t possibly happen.  But I would be more apt to have it work out that they get what they want if there was more of an effort on their part to be honest, work together, and not react like a spoiled kid when they don’t get their way.  My work has been cut out for me trying to teach the kids that it’s better to be upfront and willing to compromise and earn what you want than find an underhanded way to get it with what their dad and his family has modeled for them.

Unfortunately, this is not just isolated to my family members.  I have experienced this with other people as well, even people who I have hired to do work at my house.  A big part of having integrity is has to do with how honest you are and whether you are willing to admit that you made a mistake, especially when you are providing a service for someone.  Trying to cover up your mistakes or keep from being caught in a lie, especially if it is going to make someone else look bad in the process, is never a good idea.  It’s even worse than just plain lying in my book, but I have been on the receiving end of that too.

None of us are perfect and never tell a lie, and sometimes there is a good reason to keep a secret or withhold some information to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to protect someone somehow, but just to be manipulative and get what you want is not a good reason.  Every time we as parents tell a lie in front of our kids, no matter how small it is, is setting the example for them that’s it’s OK to do that.  So we need to be very conscious of how often and in what circumstances we are doing that and then explain that to them as well.  If we are always trying to get away with things and not follow the rules or are trying to cheat the system, then we can’t be surprised when are kids end up doing the same thing.

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To Work or Not to Work?    

That is a big question for many people.  I am talking about whether or not to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad in some cases).  For me, it was an easy one.  I knew long before I even thought about getting married that when I had kids, I would want to stay home with them for a while, and I am grateful that it has worked out that I could do that for as long as I have.  I was a teacher before having kids, and that is definitely not a 9 to 5 job.  For me, it was more like a 7:30 am to 10:30 pm job, plus overtime on the weekends. I am the type of person who puts their all into whatever I do and wants to do well at it, so I didn’t want to do either one or probably both poorly.  And for me, being able to be there for my kids was priority.

While it has been challenging, I have no regrets about that decision.  I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about calling in sick when my kids were sick or take off work for their numerous doctor and dentist appointments or my own.  I enjoy being able to make them lunches in the morning and see them get on the bus, and they don’t need to come home to an empty house.  They appreciate the fact that I can pick them up from school when they stay after so they don’t have to be on the late bus for an hour.  I was there for all their important milestones and could easily attend field trips and other events at school during the day.  And I didn’t have to worry about what to do with them over the summer while I was a work. That’s something I know a lot of parents struggle with and feel guilty about.

There are some down sides to being a stay at home mom though.  Obviously, not everyone can afford to not work, so I have been fortunate in that regard, but we definitely had to pinch pennies and watch what we were spending to be sure we weren’t spending beyond our means. There is also not necessarily a lot of regular interaction with other adults, unless you find ways to make that happen.  I ended up getting very involved with my children’s pre-school and volunteered quite a bit at the elementary school.  I have also done a lot for my neighborhood. These activities have been a source of interaction with others and have also helped fill the void of feeling like I am making a difference somehow, other than being there for my family.

I have mixed feelings about the example I am setting for my kids, particularly my daughter, with not working.  I like that they are learning that family is important and should be a priority, but I also think having a mom who works sets the example that you don’t have to give up your dreams and aspirations, and you can be whatever you want to be and have a positive influence on the world around you.

Now that my children are older, I have come full circle to my original question…to work or not to work?  So now I am trying to navigate getting back into the work force. Teaching is not a field that is easy to jump back into after having not taught for almost 18 years.  A lot has changed in that time.  I contemplated getting a job that has nothing to do with teaching for a while, but I eventually decided to be a substitute teacher even though it is not reliable and doesn’t pay that well.  I do like the flexibility of the schedule, which has allowed me to make a more gradual transition back to work and continue enjoying the benefits of being a stay at home mom just a little longer.  I really wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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Winning At All Costs

winningMy son was somewhat perplexed following his volleyball games against another school yesterday and questioned his coach afterwards about some of his decisions.  My son was disappointed that, although his team played well, the other team won more games because they bent the rules and were encouraged to take advantage of our weakest player.  He thought the weaker player should have been subbed out for a stronger player.  Our coach explained that he was all about playing by the rules, teaching good sportsmanship, and being fair about rotating the players so that they get the experience to improve and build their confidence, especially at the modified level when the kids are learning the sport.  He also explained that at the JV level, what the other team’s players were doing incorrectly will get called every time, and those kids will look foolish and will have to relearn how to play correctly, whereas our team will not.

I told my son as I emphasized all the positives that I was more proud of him for playing by the rules, being a good sport, and playing with the right technique than I would have been if they won because they had bent the rules or played underhandedly.  I know it isn’t sitting well with him that the other team got away with playing the way they did, but it bothers me that he seems to be focused on the fact that his team didn’t win.

The whole thing makes me think of that whole mentality which some people have that it shouldn’t matter how you get the outcome you desire as long as you get it, even if you have to be deceitful, manipulative, bend or ignore the rules, or hurt people in the process.  Sports are one thing, but everyday life is another.   Continue reading

Nurturing The Good

mind is a garden

It is all too easy to let negative thoughts take over our minds.  They really are like weeds.  They are there, whether we want them to be or not, and they just keep showing up no matter how hard we try to get rid of them.  Like weeds, negative thoughts also have a tendency to easily take over and crowd out all the good.

On the other hand, positive thoughts and memories are more like plants or flowers because we want to appreciate their beauty and relevance to our lives.  But if the plants or flowers do not get the nutrients, sun, and water that they need, then they will not grow.  So there is effort that is necessary to make that happen.  All the positive things in our lives are the same way.  We need to nurture them in whatever way is appropriate. Continue reading

Boundaries

Everyone has his or her own idea of what boundaries are acceptable.  It’s when there is a big difference in what is acceptable to different people that problems arise.  I am talking about boundaries related to personal space, privacy, topics that are appropriate to discuss, and things of that nature.

For example, I’m certainly not one to snoop through other family members’ belongings or things like their computer history, with the one exception of when it is necessary to keep tabs on my kids.  Even then, I don’t exercise that right all that often.  I like to respect people’s privacy and personal space because I would like that in return, not that I have anything to hide.  Unfortunately, I have not gotten that in return.  I know there are plenty of people who think it’s their right to go through their significant other’s phone, computer, and other belongings whenever they feel like it, even if there is no reason to be suspicious of any wrongdoing.  It’s just their right.  I don’t agree with that.

Even though my soon-to-be ex-husband hasn’t lived in the house for a while now, he still thinks it’s perfectly fine to just walk right in as if he still lives here.  He thinks that just because we can get along and work together with regards to the kids, that means he’s welcome to do that.  Getting along and invading personal space are two different things.

Boundaries really boil down to respect and trust, so if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries even if they disagree with them, then they really don’t respect you.  I think that’s one thing that differentiates “takers” is that they tend to not respect boundaries and feel like they have a right to do whatever they want whenever they want.  It’s up to the “givers” to set and enforce the boundaries.

This can be difficult though when you are dealing with someone who not only doesn’t respect boundaries but also reacts very negatively when it is brought to his or her attention.  In my opinion, how adults react to boundaries or view them in the first place has a lot to do with whether or not boundaries were set for them as they were children and how well their parents did at maintaining that.  Obviously, kids are going to push boundaries and test limits.  It’s a part of becoming an individual separate from your parents.  I’m all for pushing boundaries when they are along the lines of accomplishing something that has never been done before and things like that, but when kids push boundaries that have to do with curfews, acceptable behavior, responsibilities, personal space, and so on, I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to remind them that there are boundaries and consequences for not adhering to them.  And we need to teach them that there can’t be any double standards when it comes to boundaries.  If they don’t want a sibling going into their room to borrow a book, then they can’t go borrow one from their room whenever they feel like it.

The bottom line is that it’s perfectly healthy and necessary to set boundaries and expect others to adhere to them.  We just need to understand that it might be necessary to make it clear what the boundaries are because not everyone’s are the same.  If we don’t make it clear, then we may not have a right to be upset if we are assuming the other person understands our boundaries when perhaps that is not the case.  We also need to be respectful of others’ boundaries, even if they are different than ours because if we violate them, it will most likely be interpreted as lack of respect.  If there is a question as to what the boundaries are, it is better to err on the side of caution and not make assumptions.  The more conscious we can be about boundaries, whether it’s from a parenting perspective or the perspective of interacting with others, the better off we’ll all be.

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Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

Comments are always welcome!  Clicking on the “Home” page tab will allow you to scroll through other posts, or you can select a category or tag word to find similar topics.  If you would like to read future posts, please follow the blog or my Facebook page.