Sunday, November 26, 2006

Brothers and Sisters -Top Ten Rules on Living Together

As parents of five adorable children, we have to set the rules of living together. We try to set these rules on a daily basis, in small doses, not in lectures.

Here are our top ten, in no particular order:

You are unique
"Each one of you are unique and unrepeatable, there is no one else like you and there will never be another one like you. So you are not allowed to compare yourselves with each other, as I am not allowed to do so."

Setting a good example: chores
"You have the responsibility to set the good example for your siblings. All of them count on you, so when you do your chores, do them the best you can, as if somebody was grading you on it. God is the one that will know how good you did it. Your brothers and sisters will learn how to do each chore from watching you. So do it perfectly and offer it as a gift to God, I’m sure you will make Him happy."

Magic words
"When talking to each other, and to anyone for that matter, use the magic words 'please' and 'thank you'. It feels nice when other people care about you and respect you."

Controlling your feelings
When we see them envious, jealous, selfish or angry, we try not to overreact and help them discover what is that powerful feeling that they have inside them, so they can identify it and control it, instead of exploding.

We tell our children that one of the best things of living in a large family is that you have a lot of stuff, you can share your clothes with your sister, the music with your brother, you don't need more people to have a team on a rainy day, you can still play dolls with your sister. So sharing is very important.

Caring for the family's things
There are some things that don't have a specific owner at home, they are the family things. We all have to take care of these things, like our couch, the backyard, the TV, the computer, the remote control, the scissors, the glue, the tape, the silverware, the dishes, etc. Care for them. Use them wisely.

"Respect your siblings' privacy: knock on the door before entering, don't sneak into their stuff, don't read their e-mails, or messages, don't talk about their secrets...

Private property
"Always ask permission to use something, and lend the thing that you are being ask for, maybe you will need something tomorrow. Respect others belongings, do not damage them, put them back in the same place where you found them, don't wear something if it is to tight, you may stretch them big for your sister...
If you break something that is not yours, even if you are scared to death of the consequences, admit that you broke it, say that you are sorry, and try to pay it back. If you are the affected party, accept the apology, and help your brother to go through this difficult time, he might be feeling very bad and sorry."

Helping each other
"Help around the house, even when is not your turn to do something or is not your chore; you can help with your brothers' homework, placing your dirty clothes on the basket, drying the bathroom floor after taking a bath, placing a glass of water on your parents night table (here is to hoping!)". The idea is to let them know that doing more is better than doing less.

Caring for one another
"We have to remember that the most important thing to take care of is ourselves, taking care of one and another, at school, the shopping mall, the movies, crossing the street, everywhere. Don't forget to always keep the members of your family in your prayers, so baby Jesus will help them solve their problems at work or school."

I will be expanding on all of these topics in future posts.

It is fun to live in a family, enjoy!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Personality's Triumph Over Peer Pressure

I regularly ask my children: "Why is it that you want to be like everybody else? Why should you do what other people tell you to do? Do you feel the pressure to do something that you really don’t want to do?" I tell them: "This is called peer pressure; you will feel it all the time, but it does not mean that you should bend to it.

My girls, you have to be different for the good things, the pretty things, the delicate things; you can call other people's attention without being rude or ugly, you can set the good example.

My boys and my girls, you have to have your own personality, go against the flow, according to what you have seen at home, our principles, our good values and good manners, all of what mom and dad taught you. You should never be ashamed of your home rules, schedules, customs, all of these are good for you, regardless of what 'all your friends do'.

Be different by not saying bad words, be elegant in how you dress, be decent by not talking behind other people's back. Don’t wait to see what the popular boy or girl will do, instead, do what you feel is right. Believe in yourself, be a good leader, the one that cares"

My Daughter is a Victim of Bullying

When I was young, in school, I remember feeling lonely, rejected by my “friends” as they secretly planned a party and didn't invite me or when the teased me or criticized me behind my back. Now, as a mom, I regularly talk to my children about the importance of caring about others. I tell them to look around and be aware of any friend that might be eating by him or herself during lunch, or being left out of the game during recess.

Last year, my daughter was a victim of bullying. She was friendly with all her classmates, but for nearly two straight years, she hung out almost exclusively with her "bestest friend", until this girl turned her back on her. Because she knew my daughter's weaknesses, she took advantage of them, making her feel terrible and lonely. I thought: "My cute and good mannered daughter is being a victim of bullying by her (now former) best friend - how can this be possible?"
My first impulse was to talk directly to the bully, but I was not her mother. Then I thought about talking to the bully's parents,who have been very good friends of our family for years, but I decided against it, as it could make things worse for my daughter if the bully found out that I was trying to fix her problems.

After a lot of thinking and crying, I thought long and hard about taking this bad situation and turning it into a good one. I talked to my daughter about the feeling of being betrayed, about hate and revenge. I made a point of telling her that if she did not set aside these negative feelings, even if they were perfectly natural, they could lead her to become as bad as her ex-friend. We decided to open her circle of friends: inviting a different girl friend home to play each week so she could see that there were plenty of great people out there; not to confine her relationships to a person or a small group in order to avoid her from getting caught in the same situation or even worse: a "click". We even talked about something that would happen later in life: not getting exclusively attached to her eventual boyfriend and nurturing the relationships she had already with her girl friends even when she eventually starts going out with boys.

After all the pain and stress she went through, I think that my daughter came out of all this more mature and with a great perspective on the whole situation. She understood that maybe her friend (the bully) could be going through a difficult time and her behavior was a reflection of her own problems. She realized that it was not her fault, that she did nothing wrong to deserve the terrible treatment she got, but time would go by, and maybe if it was a good friendship in the beginning they would become friends again.

This afternoon, a year later, my daughter is playing at her old friend's house. It turns out that yesterday's bully is now a victim of another bully, and my daughter is giving her advice of how to handle it… "Don’t worry it will all pass".

Bullying might be a "fact of life", but it does not mean that it has to be tolerated and accepted - there are ways to make the best of a bad situation.