Ten Ways We Can Start To Change the World For Our Kids. 

When I was 20, I pledged to never buy another women’s magazine.

Even then I was frustrated by the unrealistic body image they consistently communicated to women.  It wasn’t long before that extended to the “cool” publications like Cleo and Cosmo, which I had convinced myself were different because they provided helpful articles on makeup, health and other issues relevant to younger women.
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Okay, so I was deluded about that, but it didn’t last long once I observed that these magazines also projected false and unrealistic body images that neither I, nor most of the young women I knew, could ever hope to meet.
 For longer than anyone can remember, our western society has had  an unhealthy fixation on looks. We’ve been getting it wrong since long before Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves based entirely on her portrait and promptly divorced her the minute he met her in person, citing as his reason the fact that she looked like a horse.
And it’s only getting worse. Chlidren as young as five or six are no strangers to the words “cute”, “handsome” and even “sexy”. Pre-teen kids have body image issues and the eating disorders that go with them. Peer pressure and bullying are daily realities in every school and friendship group that our kids belong to. Marketing is aimed at wearing the right clothes, having the right look, and doing what everyone else does. Social media can take those problems right into kids’ own homes. And it happens to boys every bit as much as it happens to girls.
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When does a kid ever get a chance to be themselves?
 
All of this leads to one challenging question: How do we swim against the stream when the current is so strong?
My answer is that we need to invest differently in people.  We need to model much more healthy and constructive behaviour, and encourage others to do the same.
Let me say straight up that I don’t have kids of my own. I have, however, been very active in helping a lot of friends and family raise theirs. Our house has, quite literally, been a second home for more than a handful of teenagers over the years. I’ve also been a teacher, youth leader and mentor for almost thirty years. It’s this accumulated experience upon which I base these comments.

I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.
But I do have a few ideas about how we can start.

This is my starter list:

10 Ways We Can Change The World For Our Kids

  1. Don’t put kids or other people down. Ever. I can’t stress this enough. Never tell kids, or anyone else, they are stupid, useless or worthless. Criticise a behaviour if you need to, but do not make it about the whole person.
  2. Stop buying into what the media tell us is ideal. Choosing not to surround yourself and your kids with unattainable ideals helps to take your focus off how far short we fall. This decision had a significant effect in my own life, so I am speaking from experience here.
  3. Stop commenting on how people look. Whether someone looks beautiful, tired, or exhausted, don’t say so. Don’t comment on whether someone has lost or gained weight – in this case especially, you can safely assume that they already know. Just don’t comment on anything external. Chances are, the less you comment on it, the less you will think about it. And the more you think and talk about those things, so will your kids.
  4. Instead, comment on things that have intrinsic value. Statements such as “I love it when you smile like that!” or “You did such a good job of that! Well done” can make such a difference to someone because they emphasise one’s value rather than looks. Saying “I really appreciate your kindness” (or any other value) reinforces that behaviour as well as encouraging the person who hears it.
  5. Discuss celebrities differently. Instead of saying “I wish I looked like that!”, discuss the positive qualities of a person or the character they portray. There will doubtless also be opportunities to discuss negative behaviours and messages. Be honest about the consequences those behaviours carry for real people, even if they’re made to look funny’ popular or “cool”.
  6. Don’t comment on your kids’ or your own health, weight or fitness. Make an effort to do something about it instead of commenting on it. Model behaviours for your kids that help to establish habits that will help you as well as them – provide better food, go for a walk, go to the gym together or take up a hobby together. It doesn’t have to cost more to be better for you.
  7. Discuss feelings and values in a positive and purposeful way. Not every feeling or experience shared will be positive, but honest discussion lets kids and young adults know it’s okay to not always feel great about things and teaches them ways to handle different emotions and experiences. This encourages self-awareness, but more importantly, it builds honest communication and relationship that both they and you will value enormously.
  8. Make an investment of time, more than money, in people, especially in your kids. It won’t matter to kids what they have if they feel unloved or undervalued. Take an active interest in each one and find out what matters to them.  Building a strong, loving relationship with your child is the best gift you can ever give them. It will bear fruit in every other relationship they have.
  9. Celebrate worthwhile achievements. “You did it!” should be more valuable than “You’re so pretty!”
  10. Be realistic and constructive about disappointments and failure. Make sure they know you care about their disappointment and hurt. Don’t tell them it doesn’t matter, because it does matter to them – at least for now. In time, they will be ready for you to help them see the bigger picture and refocus their efforts and priorities.
We can’t expect to change the whole world. However, we can influence the way they see themselves, and we can influence the way our own kids see, experience and respond to the world they live in.  
And there’s no better time to start than today.

Raising Her Right.

Today I received the most beautiful photos…

Today I received the most beautiful photos from a friend whose young niece was reading my book to her.
Adorable – AND smart! She knows good poetry when she sees it!

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That’s raising her right. A+ parenting!

 

Out of the mouths of babes. 

In church this morning, this conversation happened:

Pastor: “What can God do that we can’t?”

Kid #1: “Work.”

Pastor: “What kind of work can God do that we can’t?”

Kid #2: “Make things!”

Pastor: “What things?”

Kid #1: “Um… Trees?”

Kid #2: “Elephants.”

Kid #3: “Toilets!”

No prizes for guessing that the pastor wasn’t expecting that.

An Almighty Promotion

I was in the auditorium setting up for tonight’s performance with Ryan, our sound and lighting guy.
Ryan went out to get some dinner while I kept working.

5.39PM
Person A: “Where’s Ryan?”
Me: “He’s on a mission from God.”

5.40 PM
Person B: “Where’s Ryan?”
Me: “He’s on a mission from God.”

5.41PM
Person C: “Where’s Ryan?”
Person B: “Ms X sent him to do sommething.”

I think I just got a promotion.
I’m looking forward to the pay rise.

Actually, what I really want is the superpowers.

Meeting Politicians the ‘Strayan way.

It’s been a funny old day in Australian politics.
On the front page of the national newspaper today was a picture of Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia, being “bunny-earsed” by some kid at a reception for the Diamonds, the Australian representative netball team.

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I really enjoy this picture, because it looks like it’s Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, doing it. That would be funny, too, although perhaps a bit harder to justify as an innocent prank.  The second picture definitely shows that it’s a kid’s arm behind the PM.

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Personally, I think someone should give that kid a knighthood, or at least a medal. With one gesture, he has summed up the feelings of many Australians. Moreover, it’s humorous and typical Aussie larrikin behaviour, without causing any harm or any significant disrespect.

Let’s face it, giving someone bunny ears in a photo has been the Australian way for generations. How many years worth of school photos do we all have where someone is doing the bunny ears, or crossing their eyes, or wearing someone else’s glasses?  Those are the things that make actually getting those photos taken worthwhile.

It’s also a reminder that we are very privileged to live in a country where we can meet and mingle with our national leaders without getting tasered or spear-tackled to the ground and, in the case that we should survive that, arrested.  I can’t imagine being able to get close enough to Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong Il, for example, or daring to “bunny ears” either one of them. And taking on the POTUS bodyguards? No. No thank you. I’ll be good.

Australia really is a great country.  It’s a great place to live, especially if you’ve got a bit of a sense of humour and don’t take yourself, or your politicians, too seriously.

Things Kids Say in the Library #4

A very little boy just asked me to fold his paper into a circle. 

Perplexed, I asked what he meant. 

“Like a treasure map!” He replied. 

I rolled his paper into a scroll for him, and was rewarded with the most beautiful smile. 

He ran out of the library, still smiling. Then he ran back in, came to the desk and said “ThankyousorryInearlyforgot!” And ran away again. 

Things kids say in the library #3

Two boys ran to the door of the library and looked in to see which teacher was on duty.
One says to the other, “Ohhhh rats, it’s the mean one! She doesn’t let us play games on the computers!”
Both looked at me with a mixture of misery and disgust on their faces, then walked away.

Go me.

Things kids say in the library #2

A girl just walked into the library and said to her friends’ “I’m not wearing any pants!”
Shocked, one of her friends said, “WHAT!?”
The first girl lifts her dress up, oblivious to everyone else in the library, and says, “Ha ha, I’ve got my bathers on!”
The library was suddenly silent. Nobody wanted to look at her, so they all looked at me instead.

I asked her to put her dress down, and never lift it above her head at school again.

Everyone in the library went back to what they were doing, pretending the whole scene had never happened.

To mourn with those who mourn…

To mourn with those who mourn…

On Wednesday, February 12, Luke Batty was killed by his father on a cricket field in Tyabb, an outlying suburb of Melbourne. The tragedy unfolded further when the boy’s father threatened police with a knife and was shot in self-defence. The entire scene played out in front of horrified onlookers including the boy’s mother and a number of his friends and schoolmates.  Thankfully, most of the children who had participated in cricket training had already gone home. 

My heart breaks for Luke’s mother, family and friends. I have no words for their loss or their pain. 
I mourn for the loss of innocence of his school mates and all who witnessed his brutal death. Things will never be quite the same for them, especially school and cricket practice.

I also grieve for the police officers who had to attend such a horrible event, witness the death of a child, and shoot a man in self defence. They are traumatised, too.

Luke was a student at the school where four members of my family work.  I grieve for each of them. I grieve for his teachers and for everyone in that school community. It has rocked the whole community – and so it should.

I spent today at my school’s swimming carnival, looking at the kids having fun, playing around, swimming races, encouraging and cheering each other on… and I thought, “You know… that could be us. How would we deal with it? How on earth would we hold our school community together after such an event?”

The answer: only by the grace of God, with the love of God. 
And there, but for His grace and love, go we. 

I wanted to tell every one of the kids at the swimming pool today how amazing, how unique, how special they are.  Most of them hadn’t heard about what happened to Luke. They would have either thought I’d gone slightly mad or been more than a little freaked out by it.  So I kept my grief and my feelings to myself, save for one friend I confided in. I smiled at the kids, encouraged and praised them, and did all I could to give them a great day.

It may seem odd to grieve over someone I’ve never met and who I didn’t even know existed until yesterday, but the death of this young boy is a reason our nation and our whole society should mourn. 

Love your children, people. Cherish them. Make memories with them. Nurture and encourage them. Fill them with hope, courage, strength and love. 

God knows, it’s a sad, sorry, broken world we live in.