Stapling That Jello…

We interrupt the reviews of Puerto Rico to bring you this public service message inspired by last night’s events.

Zombiegirl’s elementary school was torched last night. A group of kids were seen hanging out in the schoolyard and the next thing you know, the first grade annex is on fire.  While surveying the firefight, which included five fire departments, the Superintendent of the schools falls to the ground suffering a heart attack.  He’s rushed to the hospital where he remains in ICU.

The police are asking for information about this act of arson.  Who were these kids?  (We can be almost certain that adults are not responsible for this crime- what would be the point?)  Will anyone come forward with info? Will we be surprised when we find out who did it?

Summer mischief, you might say.  Summer fun getting out of hand.  Kids being kids.  We’ve heard all the excuses…but really…what if this was an experiment for something bigger?  Witnesses say they heard explosions- what if this was a practice run for the High School?   Zombiegirl is going into Middle School next year-what if that school is the target?

So who did this?  And why?  Could it have been your kid?  Mine?  Would they ever do something like this?  Could yours? 

Ugh.  This is driving me crazy.  I can think of half a dozen little cretins that would set fire to their school.  And I know with a little guidance from thier parents, their behavior could be curbed.  So… I’ve compiled a few common sense steps in raising kids.  Follow them and it may help keep your child (and you) on the path to sanity.  At the very least, keep them out of trouble…

Step #1:  Have sit down family dinners at least five times a week.  Use this time to talk to your child about what they are doing in school, who their friends are, their hopes, dreams and desires.  Use this time to talk about your day and ask about theirs.  Listen to what your child has to say and don’t use dinnertime as a time to criticize.  And moreover, use this time to TEACH THEM HOW TO USE A DAMN FORK CORRECTLY!  Manners start at home.

Step #2:  Know who your child’s friends are.  Don’t let them out of the house until you know who their “peeps” are.  Don’t be afraid to embarrass your child and show up where they say they’re hanging out.   Their safety is YOUR concern.  Try to meet the parents of the kids your child is friends with.  Above all, make friends with like-minded parents.  Do things together as families.  Your children may not become BFF’s, but they will be close and it may help deter bad behavior when they’re with other groups of kids.

Step #3:  Set a good example.  If you don’t want your child to curse, don’t you curse.  If you don’t want your child to start drinking, don’t drink around them.  If you don’t want your child to smoke, don’t smoke.  It’s not good for you anyway.  Be a hard-working, conscientious, kind, thoughtful person and your child will learn from you. 

Step #4:  Don’t be in denial.  Your kids will lie through their teeth to convince you they are perfect, that they do no wrong.  Don’t believe them.  If someone comes to you with a complaint about your kid’s behavior, don’t deny it.  Your kid is not an angel- they will mess up sometimes.  Accept the complaint with an “I’ll look into it, thanks” then confront your child.  Don’t ever dismiss a complaint.  Investigate thoroughly.  If your child says someone (a teacher, a neighbor) doesn’t like them, there has to be a reason why.  Find out.

Step #5:  Set boundaries.  Clear, concise rules should be set for a child’s behavior at home and at school.  Life has rules, why shouldn’t families?  If you let your child get away with everything, how will they learn to cope when they are forced to adhere to rules in the job market when they get older? 

Step #6:  Let them express themselves without being critical, yet adhere to those boundaries in step #5.  Zombiegirl wanted to streak her hair blue in fourth grade.  I checked with the school principal and her teacher to see if this was okay.  We then told her she couldn’t do anything “freaky” until she was 16- no piercings, emo makeup, tattoos if she dyed her hair.  She was okay with that compromise and she’s been doing her hair ever since.  Does it hurt anyone?  Nope.  Does it give her a little self-confidence?  Yup.   Let your child try different things.  They’re trying to find out who they are.  Don’t be over-protective, either.  Not letting your kids grow will stunt their independence later.

Step #7:  Don’t be afraid to punish.  If your child has overstepped their boundaries, or broken a rule, they must be held accountable.  Threatening to punish bad behavior is not a punishment.  Take action.  Don’t wuss out. 

Step #8:  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Your child’s teachers are not idiots.  They will deal with hundreds of children in the course of their careers.  If they tell you your child has a learning problem or a behavior problem or a speech impediment, get professional advice!  Better to nip that problem in the bud when they’re young.  Remember Step #4- don’t be in denial.  There is no shame in medication, dieting or therapy.  This should all be done for the good of your child.

Step #9: Get involved.  Get involved with whatever your child is interested in.  Sports?  Be a coach.  At the very least, go to the games.  Don’t just sit in your car, either.  Cheer them on.  Show them you care.  Extracurricular activities?  Don’t be a drop-off parent.  Walk them in.  In the few moments it takes to get out of the car and go inside, you could ask about their day, or get a little feedback on how they’re doing.  If you work, and rely on someone else to take your kid, then volunteer at any event those activities have (dance recitals, cub scouts jamborees, karate tournaments)  Show your kid that you’re interested and not just a taxi service.  Volunteer at school- PTA, teacher’s assistant, cupcake baker, etc.  Be active in the one thing that takes up most of your child’s time.  You’ll be able to then check surreptiously on your kid.  DON’T BE OVERLY INVOLVED, however, and neglect your kid.  Volunteer time is not an excuse for excessive socializing.  Remember you’re doing this for your child, not to go out drinking with the girls…

Step #10:  Ask and listen.  Ask your child questions about their lives.  Tell them you expect honest answers.  Listen when they speak.  Sometimes it’s hard to listen to a child- they haven’t perfected their storytelling abilities yet.  Be interested- don’t get that glazed look in your eye- they can tell.  Most importantly, ask others about your child.  Get impressions from their Girl Scout leader, their Sunday School teacher, your neighbor.  Tell them you expect honest answers.  Remember Step #4.  They see your child differently from you and may have a different insight than you into what makes your child tick.  Don’t get mad when you hear something you don’t expect.

Do these steps make sense?  I’m not a child rearing expert, or a child psychiatrist.  My children are far from perfect, but they’ve never been in any sort of trouble, either.  Mostly, it’s just common sense.  Unfortunately, most of us are common sense deficient.

I hope they catch the little bastards that did this.


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