Can I Be Me?
Acceptance is like the fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming. The soil only enables the seed to become the flower. It releases the capacity of the seed to grow, but the capacity is entirely within the seed. As with the seed, a child contains entirely within his organism the capacity to develop. Acceptance is like the soil–it merely enables the child to actualize his potential.
When children are not afraid to express opinions, feelings and needs, they learn to be true to themselves.
- Developing self-honesty is the first step to surviving adverse circumstances.
- Self-honesty allows us to unfold and develop our potential.
- We grow in honest, accepting relationships with others.
- Self-honesty is key to trusting and valuing our own opinions, and our own sense of right and wrong.
- Self-honesty is vital to not giving in to peer pressure.
Drug use begins with peer pressure and the desire to change a feeling.
- Children want to feel different.
- They want to feel older, feel admired, and feel included.
- They are afraid of being teased, left out, or rejected.
- They don’t trust their own opinion. They are afraid to stand on their own sense of right or wrong.
- The payback for being “true to themselves” has not been reinforced. It has not been their experience to have their feelings and needs accepted unconditionally.
- They do not feel safe to express their opinions.
Accepting someone else’s feelings does not mean agreeing with them or condoning their feelings, attitudes or actions. It simply means accepting the feeling, negative or positive. Accepting someone else’s feelings is respecting the individuality of another human being without demanding that they feel or think like we do. When children feel accepted and loved the way they are, without demands that they change, without demands that they be different, then they feel safe to grow. They are capable of changing and stretching out, of trying new ways of thinking and of being.
When children do not feel the pressure and stress of having to prove themselves worthy of love and respect, then they can unfold their full potential. They are free to truly love and to express caring.
If a change has come about and an agreement has come about through honest mutual respect and understanding, then the child will follow through with ‘self-discipline’.
The only way to change another person is to accept him. In the safety and security of our acceptance is their freedom and inspiration to change. We can threaten or demand certain types of surface behavior or mannerisms. We can sometimes “train” people to behave a certain way in our presence, for fear of what will happen or will not happen to them if they do not follow our demands. Fear of pain or fear of the loss of love can be motivating. It does however, plant seeds for rebellion, inner destruction and the loss of trusting one’s own feelings and opinions.
Am I Safe To Express My Feelings?
Express what you are feeling and ask for what you want. Frequently expressing your feelings and wants makes it less likely that little irritations will accumulate and turn into a major explosion. People who save up their anger tend to go on tirades. Irrational anger teaches the child to fear the individual. It does not encourage new behavior for the child.
We each have different feelings based on: what has touched our lives; how we interpret what has touched our lives, and the choices we have made.
We do not have the same feelings for the same reasons as everybody else. We must recognize our feelings for what they are and not judge them. Many of our feelings are based on something that has happened to us. We each see and feel a situation through a different screen, or different colored glasses:
- John had a pet mouse that was cute, gentle, and rode around in his pocket.
- Julie had a pet mouse that bit her, ran away, and chewed up her favorite shoes.
What does John feel when he sees a mouse? What does Julie feel when she sees a mouse?
Feelings are not good or bad or stupid–they just are.
When we create a supportive, open and accepting atmosphere, we let children know they are safe expressing their feelings, asking questions and making decisions. Children need to understand that feelings are OK. When they are able to recognize and separate experiencing negative feelings from acting out those feelings in negative behavior, then they learn self-control. We can help children culture and develop skills and strategies to deal with rejection, disappointments, and failure.
Self-Esteem is a feeling, and since feelings can change, one can effectively influence and enhance a person’s self-esteem.
Children need to be protected and nurtured in addition to being prepared with social and refusal skills. Protecting the feelings, the heart and spirit of a child, has two parts:
- As much as possible, disallow pain and negativity from influencing a very young child.
- Teach those techniques and habits that allow them to honestly recognize a hurt or negative feeling and how to deal with it in a positive way.
Some of the most crucial choices our children are going to have to make is “yes” or “no” to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The reason they begin using drugs is because they do not have the knowledge or the skills to deal with their feelings. They choose to experiment or to be involved with drugs simply to change the way they feel. Unfulfilled or negative feelings may be caused by peer pressure, by circumstances, or by their interpretation and ability to handle their circumstances.
We teach children to recognize and accept their feelings, and that feelings change. Discuss and practice healthy ways to change feelings. This builds and reinforces confidence by helping children turn a bad situation into success or to change an uncomfortable feeling to a comfortable feeling.
When children don’t know the self-esteem skills of how to change an uncomfortable feeling to a comfortable feeling they may become bullies or extremely withdrawn in anger or fear:
- Blame others and make others wrong, so they can be right…habitually criticizing
- Begin to judge themselves in comparison to others, feeling depressed, bitter, or resentful
- Develop a desperate need to win, to be right, to be the best at all cost to self and others
- Have a low tolerance for stress, anxiety or anger…being volatile.
- Because they fear that others don’t like them, they make excuses, lie, and exaggerate
- Blame others for their own mistakes … what they are, are not, what they do, what they don’t do
- They will not take responsibility for their feelings or their needs. They say things like, “You made me do it,” “Don’t make me hit you,” “Don’t make me angry,” “If it weren’t for you, I would be able to…” “Why do you make me act like this?”
Example: A first baseman misses or drops a well-placed ball. The runner is safe. The first baseman feels angry with himself for failing. To save face, the first basemen turns to the player who threw the ball and screams…”You stupid!! Learn how to throw a ball!!” Children with this type of behavior do not feel safe to make mistakes. They suppress their honest feelings, which in turn erupt onto other people in a distorted way.
People think they get rid of feelings by suppressing or forgetting them. Actually, troublesome feelings are more likely to go away when they are expressed openly.
Talking openly about their feeling and helping others, is one of the best techniques children will learn for changing a feeling. Teaching children how to serve others is not only a technique to prevent loneliness but it is good for the development of responsibility and character.
Helping others is also a technique for fear management. It gives the feeling of being powerful by being able to change a situation. Helping others is very empowering. One cannot feel powerful and fearful at the same time…so the fear goes away.
Mary Lou, has Multiple Sclerosis which makes her life as the single mother of two small children more difficult. My nickname for her is “Swift foot” because, when she is feeling well, there is no slowing her down. In the many years that I have known her, she consistently has a kind word for everyone and no matter what, we end up laughing about something. I asked Mary Lou how she maintains her cheerful loving attitude.
Ask yourself what you need in life: what you need to feel, how you need to be loved, how you need to be talked to and treated. Then, when you need it the very most, find someone you can give those things to. Give others what you need for yourself. The Golden Rule works for me.
Conflict Resolution Skills
While teaching a fourth grade class, I noticed that this group of children were exceptionally clear communicators. They were precise on what they felt uncomfortable about or threatened by, and how to fix it. When I asked them where they learned these skills, they directed me to a teacher, and author of Say What’s Wrong And Make It Right, Karen Taylor-Blieker. Observing how Karen had touched these children’s lives, I knew I had to meet her. She was exactly what I expected. Karen greets the world with a radiant warm smile. She creates an atmosphere around her that emanates the qualities of simplicity, safety, acceptance and purpose. She has generously given her permission for portions of her material to be presented in this curriculum.
The Five Step Process is based on the belief that individuals have definite rights and responsibilities in communication and conflict resolution… before going to an adult or using physical force.
- Tell the other person you don’t like what they’re doing.
- Ask them to stop.
- Tell them your feelings about the situation AND listen to their feelings.
- Tell them what you want them to do. (All persons involved have the right and responsibility to work out a solution that is acceptable to all.)
- Thank them or accept their apology or compromise (a time for acknowledgment, putting solutions into action, and especially, making certain all are feeling better.)
The goals for this type of conflict resolution are solutions rather than blame or punishment, and growth in self-discipline, understanding of self and others, human relations, and consequently, self-esteem. Recognition and expression of feelings is the key ingredient. In order for the program to work, children must be allowed to express their feelings without fear of rejection.
When students have to take their time, look the offended party in the eyes, listen to the other person’s feelings, say their feelings, and come up with a mutually acceptable solution, personal involvement is much greater. This process does not let the offending parties off the hook, but involves them in the solution. It is intrinsically motivating. Through this talk-it-over process, both parties are more likely to see and accept their responsibilities in the problem. They are more likely to follow through on solutions that are theirs.
I have found it helpful to have the children do a role-play of a situation with a reversal of roles. When they role-play a conflict they are having with someone and they pretend to be the other person, they are usually surprised by what it feels like to be the other person. Sometimes the destructive bully behavior is disguised as “kidding” and “joking.” When the receiver of the “kidding” becomes hurt or angry, then the bully adds, “Don’t you have a sense of humor?”
“So, what is wrong with you…now?” The subtle, “Can’t quite put your finger on it,” bully behavior, can sometimes erode our self-confidence. An open conflict is not necessary in order to have a bad feeling in someone’s presence. We can get through a conversation, a meeting or a social gathering, relying on basic good manners, silence, or resilience…however…sometimes we walk away not feeling as good about who we are. Usually a tired worn out feeling comes along as part of this experience. A bully deliberately chips away, wearing down our spirit and confidence.
The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.
Andrea has been a kind and loving friend. For many years, she and I walked the hills in the early mornings. She is calming and peaceful to be with, like a mountain meadow, responding to the stream and the wind with quiet acceptance.
When I want to change a sad or worried feeling, I either see or talk to a friend who is a positive person, or I do an art project, or both. I love to walk in the hills. No matter what is going on in my life, when I get out in nature with the smells of the flowers, the trees, and the sounds, yes, my feelings do change. I see the beauty around me and remember that life is so much more than whatever I think my problem is at the time.
This is optional depending upon school policy, Public school, private, charter, etc.
RECIPE FOR HEALING ©
Lay your heart on the table, naked and trusting
Add consciousness and light
Stir with joy and laughter
Expand and radiate with love
God is Love
Stop. Let it rest and rise regularly
Modify action reaction
Shhh…Be still…Silence…Meditate…Transcend the pain
Guide your heart with gentle compassion
Shape and mold it with sincere forgiveness
Sing to it
Dance with it and around it joyously
Give it the gift of feeling safe
Show it beautiful sunsets, fragile flowers, loving souls, children, puppies
Touch it a lot
Teach your heart to express its gratitude lavishly and often
Give it long melting hugs, snug with both arms
Give it your Whole self
Use soft gentle speech, reassure it
Say nice things to it and about it
Let it know it’s OK to cry
Give it permission to find its passion
Give it the courage to live its passion
Do not frighten it
Keep it in a warm loving environment
Steep it with faith, hope and patience
Set it free, give it wings with kindness
Love is kind
Pray like you are talking to your best friend
…Dianna L. Pappas-Marchese
Excerpt from Bully Prevention Character Development Program © – Dianna L. Pappas-Marchese