Category Archives: Cultural Influences

Where Are Our Heroes?

Children look up to heroes. Young children look at fairy tale or fictitious heroes. Harry Potter, Superman, and Batman –  we can name hundreds of heroes in fiction. But as children  grow, they graduate to real heroes. These could be sports stars  or people in the news. This is a sad time for children since we  have so many fallen stars. Barry Bonds, the biggest home run  hero of our time, cheated by using steroids. An American  cyclist, Floyd Landis, came back to victory in the Tour de  France only to have his victory clouded under doping  allegations. Our President is usually an obvious choice of a  hero yet our last two Presidents failed our children. Clinton  is famous for his cheating on his wife and Bush made up reasons  for war and has made America famous for torture. Hollywood  props up movie stars as heroes but then we hear about their  drunk driving or their prejudicial remarks or both.  Unfortunately, there are only a few Tom Brady’s around. We hope  that our newly elected officials live up to there promises and  reputations, though we are losing faith.

Kids need heroes. But more importantly, they need adults  that they can look up to and respect. I once heard in a  parenting conference that what children need is an “influential  adult” outside their family who becomes their local hero. These  “influential adults” can be teachers, coaches, or community  leaders. They aren’t famous heroes because over time kids turn  away from their infatuation with distant heroes and turn their  attention to real tangible, respectable adults who are involved  in their lives. To that end, adults in every community need to  respond to this era of poor examples of heroes at the top. We  have to become the heroes on the bottom. Every adult in every  community needs to evaluate how he or she is demonstrating him  or herself as an example to young adults. What child will look  up to you as an “influential adult” in their lives? At home,  are you there for them or do you disappear too often to ensure  you have your fun? Do you provide examples of good community  work? Do you volunteer or donate time or money? Do you expect  returns for your good works or is it truly given like real  heroes do? Do you simply act in kindness so children see and  live kindness around you?

You can’t ask “what is happening with kids today?” without  asking what is happening to heroes for kids today? We, the  adults, can make a difference inside and outside of our homes.  We need to start in our small communities. Do good work in your  community. Donate time to worthwhile projects. Work with food  pantries, or help the elderly. Don’t expect praise but let your  children and other kids witness your good acts. Be kind. Live  a well-valued life – especially those of us that work with  children. If we start at home and in our communities we can be  heroes for our children. They need them. We can build a  community of “heroes” pitching in and helping each other. Maybe  over time local heroism will filter up to where we need them for  our children the most in the high visible places of our country.

Whatever Happened To Sportsmanship

I am a sports fan and enjoy watching games like many  Americans. In October, I was thrilled when the Red Sox won  the World Series. I am enjoying the Patriots season, and am  interested in how the Celtics can rebuild. As I revel in  Boston’s great sports world, I have become very concerned  about the environment and what we are teaching kids about  sportsmanship.

Just think about the images of sportsmanship that were  on display in the last six months. During the playoffs and  World Series we saw objects thrown onto the field, police  in riot gear lining the stands, overzealous celebrations  leading to burning cars and a couple of deaths. No sooner  do we turn the page on that season when we witness NBA  players fighting with fans during a game. These are the  images that come to mind when you get away from the idea of  who won and focus just on sportsmanship.

We may want to rationalize our thoughts about  sportsmanship. I have heard phrases like, “well, a series  with the Yankees is always like that” or “what do you  expect, we haven’t won in 86 years” or “there always have  been bad examples of sportsmanship”.

But think about sportsmanship even at the high school  level. I have been embarrassed by some of the behavior of  parents in the stands at some high school games. We have  had murders caused by our “friendly” competitions between  rival towns. And on the field, some players have not  learned how to be good sports. Where can our children get  good examples of sportsmanship? How can we teach our kids  sportsmanship so the next generation of fans won’t be worse  than this one? Here are some suggestions.

1. Increase access to “pick up” games. These are games  where kids decide on the teams and referee themselves.  It is in these settings that kids have to set the  rules, be fair, and respect each player for their  worth. Perhaps some “leagues” should serve this role.  Get the coaches and parents out of the way and let the  kids learn through this valuable learning tool – pick  up games.

2. Parents and coaches need to recognize the diversity  of skills. Our culture of focusing on star players  demonstrates an overemphasis of personal athletic  prowess versus team play. All players should have a  role on the team. After all, that is how the Red Sox  and Patriots have won their championships!

3. Point out, criticize and punish displays of poor  sportsmanship – even by star players. Have the player  sit out a game. There should be clear rules for  sportsmanship on every team at every level. And those  rules need to be enforced. Many high schools have  players read and sign a sportsmanship pledge. Parents  should read it and agree to it as well.

4. Recognize, praise, and encourage displays of good  sportsmanship. Everyone likes it when you see an  opposing player help their opponent off the ground.  Good sportsman should receive high praise and rewards  at the end of every season.

5. Parents – Be Cool. Cheer your child on. But get  over the idea that your child’s accomplishments are a  reflection on you. Their accomplishments are theirs  – not yours. They don’t need to have extra pressure  from you to keep their level of accomplishment high.  They don’t need a second “coach” in the stands. It is  your child’s game to succeed or fail in. Be there to  share the joys or the sorrows. But please keep it in  perspective. It is their game not yours. Overzealous  parents are an embarrassment to the player and the  team.

6. Parents and coaches need to remember that it is only  a game. How we act towards the sport is the greatest  way for our children to learn sportsmanship.

7. Emphasize sportsmanship especially with rivalries.  I love the fact that we can have “United We Stand”  bumper stickers on our cars but don’t take this to  heart when our children are playing a rival town. We  all need to keep a perspective that we are united  despite having a rivalry. If both sides work on it we  could keep all rivalries “friendly”.

8. Competition is valuable. It teaches our kids to work  hard and earn what they receive. But sportsmanship is  more important than competition. Because if we don’t  learn sportsmanship, we as a society will never learn  to embrace peace.

What TV Teaches Our Kids

Have you ever wondered why your child can’t have their attention held for more than two minutes on anything but TV?

The answers to these questions may be “yes” and here  is the reason. In April 2004 the Journal of Pediatrics  published a report that said in short that children who  watch TV before age 2 (even “educational” TV) are more  prone to difficulties in paying attention then those kids  who do not watch TV. That’s not all.

There are many studies that demonstrate the negative  effects of TV and technology. Some studies show a tendency  towards more violent behavior and desensitization to  violence. Other studies show a decrease in helpful and  positive behaviors in kids. There is a link with obesity  and TV use. And still other studies show that heavy doses  of TV and technology decreases children’s ability to read  and decreases their grades in school.

Of course we have to ask “is there anything good about  TV?” Most parents tell me that, for a time, it gives  parents a rest. It occupies their children while parents  cook, shower, and do other chores. It is well known how TV  serves as short term babysitters for children across the  U.S. This “positive” aspect of TV should not be totally  discredited. Many parents need to use TV in this manner.  But, when weighing the positives and negatives of TV and  technology use, it is becoming very clear TV and technology  is bad for kids.

Knowing this, why is it that most American families  remain hooked to their screens? Well, there is speculation  that it is “habit forming” or “addictive”. Add that to the  list of negatives!

For the sake of our children we need a mass effort to  wake families up to the negative effects of TV and  technology. Schools need to initiate “Pull the Plug”  campaigns. Families need to have standards for screen use  at home. Here are some rules for families.

Minimize use of TV as a babysitter.

No TV for all children under 2 years old.

One hour of “screen time” per day or 7 hours total per  week. That “screen time” should include computer, IM,  game boy or play station time.

Reading time should exist at home.

Homework time should exist separate from reading time.

Videos and movies also should count as screen time.

Don’t fear changes away from screen time. The  positive changes in your home will far outweigh the  negative.

Come to my workshop on TV and technology at Cape Ann  Families 6 PM on April 4th to discuss more about what we  can do about TV and our kids.

What The Tsunami Should Teach Us

The devastating tsunami in Asia has an impact on all  of us. We cannot look at these images without recognizing  that these hurt people need help. That help comes to those  Asian communities by having those in need increase their  circles of helpful communities. The whole world recognizes  this – some countries faster than others. We are hearing  phrases in the press such as the “world community” or  “community of nations” in discussions about the response to  disaster, and so it should be. None of the local  communities in Asia will fix themselves without the aid  from the world community.

I am personally hit with the images of this disaster.  I have worked in different areas of the world and know how  poor communities receive the brunt of natural disaster. In  1998 a hurricane devastated Honduras. I visited the  country months after Hurricane Mitch flooded communities,  caused mudslides, and washed sections of plantations away.  As part of a medical team assessing the status of medical  relief, I could see with my own eyes that poor communities  got hit the worst and that Honduras would not recover  without years of aid from the world community. Today,  Honduras is better, (though still impoverished) largely due  to the aid it received from many countries. It will take  years for the Asian countries to recover with aid from  around the Globe as well.

Each disaster I witness reminds me of lessons learned  from previous disasters. Many of these lessons are basic  and logical. It is a wonder why we don’t listen and take  these lessons to heart between disasters. These lessons  should serve to guide us in decisions both personal and  communal. Here are the lessons I have learned.

1. It is easy to break things down.

2. It is harder and more costly to build things up.

3. It takes cooperation to make things better.

4. To make things better, we must rely on a community of  people to be sources of aid.

5. We hold human life in high regard. Human life is the  greatest value we have and we feel this most with  tragedies and unreasonable unexpected deaths.

6. We respect those who help others the most. Unselfish  people are great blessings.

7. Tragedies lead us to times of unselfishness.

Think about these lessons for a moment. These lessons  are applicable to many situations. Whether we are talking  about the war in Iraq, the tsunami in Asia, or the deaths  of family members in an auto accident, these lessons hold  true. These are really rules of life that everyone should  heed, not only in times of tragedy but all days of our  lives.

If we thought of these as a basic of how we live our  lives, we would work to build better communities. Better  communities would be in better position to withstand  difficult times. Better communities would help support  stronger families. Today, as we live in a society which  emphasizes “ownership” and the individual, we need to step  back and listen to the lessons of the tsunami. Rather than  emphasizing the achievement of individuals, our society  needs to emphasize unselfishness, cooperation, and  community.

What Is A Good Playdate?

Ah, remember those days when we, as kids, ran out and played in the neighborhood with other kids. I remember  running inside to tell my mother I was hungry so I could  gobble down a sandwich just to get back outside for our  game. Dirty sneakers, muddy pants, smudged faces, and  sweaty heads were the norm after school and on weekends.  Bats, balls, gloves, ice skates and sleds are in every  picture from my childhood. Play was arranged by stepping  out the front door. Arranging a playdate? My mother rarely  had to face this parenting challenge. Today, parents need  to decide about playdates regularly.

I recognize that some neighborhoods may still have the  community environment that allows spontaneous play, but  most families today face the problem of separation between  friends which then require parents to arrange playdates.  What is a good playdate? How can we arrange a playdate so  that we are comfortable about safety, diet, and  constructive play?

Playdates are very important for children. From the  time children are three years old and recognize that there  are people their age on this planet, they want to interact  with playmates. Children develop their brain power through  interaction with people. So playdates are a necessity in  this increasingly isolating society of ours. A good  playdate is one where children play actively with each  other sometimes causing conflict and solving it together.  Battles over legos, homemade forts, or who plays what role  leads to problem solving skills, compromise, creativity,  and use of the imagination. We know that creativity is all  but erased in computer games. Imagination is stifled by TV  and movies. Kids can get enough of those without wasting  time with a friend with screens in front of them.

Good playdates take more than the type of play.  Supervision is necessary even for the closest of friends.  Someone needs to be there to be sure conflicts don’t get  out of hand or to help support the friends’ activities. An  adult can also be sure that kids don’t snack  inappropriately between play. Good snacks are increasingly  important and can be easily accepted when provided with a  little creativity.

Obviously, good playdates take some work. Parents  need to talk to one another – not just about scheduling the  playdate. Good playdates really depend on communication  between parents. Meet the parents of playmates. Stop in  at drop-off and observe a little of the play environment.  Parents need to make sure the other parents know your  expectations. Be explicit about your expectations over TV  and computer time. Ask about outdoor time during playdates  if the weather permits. If you are the host parent, be  available for some supervision. Be true to the other parent  and enforce agreed upon rules for the playdate. Many  parents want to hear that parents have the similar opinions  about play. It is wonderful to find good playmates and  families that carry out similar values in playdates. This  is important even as your children enter middle and high  school.

If a playdate doesn’t work out to your liking take  control of the playdate. You can require that your child  and that friend play together at your house. If you don’t  approve of play between your child and their friend, veto  the playdates or minimize their time together. You do not  have to debate your decisions with your child. You have a  right to agree or disagree with playdates!

A discussion of playdates cannot ignore the ever growing sleepover nightmare. More and more I am hearing  about sleepovers that include very late nights, children  awake later than parents, unsupervised TV and internet use,  and the post-sleepover “hangover” where parents deal with  over tired children on a day reserved for homework or  family time. It is amazing that parents are pushed to give  into these sleepovers without restriction. Parents have a  right to put restrictions on sleepovers – especially in  later years. Even teens can have a lights out time. Time  restrictions on computer and internet use are important.  There are good reasons to limit their use after certain  hours.

If sleepovers and their aftermath get out of hand  (moodiness, decrease in school work) a parent needs to  say ‘no’ to them. Your child will not suffer because  “everyone else is going to be there”. Your child can be  picked up at 11 and sleep at home. They won’t miss much  and they’ll sleep better.

Parents need to be aware of what happens in playdates  and sleepovers and exert some influence over them. Bad  playdates and sleepovers are not helpful to your child or  to your family’s functions. Keeping your child’s  interactions with friends as healthy as possible is a  worthwhile concern for all parents. Parents need to feel  empowered to exert their influence even into teen years.  Your child will be better off for it.

Trends In Pediatrics

As I look back over twenty-three years of practicing Pediatrics I see some dramatic changes in the health of our children. Most of the practicing clinicians I know look  back at their years of training with fondness. It was during those years that our minds  were absorbing all kinds of new information about the care of children. Twenty years  ago during my training I was taught how to screen children and babies for serious blood  infections called bacteremia and serious brain infections or meningitis. During my early  years of practice, hardly a day went by without at least one spinal tap being done. Spinal  taps for meningitis and blood cultures for blood infections were two relatively common  procedures for practicing pediatricians. Today, thanks to new vaccines babies suffer  these unpleasantries much more rarely. Two vaccines, one for pneumococcus and one  for hemophilus bacteria have changed children’s health in a very real way to me. These  have allowed me to keep spinal taps in my mind mostly as a memory.

Though changes in medicine have helped children’s lives there are other changes in  children’s health that are not so promising. In fact, the rise of some health and mental  health issues should be the concern to all of us.

Over my years of practice I have seen a dramatic growth in four types of illness. Asthma  cases have risen. Childhood obesity is an epidemic. Attention Deficit Disorder with and  without hyper-activity continues to rise. And mental illness particularly depression in  children and teens is reaching crisis proportions. There are good reasons why we all need  to be concerned about the increase in these illnesses. Let me explain my reasons with  each type of illness.

Asthma is a disease where a person’s lungs become more reactive to viruses or allergens  making the bronchi go into spasm. This makes it more difficult for that person to  breathe. The typical symptoms include cough, night cough, difficulty breathing and  coughing with exercise. Nobody knows why we have had an increase in asthma cases  over time. Perhaps we have more allergens (things that cause allergies) or maybe we  have more allergic people. Perhaps our air quality has something to do with it. Others  say we are diagnosing it more easily than we used to. No matter what the reason,  we all should have concern for this negative trend in children’s health. We could all  work harder to improve air quality. We can avoid second hand smoke–producing it or  receiving it! We can know the early warning signs of asthma-persistent cough, cough  at night, or cough at play. And finally we should seek care early because, on the bright  side, our treatments for asthma have improved as the cases have increased. We are better  at taking care of asthmatics now than we were years ago.

Obesity has been in the news a lot in the past few years. Practicing pediatricians saw  this trend coming long before the lay press put it on the front page. And even with the  publicity given to this problem, people are not doing enough. We need to make sure our  children don’t have a sedentary lifestyle. They need exercise daily. And a balanced diet  eaten daily with lots of fruits and vegetables is essential. We need to model and teach  good diets starting very young. If you are excusing your child’s poor eating habits, stop  right now and put him on a good diet. I often shock people by telling them some stories I hear from parents about how their children eat. Yet despite obvious diet issues many  parents fail to intervene and make changes. We, the parents need to take control of the  choice of foods, our children will not. There is too much temptation in our society. We  need to help them make the right choices. This is imperative for our future generation.

Attention Deficit disorder is a problem where children cannot sustain attention on any  one subject for very long. Again it is not clear why this has risen to such a high number.  Some say we are too quick to diagnose and treat. Others say schools have too high  expectations for all kids to conform. Many of the practicing doctors I know feel the trend  towards more ADHD is real. Many children and families are helped by treatment. Many  children go from failing grades to straight A’s. Parents need to think about this diagnosis  with any child who has trouble in school. Seek help from a professional. It may make a  world of difference.

Depression can be a serious mental illness that can have catastrophic results. Few  psychologists, psychiatrists or pediatricians doubt the rise in this illness. Parents need  to know the early warning signs of depression: withdrawal from friends and activities,  increased sleep, failing at school; and loss of interest to name a few. Seek professional  help early. It can save a life.

The trends in ADHD and depression are extremely worrisome to me. Certainly these  need to be treated and managed. But I question whether there is something cultural that  we need to face to decrease these cases in the future. Are our children learning to change  their focus rapidly and often while playing on the screens they watch daily? Are they  failing to learn how to interact well together due to decreased interaction with people as  they grow side by side with technology? These are hard questions to answer. But it is  important for parents to recognize that children’s mental health development depends a  lot on personal interaction. So it may stand to reason that we should be limiting screen time not just to reduce obesity but to optimize children’s personality development. If our  kids are away from screens and facing each other, they learn a lot more about conflict resolution, empathy and caring then they do in front of a screen.

Suffice it to say there have been wonderful gains over the past 20 years in  children’s well being. There are new vaccines against devastating illnesses. New  medicines work better than old medicines against many illnesses that we are seeing larger  numbers. Yet we need to continue to move forward in our children’s health and well  being by looking at the new trends in pediatric illness and question why they are  happening. By increasing awareness and having more minds questioning, perhaps we  will find reasons for these negative trends. Once reasons are found then we hope these  trends can be reversed so the health of our children can be improved once again.

Tough Times for Teens and Their Parents

When I do workshops for parents of teenagers I see many shaking heads when I say, “it is a tough time to be a teenager!” Everyone in the audience recognizes this  statement as fact. Few adults can picture growing up as a teen now. School demands  are higher. It is harder to get into college. College costs add a burden. A high school  diploma doesn’t help your career very much. And now, with the economic crisis, the  future looks tougher still. There is only one thing tougher than being a teenager, and that  is being a parent of one!

Teens are exposed to so much so early that they seem to be growing up too fast.  Media-We know the risks that they may encounter but it seems that they do not. We  worry for them. And the freedoms that they demand from us so early make it difficult for  us to stay in control. How are we to parent our teens today? Where else can we turn?

The Parenting Struggle

When I talk to parents about parenting, it seems we are in  the midst of a struggle. Is parenting harder today? Why is it  harder? How can we make it simpler?

There is a difference in family life today versus fifty  years ago. Fifty years ago families were influenced more by  church, neighbors, community, and time together than they are  today. Today there is more influence on families coming from  outside their home and neighborhood by TV, computer, and other  media outlets. Information keeps coming at families at  lightning speed. Time together becomes restricted by two  working parents. Children participate in more activities  outside their immediate neighborhood than they did fifty years  ago. Our homes have become self-sufficient entities. We can be  connected to the world, friends and relatives from a chair in  front of our computers.

The time and the necessity to be involved with other  families has decreased through our TV’s, computers and the  internet.

Meanwhile, marketing to children is in full swing.  Children influence family decisions through the empowerment  granted to them by direct marketing. Parents’ authority has  diminished and kids know it. Families feel it. Kids are in  control. Even computer games and TV give children the feeling  of having it all and deserving it. How can parents win any  struggle in this era of the empowered child?

Parents do have power and need to exert the right to be in  control of your house and your kids. First, recognize that what  your children get from you is a privilege. You can control the  number of privileges your child earns, and yes, they should earn  their privileges. Too many kids get things without earning them  just by saying, “Everyone else has it!”

Maintain a set of rules for your household. Children need  clear sets of rules. Parents exert control by being the people  who set the rules.

Demand respect from your children. Disrespect means loss  of privileges.

Stop yelling. Yelling shows weakness and loss of control.  You may then feel guilty and make decisions for your children  from this place of weakness. By staying in control, you command  more respect and exert more control over your children.

Decrease TV exposure and computer time. These empower kids  and give them the sense that the world is at their pleasure.  The less kids see advertisements and marketing ploys towards  them, the less they feel that they just can’t live without the  latest and greatest thing.

Make sure you have family time every week. Do an outing  together. Eat meals together. Family time won’t always be  perfect. But the time together provides a sense of belonging,  and a sense of togetherness that kids really need.

Get together with other families without the electronics.  Share meals, talk and play games. Community teaches children  about friendship. It teaches them about other families. These  lessons don’t come on their IPOD or FACEBOOK.

Hold your children responsible for their schoolwork and  their chores. They need to work to improve themselves and for  the greater good of the family. If they are held responsible  for school and home responsibilities, you have a greater sense  of control.

Parenting styles have changed. We can no longer just be  the authoritarians in our homes. But, we can have a sense of  control. We can develop our own parenting style. Read some  parenting books. Get some parenting DVD’s. Think about your  parenting. Kids feel empowered but they still need strong and  secure parents. You can be secure in your parenting role and  feel that parenting is less of a struggle.

Teaching Our Kids About War’s Horrible Images

I have watched with too much interest at the images coming from Iraq. In fact, my sleep has been disturbed by the horrible images that we all have seen. At one point, I stopped reading the paper and started avoiding the news as if not witnessing it makes the horror go away. It doesn’t. But while I rested better, I turned to a new concern. What are we teaching our kids about these events?

There has been enormous interest in the war events. We receive daily front page reports and, now, horrible images about torture and abuse. The high level of interest may be misinterpreted by kids. They may think since these events hold our interest that they are worthy of their interest too. There can be further confusion in our criticism and discussion of the events. Our kids want us to “win” the war. They want our side to be the “good guys”. How could it be that our “good guys” are doing bad things? Even as adults, many of us try to rationalize these horrors by explanations such as “a few bad apples” or “lack of training”. No matter how we look at it, these images coming from Iraq make the war more real for us and for our kids. Since our children see many unreal images of war through video games and movies, we must take this opportunity to be honest and clear to our older children about the realities of war (younger children should be shielded from these horrible images). Here are some samples of questions and answers for parents to use with their older kids.

(child) Mom, is it good that we are fighting this war?

(parent) War hurts a lot of people. Many people die. War is never good.

(child) Why are we fighting this war anyway?

(parent) We thought we were getting rid of a bad man who was hiding weapons. We did get rid of the bad man but we didn’t find any weapons.

(child) Why can’t we stop this war then?

(parent) Well, this is an important lesson for all of us. Wars are easy to start but very hard to end. Many people get angry with war so it is hard to bring back the peace.

(child) Why did our soldiers do those nasty things to those people?

(parent) Behavior like that is hard to explain. Many  people all over the world are upset with that  behavior. We should never treat people like animals the way our soldiers did. That behavior was inexcusable and will be punished.

(child) Well, their bad man Saddam Hussein did worse than that. So, our guys are still the good guys, right?

(parent) A majority of our soldiers are good people trying to do the right thing. Most of our soldiers are good and shouldn’t be blamed for those bad things. But the way those soldiers treated those prisoners can not be excused.

(child) Well, I just hope we win this war.

(parent) I’m sure we are going to be safe. War is not good for anyone.

Our children should not hear rationalizations or false statements. We should all know by now that false statements do not justify aggressive action anywhere – not on the playground – not in international affairs. We need to be honest with ourselves and our kids about this war in order for the next generation to learn what is right. Expressing distaste, sadness and even anger at improper events are important for us to teach moral lessons to our children.

Our kids have heard enough falsehoods. They play with unreal games. They see make believe wars on TV and in movies. Now with these real images of war coming at us, they need to hear the truth and have it put in honest moral and ethical context. War is not a fun game to play.  And I, too, hope it ends soon.

Squashing The Rudeness Epidemic

Dance instructors have asked me “Why are kids so rude these  days? If you reprimand a child in dance class for their  attitude you can expect a phone call from their parents later.”  Coaches have told me similar things. “Heaven forbid I sit a  star player for being a poor sport. The parents would have my  head.” Major magazines have had articles on the “rudeness  epidemic.” Is there any wonder why there is an epidemic if  parents don’t hold their kids responsible for their rudeness and  unsportsmanlike attitudes?

Certainly we don’t always have the best examples. Our pro  sports players have had numerous noteworthy displays of being  poor sports. But putting that aside for the moment, we must  think about how our kids display themselves to other adult  authority figures outside our houses. How do they represent you?

Keeping our kids from being rude takes a multifaceted  approach. We have to address rudeness from our children  wherever it occurs – at home, at school or at extracurricular  activities.

At home, parents often are at a loss on dealing with  rudeness or disrespect. We often react with anger, lectures and  worst of all, physical punishment. But these actions don’t  teach respect. Respect teaches respect. And this is one of the  toughest lessons for parents to learn. We must try to respect  them even when our kids don’t respect us. This doesn’t mean we  have to be nice! But yelling, lecturing and being physical can  be demeaning and not respectful to your kids as a person. When  we can respond to their rudeness to us with coolness we remain  in a respectful place yet give them the cool response rudeness  deserves. To top things off they learn that rudeness won’t get  a rise out of you. That decreases their motivation as well.  (And of course, decreasing a privilege or decreasing your  service to them may be very appropriate to go along with to your  cool responses.)

Children can learn a lot from parents by how you treat  people outside your house. Do you yell at people on the phone?  Are you short with people in stores? Children watch this and  mirror your actions as they face the outside world. Your kids  will take a page from your book and it won’t look pretty. We  need to model good respectful behavior for our children. So  when you hang up on that telemarketer do it with class and  respect.

When we hear about our child’s rudeness to a coach, teacher  or instructor, support that adult in sitting them on the bench  or excluding them from class. Yes we pay for those sports and  dance classes. But so do the other parents. So why should all  children be distracted and suffer due to your child’s rudeness?  They shouldn’t. Support the action of coaches and teachers.

Finally, all coaches, teachers, gymnastic instructors, and  dance teachers – all adults acting in authority over children in  their activities – need to have the authority to correct  children when their mouth speaks inappropriately. Foul  language, unsportsmanlike behavior, bad hand signals and  inappropriate outbursts should have repercussions. At the  beginning of the season or year, send home a behavior contract  for all involved in your program. Be clear on what your actions  will be. A fair warning is always well received and then your  authority should not be questioned when you have to act.

All adults need to work together. Parents need to support  other adults in authority. Communication between parents and  those surrogate parents is important. Be respectful. Respect  kids by using appropriate language yourself. Respect them as a  person even if they don’t deserve it. Be calm but firm.  Isolate the offender by your action. And if we all do this  together, perhaps we will squash the rudeness epidemic and raise  respectable children.