Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Finally, Christmas is here!! It’s time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and, in keeping with the American tradition, give tons of presents to your kids!

Have you ever considered the gift that your child wants the most? A bike? No. A guitar or drum set? No. A computer or software? No. How about an iPod? No.

Although I have never met a child who has refused to accept the aforementioned gifts, the gift that your child truly wants is ................... YOU!! Yes, despite their daily rants about the restrictions that you place upon them, the multitude of “unfair” accusations that are lobbed your way, and the total disdain with which they look at you sometimes, the most important gift to any child is YOU and your TIME!

Similar to my own story with my own son, a few years ago, a 6th grade student (11 years old) named Robert told me about the harrowing experience that he had encountered with his dad during the previous weekend. His dad was hanging Christmas lights from their gutters on their 2-story home. It was somewhat windy and his dad even mentioned that he was a little concerned climbing up and down the ladder. At one point, he told his son to hold the bottom of the ladder just in case the wind decided to wreak some havoc.

Quite quickly, Robert became worried and he began to visualize the worst - how would his life change if his dad bought the farm while trying to beautify their home for the season? Within moments, Robert implored his dad to forget the lights for the season or try on another day. His dad told him that he would be too busy on all of the future weekends before Christmas. So, it was now or never. Robert voted for never.

Despite the bikes, guitars, drums sets, iPods, etc., that Robert’s mom and dad had provided in the past or might provide in the future, at that very moment he learned that his most important gift was his parents. He realized that, most important of all, he liked having his mom and dad home early from work; he liked their help with homework; he liked knowing that his dad would battle the “bad guys” if they broke in during the night; and he realized that his mom and dad took care of all of his needs because they loved him.

Without his parents and the time that they spent with him, Robert, on that windy Sunday afternoon, suddenly realized that he would have nobody to take care of him. Needless to say, according to Robert, his gift "needs" changed on that day.

When I asked Robert about that incident a few years later, he reiterated that the windy Sunday had changed him forever, from being a greedy kid who wanted tons of presents to a kid who smiled each night before he went to sleep, complete with the knowledge that he had parents who were in the same house and that they loved him!

So, yes, despite their constant blathering about their parents and their foibles and other deficiencies, kids are happiest and most secure when they have parents who love them, spend time with them, provide for their needs, have fun with them, and provide the emotional security blanket that they so richly need.

Merry Christmas and give your child the most needed and most precious Christmas gift of all ...... YOU!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Child Abuse - The Signs (Pt.3)

(Continued from December 11, 2010) ........ Since the time of dealing closely with Matt and then hearing his confession later, Mr. Roberts learned of the signs of child abuse. According to the U.S department of Health and Human Services, the signs of child abuse can be the following:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

Yes, all of the classic symptoms were there, but they were not recognized by anybody on the staff, including the Principal, Counselor, Social Worker or by Mr. Roberts. Sadly, at the tender age of 25-years-old, Mr. Roberts had never known of the signs of child abuse. In his neighborhood as a child, this just did not occur – well, as far as he knew.

But, through Matt’s visit several years later and through studying the signs of child abuse, Mr. Roberts and his staff has saved several children from the horrors of abuse. Sometimes they have dealt with the parents directly and other times they have handed them over the authorities. In all cases (too many to count), the abuse stopped, which, of course, was the main goal.

So, what the purpose of Matt’s visit? Oh, he wanted to invite Mr. Roberts to his wedding (to a young lady who had also been in his Band for 3 years); to tell him of the abuse; and to tell him that he had confronted his mother; she apologized; and he forgave her ……. but he was going to get married and move about 200 miles away from, just to be sure! At least his sense of humor had remained intact!

Yes, Matt’s hanging on to Mr. Roberts for 3 years of his life, and later sharing his story, led to multiple other children being saved from the horrors of child abuse. Because of Matt’s turmoil and subsequent sharing, everybody associated with Mr. Roberts' school learned to recognize the signs of child abuse.

Great job, Matt! You are one, brave, young man and everybody is proud of you!

To all of the parents out there – if you abuse your child, we’ll find you and we’ll report you. DON’T ABUSE YOUR KIDS!

Our kids were given to us as a blessing. Be sure to love them; treat them well; prepare them for the rigors of life; discipline them when you need to; and always treat them with loving care; and, as always, TAKE GREAT CARE OF YOUR KIDS!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Child Abuse - The Signs (Pt.2)

(Continued from December 4, 2010) ......... One of Mr. Roberts' biggest disappointments with Matt is that he let all of the students down by missing a concert during his final year, as he did not show for school one day or for the concert later that night. As he provided the bottom of the Band sound, his absence was noticed by all and it changed the level of success for the program.

The next day, Matt bounced in all excited to see his favorite teacher, as though nothing wrong had occurred. Mr. Roberts asked him to have a seat, so that they could discuss his absence. Matt explained that he had been absent from school and, as such, he did not have to attend the concert. By being absent from school, he was guaranteed that his grade would not suffer! For a dedicated Band student, this explanation just did not make any sense.

He was right about his grade, but what about his responsibility to the other students, the overall Band, and to Mr. Roberts – especially after he had just about given him everything that he had over nearly 3 years? Mr. Roberts told him that he was extremely disappointed in him, that life was about more than taking care of one’s own needs, and that, if he had known that he was going to pull this stunt, he would have given the Bass Clarinet to another student.

He laughed a little (not the reaction for which Mr. Roberts was hoping!), before attempting to blow off the whole affair with a shrug. The teacher then verbally, and a little more loudly than normal, chastised him for missing the concert and for his flippant attitude on the day after. FINALLY, he seemed to get through to him, as he Matt FINALLY seemed to realize that he had blown it in a big way with Mr. Roberts!

A few months later, the school year ended and so did Matt’s time with Mr. Roberts. It was time for him to move on to the high school. On the final day, Mr. Roberts told him that he wanted him to keep in touch and to visit often. He hugged Mr. Roberts quite hard (Truth be told, it was possible that Matt could have cleaned Mr. Roberts' clock, had that been his desire!) and Matt told him that he would miss him!

Mr. Roberts saw Matt a few times after that final day. He came to visit him after school and he came to a few concerts. But, eventually, he stopped coming around and Mr. Roberts had moved on with other kids.

However, even after his visits stopped, Mr. Roberts often thought about why he had never been able to figure out why Matt had totally blown off the concert, especially after all of the bonding that the two of them had done. Mr. Roberts could also never quite figure out Matt's massive mood swings. Even though Matt and Mr. Roberts had patched things up at the end of that final year, the teacher never quite got over Matt's behavior ……. until a few years later.

Several years later, long after Mr. Roberts had left teaching and had become a Principal and after Matt had entered adulthood and the working force, Matt suddenly showed up one day! They embraced, told each other that they had missed each other, and began to share stories of days-gone-by!

After about an hour of sharing the good times and several laughs, Mr. Roberts just had to pop the question. He just had to get an answer as to why the now 21-year-old Matt had blown off the concert way back in 8th grade. His response still sends chills up and down Mr. Roberts' spine each time that he thinks of it.

He told Mr. Roberts that his mother regularly and severely beat him when he was a child, always in places that could not be seen while wearing normal clothing. The night before the missed concert, his mother had beaten him so badly, that he had been unable to come to school the next day and he had been afraid to ask his mother to allow him to go to the concert out of fear that he would get beaten again.

Although he seemed to be telling the truth, Mr. Roberts still asked some leading questions, such as why didn’t he tell him when he had been standing by his side for 3 years? Why didn’t he tell anybody? And why didn’t he call protective services?

You can probably already guess the answers. It is the same old story. He didn’t tell Mr. Roberts, because he knew that he would have done something about it. He also knew that, at some point, he would be left alone with his mother to face the music on his confession and he feared more beatings. He didn’t tell other adults for the same reason.

He HAD called protective services on a few occasions, but he had been coached by his mother as to what to say – he said nothing other than that life was fine and that his mother never beat him. This often-repeated lie to the authorities spared him more beatings.

After all of those years, Mr. Roberts had finally learned of the reasons for Matt’s changing moods while in school and he had learned of his reason for missing the concert. This fine, young man, the kid who was always with Mr. Roberts for 3 years and needed the teacher for direction in life, was regularly and severely beaten by his mother …… and nobody ever saw it, as he had mastered the art of hiding the activities.

(Please come back next Saturday for the final part and to learn of the signs of child abuse)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Child Abuse - The Signs (Pt.1)

As we are heading into the Christmas season, I was recently reminded that the holidays are often a ripe season for the increased horrors of child abuse. While we don’t want to get everybody down during the Christmas season, over the next 3 weeks, I have a powerful story to share that just might help at least one child avoid, or be rescued from, this disgusting and horrific situation.

Many years ago, a fellow Teacher/Band Director named Mr. Roberts had a student named Matt (not their real names – although they have given permission for me to share this story). Matt used to go to Mr. Roberts' room before school, spent his whole lunch with him (as did many other kids), and visited him after school. Matt did not have a father, so Mr. Roberts did not mind spending the extra time with him. He had no children of his own at the time, so the relationship was good for both of them.

Matt’s classroom behavior was unpredictable, at best. Some days he would be an all-star student; sometimes he would be a royal pain in the elbow; sometimes he would challenge others to fisticuffs; and other times he assumed a leadership role within the class. Often he would seem to be passive and compliant, although he could easily be obstinate, as well. He also seemed to always have a cold or the sniffles and it seemed as though he trusted absolutely nobody! He had an unnatural fear that a student would try to steal a portion of his lunch.

Other kids seemed to like him, but there was also a slight fear of him. Matt was a physically tough kid and it appeared as though he could clean anybody’s clock if so challenged.

After spending 2 years in  his Band class, Matt signed up for a 3rd year of Band AND Mr. Roberts' Spanish class. His behavior in Spanish was the same as Band; sometimes a pleasure to have in class and other times a candidate for pain of the year!

However, through all of his antics, Matt was a likeable kid. He seemed to have some struggles in life, but Mr. Roberts knew that he was capable of working hard and succeeding.

He took on Matt as a special project without telling him. With no father, a less than fully supportive mother, and not many fair shakes in life, Matt seemed to need direction and pushing. Mr. Roberts was happy to provide both.

For 3 years he directed and pushed Matt toward success. Yes, the harder that he pushed, the harder that he pushed back, but the more that he seemed to enjoy the attention and appreciation for his efforts.

Matt went from a sorry sounding clarinet player to an outstanding bass clarinet player – the rock of his Band! He also went from a kid who struggled in English to a kid who mastered Spanish I at the 8th grade level. Yes, for a young man who had always struggled academically, he was showing positive signs!

Matt began to push others toward excellence, as well. His methods, as Mr. Roberts later found out, sometimes included physical intimidation and even some punches on the arm, but Matt usually got his results and his way with the other kids.

During the years that he had him as a student, Mr. Roberts never quite figured out the cause for Matt’s dramatic mood changes, sometimes within the same class period. Happy, sad, mean, nice, leader, physically aggressive, verbally aggressive, and helpful were just some of the emotions that Matt displayed on a regular basis. 

(Please come back next Saturday for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kids+Hospitals+Dinosaurs (Pt.3)

(Continued from November 20, 2010) ..... O.K., now for the rest of the story ……….. with his mother and I living on pins and needles for years after that emergency room and hospital stay, our son, at the ripe-old-age of 13, was discussing his long-ago emergency room visit and hospital stay with us.

We marveled that the doctors could not ever find anything wrong; we discussed the massive pain that did not seem to have a source; and we discussed the fear in which we lived while he recovered, as well as the concerns that had been on our mind ever since that night 9 years ago.

Then my son made an announcement that left us unsure as to whether to jump up and hug him or immediately place him on e-Bay!! Don’t worry, we hugged him!

He announced that he had always been surprised that the doctors could not find the reason for his pain, as he had known the reason at the time (O.K., this was getting interesting now!)!!

He told us that he had been “playing dinosaurs” on that day, imitating different types of dinosaurs on the grass in the yard and even eating the grass, just like a real dinosaur, ……….. AFTER I HAD FERTILIZED THE WHOLE LAWN!!!!!!

So, there you go. After years of living on the edge with the next possible stomach attack for our son, he now revealed that the solution was simple – he just stopped eating the grass while playing dinosaurs!!

Well, of course, doctors with years of training and practice, parents who cared for him, parents carefully watching every bite that he took for years, and the 4-year-old knew the answer the whole time – JUST QUIT EATING THE FERTILIZED GRASS! He didn’t realize that there had been confusion all of those years. If he had known, he said, he would have told us years ago!

Ah, yes, parenthood certainly has moments of pleasure, concern, emergency rooms and hospitals, and even relief! Although our relief came 9 years after the fact, it was welcomed news!

Oh, and one more thing: I now always hang signs in the house when I fertilize the grass, just in case a now 19-year-old wants to relive old times and play dinosaurs again!

So, how about you? Any scares that turned out to be easy cures? Our story gave new meaning to the phrase, WATCH OUT FOR DINOSAURS!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kids+Hospitals+Dinosaurs (Pt.2)

(Continued from November 13, 2010) ..... Well, I quickly left the home and headed for the hospital. Upon my arrival, my wife said the words that are still with us today. She said, “Our son keeps asking me to make the pain go away”. Wow, what a helpless situation for both of us.

We had no previous experience in the emergency room or hospital with our kids and here we suddenly were with no clue as to what to do. Our feelings of helplessness were exasperated by the doctors’ lack of being able to find anything wrong.

My wife badly needed a break; my son was peacefully sleeping; and I decided to stay in the room with him. He woke up a couple of times, but the pain medication was doing its job, thereby giving the doctors more time to figure out the cause of our son’s stomach pain.

My wife came back around midnight, so we stayed together in our son’s hospital room with her trying to sleep in the chair while I was stretched out on the floor. We were beginning to understand our friend’s words of wisdom from a few years before this evening!

At some point during the next morning, our son woke up and requested some water and a visit to the restroom. We quickly accommodated both requests. He seemed to be a little sluggish, but not in pain.

When he came out of the restroom, he announced that the pain was gone and that he would like to go home - with a side trip to McDonald’s on the way home!

We quickly called for the doctors; they ran some more tests; they announced that they still could not find anything; and, since our son was feeling fine, off to our home we went – after the requested stop at McDonald’s!! We were so happy to see him quickly return to health after almost 24 hours of scaring the wits out of us, that we would have been glad to stay all day at McDonald’s!!

We arrived home and he seemed just fine. He even wanted to go outside and play with his friends. WHAT? 24 hours earlier, he wanted my wife to make the pain stop and now he was just fine? Well, we certainly did not want to argue with the results, but we kept his playing to a minimum on that day, just to be sure.

During the next few years, in accordance with the doctor’s orders, we extra carefully monitored everything that he ate at our house and at the homes of other people. Since the massive pain came on suddenly, we were poised to return to the hospital at a moment’s notice. 

However, the return trip never came. Even though the doctors could find nothing wrong, the pain never returned and today he is a healthy 19-year-old with a stomach of steel and no issues!

(Please come back next week for the conclusion!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kids+Hospitals+Dinosaurs (Pt.1)

Some years ago, when our two oldest kids were 1-year-old and 4-years-old (our 3rd child had yet to be born), a friend of mine, whose three kids were in middle school and high school, began to list the trips, hours, and evenings that she had spent with her kids in the emergency room at the hospital. I made a comment about how her kids must have been injury prone when they were younger.

She looked at me with disbelief and said something along the lines, “Are you telling me that you have never been to the emergency room with your kids? ALL parents send time with their kids in the emergency room!”

When I told her that we had fortunate, she just shook her head and told me that I am the only dad in history who had not spent hours in the emergency for various afflictions! Well, all of that changed when our middle child reached the ripe old age of 4!

One day while I was at work-related conference about two hours from home, my wife called me to tell me that our 4-year-old son was complaining of stomach pain and that he appeared to be quite ill. We discussed the situation, called the doctor, decided on a specific home treatment including rest and medicine, and let time dictate the next move.

A few hours later, she called again to indicate that the pains had seemingly gotten worse and that he really seemed to be in dire straits. We decided to wait no more. Off they went to the emergency room to get his ailing stomach checked out

Since he had never been ill in this manner before, we were quite concerned that the pains had suddenly come on and that they seemed to be of a severe nature.

Well, the doctors checked him and they ruled out all of the major issues (WHEW!), but they could not pinpoint the problem. They admitted him to the hospital, gave him more medicine, hooked him up to a variety of machines, and ran a few more tests.

Hours and hours passed, but no diagnosis came forward. My wife did her best to keep me informed (these were the days before everybody had a cell phone) and I was poised to leave at a moment’s notice. Through her consultation with the doctors, neither of us believed that the issue was too serious.

Near the 4-hour mark in the hospital, we decided that it would be best for me to come home early. My wife’s belief was that, by the time that I arrived home, she and my son would be there, too.

I arrived home and, …….. no family at all! A friend had the other two kids (1-year-old and 7-years-old), while my wife and son were still at the hospital. Again, inexplicably, the doctors could not discover the issue that was causing massive stomach pain with my son. They actually told my wife that they had never seen anything like this and that all tests had come back just fine!

(Please come back next week for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dad and Son in Concert (Pt.2)

(Continued from October 30, 2010) ..............  At any rate, I have often shared that story with my son, even dating back to when he was a little tyke. Well, for his big performance with me in public, as we were preparing to leave the house, he told me that he was only going to take the bass drum, snare, one cymbal, and a hi-hat, just like I had to play when I was his age! (See –I’ve told you before that your kids are watching you and they are listening to you at all times -  and they internalize everything, spoken and unspoken!).

So, at the concert during which he garnered a substantial amount of applause, my son purposely forced himself into being a better drummer and not relying on the instrument to carry him through! What a guy, what a dedicated musician, and what a hot dog!

After his performance and after the applause finally died down, I made the same announcement as last year. I told the audience that I had always told my son that he could live in our house until the day came that he surpassed me in drumming. I then announced that he would be packing and leaving after the concert! The audience laughed and a few people raised their hands to adopt him!

And, why not? This young man has earned the admiration of his father, as he has worked hard over the years to be the best that he can be. Hours and hours of playing, listening to recordings and advice, practicing, watching instructional videos, asking me questions, and taking lessons with professionals have all led to him being the drummer and musician that he is today! (Of course, if he would keep his room clean at all times, I would be a little happier!).

So, audience members wanting to adopt him? Of course they do! But, there is no way that it is going to happen. He is mine, I am immensely proud of all that he has become through his hard work and dedication, I am amazed and pleased (beyond what words can describe) that he has clearly surpassed me in the world of drumming and …… he can stay in our house for as long as he wants to stay!!

Am I bragging about my son? Well, not really, although it might seem that way. I am just proud of him setting his goals early, paying attention to details that would help him achieve his goals, working hard just about every single day for years, and then making his dad proud with an audience in public!

And this is what I always suggest to kids: set your positive goals; develop a plan to achieve the goals; and then work really hard to make it. I have never seen a student not make it when their plan is in place AND when the plan is supported by loving parents. So, help your kids adopt their goals, develop their plan(s), and allow them the time to work at it to achieve. The rewards are overwhelming!

Oh, and another reason for allowing my son to stay in our house for as long as he wants, irrespective of him surpassing me in drumming? I need to be nice to him, so that he’ll invite me to come on stage during HIS future concerts!!

So, how about you? Send me a note to tell me of your child’s goals, plans, and hard work. Keep up the terrific work with your kids!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dad and Son in Concert (Pt.1)

Well, in another stroke of good fortune, it has happened again! While 2009 presented the first-ever opportunity for me to perform with all three of my children in public, 2010 allowed for a smaller version of a repeat performance, as I was able to perform with one of my children.

At the concert, on a perfect evening to be outside and after I had played several tunes, some jazz classics and some original smooth jazz originals, I was about to call my youngest son (16-years-old) to the stage to sit down and play the drum set that was behind me. (Similar to last year, the organizers of the concert series had asked the performers to spotlight some youth on their program).

At any rate, I began to slightly panic, as I could not find him in the audience. While trying to remain calm, I turned around to look at the drum set and …. there he was, seated at the tubs and ready to go ….. the natural ham in him was shining through!

With our practice time behind us, it was time to show the audience our “stuff”. After I played through the melody and took a solo on the vibes, I stepped off of the stage to give him the full spotlight and the whole attention of the audience. He took full advantage of the opportunity, as he launched into a massive drum solo that allowed for him to show off his technique and musical ideas.

While the crowd offered polite and somewhat enthusiastic applause for me after each one of my solos, they went crazy for him!!!!! Loud and bombastic appreciation for my son’s efforts were offered and they were well deserved, as my son has diligently worked over the past several years to become a topflight percussionist.

To digress for a moment, when I was his age, my high school band director sold the school’s drum set and ordered a new one. For about five weeks before the new set arrived, the only “drum set” on which I had to play at school involved just a bass drum, snare, one cymbal, and a hi-hat.

One school day, a professional drummer visited our class to hear me play. I told him that my efforts might not be all that terrific, as I was shortchanged on the current drum set. He told me something that day that I have never forgotten. He said, (paraphrased), “Anybody can play a drum set if they have a million drums and cymbals, as they can rely on the instrument to carry them through if they do not have talent or musical ideas. However, a drummer with a limited drum set has to be really good to shine through. So, Paul, if you can sound good today on this little drum set, then I know that you are a good drummer.”

Well, I must have sounded O.K., because he later hired me to be his own drummer in the college band that he directed! So, what did my son do ........?

(Please come back next week for the conclusion)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Honor Society = Sad (Pt.2)

(Continued from October 16, 2010) …… As the inductees gathered with me in the hallway for the processional, I noticed that Mary was absent. Mary was a terrific student and a very nice girl. She would often get a pass to the office just to talk about life in general. 

It has been my experience that, when kids voluntarily get multiple passes to the office to see the Principal, it is either because they have natural political ability or they just need somebody to listen to them. Mary seemed to have both reasons for her visits – unfortunately, I would later learn that it was the lack of love and attention in her home life that led to her visits more than her political ambitions.

At any rate, the entire ceremony came off perfectly, parents and other family members in tears with photo cameras and video cameras going at full tilt. Yes, a gorgeous, beautiful evening for the “best of the best” – but not for Mary, as she did not show up!

Early the next morning before school started, I searched for Mary. I found her down a hallway, seemingly pleasant as always and not upset. In fact, I was a little puzzled as to her outwardly happy demeanor. I asked why she had blown off the National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony, as she was one of the “best of the best”?

Her answer made me want to find another home for her. She told her parents about it, but they said that they did not care. As it came time to leave the home, the mom and dad announced that the whole family would be traveling to a hardware store to get supplies for the dad’s home fix-it project.

Mary protested because she wanted to go to the ceremony. Her parents yelled at her and told her that she could not go. Mary, who lived within walking distance of the school, then asked if she could walk to the ceremony and bypass the trip to the hardware store. Not only did her parents continue to yell at her, but they then grounded her for a month!

Well, that is just great. They raised a child who, despite the apparent lack of attention from the parents, appeared to be on the road to success. But they would not support her efforts and then grounded her for pushing the issue! In reality, if Mary had been an awful student and had not qualified for the highest honor of the school, she would not have been grounded. What kind of lesson was that for Mary to learn?

I had called the parents and asked them to come to school to meet with me (it was mid-June at the time). The dad said that he did not have time to meet, but that he would call me over the summer to set up some time. Two weeks later, I learned that the family had moved away, so Mary would not be returning to our school and I would never get the chance to meet with the parents.

I wish that I had a happy ending for this post, but I don’t. Some kids get a raw deal from their parents. Some kids need to get new parents, people who would love them, support them, and share in their successes.

As I said at the beginning, DO NOT become like Mary’s parents. Love your kids with everything that you have – they need you!

Out of curiosity, if you could have met with Mary’s parents, what would you have said or asked? Let me know.

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Honor Society = Sad (Pt.1)

Do you go to ALL of your kids’ events? As I have often written, whether it’s sports, dance, music, etc., your kids want you there, even if they sometimes tell you to stay home!

However, if an unavoidable circumstance occurs (can’t get the time off of work, there is a meeting that can’t be missed or you’ll be in trouble, etc.), your kids will understand, as long as it does not occur every single time!

But, whether you can attend or not, please DO NOT ever do what the parents of “Mary” did while I was her Principal. In fact, just reliving the story for this blog makes me sad for Mary. Here are the details:

At my school, we tried to make the National Junior Honor Society the biggest event of the year. Student inductees wore suits and dresses, seemingly dressed for Easter Sunday, while parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, etc., showed up to sit in the audience, all equally well dressed!

I actually referred to the kids as the “best of the best”, as they had to have a high grade point average, maintain a good behavioral record, be involved in at least one school activity, get recommended by at least 6 of their 7 teachers, get approval from the teacher-led School Improvement Committee, and get the final nod from me to be eligible for induction.

Every year, we made this the biggest night of the year, as we got a chance to honor the students who had excelled in every phase of school life. I often said that our goal was to be so good, that everybody would get inducted each year. However, that was never the case – only about 10%- 15% of the students made the final grade for induction.

After the final list of inductees was approved, I called the kids down and gave them letters to take home for their parents. I also mailed a copy of the letter to the parents on the same day. The letter was filled with accolades for the kids, as we wanted to ensure that everybody knew that being inducted in to the National Junior Honor Society was a HUGE deal that was offered to only a few!

Although we had tremendous success each year with the induction ceremony, a moment occurred one year that was quite sad. After spending a few days practicing for the ceremony, including working on speeches, lighting the candles, taking the pledge, and learning how to walk on and off stage and properly shake hands with me, we were ready for the big night!

(Please come back next Saturday for the conclusion)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The "WawClaw"

I have often been asked if kids exhibit personality traits as little tykes that are also clearly visible when they become adults. For everybody else’s kids, the answer is a resounding YES! For my own kids, at least for my daughter, the answer is a firm NO COMMENT! You see, my daughter reads this blog and ….. well, read on for details!

When my daughter was about 14-months-old, she spent her days at the home of a relative (we’ll call her “Aunt Peg”). Aunt Peg was like a second mother to my daughter, as she took care of her, taught a few things about life, bought clothes for her, and spoiled the daylights out of her.

Since my daughter spent so much time with Aunt Peg, she began to pick up some of her habits, just like she was picking up our habits at home.

While we preferred to call items by their rightful names and even introduced a plethora of big words to our kids (see my post from September 5, 2009), Aunt Peg, unbeknownst to me at the time, liked to make up babyish names for items around the house, such as “shoozies” for shoes, “bikelee” for bicycle, and “wawclaw” for washcloth.

One evening at bath time, I told my daughter that I needed the washcloth. She gave me a funny look and giggled a little bit, but then handed the washcloth to me. This scenario played out a few more times, each time with my daughter giving me a funny look and laughing, but then handing the washcloth to me.

I could not figure out why she found the term “washcloth” to be humorous. I also could not figure out the funny look that she gave to me when I said the word.

Finally, at another bath time, I asked her for the washcloth. The following conversation ensued:

Daughter: “Oh sure, dad, here’s the wawclaw.”
Dad: “The wawclaw”?
Daughter: “Sure, that’s what it’s called.”
Dad: “What is it called”?
Daughter: “A wawclaw.”
Dad: “Actually, it is called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “No, Aunt Peg said that it is a wawclaw, so it’s a wawclaw.”
Dad: “No, seriously, it is called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, you’re silly. Everybody knows that it is a wawclaw!”

At this point, I was beginning to sense a scam, but I was not sure, as she seemed to be quite serious. So, I continued:

Dad: "Really, now, we can be cute by calling it a wawclaw, but it’s really called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, really, it’s a wawclaw, not a w-a-s-h-c-l-o-t-h!” (she slowly spoke the word “washcloth” with a hint of disdain at the obvious level of idiocy that was being exhibited by daddy!)
Dad: “Seriously, the real name of it is washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, you’re silly, it is called a wawclaw, not a w-a-s-h-c-l-o-t-h!" (She again spoke very slowly, like she was addressing a feeble old man!).
Dad: (Trying to get the point home without going on forever): “Well, why don’t you ask Aunt Peg for the real name of the item and we’ll talk about it tomorrow night”?
Daughter: “O.K., I will, but I already know the answer – it’s a wawclaw!”

As I picked my daughter up from Aunt Peg’s house the next day, I asked her if she inquired as to the true name of the item. My daughter told me that she had inquired, but she did not want to talk about it right now.

Interesting!! At this point, even though I should have taken some level of mercy on this adorable 14-month-old young lady, I couldn’t resist moving in for the victory.

Dad: “So, what did Aunt Peg say?”
Daughter: “I don’t want to talk right now.”
Dad: “She told you that it’s a washcloth, didn’t she”?
Daughter: “She did, but I'm still going to call it a wawclaw!”

So, let’s see, we have a 14-month-old daughter who did the following:

-- Laughed at her dad when she believed that he had made a mistake
-- Tried her best to keep from correcting him
-- Finally, she had to correct the dad after days of repeated miscues
-- Eventually learned that her dad had been correct
-- No longer wanted to discuss the issue
-- Finally briefly discussed the issue, but announced that she still wanted it her way 

So, do personality traits in little tykes still exist when the whippersnappers become adults? Well, again, for everybody else’s kids, the answer is a resounding YES!

For my daughter? Did she grow up to just like her 14-month-old self? Uh, well, um, …… since she reads this blog, NO COMMENT!

So, how about you? Do you remember any silly words that your kids used and then insisted that they were correct? If so, let me know and we’ll laugh together!!

Have a terrific week!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 2, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 3

(Continued from September 25, 2010) ...... 

7. Learn to listen to your children. It is easy for us to tune out the talk of our children. One of the greatest things we can do for them is to take them seriously and set aside time to listen.

There is not much to add to this one. When your kids talk, listen all of the time! I don’t care what I am doing at the time, whether it is working, practicing, reading, studying, etc., when my kids need or want to talk to me, I am there for them.

8. Get deeply involved in your child’s school life. School is the main event in the lives of our children. Their experience there is a mixed bag of triumphs and disappointments. How they deal with them will influence the course of their lives. Helping our children become good students is another name for helping them acquire strong character.

It comes down to this: If you convey to your children that you believe in the value of school, education, and the learned discipline that it takes to be successful, along with the constant monitoring of their school work and events, your child will most likely take it seriously and do his/her best.

After several years of working with students and parents, I have learned the following: When parents are visible, involved, present, and available for their kids’ homework and projects, the kids tend to do well in school. When the parents are absentee, don’t show for school events, and do not assist with homework and projects, well, those are the kids that keep counselors and assistant principals employed and quite busy.

Stay involved, speak regularly with your child about school, as well as his/her teachers and other school officials, and monitor his/her homework to ensure that all goals are being met. Your child will then be given the opportunity to develop into a successful, hardworking, and highly disciplined adult!

9. Make a big deal out of the family meal. One of the most dangerous trends in America is the dying of the family meal. The dinner table is not only a place of sustenance and family business but also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.

This is one of the tougher goals to keep with busy lifestyles, work, and kids’ activities. However, one only needs to read Dr. Ryan’s point #9 again to understand the true value in eating together. In addition, it gives you at least one time per day to be together as a group. Further, the consistency and setting of traditions will give your kids grounding and a safe feeling in life. 

10. Do not reduce character education to words alone. We gain virtue through practice. Parents should help children by promoting moral action through self-discipline, good work habits, kind and considerate behavior to others, and community service. The bottom line in character development is behavior--their behavior.

Again, your kids will model their behavior after you right from the beginning. Do you go to church? Do you watch inappropriate TV shows? Do you tithe at church? Do you get home at 3:00 a.m. in the morning after a night of “partying”? Do you volunteer and help people? The list of questions can go on and on. However, the point is this: whatever you do with your life and time, your kids will most likely do the same as they get older!

Ah yes, as I am fond of saying, nobody ever said that parenting would be easy! Hang in there and be an excellent role model for your kids!

How about you? Do you have any additional Parenting Tips that have worked for you? If so, please pass them along!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 25, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 2

(Continued from September 18, 2010) ...... 

4. Develop an ear and an eye for what your children are absorbing. Children are like sponges. Much of what they take in has to do with moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our children. As parents we must control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our children.

This is much tougher now than when we were kids. With the Internet and cable TV, our kids are potentially exposed to all that is wrong. Monitor their TV watching; monitor their song listening; monitor their Internet usage; monitor your child’s friends and their parents.

Decide the values that you want your kids to develop and then work at it 24/7 to ensure that they absorb what you want them to absorb and that they are shielded (at least for now) from the undesirable elements that are available to them.

5. Use the language of character. Children cannot develop a moral compass unless people around them use the clear, sharp language of right and wrong.

When I was a young whippersnapper, I had a friend whose dad never yelled and never used foul language. This was unusual in a neighborhood where parents used profanity on a seemingly regular basis. I once asked my friend to tell me the worst word that his dad ever used. The answer: THUNDER! Yes, THUNDER was the worst word that his dad had ever used.

So, when my own kids came along, guess what became my “profane” word of choice – yes, THUNDER! I’ve also added such ridiculous words and phrases as, “Jiminy Cricket”, Sweet Biscuits and Gravy”, “Sweet Pearl Jam”, “Holy Rat’s Elbow”, etc. Yes, those are the words that I use when I am upset! Guess what words my kids use when they get angry about something in life – yes, they are as lame as dad and I am grateful for that!

6. Punish with a loving heart. Today, punishment has a bad reputation. The results are guilt-ridden parents and self-indulgent, out-of-control children. Children need limits. They will ignore these limits on occasion. Reasonable punishment is one of the ways human beings have always learned. Children must understand what punishment is for and know that its source is parental love.

Set the limits and NEVER let them cross the lines. To paraphrase Dr. James Dobson, ‘Establish absolutes – lines that you will absolutely never cross’. As Dr. Ryan indicated, children need limits and they will ignore these limits on occasion.

We had a rule in our home when the kids were growing up (a rule that still seems to have some value to this day). The rule was that our kids represented the entire family. If they were outside of the home and did something less than acceptable, it would be a black mark against mom, dad, and siblings. One time, through a teacher’s note, I learned that one of my kids had misbehaved in school. I talked to him about it, he quickly confessed, and suitable consequences were were handed out.

To this day, I fully believe that, if I had not dealt with that particular issue on the spot with suitable consequences, it would have opened the door for him, and perhaps the others in the family, to further cross the lines of the absolutes that were established in our home. 

(Please come back next week for Part 3)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 18, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 1

Over the next three weeks, I will be sharing 10 Parenting Tips from Dr. Kevin Ryan of the School of Education at Boston University. From the BU website, I learned the following abut Dr. Kevin Ryan:

Kevin Ryan is the founder and director emeritus of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University. A former high school English teacher, Ryan has taught on the faculties of Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, Ohio State University, and the University of Lisbon. He has written and edited eighteen books, among them Moral Education: It Comes with the Territory; Reclaiming Our Schools: A Handbook for Teaching Character, Academics, and Discipline (with Ed Wynne); and Building Character in Schools: Practical Ways to Bring Moral Instruction to Life (with Karen Bohlin). He received the University of Pennsylvania National Educator of the Year Award, the Paideia Society's Award for Educational Excellence, and the Character Education Partnership's Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Dr. Ryan's tips are in italics with my follow-up comments in regular print after each tip:

1. Put parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so many competing demands. Good parents consciously plan and devote time to parenting. They make developing their children’s character their top priority.

Ah, yes, the time factor. Working, taking care of the house, cutting the grass, paying the bills etc., all provide excuses and issues that will take you away from your kids. My solution: do what you need to do to keep your family going and leave the rest until later – even if later means 20 years from now!

By way of example, if the choice is to read with your child or do the dishes …. READ WITH YOUR CHILD! Yes, the dishes need to get done and the house needs to be clean. But the dishes will always be there, while your child WILL grow up and move away (of course, don’t wait 20 years to wash the dishes, but you get the idea!).

(That reminds me – I have about 7 more years to wait before I can refinish the floor of my garage!

2. Review how you spend the hours and days of your week. Think about the amount of time your children spend with you. Plan how you can weave your children into your social life and knit yourself into their lives.  

To be sure that I spend as much as possible with my kids, I try to include at least one of them in everything that I do. Need to go the bank? Somebody is going with me. Headed to the store? At least one whippersnapper is along for the ride. Working in the yard? At least one offspring is there with me, partially to help and to learn the value of hard work and partially to spend time together.

By way of example with their lives, if one of my kids needs to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday to get to a Cross Country meet, guess who sets the alarm and gets him up? Guess who drives him to the event? Guess who watches the whole event and then brings him home?

Yes, it would be MUCH easier to have him get himself up; have another parent drive; and for me to sleep and then later refinish the garage floor. But, I want to be with him in everything that he does, partially to monitor everything and partially to be involved, so that he knows that he is loved and supported.  

3. Be a good example. Face it: human beings learn primarily through modeling. In fact, you can’t avoid being an example to your children, whether good or bad. Being a good example, then, is probably your most important job.

How many times have I written on this subject? Too many to count. But, know this: YOUR KIDS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING YOU and they will adopt your behaviors as their own. Drink too much? Your kids will probably drink too much when they grow up. Smoke too much? Ditto for your kids someday. Read the Bible each day? Your kids are likely to follow. Have a strong work ethic? Guess who else will have a strong work ethic when they grow up?

Even when you think that your kids are not paying attention, they are watching and learning from you!

(Please come back next week for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dad and Child - Together!

Long before my children were born, I decided that I wanted their biggest influence to be ... ME – not their friends, the drug users, the drinkers, the kids who never tried to succeed in school, etc., but their greatest everyday influence was to be their favorite DAD!!

So, as a part of my journey toward becoming their biggest influence, I decided that, whenever I ventured out of the house to run an errand, I would ALWAYS take at least one child with me. In this manner, irrespective of what might be happening in the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the home, I could always escape with at least one child for a focused conversation, lesson on life, or just listening to the tales of their trials and tribulations.

One day I needed to travel to the local hardware store, about a 2 minute drive from our house. As I gathered up my oldest son (about 8-years-old at the time) to make the trip with me, I was looking forward to the isolated time together, the conversations that would ensue, and the possible lessons that my son would learn from me, including shopping for the necessary part and interacting with store employees.

However, as we were about to leave the driveway, I noticed that he looked a little concerned about something. When I asked him if all was O.K., he told me that he was fine. But, the look on his face told me otherwise.

I made a quick decision to bypass the local hardware store for the 2-minute drive and continued to the chain hardware store about 15 minutes away, thereby allowing me a total of 30 minutes of focused drive time to delve into my son’s obvious annoyance with some issue.

During the trip to the store, we talked about a variety of topics, including his upcoming baseball season, the Detroit Tigers, school, etc. He was quite chatty, but it still appeared as though something was bothering him. We arrived at the store, did our shopping for the needed part, and then got in the car for the ride home.

As we closed in on the 10-minute mark of the 15-minute drive home, my son suddenly asked me, “Dad, would you ever get drunk?” Well, somehow I managed to keep the car on the road as I told him that I would never allow myself to become inebriated. Of course, I then did the obvious. As this question came completely out of the dark with no lead-in or even an iota of purpose to me, I asked him why he would ask me such a question.

He then told me of his friend Mike (not his real name) in his 3rd grade class. Mike had told my son that his dad regularly gets drunk, beats up the mother and kids, and then leaves the family for a few days at a time. They never know if he is coming back!! Mike also told my son that ALL DADS do this, so he should be careful about me. To say the least, my son was conflicted, as he had been living in a loving home, yet his friends told him that ALL DADS do this!

Ah ha!! So I had my answer as to my son’s obvious concern about something. I then turned our drive home of less than 5 minutes into a few more errands that took over an hour, just so we could be alone to discuss this important topic. I assured my son that I would never be drunk, that I would never beat up our family, and that I would never disappear for days at a time. My reassurances did wonders for him, as his mood became brighter and he even suggested that we stop for ice-cream (a favorite activity in our family!). I also told my son that I would try and get help for Mike and his family (more about this in a future post – all is now well with Mike and his family!!).

Now - and here’s the big point - if I had just traipsed off to the local hardware store alone (which, by the way, would have been much easier and faster), I might have never heard about Mike’s story and my son’s concern that it could happen in our home. But, by consciously seizing every single possible moment to spend time with my kids, the situation allowed for the comfort zone in which my son could tell me of his concerns.

If I had not had those moments alone with my kids, it is possible that a stronger influence in his life (a friend, perhaps?) might have confirmed the story and confirmed that my son had better watch out for his dad!!

But, by being the strongest influence in my son's life, he knew where to go to find the truth ..... HIS DAD!!

How about you? Please pass along your suggestions as to how you have become, or plan to become, the strongest influence in your child’s life. After all, if you’re not the strongest influence in his/her life, somebody else will be!!

Hang in there and spend quality and quantity time with your kids!!

Paul W. Reeves