The two boys who come to blows after disagreeing about whether the ball landed on the line or out of bounds.
The only girl in the class not invited to the birthday party.
The outstretched foot in the aisle of the schoolbus that trips the new kid.
Bullying or not?
It can be a tough call. And teachers and school personnel are already so busy doing their jobs that it’s a lot to ask them to also play judge and jury with every incident that comes to pass.
There’s so much attention given to bullying these days that we run the risk of lumping all forms of misbehavior under the same category. Parents and kids know the power of the “b-word,” understanding that any hurt or misdeed may be taken much more seriously if we call it bullying.
But this rhetorical backsliding can have a serious practical impact. Labelling any school-related incident as bullying tends to set off a process involving paperwork, meetings with parents, recording of details in files and issuing consequences. This is certainly true in Quebec schools given the passage of Bill 56 (the anti-violence and anti-bullying legislation).
It’s critical to understand the differences. Kids can misbehave for a whole variety of reasons, including testing limits, being hungry, tired, frustrated or overwhelmed. And while there need to be consequences for those misdeeds so they learn from their behaviours, there are critical differences between these and the social manipulation implicit in bullying.
Some of the key things to look for include a lack of remorse, blaming the victim, unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions, and lack of emotional reaction.
Laundry, dishes, fill out forms, write reports, sign a spelling test, read a memo, answer an email, walk the dog, run out for more toilet paper, telephone calls, videoconference, parent-teacher meetings, new product launch, meet a client, gymnastics pickup…
I used to write a lot of To Do lists to keep myself on track. It certainly helped me remember all the minutiae that made up my daily life, but now it just raises my blood pressure. The post-it notes on my desktop mock me. My cellphone chimes so many reminders I’ve stopped listening. Pick up bread! Schedule dental cleanings for the kids! Prepare for a staff meeting! Call Dad!
Sigh. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. Can you tell?
I know I’m not the only one. One of my oldest, dearest friends posted the phrase I used in my title as her Facebook post this past week. I laughed in recognition, and total sympathy. I think a lot of working parents can identify, since our second work shifts begin when we walk away from our desks (or wherever we work).
The truth is, I kind of also secretly love this frenetic mashup of activity. I love the challenges of my new job, the steep learning curve, the thrill of mastery (and even the agony of getting it wrong but knowing it will be right next time). I love showing my girls that if you are creative and organized and hard-working (and sometimes willing to give up your personal down time), you can thrive on a thousand million overlapping activities. I really feel those are very valuable lessons.
I recognize that I’m fortunate to be working hard at a job I love, when there are plenty of other people seeking work, scraping by or working equally hard at jobs they hate.
Sometimes you can just get into the right groove. A psychologist named Mihály Csíkszentmihályi described the concept of “flow” in an attempt to capture that experience of total absorption in a task, a single-minded immersion, with an energized focus and enjoyment in the process. Emotions are harnessed in the experience of working and learning.
Have you ever sat down to do something only to look up and find two hours have flown by? I’ve totally been there. It’s as the working equivalent of a runner’s high. It’s been described this way: “The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.”
So gratifying when it happens.
But the price to be paid for the life I’ve made myself is the stress of multitasking, of cramming too much in to too small a space of time. I try to fit in a mental health check from time to time to see if I need to step away. Go for a run. Spend an evening watching corny movies with my kids, bake cookies or immerse myself in a good book. And all of this is a delicate house of cards that can fall to pieces if someone gets sick, or the messiness of life throws my balance off-kilter.
That’s how I’m feeling right now. So I’m trying to scale back a bit. I’ve been blogging less often here now that I’m also blogging for work. I’ve also begun turning down speaking engagements that require entirely new prep or research, so I can focus on new position, though I’m always happy to run evening workshops on my most popular existing workshops.
The one place I don’t want to cut back is time with my family. It takes a lot of self-discipline to put away the phone, the computer and the mental distractions about tomorrow’s To Do list. Trying to be in the moment can be a real challenge.
But it’s just as important to model that. Maybe more.
Somehow it will all get done. And those things that don’t maybe weren’t all that important anyway.
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"What a crucial conversation, and what a talented speaker! Dr. Alissa Sklar’s presentation to Akiva School’s parent body was full of clear, relevant, down-to-earth facts presented in a highly engaging manner. No jargon, no scare tactics – just solid information and excellent advice. A no-risk program for parents." -Frances (Cooki) Levy, Head of The Akiva School ("The Power of Positive Parenting: Preventing Risky Behaviors for All Ages")
"Alissa is the consummate professional and speaks with great authority. We hope she will be one of our feature speakers at many future workshops." Kelly Wilton, editor and co-publisher of Montreal Families Magazine
RiskWithinReason is intended as a support and information resource. If you need counselling for your child, consider contacting a trained child psychologist. Your family doctor or CLSC can recommend one, or you can also visit Collage Therapies at http://www.collagetherapies.ca/en