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THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE AND A TRIP TO STANDING ROCK

Thanksgiving is so much more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. It is a holiday that provides a golden opportunity to instill in children genuine thankfulness.

For years I have advocated that the best way to help children become thankful is to provide opportunities that allow them to give to someone who is less fortunate or is in need—and not just on Thanksgiving Day.

Nothing makes me prouder than my children demonstrating the “Attitude of Gratitude” that I always hoped they would acquire.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Season, I’d like to share with you a letter that my son wrote and circulated to his “family” which includes all of the people on his extensive mailing list. (He is an accomplished and renown World Music composer, musician and performer.)

Whether or not you agree with Chris’ politics, I’m certain that you would agree that his letter reflects the essence of Thankfulness. In addition, to me, the way in which Chris has chosen to spend his Thanksgiving Day is nothing less than inspiring.

Here is what he wrote:

Dear Family   

Many of our friends who have joined the struggle in Standing Rock North Dakota are returning with disturbing and sad reports.

If you are not yet aware as to what is going on, I would highly suggest you look into what is happening. While the white Oregonian armed militants have been acquitted for their 41-day takeover of federal property, the unarmed indigenous people of this country are being beaten and arrested for protecting their water from big-money interests.

The situation at Standing Rock is extremely disturbing for two main reasons:

  1. It is a continuance of our country’s horrid policies towards the indigenous people of America. I thought the disregard for Native American lives and their land rights were things of the past. But the NDAPL (North Dakoda Access Pipeline) now seems to be adding cruel insult to injury. Standing Rock is yet another example that hundreds of years later we are still putting greed before people’s well-being--especially the well-being of Native Americans. As the original inhabitants of this land, they deserved respect when the Europeans arrived. Instead mass genocide ensued and was followed by lies and relocations to inhospitable lands. Now, instead of reparations for stolen land and broken treaties, even those inhospitable lands are continuing to be threatened.

  1. The NDAPL is yet another example in which our environment is destroyed so that the rich and wealthy can become even more powerful than they already are. How long can we afford to destroy the planet so that the rich can get richer?  How long will our children’s heritage be plundered for corporate interests that only serve the few?

It is also worth mentioning that the fossil fuel industry is sitting on alternative energy patents that utilize alternative energies like anti-gravity and hydrogen technology. It is believed by many that these alternative energy technologies are being hidden until all of our fossil fuels are depleted and the atmosphere ruined.   

Thanksgiving commemorates a time when the Wampanoag people received starving pilgrims after their arduous 66-day journey from their European homeland. If it was not for the Wampanoag tribe, it is argued that these pilgrims would have perished in the cold from starvation.

This Thanksgiving we have decided that we are going to fill our trailer up with food and drive it up to the Standing Rock Reservation to help them protect their water. Doesn’t it seem fair to return the favor that was so kindly shown to those Pilgrims who enjoyed the Wampanoag’s hospitality? This is the best way we feel we can honor the true spirit of Thanksgiving and we would like to invite all of you to join us.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Blessings to everyone!

Chris Berry

        

PS. Sorry if I seem worked up about this. I have been hearing very emotional firsthand accounts and it has been disturbing to say the least.

So, Why Is Halloween Such a Big Deal?

So why is Halloween such a big deal?

There are FOUR GOOD REASONS:

#1 - Halloween is a holiday that everyone can enjoy no matter what is their age, sex, race, culture, religion, politics or social economic situation.

# 2 - Halloween is the one holiday around which entire communities can unite to provide fun experiences for children and families.

#3 - Halloween is the one time of the year that you can knock on someone’s front door or open your front door without worrying about who is on the other side.

#4 - Halloween encourages all kinds of creative and imaginative fun.

In addition to the reasons Halloween is “a big deal,” this holiday provides the perfect opportunity to teach children these IMPORTANT MANNERS:

  • When you trick-or-treat at someone’s home, take only one item unless more is offered.

  • When you are trick-or-treating with others, avoid insisting on getting the best or biggest treat for yourself.

  • Trick-or-Treating works best when everyone takes turns getting a treat. It is also best to wait your turn to get your treat.

  • If you don’t like the treat that is being offered, avoid saying so. Instead, accept whatever treat is offered to you, and be thankful for everything that you are given.

  • Remember that the second most important thing to say after you say “Trick-or-treat,” is “Thank you.”

One last thing—here are some HALLOWEEN HANDY HINTS:

Examine all of the Halloween treats your child collects. A safe treat is one that your child is not allergic to and one that is sealed in its original package.

Store your child’s leftover candy in the refrigerator or freezer and allow him or her to have one treat per day.

RECOMMENDED EBOOK: Taking the Scary Out of Halloween

DEBATE VS. DIALOGUE (A “Word to the Wise” to my Teenage Granddaughter)

Recently I shared some thoughts and emotions with one of my teenage granddaughters who is a champion debater. Whenever challenged at any level, she almost always defaults to a debate mode—which often turns the conversation into a heated argument. Such was the case with a recent encounter. Indeed, I have not spoken to her since the exchange.

When a little time has passed, I hope to share with her the following information regarding DEBATE verses DIALOGUE.

Recently I shared some thoughts and emotions with one of my teenage granddaughters who is a champion debater. Whenever challenged at any level, she almost always defaults to a debate mode—which often turns the conversation into a heated argument. Such was the case with a recent encounter. Indeed, I have not spoken to her since the exchange.

When a little time has passed, I hope to share with her the following information regarding DEBATE verses DIALOGUE.

The purpose of DEBATE is to get other people to change their minds and agree with your perspective.

The purpose of DIALOGUE is to try to understand other people’s perspectives in order to possibly accept their perspective and change your attitude and/or behavior in a way that will benefit all parties.

DEBATE works well in academic situations, but it is often counterproductive in personal situations.

You are a great debater. And while I do not want to discourage you from honing your debating skills, I hope you will get to a place where you can determine when it is time to debate and when it is time to dialogue.

For example, when a person is telling you how he or she feels, the subject is not up for debate—only dialogue. And unlike debate, dialogue requires far more genuine listening than talking. When you are engaging in a dialogue, it is not productive to think about the next thing you are going to say while the other person is talking. It’s far more beneficial to focus on what the other person is saying so that you can truly hear him or her.

At the very least, a good dialogue will help you understand and empathize with the other person and treat him or her accordingly. At best, you will understand the other person’s perspective and possibly modify your attitude and behavior accordingly. When this happens, you will “win” in a way that is far more satisfying and effective than winning a debate.

Believe me, as a “recovering debater,” I know what I am talking about. Smile.

BLOG ABOUT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

The validity of political correctness has been challenged during the current presidential campaign. Many voters seem to think that eschewing political correctness is acceptable and even an effective way for a candidate to convey honesty and authenticity.

The definition of political correctness is “The avoidance…of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Given this definition, I simply can’t find the virtue in decrying political correctness. I understand the desire to sometimes “let it all hang out.” I also understand the desire to speak freely without having to overthink every word. But consider the price of expressing yourself without any restraint at the expense of others. Is the possibly of hurting someone really worth it?

Personally, I don’t think so. Both the positive words and the negative words that one says can have a lasting impact on others. And if there is a choice to say positive or negative things, the answer is a no-brainer—especially when it comes to children.

Everyone would do well to remember that one of the goals of raising children is to teach them socially acceptable behavior--which in many instances requires being politically correct.

THE GIFT OF DO-OVERS

One of the greatest gifts the Universe has to offer is the do-over—the chance to do something over when you did not get it right the first time around. Do-overs allow you to move forward with the advantage of hindsight--knowing what you did wrong in the past so that you can get it right in the future.

Back-to-School is one of every kid’s most important do-overs. Starting a new school year has the potential to be a real game-changer. However, to insure that the game-changer is positive instead of negative, the child needs to acknowledge what behavior worked in the past and what behavior is going to make things better in the future.

To that end, I made a commitment to have a fun sit-down meal with my children for the sole purpose of helping them evaluate their last year of school and make plans for the coming year. The conversation usually took place at their favorite restaurant after shopping for new school clothes and supplies.

I often followed up the conversation with a “contract” outlining what each child hoped to accomplish during the upcoming school year. Having the child sign the contract was an effective part of the process. Referring to this document throughout the school year helped keep things on track.

For children who experienced a genuinely traumatic school year, the opportunity for a radical do-over the following year can be a lifesaver. This includes changing schools if necessary. But whether your child’s do-over is big or small, your job is to help him or her get the most out of every do-over gift.

CHANGING UP FAMILY OUTINGS AND VACATIONS

I live in New York City—the very definition of a concrete jungle with wall-to-wall apartment buildings and streets jammed with people at all times of the day or night. At first I felt sorry for the children who lived here. I wondered how they could possibly be properly engaged and enjoy their lives.

This morning while walking my dogs, I recalled those initial thoughts and smiled.

My walk took me past several schools and parks. School was out for the summer but the facility was open for all kinds of fun and exciting things like music, dance, cooking, robot building, Chess, and more. There was a group of fifth graders in a park practicing a play to be presented to the community on an open stage at the end of August. There was also a group of budding artists painting what they were experiencing all around them. And of course there were teams playing various sports.

I had raised my two children in Northern California—minutes away from the Redwood Forest, the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean. I believed then that the key to keeping kids occupied outside of school was wide open spaces. But since moving to New York, I’ve expanded my viewpoint.

Now I believe that the key to keeping kids occupied is meaningful activities in ever-changing environments. No matter how large the space, it can become tiresome and boring to children.

Changing up the environment and changing up the activities is the key to overcoming the boredom that can get kids into trouble if it is not addressed properly.

There’s something else I call my “secret weapon” against boredom. It’s water. It doesn’t matter if it’s large bodies of water like oceans, lakes and rivers or small containers of water like water balloons or squirt guns. Adding water to any kid’s situation changes everything—especially during the spring and summer.

A good example of this phenomenon is a park just a few blocks from where I live. It had been underutilized for the longest time. Last year, after too many complaints were made regarding kids playing in and around the water fountains, water play equipment was installed. Now the park is packed from the moment the water is turned on to the moment it is shut off.

Changing up a child’s environment, rotating engaging experiences and adding water to summer activities can take some time and effort. But as most parents soon discover, it’s far better to invest time in averting misbehavior caused by boredom than to deal with the misbehavior itself.

Here are some FREE resources that might come in handy when you plan your next family outing or vacation: Click the title to download for FREE.

eBook - How to Behave in Public

eBook - How to Do Something Besides Watching TV

Music – Do Something

ABOUT THE 2016 RNC PLATFORM

As per my advice to kids included in my book titled, Every Kids Guide to Making Decisions and Solving Problems, I am committed to truly understanding both the Republican and Democratic platforms before casting my ballot in November.

To that end I was glad when the Republican Party’s Platform became available. I’m still plowing through it—enjoying the “planks” that are inspiring and being concerned about the planks that seem to me to be taking steps backwards instead of forward.

One concern was prompted by the statement, “We believe in American exceptionalism.” I fully endorse encouraging Americans to revel in the uniqueness and specialness of their country. However, exceptionalism in the 21st century can become counterproductive if it leads to the isolationism that our country experienced in the 1930s. Isolationism is based on the belief that the only time to relate to other counties is when we are getting something from them or defending ourselves against them.

We teach children that no one person is better or more important than another. We teach children that when one person suffers everyone suffers--which means that we need to be concerned and care for each other. More then ever, these concepts need to apply to how Americans view other countries around the world.

Another statement in the Republican Platform raised a red flag. “People want and expect an America that is the most powerful and respected country on the face of the earth.”

In reality, America is one country in a world made up of 196 countries—all striving to be “powerful and respected.” And rightly so. Empowerment and respect are essential to every country’s survival.

CRINGE-WORTHY MOMENTS AT THE RNC

I am writing this blog as an American rather than a Republican or a Democrat. Sometimes “the best laid plans” can turn into cringe-worthy moments. Such was the case with the heartbroken mother ravaged by grief over the loss of her son during the Benghazi debacle. I was ashamed that anyone for any reason would think that it was okay to exploit this mother’s excruciating pain on the national stage. To me, it was simply unconscionable.

I also had knots in my stomach during Chris Christie’s speech during which he whipped the crowd into a mob frenzy that exploded into shouts of, “Guilty!” and “Lock her up!” after each overly simplistic indictment of Hillary Clinton.

I tuned into the convention to find out where the current Republican Party stands on the various issues—not to attend a revival of the Salem Witch trials.

I would like to remind both Republicans and Democrats that demonizing the other side might garner votes. However, an unwanted side effect of this strategy can be an electorate that casts its votes for all of the wrong reasons--only to wake up the next morning to the realization that making certain someone does not win is not the same as winning.

There are only a few more months in which to gather crucial information from both sides for an informed decision at the polls. To that end, I am hoping to receive, from now to November, far more honest, straightforward information and far less drama from the Theater of the Absurd—American Politics.  

THE MAJORITY RULE AND CHILDREN

This July is a crucial month for Americans as it is the month that the   Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention will take place. I for one am more anxious then ever about the outcome of this election because I have lived long enough to have experienced the consequences of “Majority Rule” as part of the majority and as part of the minority.

Sustaining a democracy requires that every citizen understand and embrace the notion of “Majority Rule.” This rule requires that after everyone has had an opportunity to express their opinion about an issue and vote on it. The side of the issue that receives the most votes prevails. It also means that when the majority makes a decision, the minority is expected to accept the decision and try diligently to support the decision and help make it work.

(Of course there is an exception to the rule. If a decision will bring harm to anyone, it behooves the minority to work diligently to change the minds of the majority and thus the decision.)

Meanwhile, living with the consequences of Majority Rule is not always easy for children. Their tendency to want to have their own way all of the time often works against them cooperating with decisions that they do not like. That is why it is necessary to begin as early as possible exposing children to the concept of Majority Rule at home and at school. It is also why it is so important that children be allowed—even encouraged--to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Several of my books and songs can help you help your child understand and accept the concept of Majority Rule. The books include:

Every Kids Guide to Family Rules and Responsibilities
Every Kids Guide to Family Law
How to Be Good

The songs include:

So Bad
Be Good
The Nitty Gritty
When We Start to Argue.

Because Majority Rule is such an important matter, I’d like to offer some of these books and songs to you for FREE. Click here to get your FREE music and eBooks.

PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION AND CHILDREN

In the past few months I have attempted to revolve my social media efforts around the special days of the month. Given what happened in Orlando, Florida during the month of June, this approach seemed to be somewhat frivolous. But then on second thought I realized that the most special day in July is Independence Day and nothing could be less frivolous than this occasion at this point in time.

Independence Day is all about freedom for all. And insuring freedom for all requires a citizenship that is void of prejudice and discrimination.

There are some who argue that the litany of terrorist attacks that seems to be happening more frequently is due to political issues such as inadequate gun control or immigration laws. However, I believe that the single factor at the heart of almost every terrorist attack is prejudice and discrimination. This is what fuels the hate that causes mentally unstable people to propagate violence against innocent victims.

From the very beginning of my work with children, I knew it was imperative to teach them about prejudice and discrimination and how to live a life unencumbered by these things. To that end I wrote the book, Every Kids Guide to Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination. I also created the Human Race Video called The Unforgettable Pen Pal as well as a classroom curriculum called The Joy of Relationships (see the lesson about prejudice and discrimination).

To highlight the importance of teaching children about prejudice and discrimination, I am offering for FREE to all school teachers and home school teachers The Joy of Relationships curriculum. I am also offering for FREE to all parents the eBook version of Every Kids Guide to Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination.

I hope you will agree with me that, given everything that is going on in the world, there is not a more important subject to talk about with our children at this time.