Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It Begins With Praise

I just read an excellent article by the associated press, (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iLdzACdK65TbyhuOrXF8jG6sWPCA?docId=fbfc035bd6a04655b3739cc942235d97) about the so called "war on obesity", waged by Michelle Obama. For starters, I am not a Michelle Obama fan, and I have never felt that singling out a child for their appearance was a productive avenue to betterment. This campaign is about shame more or less, and only promotes more bullying amongst peers. It should be more about education and how we treat others. A child, of all people cannot help how they look. Educate the parents.

This started a long time ago. I know there is a problem. When I was a child in the 60s....(ok, I'm giving it away, but hey, my oldest is 31)....there were a few, shall we say, chubby kids, and, unfortunately.....sometimes, they may have been subject to ridicule. There were not as many overweight children, however, I believe that may be because there was not a fast food restaurant on every corner, and we did not have computers. My parents did not bring a candy bar home for us every time they visited the store, and we did not have a never-ending supply of twinkies in our house. My mom made good meals for us. We had good breakfasts, and healthy dinners. The school lunches were wholesome and so much better than what I have seen at the schools nowadays (unbelievable). We played outside all day during the summer. Play was work. We did drink Koolaid. Not a lot of pop. That was a real treat. We had popsicles when the truck came by.

I've rambled. ok.

I think the shame tactics this "war on obesity" campaign of MO's is counter-productive, and I'll tell you why. I saw this sort of thing do two different things to overweight friends of mine when I was a girl. Two different scenarios. One friend I'll call Donna. Overweight most of her childhood years. Just her body type it seemed. Fun girl. Not terribly fat, but her mother was after her all the time. "Lose weight! You have such a pretty face, don't you ever want to date? You want to be fat all your life?" Mind you, she wasn't a terrible mother, and her intentions were good, but, Donna just never could seem to live up to her mother's expectations, and she was on a constant roller-coaster with her weight. She was miserable. So.....she started binging and purging. She was never anorexic....but she suffered from bulimia. Lost a lot....looked really great for awhile. Satisfied her mother, who didn't know about the vomiting. Rushed to the hospital one night. Almost died. I don't know where she is now. I hope she is ok.

Another girl, I'll call Martha. She figured, "What's the point?" The more everyone kept after her, the more she ate. Her parents, her friends. It just seemed impossible for her. As long as she was being reminded about her large size, how could she do anything about it? There was no positive reinforcement there for her. No one telling her about her good qualities, or pointing out what a fantastic artist she was. They just focused on her weight. Perhaps had someone given one ounce of notice to a creative force in her life, she may have been able to make a change?

My children had this wonderful teacher in elementary school. Mrs Carter. When asked about her disciplinary tactics, she would tell you she used positive reinforcements. And that is exactly what she did. I saw this in action. She divided her class into groups. Not like you might think. She knew that there might be kids who struggled with some subjects a little more than others, and she mixed them all up. She saw it as a way to balance, and, as she put it, "They all have different strengths". In this way, they helped each other out. There was no, "smart group" vs. "not so smart group". She gave each group numbers....ie.... 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.... there were 5 children to a group. When my oldest daughter was in her class, I came to know Mrs. Carter, and I would volunteer in her class every Wednesday. One group, I think it might have been group 4, was misbehaving. Instead of calling attention to the rambunctious group, she looked for the group that was working the hardest, and not causing any commotion in the class. "Oh, look at Group One!", she said, " They are getting a power point!" You should have seen group 4 and all the groups get to work....She disciplined with praise. She looked for strengths. That same year, when she found that my daughter's weak subject was math, she also found her strength to be English, and she focused on that before she talked with her about the math, and soon the math skills were up, because the praise came first.

I have to wonder if MO was just looking for a popularity platform.