Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just treats, please

Do you live in October Country?

It’s a place where “the hills are fog and the rivers are mist…whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts…whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…”

That lovely piece of writing is from Ray Bradbury’s “The October Country,” and it describes this time of year perfectly (though it’s a little more humid than foggy where we live). It’s also the time of year when little spooks ring our doorbells and ask for candy.

Halloween really is a little tricky. We spent a lot of time telling children not to accept candy from strangers, after all.

On the other hand, the holiday is a great opportunity to teach your children how to politely interact with others.

• Plan ahead. This year, Halloween falls on a Sunday, prompting some communities to switch Halloween activities to Oct. 30. Some neighborhoods also have established times for acceptable trick-or-treating. Regardless of your own thoughts on this subject, learn when your community will celebrate—it’s no fun to get dressed up, ring doorbells, and find out all the candy is gone.

• When meeting other trick-or-treaters on the sidewalk, say hello and step to the right to pass them. Avoid plowing down smaller children.

• If you’re collecting candy by car, close car doors softly and be alert when walking around moving vehicles.

• Avoid houses with no lights on—there won’t be any candy there, anyway.

• Encourage patience while waiting in line at a popular house. Ring the doorbell only once (try to restrain yourself from banging on the door, even if you are pining for sugar). When the door opens, say “Trick or Treat!” or “Happy Halloween”—but don’t shove your bag in the person’s face.

• If you’re given the bowl of candy to choose from, don’t hem and haw and pick your way through—just take a few pieces (not a handful) and be on your way. But first remember to say thank you!

• Leave behind a good impression, not candy wrappers on the lawn or trampled flowers in the garden. Similarly, admire holiday decorations, but don’t touch or play with them.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Turn off your phone, please

“Turn off my phone?” you might think. “But I can’t! Are you nuts? I’m expecting a call from my mother/father/husband/wife/brother/sister/babysitter/boss/employee/mechanic…”

Obviously, there are times when you are indeed waiting for an important—perhaps life-changing—call. We aren’t suggesting that you turn off your phone during these emergencies.

But, let’s be honest. Do you really need to have your phone on at the dentist’s? At the grocery store? In the movie theater, for Pete’s sake?

Maybe you are thinking, “Yes, I do!” We gently suggest, “Actually, you probably don’t.”

In our technological age, we’ve grown accustomed to being constantly connected to nearly everyone we know. We are easily, instantly accessible ourselves. At this time in our lives, turning off your cell phone might feel like a violation of nature.

Here’s our suggestion. If you absolutely cannot turn off your phone, try turning off the ringer. (And then put your phone out of sight—a cell phone just looks strange on the table next to your dinner plate).

And when are those appropriate times to go phone-free? A good rule of thumb is, “Wherever you are unable to speak on the phone in private.” Think about it. Do you want to hear all the details on someone else’s messy breakup or latest office gossip while trying to use a store restroom or take public transit?

Let us help you!

When to turn your cell phone off…

In your professional life.
Whether you are a full-time student, stay-at-home parent, working your first job or a seasoned professional, turn off your cell phone:
• During class
• While attending work or parent-teacher conferences
• During a job interview
• When on a work deadline

In your family life. Both family milestones and certain everyday moments might require you to unplug. Turn off your cell phone:
• In places of worship
• In hospitals (especially during a birth!)
• During court sessions
• At weddings
• While trying out a complicated new recipe, and later at the dinner table
• At funerals

At special events, social gatherings or classes. Both you and your fellow patrons will enjoy yourselves more if you turn off your cell phone:
• At movie theaters, plays, poetry readings, choral recitals, concerts
• In museums and libraries
• During dance, yoga or aerobics class

While out and about. Focus on your errands and turn off your cell phone:
• At the ATM, in checkout lines, or when approaching anyone in customer service
• In public bathrooms
• In bank and fast food drive-throughs, or at school pickup lines
• While pumping gas or taking public transportation

Where do you turn off your phone?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Civility is the key to stop bullying

It’s inexcusable. It must stop. It’s time to act now to stop bullying.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. According to the Pacer Center, bullied students are more likely to have higher rates of poor grades, low self-esteem and self-confidence, and depression and anxiety. There is a clear link between depression and suicide.

Let’s not forget the children who bully, who themselves need help. Research tells us that bullies are often feel as insecure, powerless and depressed as their victims.

It might sound overly simplistic, but the key to ending bullying is civility. Adults must model it themselves and teach it to our youth. A lot of people still think of etiquette as being something quaint, old-fashioned, best left to their grandparents’ generation. And yet, when it comes down to it, etiquette is simply about treating others with the kindness and respect we all deserve.

Rutgers University agrees. The school recently launched Project Civility, “a two-year, university-wide dialogue,” following the suicide of 18-year-old student Tyler Clementi, who was bullied for being gay. His death followed three other suicides of gay teenagers, all in the month of September alone—Billy Lucas, 15, in Indiana; Asher Brown, 13, in Texas; and Seth Walsh, also 13, in California. (Research shows that gay youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.)

Rutger’s Project Civility covers topics like bullying, hazing, and the influence of technology on civil behavior—but it also covers how to behave on a bus, good sportsmanship, and other manners you might assume most people already know. The truth is, the task of spreading civility and goodwill is more important now than ever. In fact, a recent University of Michigan study suggests that college students significantly lack empathy compared to previous generations. Data taken from 1979 to 2009 shows that today’s students have a 48% decrease in empathetic concern and a 34% decrease in perspective taking.

That’s terribly depressing news, but it’s also a call to action. We must make the notion of civility a priority, and we must start with our children.