Bullies are not just found on the playground, but also in our own families. The most blatant is the awful reality of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Bullying can also be latent, as in aggression that is expressed in a passive manner. Hurtful remarks explained away as jokes, contemptuous looks, repeatedly “forgetting” promises, violating personal boundaries, and giving the “silent treatment” are all examples of passive-aggressive behaviors that can do significant damage to a relationship. Trying to deal with these behaviors can feel like fighting shadows, especially since the bully rarely takes responsibility, and can be quite good at shifting blame to the victim. It is important to recognize that it is rarely productive to try and negotiate with this sort of bully. Trying to do so can make us feel guilty, confused, and can actually further embolden the bully. Passive-aggressive bullying must be blocked, strategized, or outfoxed. We need to clearly see intimidation, deceit, and broken promises as an abuse of power in a relationship.
It is not unusual to see conflicts between parents and school-age children diminish during the summer. Why? Because there’s no homework. While the potential academic benefits of homework have been debated for over a century, it is a rare family who does not regularly experience homework as a source of argument and tears. Except for reading practice, some researchers feel homework is of negligible benefit to grade school children; and find the same results for older children with homework in excess of two hours. Not all teacher training involves how to give useful homework assignments; then again, some school boards and even some parents demand it. It is a tall order for parents to make the role switch to academic tutor, and it can be confusing and upsetting to children. And of course this all generally takes place in the midst of meals being made, phones ringing, and the needs of younger children. Parents can, however, speak out against excessive and unproductive homework. I’ve seen excellent results where parents have joined together (it only takes a few) to advocate with individual teachers or with the school to reduce the amount and improve the quality of homework. In so doing, parents not only take back family time, but by acting as advocates, are excellent role models for their children.
“When pigs fly” indicates we think something is impossible. As does “when fish ride bicycles”. True enough, but what a delightful, whimsical way of saying we think it’s never going to happen. Generally our pessimism, justified as it may be, takes on a darker tone, as in “when hell freezes over”, or “spitting in the wind”. No doubt we have more words for the absolutely impossible than the possibly attainable, and we can be particularly reluctant to share what others might call our “pipe dreams”. But while big dreams certainly can go up in smoke, they are also the only way big things happen. Even truly impossible dreams, like charging windmills, can also come to good ends. Dreamers have a way of “upsetting the applecart” regarding our comfortable way of doing things, including within our own families. But dreaming big allows us to catch a glimpse of those cool pigs flying by, just out of reach.