Saturday, February 27, 2010

Can You Trust Your Child's Teacher?

For Lamya Cannon’s mother, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! You remember the story….. last fall her teacher cut off one of her braids because she had been playing with her hair. According to her mother, Lamya’s teacher admitted to doing so, but did not seem remorseful. After initially hearing about this situation, I wondered out loud if there were any indications that this teacher was…well…unstable before this unbelievable incident? Had there been similar occurrences with other students? Or, did she just “snap” on that day. Typically speaking, there are telltale signs that suggest that something just ain’t right.

So, how can you tell if your child’s teacher is behaving badly? Well, it’s important to know that young children are typically not able to articulate their feelings. Instead, they may express somatic complaints (i.e. Stomachaches, headaches, sore throats etc.). They may cry or tantrum when its time to go to school, or you may notice a drastic decline in their grades. Or, they may begin to emphasize how much they hate school. Any and all of these behaviors is cause for your concern because they suggest that something may not be right.

Of Course, there are also more obvious indicators as well. In fact, there is a list of educator No-no’s which include but are not limited to:

• Telling students to “Shut up!”
• Calling students “stupid” or “idiots”
• Cutting their hair (sigh)
• Hitting, slapping, or shoving students
• Creating a classroom environment that breads bullying, teasing, or taunting
• Denying students the opportunity to learn by repeatedly sending them out of class

What would you do if this happened to your child? Just how common do things like this happen in schools? These are questions that parents are surely asking themselves after Lamya’s story hit the news. Please realize that as a parent, you have a tremendous amount of power. Many times, parents are intimidated by school administrators and the procedures. However, it is critical that you speak up and report any issues that are concerning to you. First, speak to your child to get their story. Take detailed notes, including dates and names. Next, speak directly with the teacher and ask that an assistant principal is present. Also contact the school principal and make them aware of your concerns. Indicate in no uncertain terms that you are ready and willing to bring your complaints to the school board if your concerns are not taken seriously. Put everything in writing for legal purposes and give the school an opportunity to act appropriately. If you do not feel comfortable with their decision, by all means call the school board…and an attorney.

I must say that as a School Psychologist who has devoted her life to making a positive impact in the lives of students…I am simply appalled when I learn of incidents of impropriety by educators. There is NEVER an excuse or reason to cause physical or emotional trauma to a child. Educators are held to a certain standard of excellence, as they not only educate children, but must also ensure their emotional and physical safety. That is why it is so disconcerting when the very people who are supposed to protect children are the ones at fault.

Albeit extreme, I wish that I could say Lamya’s story is an isolated incident….but with all honesty I cannot. No doubt, the preponderance of educators are phenomenal and committed to the art of educating and inspiring students. However, as with any other profession, there are some bad apples. Identifying these educators and making sure that they are appropriately disciplined is key. The impact that teachers make is inarguable, and when a teacher behaves badly it can have lasting effects on academic performance, as well as self-esteem.

Happy Parenting,

GaĆ©tane F. Borders is the President of Peas In Their Pods, and the author of, an honest and realistic blog for parents about issues that matter most…children and families!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pancakes For A Cause

Scottish pancake and fruit crumpetImage via Wikipedia

What's better than pancakes? Eating pancakes while donating to a fabulous cause. So pack up the kiddos and head on over to IHOP tomorrow!

In celebration of National Pancake Day, IHOP restaurants nationwide will offer each guest a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes tomorrow, February 23, 2010 in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

For every short stack of buttermilk pancakes served on National Pancake Day, IHOP guests are invited to make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. Donations made at IHOPs in the Atlanta area will benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a Children's Miracle Network hospital. In addition, IHOP is hoping to serve up more donations than ever before, with a goal to raise $1.75 million, for a total of $5 million in five years with its National Pancake Day fundraising effort.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

To The Superwoman In All of Us

Many of us endure so many ups in downs through the years. Yet, for some getting back up and dusting off is easier than for others. Imagine having your father murdered, a mom who is missing, and a child with special needs. Oh yeah...and having to spend days in jail for traffic tickets because you simply did not have the money to pay for them. This is Angela Martin's story.

Who is she? She was a 28-year-old contestant on the current season of American Idol until she was recently voted off. It was Angela's 3rd and final attempt at winning the title. She never gave up on her dream of becoming a recording artist despite the many obstacles she endured over the years. It is that spirit of resiliency that Ellen Degeneres saw in Angela, and for which she was rewarded. (Please watch the video below)

Sometimes life is challenging, and sometimes we want to give up. But staying focused on our ultimate goal will give us endurance during this fabulous journey called life.

P.S. Have you seen her mom? People with information about Viola Martin are being asked to call Glenwood police at 708-253-2420 or the "America's Most Wanted" hot line at 800-274-6388.

Happy Parenting,

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Letting Go In Order to Grow

Happy Lent everyone!!!! Each year, many Christians “give up” something valued as a means of penitence during this period leading up to Easter. printed a humorous article listing what moms should consider going without." I am reprinting their list below, but you already know....I just had to add to it!

Here is Momlogic’s List:

1) Give up "orange" colored food

No more handfuls of my kid's Goldfish crackers and wee shovel-fulls of macaroni and cheese. Who knows. If I give 'em up, maybe my little darling will stop asking "Mommy, why are your legs so squishy?"

2) Give up blaming kid for messy car
Whenever I have a guest in my car, I always begin the journey with an apology as I shove garbage off the passenger side seat. "Sorry about the mess, but you know how it is when you have kids." Truth be told, if my 4-year-old girl is responsible for empty Starbucks cups, discarded gas receipts and stray lipsticks, I've got WAY bigger problems than a trashed car.

3) Give up empty threats by the time I count to 10
She knows I don't mean it, I know I don't mean it. Maybe it's time to call off the charade. Especially when I threaten, "Wait until your father gets home!!" and he's standing right next to me.

4) Give up spelling out swear words
People without kids might try to give up swearing, but if you've got kids chances are you don't swear as much as you spell the words out. And I'm a crummy speller. By the time I've spelled out "you S-T-U-P-I-D B-A-S-T-A-R-D why are you being such an A-$-$-H-O-L-E, it's already time to get dinner on the table.

5) Give up falling asleep at kid's bedtime
Those bedtime stories sure are effective -- they put us BOTH to sleep ... by 7 PM. It's hard to resist, already in bed, cuddled up with your favorite miniature person.

6) Give up NOT having sex
See number 5

Here is my addendum:

7) Give up Facebook
Now we all know how much time we spend updating our statuses, posting pictures, and commenting on other people’s page. Let’s call it what it is…an addiction. Now it may be hard at first…you may get the trembles, shakes, and suffer from loose bowels….but you can do it. Just step away from the keyboard:)

Ladies I say NO to sweatpants. The big, baggy bright red or fluorescent yellow, half-way bleached out sweatpants you have had for years need to go! No more runs to Walmart looking like a schlump. Let’s bring sexy back mommies!

An end to drama
The melodrama is o-v-e-r during Lent. That means avoiding the people in our lives that serve as the constant rain cloud. That might mean not talking to you ”bestie” or maybe even a family member. Maybe you might just work up the nerve to tell your Debbie Downer about their emotionally draining ways!

10) Abstinence
Okay, calm down (lol). No…not that kind of abstinence mommies! I’m talking about the abstinence from negative thinking. I’m too fat…I’m too skinny…I won’t be able to achieve my dreams…I have to put up with abuse…I can'tyou catch my drift! No more. This is probably the hardest of the list to accomplish, but it is possible. Replace the negative with the positive by taking baby steps. No…being able to change overnight is quite rare. Instead, focusing on smaller, more manageable steps makes any change feasible. Pick a positive thing about you to highlight each day. Or think about something that makes you feel wonderful. And lastly…stop trying to place a question mark where God has placed a period!!!!

Happy Parenting,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How can I get my 2-year-old to eat his vegetables?

Hello There! Sometimes toddlers are really finnicky about what they want to eat. Textures, colors and flavors all play a part in their likes and dislikes. Try not to make a big deal about meal time, but instead gently encourage them to sample everything on their plate. You might try having them "help" in meal preparation. Sometimes if they take "ownership" of the food they will be more likely to eat it. Puree it in other foods, or try to mask them in some way to get them to take in the nutrients. Nonethless...don't stress because he will be just fine:)


Ask me anything

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The N-Word

It’s February…the month in which we pay homage to the contributions that African Americans have made to the world. While it is nice to have a month set aside for such honors, it is obviously necessary to be cognizant of black history more than for 28 days out of the year.

Undeniably, African Americans have a rich history in this country, and have contributed in monumental ways. However, in spite of all these great things, we continue to be plagued by the rampant use of the N-word. Just this week, John Mayer a well-known celebrity boasted to Playboy Magazine that he has a Benetton heart but a David Duke coc%. Not cool…but it got worse. He went on to say that African Americans had accepted him and had given him a “hood pass,” but added, "If [I] really had a hood pass, you could call it a nig@er pass.” He later apologized for trying to “intellectualize” this offensive term.  Hmmm......

The media, as well as everyday people, harshly criticized Mayer for his insensitive remarks because most agree that the N-word is an obvious no-no. But…Why then do African Americans use this word? Baffling isn’t it?!? I’ve heard African American parents call their children “little ni@gas.” I also often hear students calling each other ni@ga in jest and out of anger in the hallway in between classes. I’ve even heard the word thrown around in professional settings by colleagues. What the heck is going on that the very race of people whose history involves slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow Laws could use the one word that epitomizes hatred? Aaarrrrrgggghghhh!

I’ll NEVER forget the first time that word was aimed directly at me. I was in first grade, and a 6-year-old classmate decided that day that I could not go down the slide because “ni@gers” weren’t allowed to. Nor will I forget the wave of emotions I felt as a very young child while huddled around my family’s television watching Roots, and seeing the hatred and brutality that the word represented. It was clear to me at that young age that this word was much than a mere 6-letter-term. Nothing positive….but an evil tool used to make me and others who look like me feel inferior, worthless, and less than human.

I believe in the power of words. In fact, I work each day to help children cope with the pain that the words used to describe them have caused. I also believe that words are can be very limiting. Tell a child that they are something, and they will eventually believe it. So why would you tell them that they are a ni@ga lazy, stupid, dirty, worthless nobody?

 NO.....John Mayer should not have made the highly publicized comments, but sometimes its easier to condemn others than to look hard at ourselves.  What kind of words are we using in our own homes?  It’s 2010…we can stop this cycle of mental enslavement if we focus on the long-term impact it has on children.?.....It starts with us!

Happy Black History Month & Happy Parenting!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Humbled By A Child's Insight

It was just a normal night in the Borders house. That is, until my little miss started talking abnormally loud (It’s a constant battle to have her use her indoor voice:). I’m not exactly sure what she was shouting out, but I immediately said “Who is talking so loudly in my house!?!” “Me!” she retorted while giggling. Then, that’s when my son chimed in…”It is a free country mom!”.

So…let’s not forget that I am a spirited Haitian-American woman. I was immediately annoyed at his seemingly disrespectful comment. Yet, for some reason I didn’t instantly ground him. Instead, I said (sarcastically)…If you can define to me what a free country is….both of you can talk as loud as you want all night! To my utter surprise, Justin came into the kitchen and delineated the difference between a want and a basic right that everyone should have. “The right to go to school and read,” was one that he stressed was important to him. “Like Frederick Douglass…he really wanted to read, but they told him he couldn’t. That was wrong!” he exclaimed. Um…sooooo needless to say…I am contemplating making a trip to the store for earplugs because there’s a lot of outdoor voices going on right now!

In the spirit of Black history month, I would like to follow my son’s lead in highlighting Frederick Douglass’ life. He went from being an illiterate slave, to becoming an autobiographical writer, trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln, United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C., and Minister-General to the Republic of HAITI (YAY!!!!!!!!). His story is so inspirational to me because it reinforces the importance of dreaming and striving for more than your current circumstance, and demonstrates that it neither defines nor limits who you are.

In fact, he sought to embody three keys for success in life:

• Believe in yourself.
• Take advantage of every opportunity.
• Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.

This is just as true now as it was in the mid 1800s!

Happy Parenting,

To learn more about Frederick Douglass, please visit:

Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rihanna and Chris....The Year In Review

It was just over a year ago that the world was shocked to learn that Pop’s Princess had been brutally beaten by her then boyfriend. The picture of a facially bruised and swollen Rihanna was later leaked to the world, and everyone heard the allegations against Chris Brown. Reports indicated that he had punched, bitten, and threatened to kill Rihanna while riding around Los Angeles in his car. Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault in June, and was sentenced to five years' probation in addition to 1,400 labor-oriented community service hours. Both Chris and Rihanna later appeared in primetime interviews to address their side of the highly publicized crime.

So, whose side did the public take? With the graphic picture of Rihanna’s bloodied face in the media and all over the internet, you would think that everyone would come to her defense. However, in a survey done by the Boston Public Health Commission, almost half of Boston-area teenagers said Rihanna was responsible for Chris Brown's attack. The survey of 200 Boston youths age 12 to 19 found that 51% said Brown held responsibility, 46% said Rihanna was responsible, and 52% said both were to blame for the incident. In addition, 52% said the media was treating Brown unfairly, and "a significant number of males and females" surveyed said Rihanna was destroying Brown's career. In her interview with Diane Sawyer, Rihanna acknowledged that she had personally received many messages from people who blamed her for what transpired that night. So how can this be that the one who is beaten is at fault? According to adolescent experts interviewed by the New York Times, girls “are quick to blame Rihanna in order to distance themselves from her.” Thus, acknowledging Brown’s attack would make them feel vulnerable (ie. How could they have a crush on someone who could do that?).

I like to look at it more simplistically! As with anything else, children and teens are a representation of what is seen in our homes and community. Somewhere and somehow, children have become desensitized to the issue of domestic violence. Although deeply disturbing, it should not be surprising given the rate at which these crimes occur. Reports indicate that nearly 1 in 4 women in the United States experience violence by a current or former spouse, or boyfriend at some point in her life. Reportedly, women aged 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence. Young women age 20 to 24 also experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, followed by those 16 to 19. Moreover, it is reported that each year, over 3 million children witness domestic abuse, and research has shown that many of these children will find themselves in a cycle of abuse in their adult lives as well.

February is recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. As we have observed in the teen reactions in the aftermath of Rihanna’s and Chris, much ground needs to be covered. As stated on the website for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “the repercussions of teen dating violence are impossible to ignore - the issue affects not just youth but their families, schools and communities as well. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) brings national focus to the issue of teen dating violence, highlights the need to educate our youth about healthy relationships, raises awareness among those who care for them and provides communities with a critical opportunity to work together to prevent this devastating cycle of abuse.“
It is critical that community leaders, parents, teens, and school officials work together to help change the statistics. There are many ways to become involved to help spread awareness about teen violence. Below is a list that of campaigns that NCADV highlights on their website. However, also remember that the best place to start making an impact is in your very own home. Talk to your teen. Look for the signs. Take action!