Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is bullying always bullying?

I have no doubts: bullying is a bad thing.

But, kids are mean. Kids don’t know how to deal with the other kid who is ‘different’, and ‘different’ kids get picked on. 

Understand where I’m coming from. I grew up as the ‘different’ kid: a bit socially-awkward, a bit un-sporty, a lot nerdy. Low fruit for mean kids, and for the kids who need to make themselves look good by making others look worse. But, the only time I’ve ever considered myself ‘bullied’ is in the workplace, as an adult.  Many other kids probably had a similar experience to me through school, and learnt that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words leave deep scars, making you question your worth well into adulthood when the things that once made you ‘weird’ now may even make you the envy of the ‘normal’. 

Here is my question: is there a difference between bullying and kids being mean? 

If there is, what’s the difference? If we label all acts of kids being mean as bullying, do some kids end up more victimised: not only are they taunted by their peers, they are now labeled as ‘bullied’ by the grown ups.  But if we blanket say that most ‘bullying’ is just kids being mean, then do the genuine bullies - the ones that seek out weak kids to make fun of - get away with it more easily.  And if we say that kids are just mean, are we implying that it’s okay, it’s just a part of growing up, and ignore the kids on the receiving end?

If there is a difference - and I think there probably is - we need a different approach to dealing with the bully as we do with dealing with the kids who are mean. And whether there is a difference or not, dealing with bullying can’t be just left up to the schools. It needs to start at home. We need to teach our children to be resilient, confident and respectful of differences. (I also like to remind my son that he doesn’t have to be friends with the dominant personalities that like to call the shots, often at his expense: there’s plenty of nice kids at school to play with!)  Not that schools have no responsibility, but, like most things, schools, parents and students need to work together to make it work. 

What do you think?  (Feel free to disagree!) 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Eat the packet, throw away the chocolate

The Husband brought home some chocolate recently.  This wasn’t a huge surprise, given that in our house chocolate is one of five food groups. 

But this chocolate was different. 

It was natural and sugar-free chocolate.

Now, I have been to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory in Dunedin and I saw them making chocolate with cocoa beans, milk and sugar. What on earth is in sugar-free chocolate? Cocoa beans and milk?

Actually, it had a natural sweetener - Stevia - which isn’t sugar.  It has a lot less calories than cane sugar: it’s a lot sweeter, so you can use a lot less. But, it’s not cane sugar, and it tastes different.  

I tried a sample of Stevia in my coffee recently.  I could taste the difference, but The Husband couldn’t. But, then, he also thought the natural, sugar-free chocolate wasn’t too bad.

He was wrong.

It was awful. 

He said it’s because it was dark chocolate and I don’t normally eat dark chocolate. I say it’s the polydextrose and erythirol and isomalt they had to use in order to give it the same texture as dark chocolate! 

Here’s what I think: forget low-fat or low-sugar versions of foods. It’s the fat and the sugar that make them taste good. Eat the bad-for-you foods. Just don’t eat them all the time. Treat them as treat foods. 

Give me decent chocolate any day… just not every day.