The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Anger Issues

400% increase in death threats to Prez Obama over Bush. And Bush was probably the most hated president (by his political opponents) of my lifetime. 400%. Of course, this has nothing to do with race.

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Saw a poster for "Princess and the Frog" couple of days ago, and noted that they have darkened the entire poster to reduce color shock. I've seen this many times when the protagonists are black, and it's probably a sound strategy.

I remember a student at the VONA writing workshop talking about training with a group of police officers in the (Northeast? I'm not sure I'm remembering right). At any rate, on the firing range, the officers were firing at black silhouettes against a white background. When they were changed to white silhouettes against a dark background, they got VERY upset. It just wasn't right. Didn't feel right. I'll bet.

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Watching the Director's Cut of "Watchmen" and am convinced this is the Citizen Kane of comic book movies. Having read the 80's Sam Hamm script, I am astounded that Zach Snyder got as much of this story on the screen as he did. People complain about "The Squid" missing, but frankly, while I loved Squiddo, Watchmen actually works better without it. By making Dr. Manhattan seem to be the aggressive force, he is actually checkmated--he literally can't stay on Earth without screwing everything up. I find it more plausible that the villain would have chosen this approach. And the fact that Jackie Earl Haley is a pitch-perfect Rorschach is just an additional joy.

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Let's see...working on the new Tennyson, the new "Dream Park," the script for State Street, a proposal for the third "Lion's Blood" book, and getting ready to drive to San Francisco to meet with the "Writers With Drinks" people. Busy, busy. Most important today is the movie and Dream Park. If the script goes well, it's a game changer. When the animation script comes through (probably next week) that will be another positive step. It's been grueling trying to work my way back into the business...but it feels like I finally have a toehold. We'll see. But whoa, I definitely have that sense of pulling a fully-laden 16-wheeler up a steep grade. I'm not sure I ever felt my limits quite the way I'm experiencing them now. The human CPU definitely slows down when overburdened, and that multi-tasking is quite a challenge. Staying centered in the midst of everything is as close to burn-out as I've ever experienced.

But what a relief it's going to be when I can actually get back to working on only one or two projects at a time. I know so clearly what would make me happy right now, and I have so much of it. But I need to stabilize some career elements--uncertainty there is just no fun at all.

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Jason is having anger issues at school again, but at least he is obeying his teachers. And we've found a way to get him out of his descending spiral, by making him make a long exhale. But what remains is that the kids at school have figured out that making him flip out is fun, so they poke at him. Sigh. So every morning, we work on yoga, and breathing, and staying calm. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so well. But its one day at a time.

Those of you with kids (or who WERE kids), how did you or do you deal with teasing and anger tantrums?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not the answer you were looking for I'm sure but I dealt with teasing by learning to hit hard enough it wasn't worth their while. I did also emerge relatively thick skinned from the process as well.

Anonymous said...

Follow-up to my previous post, I had actually made a concious decision that I'd rather be in trouble once in awhile then picked on often. Getting in trouble for fighting at school was a price i was willing to pay.

Dan Moran said...

400% increase in death threats to Prez Obama over Bush. And Bush was probably the most hated president (by his political opponents) of my lifetime. 400%. Of course, this has nothing to do with race.

Certainly has something to do with it, but I would be fascinated to know what Clinton's death threat frequency was over the course of his 8 years. I remember back in '92 driving down the 10 freeway late at night, listening to talk radio, and a mouth breather called up to talk about Clinton -- just hated him -- and finished with, in a really overwrought voice: "He needs a bullet." And the guy hung up and even the radio host, another conservative, was genuinely shocked.

I'm not clear at all that conservatives hate Obama more than they hated Clinton.

~~~~~

My now 13 year old boy used to have tantrums when he was little; he's the only one of the 5 who did. (I'm told my oldest daughter had them too, but she wasn't living with me back then; by the time I got her she was over them.)

How we dealt with them was to never, ever, ever let him get anything out of them. Intermittent rewards are brutal -- if one time in ten a kid gets something for behaving badly, it's worse than if they get something every time. When he had them at night, and the other kids were trying to go to bed, we'd have car therapy: we'd go sit in the car and let him yell until he got done. Usually he'd quiet down, and sometimes he'd fall asleep yelling and I'd carry him back inside and put him down. (Did exactly the same thing with the next boy; he didn't yell, but he wouldn't stop talking, either. Almost as hard on the other boy sharing the room with him. Sat in the car with him any number of times until he ran down.)

Don't turn the car time into Daddy time; that's a reward. Ignore him until he's ready to behave and go to bed, or whatever it is you want.

My boy had them up until about the age of 5 and was able to time-bind a little bit. Once a kid gets out of the eternal now, you can withold rewards (or offer them, as appropriate) ... but that ability to time bind is critical.

Marty S said...

I was from the same school as Anonymous. I was in a lot of fights up till about fifth grade.

Christian H. said...

Those of you with kids (or who WERE kids), how did you or do you deal with teasing and anger tantrums?

I'd read the dictionary and watch TV. The key is that you have to always be learning and improving your skills no matter what happens around you.

I think you'd have better luck with him if you let his mother deal with him.

Steve Perry said...

We were too easy on our kids in a lot of ways, but tantrums, we just didn't reward. Our philosophy was, kicking and screaming and pitching a fit was bullshit, and we weren't going to put up with it. The kids knew, and we knew they knew, and they stopped it when they realized it wasn't going to get them what they wanted.

I tried to avoid getting back into it with you Christian, but this one, I have to address: Come back and see us when you have a stable relationship with a real woman, and kids of your own. Child-raising theories from single-guys don't much impress people who have spent time in the trenches actually doing it ...

Dan Moran said...

Car therapy is all about the boredom, by the way. Put him in his car seat and don't let him get out and crawl around. You bring a book to read.

Marty S said...

Steve: Rereading the part of the post about Jason has caused me some thought. I am wondering about the teacher or teachers involved and the role they are playing. Have they indicated any understanding of why the teasing began. Have they simply viewed Jason as the problem or have they spoken to the other kids and or there parents. Both my experience as a kid where my parents didn't challenge the teachers enough and my experience, with my kids, where we stood up to the teachers for our kids has impressed upon me that we cannot invest too much faith in teachers, because many of them are more interested in making their job easier than what's best for each child.

Anonymous said...

"... teachers, because many of them are more interested in making their job easier than what's best for each child.

I was also teased as a kid, and remember that teachers viewed these incidents as yet more work hassles. Although, as you've said, advice from a non-parent is rationally suspect, I'll offer my 2 cents anyway, by way of anecdote. Let him kick ass sometimes. My Mexican friend was tormented relentlessly by bigoted White bullies when he was a kid. His father purportedly punished him if he FAILED to retaliate. Accordingly, he blemished his fair share of lily-white ass, got kicked out of several schools..and emerged the stronger for it. He's now an accomplished Engineer, in contrast to many of his Angelino peers, who went the gangs/jail/early grave route depressingly common for Mexican and Black youth. While his strong family ties were of course instrumental in shaping the successful man he became, I conjecture from long conversation and observation that being forced to always confront, and often to physically defend, himself, his family and ethnicity, built considerable character strength. When we were slugging (figuratively!) through the trial-by-fire ordeals of PhD studies, and he was simultaneously dealing with a doomed romance, I often saw him face down these troubles with a combination of burning rage and stoic composure, and a refusal to be beaten resolve that I'm sure also whopped schoolyard bigots many years before.

Ethiopian_Infidel

jeanetta said...

Marty said, We cannot invest too much faith in teachers, because many of them are more interested in making their job easier than what's best for each child.


What would be an ideal teacher/school response to Steve's concerns? What could Steve reasonably expect from the teacher/school?

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'm afraid that when I was a kid I dealt by hitting and fighting, but a lot of this came from the fact that as far as I could see I was going to be hit and pushed without provocation (by bigger kids than me) no matter what I did, and my sense as a kid was that while I didn't want to go out of my way to start fights, if you fought me I would always, always hit you back as hard as I could.

Presumably that isn't the same as the problem you have with Jason. If people who are teasing are just using words, I don't favor the "hit them really hard" approach.

Marty S said...

Jeanetta: It is not a question of responding to Steve's concerns. When a child who is being poked or teased responds violently the easy response for the teacher is to talk to the victim and the victim's parents about the "inappropriate response". The harder job is to find out who is behind the actions that provoke the victim's response and stopping those actions.

Anonymous said...

"What could Steve reasonably expect from the teacher/school?:

Short and straight answer is: NOTHING! Steve and Jason are on their own, and must decide amongst themselves how to deal with Jason's adversaries and issues. Consider it an invaluable life lesson for Jason. Place minimal reliance in institutions or purported superiors. The most reliable and effective tools for resolving conflict and surmounting obstacles are always personal fortitude, reason and strength.

Ethiopian_Infidel

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Haven't had to deal with my kids getting teased yet, but we do have the odd tantrum or two. I've tried just letting my oldest throw a tantrum if we are at home. No attention is given because of the tantrum and eventually he realizes that he is not going to get his way.

I've also tried sitting with him and trying to get him to tell me what is wrong. I try to sit with him in a closed, quiet room and try to get him to slow his breathing down. Mixed results at best.

Anonymous said...

When I was in elementary school I was bullied mercilessly by my peers. It never seemed to stop. When I was in fifth grade, my parents paid tuition money to send me to a public school in another school district. What I found was that it was exactly the same at the new school. I decided that it must be all my fault, and I felt terribly guilty that my parents had spent so much money for nothing, despite the money fights they were always having because there was never enough. I didn't want them to know I was a failure. So I concealed it from them, successfully, and just endured, until my peers outgrew it. Fortunately, as a girl, I didn't often suffer physical beatings - just taunts and practical jokes, which I could pretend didn't happen.

Kind of a sad story, I guess. But really, the only thing he can do is learn to endure it, because kids are cruel. That's just how they are. Eventually he and his peers will outgrow it, but until the number who have outgrown childish cruelty reaches critical mass, settings controlled by his peers are going to be full of such cruelties.

I suppose there is one thing you can do, and that is to help him recognize and stop indulging in cruel behavior himself. He can't make the other kids less cruel, but he can refrain from adding to the total amount of cruelty floating around in his peer group, and bring the day closer when cruelty will be abnormal rather than standard operating procedure.

Dan Moran said...

Steve, how old is Jason, now? He was 3 or 4 last time I saw him, and that was over a year ago, and I've lost track. Is he in kindegarten? 1st grade?

Marty S said...

Today is the worst day of my life. There was an incident at the end of my grandson's birthday party and my daughter in-law threw the tantrum to end all tantrums. This morning I received an email from my son that they are not coming to my other son's wedding in two weeks and that they want nothing to do with us in the future. They are also not talking to her mother either. If this is not resolved by the wedding, you will probably not hear from me afterward because I will commit suicide. I know that I probably shouldn't post this but I have no other way to try to deal with the hurt I am currently feeling.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Ack! Hang in there, Marty. Give it more than two weeks, however grim it looks right now.

Anonymous said...

"This morning I received an email from my son that they are not coming to my other son's wedding in two weeks and that they want nothing to do with us in the future."

Remember you LOVING son, your daughter-in-law and your present and future grandchildren. Don't permit the immature ingrate of a "son" to rob the rest of your family of their father and grandfather.

Ethiopian_Infidel

Dan Moran said...

Jesus, Marty, don't do anything hasty. Talk to someone before you get to the point where you make irrevocable decisions. Shit, man, you could call me. Email me, would you?

danmoran909@yahoo.com

Steven Barnes said...

Marty--

The pain you are feeling is very real, and I take what you're saying with 100% seriousness. Two thoughts: change your focus to those things in your life that give you pleasure. There are always a few of them. Breathe deeply--if you change your breathing, you change the way you feel. And third, you aren't alone. Email me at lifewrite@aol.com if you would like to talk to me. Thank you for sharing your genuine feelings, Marty. If you reach out, you'll find my hand.

Anonymous said...

Steve I think dealing with your son's anger issues is first and foremost. If he gets control of these issues the teasing will subside. That being said, it probably won't stop. Kids are relentless when it comes to teasing. First thing to do is sharpen his mind and tell him to use quick verbal comebacks to combat the teasing. He will win over the followers if he confronts the ring leader their is always a ring leader. If it becomes physical which I hope it doesn't the same technique applies take out the ring leader and the respect will follow. This is a good lesson in life because certain people will always try to intimidate to see if you are weak. I would also make sure I know exactly what he's being teased about sometimes kid's don't give you all the facts. It's rough, but the weak shall perish.

Anonymous said...

Steve I think dealing with your son's anger issues is first and foremost. If he gets control of these issues the teasing will subside. That being said, it probably won't stop. Kids are relentless when it comes to teasing. First thing to do is sharpen his mind and tell him to use quick verbal comebacks to combat the teasing. He will win over the followers if he confronts the ring leader their is always a ring leader. If it becomes physical which I hope it doesn't the same technique applies take out the ring leader and the respect will follow. This is a good lesson in life because certain people will always try to intimidate to see if you are weak. I would also make sure I know exactly what he's being teased about sometimes kid's don't give you all the facts. It's rough, but the weak shall perish.

Travis said...

Hey Marty, I just saw your post. I'm hoping that by the wedding, shoot even by tomorrow, things even out a bit. It's clear from your posts (current and past) that you value your family highly but even the best families can't be drama free. You can only control what you can control, as much as it might hurt all you can do is try and be a positive influence on those involved and let time and space take their course too. Families fight, it sucks, the timing on it for you right now sucks too. Will it matter in five years? Maybe, depends on how all involved respond. Bad things happen. It hurts. We don't control everything in life and we are not the bad things that happen to us. Hope you are able to vent and then get a perspective on the good in life and wait for things to even out.

Steve Perry said...

Marty --

As long as you are around, you can work on getting things better. If you are gone, you can't. Suicide is an irrevocable step. Don't take it.

However bad things seem now, a week, a month, a year, it could all be different.

Give it a chance to find out.

Marty S said...

I want to thank people for their support at this time it really helped.I also want to let you know that it seems the worst is over. There was a little bit of a family emergency this weekend involving a midnight trip to the emergency room by my older grandson(not too serious) that broke the isolation dam and now we have received an email that they will attend our other son's wedding.

Travis said...

Good. I hope things continue on an upward trend for you and yours.