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Author: slowlythere Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 3080  
Subject: Re: Can altruism, benevolence be taught? Date: 12/7/2006 11:56 AM
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Thanks again to everyone who's responded. Certainly I ended up telling much more about the situation than I had initially intended, but the feedback was worth it.

It's Thursday morning now and I'm re-reading the replies. Instead of replying one by one as yesterday, I think I'm going to reply all in one here. My apologies for it being so long.


Comments from Odee:
Perhaps sharing his musical talent at a Veterans hospital, senior home; playing holiday songs. I know it's a stretch, but there are ways to combine interests...well, some interests with charitable work.

After your thoughts from yesterday, I'm trying to figure out if there is a way to do this. One of my issues with him is getting him to perform - ahem - G-rated music for different audiences, potentially. He's into some music that might be very trendy/pop type, or has inappropriate language.

It's a big step that he acknowledges when you are right and he was wrong as you mentioned in the previous post. Now he needs to take your words and process them without having to test them all the time.

Actually, I do like that I'm making him work at it in one way because he's finally thinking about things seriously. I've been challenging him to question what he's taken as fact and his foundation thus far: in fairness, I expect him to do the same with me. The good news is that I am starting to make sense to him, if much slower than I like. I think it may make a bigger impact on him if he goes through this torturous (for him) process.

Does he plan to flip burgers for a living*? That's what I ask my DD. She gets good grades, but complains about having to go to school. He needs to see the benefit of completing high school, even if he doesn't go on to college. Dropping out will make it harder for him to buy luxuries (which vary from person to person).

Exactly. I'm trying to get him thinking about this. He's really not serious about getting a job, though. The last job he had, I helped him to get. He's now trying to get his own 'real' job which is in line with his interests. The job? At a tattoo parlor - body piercing place. I'm not particularly pleased with this as the type of people he deals with sometimes, but if he ends up enjoying the concept of real work for the first time and in a field he loves, then sobeit. If he becomes sick and tired of having to account to somebody else (something he doesn't like: taking orders), then I'll use it again to encourage him to get his diploma and start seriously planning long-term. I'm trying to teach him it's about self-empowerment, giving him freedom, choices and control long-term, even though he thinks it's about being a slave to school (and other) morons.

*okay, someone has to do it and if they enjoy it; great. But if they have hopes of owning a mansion and a yacht (queue in Elmer Fudd) then flipping burgers may not be the way to go

Yes. His goals, vague as they are right now, I'm trying to use to get him to plan.


Comments from AlisoninWonderland:
Perhaps you could see if he wants to go out to eat or for a movie or something like that. Then, as you're on your way, maybe say something like, "oh, before we go to do <whatever>, I need to stop by <volunteer activity> for a little bit."

Good idea, actually. In reality, he's very much spontaneous so if I suddenly took him somewhere, it might work. The issue is whether or not I can get him to behave and mind his manners (not make inappropriate or offensive comments, tone, or attitude). He doesn't always do this, but I may. If I do this, though, I'll speak with the supervising person beforehand so at least they are aware I may do this.

I wouldn't say they're always conscientious and active about it, but they don't usually raise an objection. And I don't force them to volunteer every time I do, but they know about my volunteer activities.

Good points. I've never forced him to do anything that he doesn't want: I usually manage to present it to him as a challenge that he's too proud to turn down. :) Of course, this depends on the youth involved, but I'm trying to harness his large ego here. Sometimes it's rather fun and amusing to work with teens like this.

Sometimes, I've merely said,

"And what kind of person do you want to be?"


You've given me a small epiphany, really: I've never actually put the question to him as such. Sometimes I've been blinded by my own ambitions for him. With this said, though, I have inquired in different ways what are his wishes, desires, and goals for the future: he (like the few other teens I remember) tend not to be capable of really envisioning specifics. My purpose of finding out more tangible goals is so I can help him plan pragmatically for them. I'll work more on this nonetheless.

Thank you for reminding me to keep his self-ambitions first!

Comments from billford:
As did my Grandma and Aunt, but I refused to listen...Or so I thought. It wasn't until I was 25 and moved from FL to ME on my own and was fully responsible for my life that I finally decided I needed to learn to act differently. Then everything they taught me was put into action, but not until then.

You may not see results today, but don't give up as what you're trying to teach him may be sinking in. He might not use that info now, but when he's ready to be responsible for his own life, the lessons will come back to him.


Bill, so you're my other nephew, eh? :) I'm glad you've turned out so well! Me and your grandmother are grateful for it. Can you talk to your baby cousin over here, then? :)

Yes, I do believe as well that more will sink in when he's living independently and without the usual easy and available resources (or even creature comforts) he's had till now. My major concern is that he wants to move in with various of the older boys/young men who I find to foster his family's type of mindset in different ways.

BTW: he still hits on his grandmother for money, help, etc. behind his parents' back. I'm mixed about it for a number of reasons, but for the moment, mostly because he is yet again unappreciative for the help he receives from her: his grandparents are retired on a fixed income, and she still works part-time on occasion to make ends meet. He doesn't appreciate the financial commitment others make for him, though he clearly love her, even if she can't relate to his behavior and other.

It wasn't always a requirement for me, but I did see a lot of food stamp and welfare abuse while growing up in FL. My Grandparents owned a Taxi Business and once a month we had to "deal" with some of these folks as they did their monthly shopping for free food. Eh, I better stop now before I start ranting. :-)

Not exactly sure of the specific context, but I certainly understand being around people who have abused such systems, though this can be very subjective from the outside. I'm thinking specifically of some of my neighbors, friends (and I say this in the most distant sense possible), and other acquaintances.

After reading ahead through the following posts, I think you're already doing the right thing with your nephew and it sounds like you're already getting through to him. Seriously!

Keep doing what you're doing and have patience.


I hope so, but I'm running out of both ideas and patience. I step back from him frequently and he knows it. We go through spurts of tolerating each other's very strong attitudes, perspectives, and energy.

For better or worse, I think we both respect and revile each other by turns. Saying this, it probably requires actually having been there, done that, to know what I mean by this: I mean it in a positive way.

At the same time, I will pull back from him (I haven't said this to him: I won't threaten him with such) if he starts to engage in more problematic behaviors. My major issues with him at this point are that he is encouraging the delinquencies of other youth around him (his age, or younger) as he is very social and has many youth that admire him as a rebel and a popular kid. I also don't like his frequent drinking, roughhousing, etc. I'm also trying to get him to get into counseling now that he can legally consent on his own. He's thinking about it (as he thinks about so many other things I offer him), but the main issue is whether he'll follow through.

A simple, and effective type of charity work, would be to help deliver meals and gifts during the Christmas holidays. The looks and words of appreciation from those who truly need the help are worth more than you could imagine. If that doesn't have any affect on him, well, then he just won't be the volunteer type.

Yes, I think seeing the faces and hearing the voices of recipients and the process may be helpful.

Though I think he personally prefers seeing and interacting with kids, I also hope he'll see and interact with some of the adults, especially homeless men. They are as much his potential future (threat of?) if he stays where he's been going.

Additional notes
Even if it sounds like a long shot, I should summarize a bit and say that in his case (perhaps less so than all of you folks here), I'm trying to keep him from enjoying being a delinquent and becoming an all around not so nice person once he becomes independent. He's got issues, mostly drinking (and previous very light drug use), anger issues, some violent predispositions, and general social rabble rousing (which sounds tame, but I refer to this as encouraging the delinquencies of other youth).

Odee's comments to me at one point about a youth that was court-ordered to do community service and ended up continuing to volunteer long after the fact is something I keep in mind. I'm hoping my nephew will not engage in serious legal problems, but I have some very strong concerns and fears that he may. As far as this nephew goes, it's not so much I want him to become an angel, a good person, but that he doesn't turn into the monster I fear that he has the potential of becoming. He is still young enough (and despite his behaviors, still rather innocent in some ways) to have some sense of faith and optimism. I'm trying to harness that before he completely loses it due to either age or significant negative influences.

Thanks again.
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