All posts tagged teens

Your Kids WILL See Porn

I receive so many great questions from parents each week and now, with their permission, I will be sharing them with our parenting community along with my thoughts on the subjects. I think it’s important that we leverage our collective experiences and as the Adlerian community would say, you can solve problems one at a time or you can solve the problem one time. Here is to making life simpler for everyone in our community.

trust child

I received an email from a distraught and frightened mom the other day who discovered her 11-year-old son had searched “sex” and “naked girls” on his computer and had ultimately seen pornographic images and videos. This is not the first time I have heard from a parent in this situation, and it won’t be the last. So hold on to your hats, as most of you know, I don’t hold back.

Sex and porn

Two topics I mention many times in classes, blogs, presentations, and my books because this is the
world our kids live in and the world we must parent from. If you have kids ages 11 and older they have most likely seen porn. They might be looking at it right now up in their room on their laptop. Did you hear me? YOUR KID IS LOOKING AT PORN. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that your sweet little 11-year-old son would NEVER, doesn’t even know it exists, and is satisfied with the birds and the bees talk that you had two years ago. He has seen porn. She has seen porn. Yes, this applies to our daughters as well. Children are curious about sex. They are curious about body parts. They hear about oral sex and might even have some friends who have experienced it.

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

This is normal. This is natural. This is the world our kids live in. The question is will you be part of this world or not? It is time to be honest with yourself, muster up the courage to face reality head on, and be involved in this stage of your child’s development. You (and more importantly your child) will be more prepared to face the reality in which we live. Are you going to sit back and hope they don’t come across porn or are you going to assume they will (or already have) seen it and face that reality with a clear head and open heart?

Identify the part that trips you up. Identify the fear that keeps you in denial. Identify the belief that paralyzes you. Identify, embrace and solve that problem, so you can support your child as he/she develops and matures.

Get Educated

Remember, knowledge is power. As a parent, you want knowledge on the subject so you feel confident talking about it with your kids and you want your kids to have knowledge so they can make informed decisions. This applies to every area of life with kids – sex, porn, technology, drugs, cheating, stealing, relationships, and so on.

Specifically when it comes to talking to your kids about porn Amy Lang has a great article, How to Talk to Kids about Pornography on her blog, Birds and Bees and Kids.
https://birdsandbeesandkids.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-pornography-2/

Also check out Laci Green on youtube. She doesn’t hold back and is in touch with the world today and the issues our kids are facing.
https://www.youtube.com/user/lacigreen/videos

Talk to friends and create a support system

If you are still feeling a bit sheepish, reach out to your friends. I usually tell you the opposite- Don’t bother asking friends and neighbors “advice” about your kids because your kids are different than your friends kids and you are a different parent. Two kids could be displaying the same behavior, but for completely different reasons, so what works for Suzy and her kid won’t work for you and yours. However, with a topic like sex/porn, all parents will walk through this in a similar fashion. Most parents are nervous, unsure, terrified, unclear on how to talk to their kids about this and tend to just start lecturing and putting stricter “rules” alongside the technology usage. So in this case, it can be a great thing to talk to your friends. You’ll find you are not alone and you might learn a thing or two, yourself. It’s also important that while you don’t shame your kids during this phase, that you also don’t shame yourself. The mother who reached out to me most recently expressed feelings of shame, failure, embarrassment, and was just defeated. She didn’t talk to anyone about it because she felt like it reflected so badly on her and that her friends would think less of her for being a mom who “let that happen on her watch.” Get over it parents – Be real with eachother. Stop judging others and they will stop judging you. Your kids are their own separate entity – not always a direct reflection of you. And again, the fact of the matter is, your friends kids have probably seen porn too and they just don’t know it. Stick together on this journey. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It IS something to be educated on and prepared to handle with your children.

Jump in and try it

When I tell parents to “talk to your kids about sex/porn,” I don’t mean just once. I mean constantly – like every other day. Talk to them about it so much and so casually, that the topic is just as normal to talk about as what they ate for lunch or how they’re doing on their science project. Ask questions about what he knows. Offer information before she asks for it. I’m not suggesting you drill your kids with questions and accusations. I’m suggesting the opposite. You’re at the counter chopping carrots with your daughter and you might say, “so, who’s having sex in the 7th grade?” Or you’re in the car with your son and you have the chance to say, “Let’s talk oral sex.” He knows that it’s out there and he’s heard about it. Ask him about that. Keep talking and keep asking questions, until your kid is so over the topic that when a friend suggests they look at naked pictures online your kid says, “no thanks, I’m all set with that. My mom talks about it every single day.” And then chat about it some more. It’s not a sit down, eye to eye, serious and scary conversation. It’s just a reality – it’s sex, it’s hormones, it’s puberty, it’s masturbating, it’s porn. It’s also love, and relationships, and intimacy and pleasure and boundaries and body awareness and communication.

Remember, our kids are growing and changing and investigating. If we want to receive an invitation into their lives and stay connected as a trusted ally, so that we can be the source of their sexual education, it takes work. Work on our parts to stay open and non-judgmental, to parent from a place of confidence and poise, create a support system and keep practicing. You won’t get it right the first time (or maybe even the second or third), but keep at it. I trust you would rather be honest with yourself and take steps to connect with your sons and daughters about what their reality is, instead of hiding under your covers pretending that it won’t happen again or didn’t happen at all.

#growingagrownup

I’d love to hear from more of you. If you have a question or an area that is challenging you, please go to our contact form and send it in. We’ll do our best to answer it via email and we’d love it if you’d give us permission to post on our blog to help others.

Thoughts On “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity.”

Recently a colleague sent me this wonderful infographic titled “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity” brought to you by Counseling@Northwestern’s Online Masters in Counseling and I was inspired to share it with our community of parents along with my thoughts on HOW we might put into practice the high structure and high warmth parenting practices suggested below and enhance the relationship we have with our tweens and teens.

It should come as no surprise that there are benefits associated with affluence that can have a positive effect on our children when they are young. They include better physical health and the development of stronger language and social skills, which leads to higher academic achievement in elementary school. Then something remarkable happens. Instead of affluence benefiting our kids as they enter the teen years, affluence becomes a liability. It’s fascinating to consider this turn of events and to ponder what changes we can make in our parenting to keep things moving in a positive direction. Here are my thoughts based on the information provided in this deliciously simple and easy to understand graphic.

Challenge-of-Prosperity-FINAL

Teens

Too much house for the number of people who reside in it means it’s easier for family members to “hide” from each other. In the adolescent world this means disconnecting from your family is as simple as entering your bedroom and shutting the door.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the increase in pressure we put on our teens to “perform”. High, unreasonable expectations along with a hovering parenting style don’t inspire, they discourage and that leads to more alienation and disconnection between parents and their kids.

 

What Parents Can Do

    • Consider creating a “shared space” that your teens help you create and decorate. All too often it’s mom and dad who design the home for their liking which only increases the odds that their teens will find refuge in a room designed by them, for them. Unless you are entertaining royalty, this shouldn’t be a hardship, but rather an opportunity to create more shared space that is reflective of everyone in the family. Beyond that, a shared space implies shared responsibility for keeping it clean and tidy so everyone can enjoy it. This is a chance for your teens to become contributing members of the family who have daily household responsibilities that contribute to a healthy home life. And, you are preparing them for life beyond your threshold.

 

    • Time spent together is at a premium and yet, we spend 50% less time together than we did a mere 30 years ago. Anything that brings the family together so they can reconnect is a necessity in today’s fast paced world. Beyond getting everyone together is the bigger issue of “what to talk about” when you are together. Unfortunately far too many parents are still using the “How was school? Do you have homework? Do you have your gear for soccer? When is your science project due?” format of questioning to not only connect with their kids, but stay abreast of what’s happening in their world.

 

    • Family Meetings are a great way to not only gather once a week, for a limited amount of time (15 to 20 minutes), but also as a way to show appreciation for each other which demonstrates to our teens on a regular basis that they are loved and appreciated by their family; divide the family work equitably among all family members which helps teens feel like contributing members of their family and keeps them grounded in the “real world” rather than an illusion that all their needs will be met by someone else; a place for teens to help create family policy and balance between their desire for more independence and a parents desire to ensure their child is safe; and a place for kids to learn financial responsibility. Learn more about Family Meetings.

 

    • Another way for families to stay connected is to choose a social service activity at the beginning of each year which will ensure the family spends quality time together on a regular basis and as a bonus, the kids are learning life lesson in investing their time and energy in something other than themselves.

 

    • Most teens I know need to eat and unfortunately regular family meals have become a thing of the past. Invite your teens to participate in meal planning, meal preparation, meal service and meal clean up. That doesn’t mean demanding they suddenly start making meals for the entire family and then cleaning the kitchen while you sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. It means that you consciously begin to invite your teens into the entire process so they feel a sense of ownership around the meal.If you have a teen who comes home late from practice or eats at other crazy times, decide you will eat with them at least once a week. This means adjusting your schedule to accommodate theirs. Imagine the message you are sending!

 

    • Decide where in your schedule you can make time for your kids. It might be time in the car or walking the dog. Think quality, not quantity here. Being present without outside distractions is the key. Once you have the time, deepen the experience with a new kind of conversation. Life at school is no more exciting than life at your office. For the most part it’s the same old, same old. Try expanding your repertoire of questions and live dangerously. One friend of mine throws random questions out that are meant to provoke robust conversations. For instance, “So, are you having sex yet?” or “My friend got drunk last night at an office function and made a fool of herself, what do you think I should do?” or “I’m thinking of taking a vow of silence for 2 months, what do you think?” If our time is limited, then we have to make the most of it and thought provoking questions can help bring family members closer together and bridge the gap between parents and their teens.

 

  • Many parents are nurturing demanding careers, in part because it allows them to provide more opportunities for their kids. However, I never met a kid who would substitute an interested, engaged parent for some future opportunity. Our kids are learning about living a balanced life from us, they are learning about healthy relationships from us and they are learning about parental roles from us. If we take a few minutes to consider everything that is at stake when we allow careers to sap us of energy and focus, we are in a better position to create a more balanced life where the needs of our teens are at the top of that list. The good news is, they don’t need the same amount of time or energy from you that they needed as toddlers. Quality over quantity will do a lot to keep you connected to your kids and teach them about balance, prioritizing and healthy relationships.

416759_10151137454134267_2087302321_o

In my new book, The Straight Talk On Parenting, I explain in great detail my method, laying it all out for parents so that they can find an approach to parenting that supports their family thought all of the growing pains, developmental phases, life changes, and surprise events that greet anyone raising children in the twenty-first century.

As a mom who raised five children into adulthood, I’d like to share the two most important aspects of my parenting.

  1. Create structures for my family that supported each of us individually and all of us collectively. That meant designing mornings that worked for my morning lark and my night owl, homework routines that took into account a child who needed complete quiet and one that walked around and stood to write. These structures allowed my children to relax, and when they were relaxed and at peace it was easier for us to connect as a family.
  2. Show faith and confidence in my kids’ abilities, so that they would learn to have faith in themselves and confidence in their ability to navigate their world.

Our kids need to know that we accept them for who they are right now, even if the “right now” is messy. When we communicate unconditional love and acceptance, we foster emotional health and strong parent child relationships. 

Young Adults Leave The Nest, But Not For Long.

 

 

I came up with a motto, a slogan to help me parent. And it was this: It is my job to make sure that when my children turn 18, I have trained them in everything that they need to learn so that they can open the doors, walk over the threshold, and enter young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. I have 18 years to prepare them. It is my job to teach them how to run their life so they don’t need me any longer. But so many kids leave home at 18, young adults, and find themselves at college and don’t know how to manage their lives, how to navigate their lives, how to make simple decisions, how to organize. And they’re forced back home. And I can’t think of anything worse for those kids to admit that they couldn’t make it on their own, or for their parents who have to say “come back home,” knowing that in some way it was their fault. If you find a child who has to come home because they couldn’t make it, this is a chance to start fresh. Look back and ask yourself what areas of this child’s life did you do for them because you thought it would be too hard or they would make a mistake or they would make a mistake and it was just easier if you did it for them. And teach them. It’s not going to be fun, because they see themselves as adults, but they already know that they’re missing some of the life skills that they need to be successful. Sit down, have a heart-to-heart, make a list start at the top, and teach them everything they need to now. Set a timeline that says, 6 months or a year from now we’re going to try it again. This is not the worst thing that will happen to you. Together we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get you ready to go this time. And you’re going to give it another shot.

PRE-ORDER your copy of The Straight Talk On Parenting HERE

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

Sexting. Some parents have difficulty just saying the word, never mind admitting that their child might – just might – be participating in it.  Our sweet, innocent 3rd and 4th graders have suddenly become tweens and teens and they are growing up in a world very different than the one most of us grew up in – a world surrounded by technology. Many children will not remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to a friend living half way around the world or the ability to see their grandparents each week via skype. These kiddos can receive an immediate and accurate answer to a question about pre-historic dinosaurs and link classrooms and share poems with students in Ghana and Kansas. This invaluable technology has also introduced our children to texting, social media, youtube, cyberbullying and yes, even sexting.  With the awesome comes the not so awesome.

As parents we can stay in denial and try to convince ourselves that we have the ability to protect and shield our kids from internet dangers like sexting, or we can get educated, grab our courage and meet our kids where they already are – cell phone in hand deciding in a split second whether or not to send a racy picture or post a decidedly inappropriate picture on social media. Contrary to popular belief, technology is NOT the problem. 

The problem is our lack of preparation around this issue, it’s the lack of intelligent conversation we have with our kids that is the problem and it is our fear of the unknown that is the biggest roadblock. Remember our job as parents is to teach, prepare and work along side our kids as they learn to navigate the world of technology filled with all the pluses and minuses.

Parents come to me confused on how to handle the issues surrounding their tween/teen and technology. This subject often either leads to power struggles between parents and their kids that negatively impact the relationship and the entire topic of responsible technology use gets lost in the mix of fighting and battling or it leads to a “if you can’t beat them, give up and let them” attitude with no structure, conversation or boundaries in place. It’s not unusual for me to ask a room full of concerned parents this question as a jumping off point: “What do you know about your child to ensure that you have set up a structure that will work for her?” Silence. “Uh, structure?” Often the story is, “My son turned 13 and all he wanted was a phone. All of his friends have them and he was dying for his own so he could text and stay connected.  Now, just a few months later, it’s a mess. The phone bill is sky high, he’s on the screen all the time, he’s neglecting homework and family. It’s a nightmare.”

Okay. Let’s back this bus up a bit and see if an analogy will make it clear where we get tripped up.

Before handing someone the keys to a car, that person has

  1. Reached a certain age.
  2. Passed drivers education.
  3. Practiced driving for hours with an experienced driver.
  4. Proven they can handle the responsibility of paying for a car or gas.

Right? And even if parents are scared to death that their son or daughter will get behind the wheel of a car and be in a serious accident, we can’t stop them.  We know this and so we accept it. We prepare our kids and we prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We don’t fight against it – we work with it.  And that is what makes the difference.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to preparing our kids to handle technology. In many cases, parents skip those steps and go right to the “car” – then realize that their child may not have the necessary skills to adequately navigate the tricky terrain of internet use.  When parents can reframe the idea of technology and create a plan for preparing themselves and their kids for its inevitable arrival, everyone wins.

With a specific concern like sexting, the situation becomes a bit more serious and as a result, a parent’s fear factor increases. The idea of talking openly and frequently with kids about sex is tough enough, now we are forced to combine sex and technology in the same conversation. No wonder parents are sidelining these conversations until they can no longer avoid them.  Here’s the thing, no matter what you do to prevent it, there is a strong likelihood that your child will either sext someone or receive a sext from someone. The goal is to come to terms with this and do what you need to do as a parent to prepare yourself so you can discuss the situation openly and honestly with your child and prevention, danger, recovery, restitution and healing from a humiliating experience.

Include technology in the conversations you have with your children about healthy and unhealthy relationships – sexual and not sexual. If you aren’t comfortable talking about the topic, how do you expect your child to open up and talk to you about it?  Our kids need to know we have the confidence to tackle any difficult conversation with love, respect and understanding.

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

  1. First, do what it takes to find the courage, to talk with your tween/teen about the various scenarios that might come up and how she/he might handle them.
  2. Ask questions. Find out about your teen’s cyber IQ. How tech savvy is she? Does she realize once something gets out there in cyberspace you cannot get it back? Or does she really think that once the image disappears from Snapchat it is gone for good?
  3. Work in other areas of life with your child to ensure that he has the tools to navigate tricky subjects. Does he accept responsibility? Does he value himself and others? Does he practice empathy and respect? Does he crave attention and long to fit in?
  4. Come to fair and reasonable guidelines with your child around technology use and include sexting in the conversation. Have a plan and stick to it. Remember your kids need to know they can trust you. Following through on an agreement demonstrates this. They may be mad at first, but the bigger message is – you do what you say, which means you can be trusted.
  5. Respect your child’s privacy. Have faith in your child’s ability to keep the agreements. This doesn’t mean turn a blind eye to what is going on, but it does mean that you don’t have an app that sends all your children’s texts to your phone, too. Finding out what is on your teen’s cell phone is about trust and respect. If you focus on those aspects of the relationship, your teen will invite you in – on her terms.
  6. Demonstrate your understanding that being a teen is hard enough; Let your child know that you understand and that the added element of technology, social media and sexting is one that you didn’t have to figure out when you were 12, 14, and 17-years-old. It’s more than just saying that you’re there if they need you. If your child does get in trouble, it is what you do next that matters most.

Does your tween/teen have the courage make their own choices and not succumb to peer pressure when it comes to sexting? What can you as the parent do to support your child’s independence in this area?

 

Resources on Sex and Kids

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to approach the topic of sex with your children.  I’ve read my share of books on the subject, and today’s blog post highlights two authors whose expertise is helpful to parents of boys and girls of all ages.

About Michael Thompson

An expert in child and family psychology, Dr. Thompson is the author of nine books and has consulted with hundreds of schools. In his thirty-five years as a clinical psychologist, he has developed incredible insight into the emotional and social development of boys in particular. Read more about Michael Thompson here.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of  Boys (with Dan Kindlon, Ph.D)

Discussing a nation of boys that is “emotionally illiterate”, Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer the question: “what do boys need that they’re not getting?”
Learn more

It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18 (with Teresa Barker)

In exploring the developmental, psychological, social, emotional, and academic life of boys, Thompson and journalist coauthor Teresa Barker identify key transitions in psychological and emotional growth, and the many ways in which boys attempt to define themselves.
Learn more

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children (with Cathe O’Neill-Grace and Lawrence J Cohen)

Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships are alternately intimate and intense, and cruel.  These two experts use a combination of research and their own experience in schools to give parents a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of children’s social behavior.
Learn more

About Leonard Sax

Dr. Sax is a longtime psychologist and family physician, and has worked with hundreds of schools and spoke on child and adolescent development in eleven countries.  He uses scientific research and his own experience as a parent and a doctor to gain insight into the unique challenges our kids face today.

Boys Adrift

Dr. Sax argues that a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys. Outside forces such as overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games, and overlooked endocrine disturbances are actually causing damage to boys’ brains.  The result is a generation of men who are less resilient and less ambitious than their older peers. However, Dr. Sax tempers his argument with simple remedies and action plans that parents can begin to implement right away – and includes inspiring stories of success.
Learn more

Girls On the Edge

Young women are at risk today. In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax shares stories of girls who look confident and strong on the outside but are fragile within. Sax provides parents with tools to help girls become confident women, along with practical tips on helping your daughter choose a sport, nurturing her spirit through female-centered activities, and more.
Learn more

Let’s Talk About Sex

Disclaimer: This post isn’t going to be for everyone, but because I am teaching an adolescent class and because the topic of sex, sexuality, intimacy, body image, and gender roles along with plain old “So how DO you talk to kids about all of this?” comes up during every class, I wanted to provide a quick tip list that will help parents address these sensitive subjects in a reasonable, rational and respectful way.

sex-talk1. Start early. The sooner you start talking to your kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, body image, and gender identification, the better chance you have of raising a thoughtful, well informed educated teenager who understands all of these subjects and feels comfortable talking about them – openly and honestly. Take into consideration your child’s age, and take into consideration the level of curiosity your children display. Use their questions as a way to gauge how much information to share. If they seem satisfied with your answer, stop. If they ask more, keep answering. Parents wait too long to talk to their kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, responsibility and healthy relationships and miss the opportunity to establish honest conversation when kids are in the curious stage of life.

Most children are exposed to pornography by the age of 9. The sooner you start the education process, the better informed your kids will be which means they will make smarter, safer decisions when it comes time to decide whether they are ready for sex or not and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship with.

2. Use real language, not pretend words for real body parts. If you are uncomfortable using the word penis or vagina, intercourse, homosexuality, and so on there is no way you are going to be able to talk to your kids about sex and their sexuality. One of the ways you can determine whether your children are ready to explore their sexuality is by how comfortable they are talking about their bodies and how they work. After all, if they can’t say the word penis or vagina, they probably aren’t ready.

Using made up, immature names only confuses kids and lets them know that you are uncomfortable with the entire subject. This means they will rely on other people for information and their education.

3. Get educated. Chances are your parents were not a wealth of information and you grew up with some questions and faulty beliefs of your own around the subject of sexuality and sex. Blow these limiting beliefs open and do the work necessary to be a viable resource for your kids. It is our responsibility to talk to our kids about difficult subjects. Particularly subjects that will affect them their entire lives. Find experts who resonate with you. Practice talking about things that make you uncomfortable and nervous. You want your kids to come to YOU, not the other 9 year-old on the bus, with questions. Be honest and provide accurate information. Don’t confuse education with values. Being educated often makes it easier for kids to live into the value of delayed sexual intimacy.

4. Make it a regular conversation, not a conversation that happens once a year. Sex and intimacy, gender identification and body image are a big part of life as an adult. There are many aspects to a healthy sex life with a life partner. It will take dozens and dozens of conversations, some light, some serious in order to educate our children on relationships, intimacy, sexuality, pleasure, monogamy, and so on. Put it on your calendar and take advantage of every opportunity to talk about sex.

5. Education breeds confidence. Children who are confident about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship (and that starts with the relationship they have with themselves), are better able to navigate healthy relationships when that becomes an integral part of their lives.

6. Encourage your kids to develop a healthy relationship with their own body. Yes, I know this is awkward, but studies show that people who are comfortable in their own skin, who understand their own bodies and can communicate openly about their own wants, needs and desires, are more likely to enter into healthy relationships. If you can’t bring yourself to talk to your kids, find someone you trust who feels comfortable and make that personal available to your child.

We are sexual beings. Whether you like it or not, it is your responsibility to teach your children about sexuality, sex, intimacy, healthy relationships and the time to start is when they are young and you have time to cover every aspect of what it means to be in a physical relationship with another human being.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. And have FUN.

Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

Would you like to say yes to your kids? Would you like to raise kids who take care of their things, manage their time, and treat their siblings with respect? By implementing, a simple strategy, Privileges and Responsibilities in your family, you can with confidence.

Listen to this podcast below and learn more. Let us know what you think or if you have any questions.

Kid Quotables via @Flockmother

Quotables

Last week, we shared an inspiring post by @flockmother that showcased how great it is when we invest in the relationship with our children.

This week, we’d like to share another wonderful post from her blog that showcases how our children do benefit and they do appreciate it when we, as parents, aren’t all “up in their business.”

If you’d like to read more from @flockmother, you can read her journey here: 12 1/2 Weeks: Parenting On Track- One Family’s Story.  If you’d like to learn more about the Parenting On Track Home Program, click here. (PS We only have a limited number left so look while you can! Now, on to the GOOD STUFF.  Shared with Permission From the Post, Quotables

You know you’re a Parenting-On-Track family when you hear:

  • “Mom, come on! Let’s go! I don’t want to be late for school!”
  • “She’s not willing to clean the sink, so I’m going to do it for her. Can I use the yellow sponge?”
  • “I found out that when I’m left alone, I like to clean. We cleaned the kitchen, now we’re going to clean the house.”
  • “Ok, if you’re willing to play Frisbee later, then I’ll get my work done now.”
  • (As I started to give advice): “Mom, please don’t. I’m so tired of people telling me how to do stuff all day at school.”
  • “I have a problem. I haven’t been getting to bed on time lately. I think if I go to bed too late there should be a consequence.”
  • “Mom, stop staring at me like you know I’m about to figure this out.”
  • “I take pride in having a mom who doesn’t tell me what to do.”
  • “My family is awesome.”

Read ALL the  inspiring quotables and other true stories, HERE.

Teen – Parent Relationship (Flockmother)

Today’s post was originally written and shared by Flockmother. It is re-printed below (with permission) or you can read the original post here. You can also follow her on twitter @flockmother.

Enjoy and be inspired!

From Twelve and a Half Weeks – Parenting On Track: One Family’s Story

“Recently, I took a “Leadership Workshop for Girls and Moms” offered by my friend and fellow Parenting-On-Track-er, Cindy Pierce. Since it was for middle school girls, only my 7th-grader, Ellen, was eligible to attend with me. One of the exercises Cindy had us do was write a letter about our hopes and appreciations for each other. For each letter she provided some structure (italics) and had us fill in the blanks. Since I know my Parenting-On-Track training greatly influenced my letter, I wanted to share it with you.

And if anyone reading this is concerned that my parenting style could result in children who feel alone and abandoned, perhaps Ellen’s letter will provide some reassurance (published with permission)”: 

Dear Mother,

I appreciate that you are always there for me when I need help, and you always listen to what I want and let me choose my own life.

I am proud of you for accepting the mess I give you. Without you I would not have an outlet for stress and probably would become a homeless person, and because of you I will always have a place to go. My greatest hope for you is that you find a good place to retire.

Love, Ellen

 Dear Daughter,

I hope that you grow up to be your own best friend, loving and trusting yourself. I want you to experience both success AND failure, and to always have confidence that you will figure things out.

I know you will learn to know what’s in your own heart and will also build the courage to stay true to yourself and say what you need in relationships. My greatest hope for you is that your love and respect for yourself will guide you in your continued love and respect for others and be the foundation for a life full of intentional courage.

Love, Mom

Like this post? Be sure to leave a comment on her blog!

Want to learn more about Parenting On Track Home Program? You’re in luck because it is ON SALE. Have a look HERE.

See the PIN, here!

 

Podcast: Dawn Lyons

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dawn Lyons recently from Lines By Lyons. Among other things we talked about her program for teens called “Write Steps 4 Teens”.

Dawn shared her “aha” moment which came while she was presenting to a group of adults about teens and their often times “anguished” filled experience. A man in the audience stood up and asked her if she worked with teens – and of course her answer was “well, I do now”. Thus began her journey into create a unique program with teens that integrates her deep compassion for them, her own experience as a teen and her love of writing which she uses in her work.

This is a remarkable woman whose deep respect for teenagers is apparent in the way she talks about them and her work with them.

Enjoy this touching and honest conversation.

Listen to Podcast here.

Podcast: Fresh Thinking on Tweens

The following is a guest post by Michelle Icard, founder of Athena’s Path, a curriculum that helps girls navigate the tricky middle school social scene and similarly, a Hero’s Pursuit for boys.

embarrassed.teenThere are a lot reasons we, as parents, have to fret about the scary, obnoxious, or heart-breaking qualities of middle schoolers these days. Kids often DO become increasingly defiant, attracted to risk, and hyper-emotional through the middle school years.  But there’s good reason for that behavior and if you can see past the rebellion to the reason why, a lot of good will shine through in the middle school years.  There’s gold in them there hills! Let me show you where to look.

Says who? I’m Michelle Icard, founder of the social leadership curriculum Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit.

My programs have been taught in 30 schools across the country to teach tweens how to navigate the tricky new social world of middle school. My website, www.MichelleintheMiddle.com is a resource for parents during this time of transition.  In my 9 years working with middle schoolers I have been humbled, inspired, and awed by the social and emotional capabilities of kids this age.  As the parent of a middle schooler myself, I know first-hand how important it is to reset our perceptions about middle school to help our kids reach their potential as independent thinkers, creative problem solvers, and empathetic friends.Are you telling me it’s good for my child to rebel in middle school? Yes.

Quick poll: How many of you would like your child to live in their own house someday? Everyone? Perfect. That’s the idea, isn’t it?  The fact is that you have built a cozy beginning for your child, but you are not your child’s future. Their future will be made in a world run by their peers. Figuring out how that social world will work and where they will fit in it is the key to their success.  It will be hard for your child to learn where they fit outside of your world. It will take some trial and  error, many mistakes, and a dash of rebellion to figure it all out.

I’m not suggesting you applaud when you catch your kid smoking behind the middle school! However, how you react to your child’s missteps will set them up for more success or more failure.

OK, how should I respond?

Here are some things you can do to help your child make the most of their middle school years:

  1. When your child makes a mistake – whether a bold act of rebellion or an awkward stumble onto the wrong path – express empathy first. “That must have been hard or painful or embarrassing” always comes before “You screwed up now how are you going to fix it?”
  2.  Be unemotional in your discipline.  You may cry into your own pillow at night but if you cloud your discipline with tears, anger, or despair, your child will likely misinterpret you. It’s a good idea to be firm, direct, and without emotion when talking about consequences. If you need to buy some time to achieve this say something like, “I need some time to figure out how to respond. I’ll talk to you about this tonight after dinner.”
  3. Help your child take risks. Create an atmosphere where your child is allowed to do things that feel thrilling, daring, scary, and unknown. Take them to an audition, help them start a business, go bungee jumping.  When you fill that need for risk with a positive source there is less chance your child will try to fill it through unhealthy activities.

Want to learn more? Visit me at www.michelleinthemiddle.com. Also, I love Facebook (too much).  You can hang out with me there at www.facebook.com/middleschoolrelief.

To hear a live conversation with Michelle, please click to listen to the Podcast, below:

Podcast: Interview with Michelle Icard

More About Michelle

In 2004, Michelle Icard launched Athena’s Path, a curriculum that helps girls navigate the tricky middle school social scene. Shortly after, she added Hero’s Pursuit for boys, and in 2011 launched her website for parents of middle schoolers: MichelleintheMiddle.com.

Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit have been implemented in 30 schools, in five states, and have impacted over 7,000 students. Over 250 teachers have been trained to implement the programs in schools. Michelle regularly speaks at schools and parenting events around the country.  She has also written curriculum for other national programs for adolescents, including Girlology and Girls Rock the House. Michelle lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, 12 year-old daughter, and 10 year-old son.

Articles: Teens, Trust and Respect

parenting styleThis week we have a few great links to share about shifting your thinking and setting yourself free from limiting beliefs. Here they are…

Think teens won’t talk? Think they shouldn’t be trusted?

Check out this clip by Katie Couric on  Katie’s Take. She shares a conversation with teens that shows us what teens want to hear from their parents, what parents don’t need to worry about and one thing they really want: TRUST.

Expert and psychologist, Wendy Mogel, mentions they also benefit from plenty of space to make mistakes. She says:

“The snapshot of your teenager at any given moment is not the epic movie of his or her life.”

For more on raising teens check out Radicalparenting.com – a website created by teens for their parents.

Question: Do You want to Raise an Obedient Child?

(Hint: No!) This post by @DrLauraMarkham will make you think about what you believe about kids who…lie, defy, talk back, and so on. Obedience for obedience sake isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In a society where bullying is such a big issue, kids who can stand up for their vision of who they are on the planet is a welcomed and well-timed skill. Let’s all think before we demand compliance over the big picture.

“Children who have been responded to, led to believe – in a healthy way – that their voice is valued, that all they have to do is object and action will be taken – they will push boundaries. And this is really healthy behaviour. Compliance? They’ve learned there’s no point arguing because their voice isn’t valued.”– Alison Roy

Talking Back: Why A Teen Who Talks Back May Have A Bright Future

Talking back = bad kid? Not at all. NPR’s take, HERE.

Takeaway: Effective arguing acted as something of an inoculation against negative peer pressure. Kids who felt confident to express themselves to their parents also felt confident being honest with their friends.

Again. This is training for saying no in the real world! [hr]

Bullying: Governor Shumlin weighs in. The message? “We have a role at home to make changes”

…and we agree! WE ALL HAVE TO STEP UP.

For the vast majority of those experiencing bullying, it will get better — but we all have a role to play in ensuring that they never go through this experience in the first place. – Read on Huffpost!

Follow Gov. Peter Shumlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GovPeterShumlin [hr]

Humiliation Parenting– Wrapping it Up

We know bullying is a big buzz issue and we just want to mention that we are not going through this for hot topics’ sake. There are so many connections to the choices we make at home and what we’re seeing all around us. Just keep going- empowering your children to make decisions, encouraging them to screw up and try again and guiding them to discover who they are– not what the world wants. Also, don’t forget that these pressures to “be like this” or “act like that” don’t stop as we move through our parenting journey! Remember you’re parenting the best you can for your child and nobody else should sway your thinking. We’re here to give you good information so you can continue to grow, learn and do your job!

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Watch Vicki on WCAX wrapping up some thoughts on Humiliation Parenting!

 

 

Teens and Tweens Are Awesome

I love teenagers and I am deeply offended when they get a bad wrap. Over the last couple of days I’ve either watched, listened to or read some inspiring and positive remarks about teen girls and teens in general. Here they are. Let’s support those individuals who also appreciate kids who just happen to be tweens and teens.

      1. Anne Curry of the Today Show, interviews Sarah Palin, Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor, who is the mother of four girls and author Haley Kilpatrick in a discussion on the difficulties of raising successful young women, the development of self-confidence and the role of the family.

Watch the interview.

2. 5 Minutes for Mom contributor, Jennifer Donovan applauds Melinda Rainey Thompsons book, I’ve Had It Up To Hear With Teenagers and her endorsement for life with teens that is full of adventure, fun, aha moments and humor. Read her review of the book or order it like I did.

3. And finally, from Charlotte Latvala from Parenting.com, “The 6 Best Things About Tweens.” Her post is witty, poignant and reminds me why I so loved having 5 teens in the house all the same time. Beyond that, she leverages several other experts and provides resources to parents of teens who want to enjoy this exciting, mysterious and always engaging time of life. Here are some excerpts from her blog from contributing experts:

Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D., author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. “Enjoy the changes and be aware that she is entering a new phase — don’t expect the same old behavior.”

“It’s simply less physically exhausting to be the parent of a tween,” says Jen Singer of Kinnelon, NJ, the creator of Mommasaid.net, a parenting humor and advice website, and mom of Nicholas, 12, and Christopher, 11. “My kids make their own lunches and their own beds. They’re self-cleaning. When we go skiing, I don’t have to run down the slope holding them in a harness. The day-to-day stuff is much easier.”

Celebrate each new task your kids can do, and get over any guilt you have that you’re slacking off by letting them take on more, says educator Annie Fox, author of the Middle School Confidential series. “Some parents mistakenly equate dependence with love,” she says. “They feel that ‘if he doesn’t need me, he doesn’t love me.’ But do you really want to be cutting your kid’s sandwiches when he’s thirty?”

The next time you are tempted to trash a teen, talk to someone who enjoys theirs – like me. You’ll be introduced to a side of teenagerhood that often times goes unnoticed. Oh, and just for the record, your style of parenting is 90% responsible for whether you enjoy or dread life with your tween so maybe you want to consider investing in a style that will make life enjoyable for all of you.

Learn more about or Register for the upcoming Adolescent Class in Middlebury, VT at Middlebury College.

Why Tweens Act Like a PITA

As parents, sometimes we hit a wall. We find ourselves wondering, how did I get here and who is this aggressive child that used to be so sweet and loving? After 20 years in parent education, I can give you three good reasons why your child is no longer willing to cooperate.

1. Your relationship is injured.

Somewhere in your daily dynamics, the child who once respected you or showed you affection, has been exposed to a rip, snag or tear in the fabric of its foundation. There is something far deeper than a power struggle over taking out the trash at play. How to fix and injured relationship is similar to fixing an injured leg – time and patience and relearning how to communicate. You might have to swallow some pride– somewhere along the way, the relationship got stuck– wiggle out delicately or you’ll only injure it further.

2. The Kid is Bored Out of her Gourd

And I don’t mean the kind of bored where he is idle and needs to find something to do. The kid is bored socially because she’s not involved in community, arts or something meaningful. Even if her calendar is penciled in through 2020, she could be completely disconnected to what she’s doing. Think of adults who get stuck in dead end jobs – they go stir crazy because nothing has meaning and they feel as though life is slipping by. Kids sense this as well! Keep trying to connect a child with something that has meaning, including jobs, community service, foreign language, music and more. Now think of the happy adults you know – they’re probably contributing to their community and feel largely connected to the people around them.

3. He Thinks you Don’t Trust him

Perhaps you’re meddling, doing-for, nagging and correcting how he does this, that and everything in between. If a kid is really on you at every interference, try backing off! Maybe, just maybe he wants you to expect more from him. Here’s where contributions and self regulation can help you out. He can do his own laundry and so he should. He can make his lunch, choose his clothes and decide when to get his homework finished. These are the tiny restraints we layer on our children that cause anger and rebellion. Shift away from the back and forth over tiny details and step back to see what happens.

Bottom line? Tweens are testing boundaries and making their place in the world. Their behavior is simply a reflection of how they got here and whether or not they feel confident, secure and capable. If they’re acting out, they’re telling you something loud and clear!

Holidays with Tweens

It’s the tweener week here at the Hoefenways, that’s blended for Hoefle & Hemenway, a name the kids came up with years ago when Iain and I met. Christmas is behind us. The presents are put away. The decorations are down. Three kids are home, one is due in on the 4th from Spain and another one arrives on the 6th from San Francisco.

I am holding steady as they say. This is the week that defines the holidays for us. It’s a time to celebrate life with children, who are more adult than anything else. It’s my time to dive into each of them and to re-establish contact in a new and meaningful way. Let’s face it, they aren’t the same people they were last year at this time.

I marvel at how smart, how funny, and how mercurial they are. I am awestruck at their humor, their insight, and their commitment to “showing up in their lives.” I am touched by their comments to me which include “you look hot in those jeans mom” by my 17-year-old daughter and “every kid should have a mom like you” whispered in my ear by my 15 year old, six-foot-tall son.

So here’s to the teens and the tweeners in our lives. These wonders of light and love.To my own children I say thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world, and sharing your thoughts, your aspirations, your fears and your dreams. Thank you for sitting on my lap, for letting me braid your hair, and sharing a quiet moment of reflection. Thank you for sticking with me through all my painful parenting faux pas.

Thank you for teaching me the Wii and encouraging me as I learn to hit a ball and almost wet my pants doing it. Thank you for giggling with me and not at me, as I learn that you don’t have to actually “play” tennis, in order to “play Wii” tennis.

Thank you for loading my iPod up with all new songs and for making me my own Taylor Swift CD. Thank you for trying on the dorky pants I bought you and not calling me “stupid head” because I got the wrong style, size and color.

Thank you for loving each other. For cuddling up together during The Grinch and letting me get a glimpse of you as small children, even if just for a moment. Thank you for fixing each other french toast and eating together around the table, something that happens less and less these days, as kids grow and some move out.

Most of all, thank you for choosing me as your parent.

For all you parents out there, who wonder what the world is like with five teens in the house – there is only one word to describe it – MIRACULOUS!

Do not waste a single moment with these magical beings. Before you know it, they will have moved on and you may find yourself trying to carve a spot in their new and exciting lives. Take a few moments, and look beyond the external expression of who they are and look into the hearts, the minds and the spirits of these young people.

There is much joy to be found in those sparkling eyes.

Happy Holidays!

Vicki
2009

What’s Really Going On?

This weekend, several people (my daughter from college in CA included) sent me a link to a story that made me stop and reality check what’s going on out there in the world, for our kids (and as a society, which is totally conflicted if you read through the comments). 14 year old Jonah Mowry puts this video up as a message “I’M NOT GOING TO KILL MYSELF. I JUST NEED TO GET THIS OUT HERE”.

As you watch:

1- Get a tissue. I wondered if his mom knew what he was doing, supported his way of expressing himself and was standing by to hold him when he finished making the video and posting it, or if she was absolutely clueless to this child’s struggle.

2- Ask yourself – if your child was to make a video of their life, right now, without any concern for how it would be received (by you or anyone else), what would they say?

3- If you don’t know, or you think you might now or even if you are absolutely positively sure that you know, find out anyway. My experience, not only with my own 5, but with another thousand or so parents, is that we rarely know what’s really going on in the lives of our kids.

It shouldn’t take a heartbreaking clip like this for us to recognize that we need to be emotionally available for our children- and their friends if they’re heading down this road. Let’s pay more attention. All of us.

His twitter handle:
@JonahMowryReal

No Good or Bad Choices

    As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. -Buddy Hackett

Do we really trust our kids with the choices they make? I guess the answer is often sure, if I think it’s the “right choice” for my kid.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t like dinner so I’m not going to eat it.
Parent: Bad Choice – I’ll make you something else or I will nag you and bribe you till you eat. Okay.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t want to bring my lunch today.
Parent: Bad Choice – You’ll get hungry and then you can’t learn so I will pack it for you and stuff it in your backpack.

Kids Choice: I hate soccer and I don’t want to play any longer.
Parent: Bad Choice – You promised your coach and you will let the team down (2nd grader here). You will play this year even if you hate it and next year we can discuss it.

Kids Choice: I don’t want to wear pj’s to bed, I want to wear my jeans, so I am ready for school.
Parent: Bad Choice – You will uncomfortable and wrinkly in the morning and it’s just silly.

You get the picture. We say we want our kids to make choices, but as adults, we have decided what the “right” choice is for the child.

Here is the thing though – there are no good choices or bad choices, choices are just that – choices.

A choice will either move you closer to or further away from what it is you want. Parents are constantly commenting on their kid’s choices. Instead of helping the kids learn about the process of choice and the power of choice, we interrupt the learning by judging whether the choice is good or bad. Here is a story to illustrate the power of choices and how they often reveal the true goal of the person making them.

    When one of my kids was 7 she decided (her choice) to play soccer. About half way through the season, I went to a game and watched as she danced and shuffled around the field, never really running toward or going after the ball. After the game I asked her about her overall decision to play soccer (I was getting the sense that she didn’t really like soccer). She looked at me – serious as all get out, and promptly stated, “Oh mom, soccer is the best, and things are going great. I decided that this year, my goal was to keep 6 feet between me and the ball at all times. I don’t want to get hit with that thing. Have you ever been hit by a soccer ball? It hurts.” Enough said.

Choices, as I have said on numerous occasions, are about more than blue boots or red boots, coat or no coat, do it now or do it later. Choices move us forward in our lives and give us a sense that we are in charge of our lives in the most fundamental way.

Anyone, particularly a child, who is WILLING to make a choice, should be congratulated for having the courage to make it. And let’s not forget, that each time our kids make a choice, the better they get at making them, so lets give them lots of practice.

Facing Fear at Any Age

Dr. Heather posted a very useful article on her blog about Preschoolers and Fears.

Read article here.

My only question is based on the idea of using “monster spray” and other totems to repel monsters. In my experience this practice can be counterproductive. Parents tell their kids that monsters aren’t real, but then act like they are by looking under beds, waving magic wands or spraying monster spray in the room. Seems a bit confusing if you ask me.

It would be more helpful to ask your child a couple of questions:

    1. Can you show me where the monster is? Let them explore and show you where it’s hiding (hmmm, can’t seem to find it at the moment, mum). There is power in actually looking for what you think you fear. Opening closet doors, looking under beds, and behind a pile of stuffed animals will reassure a child much more convincingly and quickly than a parent waving wands or spraying twinkle dust in a room.

    2. What is the difference between your imagination and reality? Yes, I know it’s a big question, but you can break it down and help your child learn to distinguish the difference. I have talked with dozens of creative people and they all agree, imagination is stimulated when there is a balance between living in our imagination and being in touch with reality.

So the next time your wee one suggests that there are monsters living anywhere in their world, take a moment to reflect on how you want to address this concern and the fact that a “monster” at 3 could be “anxiety” for a 13 year old.

Radical Parenting & Your Teen

As part of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program, parents receive 6 free Web Events throughout the year. Last night we hosted a 60 minute Web Event on Adolescence with special guest, Vanessa Van Petten of Radical Parenting (she may sound familiar to many of you as I have recommended her on more than one occasion) and 2 of her interns, Sydney 15, and Emily 13. Because this web event was filled with such great information, we decided to share it with everyone. Don’t worry forum members, we’ll add in another freebie.

Listen to the replay!

Here are a few of the highlights and how investing in the Parenting On Track™ program when your kids are young, makes raising a teen a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone concerned.

Teens want parents to know the following:

  • Don’t take the complaining or disagreeing of teens personally. It’s usually just a way for them to vent and they rarely mean anything hurtful.
  • Kids do listen to their parents – it just isn’t cool to look too interested or admit it.
  • A good relationship with their parents is as important to teens as it is to their moms and dads.

Enter Parenting On Track™ – The basis for the program; relationships built on mutual respect, cooperation, open and honest communication and a solid foundation that can absorb the constant changes our kids experience. You don’t enter the teen years in good shape, if you haven’t invested heavily in the relationship when the kids are young. Another Parenting On Track™ technique that is sure to pay off in the long haul – ignoring the cheap drama of a 3 year old which makes it possible to listen to a teen without getting worried, annoyed, angry or “hooked” into the emotion of the moment. Instead, Parenting On Track™ parents are trained to appreciate where their kids are emotionally at any given moment, the confidence to allow the kids to work through those emotions whenever possible, and the ability to “not” take what is said personally.

What fractures the parent/teen relationship?

  • Treating teens like they are still babies.
  • Imposing the same rules you established in elementary school on a 15 year old.
  • Embarrassing them repeatedly and then not owning up to it or apologizing for doing it.

Enter Parenting On Track™– Vanessa said something that really struck me “Re-evaluate agreements with your kids on a regular basis”. This is where Creating a Roadmap, Implementing Privileges and Responsibilities and Utilizing the Family Meeting come in. Each of the 3 tools ensures that parents are growing with their kids and that there is a balance between growing independence and reasonable boundaries.

What’s it like growing up in the 21st Century?

  • It’s tougher than parents think.
  • Technology plays a huge role and kids have to learn to navigate an ever changing landscape.
  • Unrealistic expectations from parents, teachers, friends, and coaches add more pressure to an already tough stage of life.

Enter Parenting On Track™ – A major theme that runs through all the work we do here is this: To ensure we, as parents, allow our children an opportunity to develop the mental muscle necessary to grow up in the 21st century feeling confident and with the skills necessary to navigate their lives effectively. And to allow our children the freedom to tell us to “back off” when we begin imposing our ideas on how they should run their lives so as not to overwhelm them or send the message that we are not pleased with the decisions they are making.

And one particularly helpful hint Vanessa shared that really hit home for me. Evidently teens don’t appreciate it when parents disguise a suggestion with a question – for example – “Hey do you think it might be a good idea if you did a little extra credit to get your grades up?” Ha! Busted. Sorry kids. I didn’t know there was a name for that. Instead she says – be transparent, ask honest questions and wait until your child begins the brainstorming process. And again, Parenting On Track™ encourages families to help kids articulate problems quickly and spend their energy looking for creative solutions.

I want to thank all 3 of these extraordinary young women, particularly Sydney and Emily for sharing their thoughts, insights and wisdom. I hung up the phone feeling the world was indeed, in very capable hands with these 3 at the helm.

Enjoy the replay!

The Bullied Child

Last week I introduced Barbara Coloroso’s definition of both Bullying and the Bully from her book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander; From Preschool to High-School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. If you missed it or would like to learn more, go check out last week’s blog post.

At the end of the post, I suggested that parents take a week to observe and learn from their children’s behavior, and resist the temptation to either assess too quickly or jump in with action if they suspect their child might be a bully.

Today I introduce the Bullied and again, suggest that instead of “doing” anything, parents begin to look for any signs that their child might experience bullying in their daily lives.

The Bullied

The truth is, it could be anyone and often times is – anyone. No longer is the bullied child easy to recognize. Bullied children come in all shapes and sizes, ages and races, religious backgrounds and physical attributes. They can be athletes, academics, socially comfortable, popular, awkward, introverts or anything in between.

What accounts for a children being bullied isn’t so much their characteristics as much as it the bully’s need to “single out a recipient of verbal, physical, or relational aggression, merely because they are different.” (Page 42)

Imagine for a moment – being different as the precursor for a child being targeted for bullying. How could any parent adequately prepare for this possibility? It is literally impossible for parents to “be on the look out” for a child who fits the profile of a potentially bullied kid when there is no profile.

But at least parents can rely on their children telling them that they are experiencing bullying, right? Not so.

In her book, Barbara asserts that many children who are bullied, avoid telling their parents that bullying is occurring in their life and worse, to what extend they are being bullied. Her list of reasons why children don’t talk with parents or authority figures includes:

  • Shame
  • Fear of retaliation
  • No one can help
  • No one will help
  • It’s part of growing up
  • Adults are in on it
  • False sense of loyalty

Barbara does suggest that there are signs that kids are being bullied and if parents are informed and willing to consider that their child might indeed be experiencing bullying – although they don’t fit the profile – then a parent can intervene to stop the cycle of violence.

Here are just a few signs that might indicate something is going on.*

  • Abrupt lack of interest in school
  • Drop in grades
  • Withdraws from family and school
  • Taking parents money
  • Beeline to the bathroom when they return home
  • Sad, sullen, angry or scared after a phone call or email
  • Acts out of character
  • Disheveled, torn or missing clothes

*For a complete list, please refer to p.50-53 in Barbara Coloroso’s book.

What’s most disturbing is that many kids who find themselves bullied, eventually, become the bully.

“If the assumption made by teenagers is that potential attackers in their schools are kids who were picked on- and the statistics seem to bear this out-then keeping children from becoming victims of bullying would substantially reduce the risk of future acts of violence and would certainly reduce the number of kids, who, choose death over facing the brutality of their peers.” (Page 61)

Even if you are living with a child who seems to “fit in” at school and until now, you had no reason to suspect they might be on the receiving end of bullying, be on the look out for signals that you might have overlooked a message your child may be trying to send you.

As you follow along with this series, take some time to consider how you will talk with your child about the subject as you learn more in the coming weeks.