Archive for January, 2010

Your Bullied Kid Is Not Alone

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Bad news – you just found out your kid has been bullied at school.  Good news – they are not alone.  So many social problems and mental health problems are hidden from the general perception of the public.  People know depression is “out there” but have no idea how many people living on their street are affected by it.  Likewise, people understand that bullying is somewhere in schools around the world, but may have no idea how deep the problem is in their local school district.

Your kid probably feels pretty isolated already, and may think they are the only one at school getting this kind of treatment.  They are probably wrong about this.  Bullies want their targets to feel isolated and hopeless.  They want their targets to feel powerless to change their situation.  And with that kind of defeated attitude, a bully could ideally maintain power over their target for a long time.  If a bully or group of bullies is brazen enough to do it once to one child, they are certainly going to find other targets.

So yes, technically, there has to be a “first target” for any bully.  But after getting up a little confidence, many bullies move on to more than one target.  So even if you ask your child, “Is there anybody else these bullies are harassing?” you are probably not getting the whole story.  They may be bullying kids from different grades, different classrooms, their siblings, or even kids in their neighborhood that go to a different school.  Ask your child how much they know about the bullying bothering other kids, but don’t rely solely on your child’s report.

Contact your school about the situation, even if you think you have handled it pretty well.  Teachers, counselors, bus drivers, lunch staff, and principals are on the front lines of social struggles between kids.  As much as you might want to follow your child around all day and fend of potential bullies, you can’t be everywhere at once!  Hopefully, your school takes bullying seriously enough to know how to help …

Diary Of Depression Day

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The other day I woke up in a somewhat fearful depressed state of mind.  I am not entirely sure why it came on just then, but I had a day ahead of me and I felt like I was painted into a corner.  I recorded my thoughts a few times, not to wallow in them but to capture them.  I don’t have a diary, but that’s the description that seemed to fit best.  I was hoping that if I wrote my thoughts and feelings down, they would go away faster or at least make some sense to me later.  I’m not sure either thing happened. 

Anyway, this is my best shot at “real time depression” to let you know what it’s like to be ambushed by your motions when life is otherwise generally in good shape – depression leftovers, if you will.  It’s unedited, perhaps a little rough in some places, but it’s how it came out in the moment.  I hope you can appreciate the raw expression for what it is.

My “Diary Excerpt”

I can’t be sure where my safe spot is inside me.  I have people around me that I love and that love me, but there is also fear.  I fear and regret disappointing others, either in the past or the future.  I’m trying to fake it today, knowing that I don’t want to alarm anyone to how close I am to tears.  A few striking comments echo in my mind, providing evidence that I’ve already tread on thin ice with one person.  Or so it seems. 

Right now, I can’t tell how seriously I’m supposed to take anyone’s opinions today.  I can tell that I’m way too absorbent, too permeable to other people’s emotions and comments.  It wouldn’t take much to amplify my own fears and insecurities today, causing them to spill out in unstoppable tears. 

The more I don’t do about the problem, the bigger it seems to get.  And if I would try something to make the problem better, my worry is that my most feared personal rejection will be confirmed.  By saying …

Self Discipline A Lifelong Gift

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

The Gift of Self Discipline

As parents, we put our kids through plenty of rigmarole.  Brush your teeth, clear your dishes, pick up your dirty clothes, sit down and do your homework, do your music practice, call me before you leave.  A constant stream of commands flow out of our mouth.  I have never said so many declarative sentences as when I’ve been a parent trying to keep three young ones in line.  And what is the hopeful payoff in the end?  A sense of self discipline, their OWN voice barking orders in their head when mom and dad (or teachers) aren’t around.

I really do grow tired of giving directions so much, but I know it works.  Despite the annoying repetition, I do notice that in many areas my girls need less and less direction over time.  I may still need to initiate the action, but they can go on auto pilot for many tasks now.  Some, I will admit, still don’t sink in very quickly.  For one daughter, I’ve resigned to repeating myself about manners until she graduates from high school.  After that, she’s on her own! Thankfully, my girls do many things without nearly that level of attention from me.

For example, one of my daughters is just starting piano lessons.  She has dabbled a little bit with my help and had a few random lessons from one of my aunts when we are in her town.  But it was high time she got her own teacher here and started weekly lessons.  For now, she is excited because it is new and she has a keyboard in her room.  However I know that even the most enthused and talented musicians eventually can’t stand practicing at times.  They would rather do anything else but that some days.  However, because they have good self discipline, they do it regardless of their other wishes.  I even told my daughter something to that effect. 

I didn’t want to scare her too much into thinking she shouldn’t like practicing, but I did want her to understand reality …

Boyfriend and Girlfriends In Junior High

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Dating In Junior High

As the mom of a tween, the time will eventually come when boys and girls in my daughter’s class will really start noticing each other in ways they didn’t before.  And sure, it may already be happening some.  But elementary school has a different feel than junior high, middle school, or whatever you might call that place a few years before high school.  Social rules change, appearances matter more, kids are starting to, ahem, develop in new ways.  Adolescence shows up front and center.

Here’s what prompted me to think about this tonight.  Two moms near me today were talking about the difference between fifth grade and sixth grade, specifically about how more girls were texting their sons now that they were one year older.  Last year he didn’t care, this year he’s good with it.  The way they were speaking about it, they seemed to think it was somewhat cute.  I wasn’t sure what to think.

Back in the day, we used to communicate the old fashioned way – through passing hand-written notes.  Alright, so that sounds kind of archaic now, but you didn’t have to pay X amount of dollars a month to do it.  However, an advantage of texting is that you could potentially track exactly what your kids are communicating with each other. 

This wasn’t meant to become a post just about texting, but rather what parents permit their kids to do regarding dating or “going out” at that tween age.  I also know that I put some restrictions on my girls watching TV shows that focus too much on dating.  Not that I’m going to lock them in their rooms until they are eighteen, I just don’t think they need too much of that when they are ten and under. 

This is where parents can fall into herd mentality in some ways.  Other kids are into the dating thing, so maybe it is OK for their kids to do it too.  And what constitutes dating at that age?  That really seems to vary from parent …

Family Conflict Power Struggles

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Families are much like tiny nations.  They each have a financial structure, social structure, and a power structure.  Unfortunately, the younger members of these “family nations” tend to make a run for power on a regular basis.  Like a government coup every other day.  No wonder parents get so stressed!

These attempts at asserting power are a very normal part of a child’s life.  They don’t automatically know how to handle their own initiative and control.  Families provide a safe environment for kids to test these out and learn from their mistakes.  Despite the turmoil this can cause families on a daily basis, kids can and usually do improve as they grow older.

The way a parent handles each situation in the moment makes a lot of difference.  But it’s also important how they prepare for them in advance.  Rules, expectations, the kids’ respect for authority, parenting style – these all exist whether a ruckus is happening or everyone is asleep.

If you quizzed your kids right now, what would they say about the rules?  What would they say about how much freedom they have to do what they want?  What would you say about how effective your rules are and how you enforce them?

Power struggles happen when kids rise up in some way against a parent and the parent attempts to wrestle the power back.  You may particularly experience this if you have a child with a strong personality, if you have been fairly permissive as a parent, if you have a teenager, or if your child is going through some type of stressful time.  Notice the very different circumstances that can lead to a power struggle. 

A mistake parents often make is that they struggle with their child.  Rather than doing something swift and decisive to take the power back quickly, they often go back and forth with their child in some way.  Arguments, bargaining, giving in to a child’s outrage – all of these things keep a child engaged in the struggle.  Unfortunately, the longer this pattern has gone on, the longer it may take …

Learning Parenting From Your Parents

Monday, January 18th, 2010

No matter what happened to you during your formative years, your parents’ parenting styles are not your destiny.  Have you grown up thinking you were afraid you would repeat all the mistakes your parents made?  Or on the flip side, did you have great parents and you are concerned you couldn’t live up to what they did? If you are a parent now or might soon be one, take a minute to think about this.

Here’s the big liberating secret about parenting – you are your own person.  Yep, that’s it.  No matter how awesome, horrible, or average your parents were, you are still a completely new individual with entirely new mistakes to make.  Can you still repeat history and drag your kids through problems similar to your own childhood?  Yes, that is certainly possible.  It is even more likely if you don’t take a very close look at those problems and how they came about. 

If you were brought up in a home with alcoholism, what have you done to prevent you or your spouse or partner from becoming an alcoholic?  If you have been diagnosed with anxiety like your mom was, do you have a good treatment plan in place so it will have a minimal impact on your family?  If you grew up in a home where the adults had chaotic and unhealthy relationships, how have you or will you go about choosing a partner wisely?  You see, it’s what you learn from these past problems that is so much more important than the actual problems themselves.  Blindness to your own vulnerability is what puts you at risk.

This is even true about people afraid they can’t live up to their parents’ great efforts.  The lack of confidence is the problem, not some level of perceived perfection that can’t be attained.  You aren’t supposed to be your parents anyway.  They were their own people (I know, weird to think of them that way) as parents and they raised you in a different era than you would be raising children.  Even though you may feel like you couldn’t …

Kids Relearn About Life As They Develop

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Kids Keep Learning About Life

I’m going to hearken back to my earlier post on bullying and changing times.  As I’ve been reflecting on my writing experience, I’ve had a few more thoughts to share.

My oldest is in fourth grade.  No longer a little kid, but not yet a teenager.  Captain Obvious says this is why we call them ‘tweens.  Kids this age are now among the oldest in the social microcosm.  They are also starting to develop their abstract thinking just a tiny bit, enough to allow them a little personal reflection from time to time.  They go from living moment-to-moment to including a more stable historical perspective in their daily lives.  This is all the more apparent to me since she has younger siblings going through the same paces a few years behind her.

While this can be a decidedly awkward time, I’m reminded about how much social learning goes on at this time.  Kids are paying attention to things they hardly noticed before like how they and others look.  If you can see past the judgment aspect of this, it’s fascinating that their brains are capable of more attention to detail.  They are literally relearning what their environment looks like all the time.

They are also learning some truths about society.  Everyone may be expected to act nice to each other, but not everyone will be.  And even acting nice to someone who tends to be mean doesn’t “fix” that person’s meanness.  Being kind is still a good thing to do, but not just because the teacher says so.  It starts to be what their character is about, how they choose to treat people because they are internalizing what is right and wrong.

Gut wrenching at times, but totally fascinating!  I challenge you to take a look at your kid, no matter what their ages (even adult kids) and see what you think they are learning about life right now.  Just take an isolated look at their current learning process about getting through life, whether it seems successful or not.  …

What's Your Definition of Homework Help

Friday, January 15th, 2010

This morning my daughter started falling apart emotionally because she realized she couldn’t possibly finish a homework assignment.  It was due today and she remembered to start it just before bed.  When she asked for my help, I waited to see what she wanted before I accepted.  I’m sure I’ll be facing this situation more and more since my children are growing.  I’d like to share my thoughts on this and ask what your boundaries are on the subject.

She wanted me to do the same thing she was doing so it could get done faster.  When I heard that, I backed off.  I gladly offered to check her work when she was finished with part of it, but that was my limit.  As her emotions bubbled over and the wailing began, I had to just check and recheck with myself that I was holding the line I intended to.

I told her that she was asking me to do something that she wouldn’t have asked if she’d had enough time.  That was “doing homework for her” in my book and only done in the interest of the deadline.  I said I couldn’t do that, and the wailing went up a notch.

It was easy for me to see the big picture, but she was focused on the obvious time-deadline conflict.  She’s a great student and holds herself to a high standard, but her emotions were pushing her to ask something that
wasn’t appropriate.

Occasionally, she’s had similar trouble with assignments she just didn’t understand – she got impatient and wanted way too much help.  This has been more fuzzy for me.  Is giving ideas for a paragraph too much?  Is writing out several sample sentences too much?  I try to give just enough to illustrate the point, but not so much that she’s just copying me.  However, I have sometimes wondered where that line is.  The “help me meet a deadline” request seems much more clear-cut.

Back in earlier generations, I’m sure plenty of parents helped their kids a little too much on their homework at times.  This is …

Times Have Changed For Bullying

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Some time ago, someone in school was mean to my kid. Back in the day, this kind of thing happened to me a lot.  As a scrawny kid, I got called a person from a certain starving country all the time.  I won’t mention the country because it feels mean just typing it.  I didn’t tell the teacher this.  We just had to live with name calling for the most part.  There were some fairly obvious “trouble makers” in school, and you could tell on them without much problem.  Other than that, I think we were expected to work it out ourselves.  And that didn’t necessarily mean the problems got resolved.

Now, teachers encourage kids to tell if someone is calling the names, no matter  if it’s been fifty times or one.  No matter if the kid has a history of trouble or not.  Even though I had a lot of great teachers, I just didn’t hear that message in school.  Unless it got physical, nothing much was done.

I’m thankful for this new culture in schools.  Let me be clear – I think people can get way to PC with making everything so bland and unoffensive.  That is way too much coddling, too much over-protection about things that could provoke a difference of opinion.  Promoting an emotionally safe culture in school is different.  Being excessively PC is not the same as protecting a child from targeted ridicule.

All year long the kids are told how they are expected to treat each other in school.  Not only that, teachers make it clear what kids are supposed to if they are on the receiving end of taunting.  My kid is still reluctant to be in the spotlight, but she is really clear about how the teachers would help her.  She has no mistake that she’d be taken seriously.  I like that.  If I’d known that clearly that my teachers would help me with name calling and taunting, perhaps I could have avoided some emotional struggles.

All in all, I have come out just fine.  However, I am grateful my …

Siblings Sharing Rooms

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

In most families, siblings will share rooms for at least a short while in their growing up years.  Some siblings don’t get their own room until they fly the coop for good!  Get ready – this is one of those “audience participation” posts.

I put up a few ideas and then you readers are encouraged to comment on what I’ve posted and especially to add your own suggestions – whatever worked and DIDN’T work.  There are probably as many different ways to help siblings successfully share rooms as there are people who read this blog, so I’m excited.  Ready?

I shared a room with my sister when she was a baby.  I was a little less than completely thrilled, but I was four and I had no say in the matter.  The most glorious day of my young life to that point was the day I got my own room.    I got my dad’s old den with the brown and rust shag carpet.  Before that, can’t comment much on my parents’ methods for helping us get along.  I do remember enduring a few nights when nobody could find the pacifier for my sister.  Those were some long nights.

My daughters have all shared rooms in some form or another until a few months ago.  We moved to a larger home and each now have their own bedrooms.  However, we have had many years finding ways to share and have peace.  They even all three shared a room for about six months while we stripped down two rooms in our old house to create a bedroom for our oldest.  That was something.  A set of bunk beds and a twin, along with three dressers and one tiny closet.  I guess that will prepare them someday for dorm life.

When the girls were smaller, I tried to give equitable space for each kid regarding toys, clothing, closet space, and sleeping/lounging.  The bunk bed made it tough to hang out on the top, so we worked it out so the top bunk kid could have some space on the bottom bunk …


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