SchoolFamily Voices

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This guest blog post is by Erika Cook, a high school administrator who works directly with parents and students.

Help Teens Solve Their Own ProblemsWhen your teen has a problem at school, what should you do? Perhaps your child has a streak of missing assignments, feels the teacher made a grading error, or just plain doesn’t get along with the teacher. It was easy in elementary school because it was natural just to call the teacher. However, once your child reaches middle school, it is harder to know when to get involved as a parent and when you should encourage your child to speak up for himself at school.

Oftentimes, your teen can see his teacher outside of class to review a grade, discuss learning needs, or schedule good old-fashioned help, which should solve most issues. Most teachers promote the idea of teens depending on themselves for their learning; it’s seen as an important life skill.

When talking to your teen about seeing her teacher, a few of these possible talking points might be nice conversation-starters. (Remind her not to forget to use “please” and “thank you.”)

  • Will you review the important causes of the Civil War?
  • Is it possible to go over the quiz questions so I can learn from my mistakes?
  • Since I have a hard time taking notes, do you have any graphic organizers I could use?
  • I am missing multiple-choice test questions; what advice do you have?
  • Would you look at my paper and give me some feedback on how to improve C-level writing?
  • How would you suggest I study for the test on Hamlet?
  • How do I improve my performance during tryouts next season?
  • What should be my next step to keep improving in this sport?
  • What resources are available for me to get help in biology?

When and where should your child approach the teacher? You might want to brainstorm with your teen about a good time to talk to the teacher. Encourage your child to see her teacher during the teacher’s designated preparation periods or before or after school. Students don’t always realize that their teachers are very busy right before and after class. And help your child figure out where the teacher might be at the right time. Sometimes it isn’t as easy as one classroom; a lot of teachers travel from room to room and have a desk in a shared office.

To help your child practice in advance how the conversation will go, you can role-play and pretend to be the teacher. This could help build up your child’s confidence to address the situation. One important aspect for your teen to remember is to focus on the problem and not skirt the issue.

Ask your child whether he has tried talking to anyone else at school about the problem. This might include a counselor, social worker, resource teacher, or administrator. If it makes sense, you should encourage your teen to make a “friend” at the school to help with this and future issues.

These tips for guiding your teens to solve their own problems, while understanding when and how you should get involved, will hopefully help you and your child solve school issues. Just remember, teachers and parents are on the same team; everyone wants your student to succeed. If you use respect, gratitude, and kindness with teachers, you and your teen should have excellent results.

Erika Cook

Erika Cook holds a PhD in educational policy and leadership and an MA in curriculum. She serves as an associate principal at one of America’s top-ranked high schools, and she spends her days educating parents and students about the high school world. She has taught in classrooms ranging from special needs to Advanced Placement and was the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships.

UPDATE: 03/12/12

Have you heard about “Bully”?

If you haven’t, you will. And then you can decide if you'll take your kids to see it. "Bully" is a documentary film produced by the Weinstein Co., which tells the stories of what really happens to children—and their families—as a result of relentless bullying.

Filmmakers followed three students who are bullying victims—Alex, 12, from Iowa; Kelby, 16, from Oklahoma; Ja’meya, 14, from Mississippi—over the course of the 2009/2010 school year. They also followed David and Tina Long from Georgia, parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long who ended his life after years of being bullied; and Kirk and Laura Smalley of Oklahoma, whose 11-year old son Ty took his own life after years of bullying abuse. The film follows Kirk as he starts Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying program comprised of a series of silent vigils, which he hopes will draw attention to the bullying crisis in the U.S. and lead to anti-nationwide bullying legislation.

The film won’t be released until Friday, March 30, but it’s been in the news lately because of the “R” rating it was given by the Motion Picture Association of America—a rating that has infuriated producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein appealed the rating to the MPAA three weeks ago, but the organization refused to lower the rating to PG-13 due to the film’s harsh language—language that reportedly consists of 6 uses of the “F” word used during a bullying incident caught on film. What do these rating actually mean? According to the MPAA’s ratings site, an “R” rating means: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.”A PG-13 rating means: “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”



 SchoolFamily.com wants to hear from you!

Do you feel the film's rating should be changed? If the rating was PG-13 would you let your middle school and/or high school child see it? If the R rating stands, will you take your child to see the film?

Please share your thoughts with us by commenting below!


Numerous teen groups, non-profits organizations, and individual teens are lobbying the MPAA on Weinstein’s behalf, by collecting signatures, launching Facebook pages, releasing statements, and Tweeting about the film’s rating and why they want it changed to PG-13. Why? So that middle school and high school kids can go see the film. As any parent of a ‘tween or teen knows, attending a movie with Mom and Dad just isn’t cool. Perhaps more importantly, a PG-13 rating would mean the movie could be shown in schools. One high school student collected thousands of signatures and was invited to appear on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week, where DeGeneres pledged her support to the ratings appeal and signed the petition herself. “I think it’s an important movie and I think it can save lives,” DeGeneres said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has also supported the film, featuring it on a recent episode on his show. Cooper is a longtime advocate of anti-bullying programs.   

In the meantime, Weinstein has announced that his company may consider releasing the film without a rating, effectively boycotting the MPAA. That, in turn, has infuriated theatre owners. In response to Weinstein’s statement, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has warned Weinstein that it will urge its members to give the film an “NC-17” rating—“No One 17 and Under Admitted”—which is even more restrictive than the film’s current R rating.

Since many students who are learning disabled are often targets of cruel bullying, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a sponsor of the documentary, is joining the call for the rating change.

In an email sent to SchoolFamily.com, James Wendorf, executive director of the NCLD, had this to say about the film’s R-rating:

“[The] National Center for Learning Disabilities fully supports efforts to reduce the R rating currently assigned to the film ‘Bully’ and bring it to a broader audience. Bullying is nothing less than a crisis in this country, with 13 million American children waking up every morning fearing abuse from their peers.

“It is a fact NCLD knows all too well. Sixty percent of children with learning disabilities and other special needs say they have been seriously bullied, and that is why we joined with other special needs advocacy organizations to provide support for this vital film.

“Until parents understand this crisis and children and teens see and own the consequences of their behavior, there is little hope for improvement.”

UPDATE: 03/12/12, 10:52 A.M.: Due to the urging of Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the president of the MPAA, will take part in a panel discussion this Thursday, March 15 in Washington, D.C., along with “Bully” producer Harvey Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch. The film will be shown to a group of teachers and principals invited from schools in the Washington area, followed by their participation in the panel discussion.

Tips for Parents on How to Prevent Bullying

The National Center for Learning Disabilities realizes that bullying involves not only the victim, but also the one doing the bullying, and those who witness the bullying but don’t do anything about it. These tips from the NCLD can help parents figure out what to do:

  • Stop bullying before it starts. Let everyone at your child’s school know that you are on the prowl for signs of bullying and that you expect everyone else to do the same. Preventing and stopping bullying is a shared responsibility, and one that is not voluntary. Ask to see the school-wide no-bullying policy and ask that the details regarding recognizing and reporting, consequences, and prevention activities be shared frequently with parents and faculty.
  • Use the word “bullying” with your child. Make sure they know what it means. They may not know that the hurtful behavior they are being forced to endure is wrong, mistaking it for “attention” or “acceptance” from peers. If your child is the one doing the bullying, help him to understand the negative impact it has on his status. And if your child is a bystander when bullying is taking place, help her to know what options she has—doing nothing not being one of them—without fear of being targeted herself.
  • Help your child know what to do. Assure him that he will not get in trouble. The perceived consequences of “tattling” could be keeping your child from sharing his bullying experiences. Help your child know the difference between “tattling” and “reporting an incident of bullying.” This is equally important for the children who are being victimized, those who are the aggressors, or those who are bystanders.
  • Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them. The U.S. government, under both education and civil rights law, recognizes that bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination. Include a goal about bullying in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); ask about bullying at every parent teacher conference; and if bullying issues are not properly addressed, be prepared to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For more information on bullying, SchoolFamily.com has an entire section on bully awareness and prevention, with numerous articles and blog entries including what to do if you child is being bullied; tips about preventing cyberbullying; what to do if your child is the bully; and more. Readers may also benefit from reading Fast Facts on Bullying, produced by the Office for Civil Rights. 


 A public school district in Minnesota made news this week when officials there ended a federal investigation, and a civil lawsuit filed by six teenage students, by agreeing to a series of changes that will make schools take notice and get involved when gay students are bullied.

 The New York Times article reported that over a 2-year period, the school district had nine students commit suicide after the teens were bullied because they were gay—or were perceived to be gay. Despite these tragedies, the school maintained a position of “neutrality,” whereby teachers had to be “neutral” on questions from students regarding sexual orientation. In other words, the teachers were prevented from being allowed to show support to, or prevent bullying of, students who identified themselves as gay or questioning their orientation.

 The new agreement was signed by officials with the Anoka-Hennepin School District and Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the six students who sued the district.

 Tenets of the agreement include the following:

  • The district’s “neutrality” policy rescinded and replaced by a policy to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities, or other factors”
  • Strengthen ways to prevent, detect, and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation
  • Hire a full-time “harassment prevention” official
  • Increase availability of mental health counseling
  • Identify harassment “hot spots” in and outside of the middle and high schools

 According to the Times’ article, conservative Christian parents in the district who had formed a group called the Parent’s Action League in order to keep the neutrality policy, called the agreement a “travesty.”

 Does your school district have specific policies for preventing the bullying of gay students?  Are teachers allowed to answer students’ questions about sexual orientation?

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“Jackie, is it all right with you if I start class?” 


This seems like a harmless question, doesn’t it? When teachers say it (and I am guilty at times), they are being sarcastic, because they know it isn’t up to the student whether they start class or not. What they really mean is that Jackie is talking or otherwise goofing off and keeping class from starting. Most kids can laugh this off and jokingly respond, “Sure, Ms. McCoy. I’m just now finishing up.”


But some kids don’t take it that way. Some are hurt by that rhetorical question. Some do not understand sarcasm, even this kind, which is relatively benign.


According to Susan Fitzell, an expert on teaching students with special needs, “There are people, students included, who cannot read the difference between sarcastic humor and intentional meanness.” (See Susan’s “No Putdown Rule” article for information on how sarcasm has become an acceptable part of our culture.) Almost all sarcasm has the potential to be hurtful. Even people who do “get it,” can have their feelings hurt.


If your child does not understand sarcasm, you might need to alert his teacher to it. I like to think about whether what I am saying to my students is as respectful as what I would say to a peer. That might be a good talking point for you if you need to talk to your child’s teacher. Respectfully ask, “Would you say the same thing in a faculty meeting to one of your friends?”


There are many kinds of learning difficulties and some of them affect social situations as well as school. For more information, you should read my earlier blogs, Social Skills and Learning Disabilities, and Poor Social Skills Can Lead to Bullying.


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I have known many parents who pay their children for honor roll grades. In some cases, this is okay. But, if you are a learning disabled (LD) student, the quality of your work does not reflect how hard you worked on it. Sometimes, your assignment looks great and is complete. Other times, it is a mess and there are lots of questions with no answers. This inconsistency can be due to a number of factors. For more information on this, see “What Does it Really Mean When a Child is Learning Disabled?" for help understanding the problems.


Problems with working memory, attention, vocabulary, anxiety, fear, or difficulty with executive functioning can all affect how an LD student performs in school. None of these relate to motivation. And none can be overcome by bribes to perform better.


For these reasons, I am against parents paying for grades in school. This is especially true for struggling students. Imagine working very, very hard and still getting a “D” or “F” on the work! Someone else whips off the assignment in just a few minutes and gets an “A.” Does that child deserve a reward when they rushed through and perhaps did not even do their best work? The LD child who is trying her best feels completely defeated in this situation. She gets more and more discouraged. She already calls herself “stupid,” and this, to her, confirms that verdict.


If you pay for good grades, consider whether or not you are being fair to all your children. If you are not sure, read "Is My Child Working Hard Enough in School?"


If that doesn’t convince you, read Nelson Lauver’s book Most Unlikely to Succeed. Lauver explains what happened to him in school when, no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t successful. After reading his book, it should be clear why no one should judge another person’s motivation to learn.


Dear 11-year-old daughter,


You are smart, cute, witty, and have a spirit about you not usually found in a girl your age.


Earlier this year when you ran for student government and easily won the “popular” vote for vice president of your elementary school, I was amazed. Fifth grade class subjects glide into your brain like you were born with them. I realize school isn’t always challenging, but I’m impressed with how you deal with the occasional boredom by getting creative. Do you know that teachers (both school and Sunday school) reach out to tell me, “I love having your daughter in class, she has the best laugh.”?


Your art skills are more advanced than most kids twice your age! You have an eye for color and design that makes me jealous. Your desire is to organize your world and increase the beauty around you, and you make me proud to be your mom. 


You make friends with everyone, and everyone wants to be your friend. You are competent in both a large group of differing personalities and in a one-on-one setting with a socially slower friend. And I’ve stopped being surprised when you shine in a dance class and regularly win the “front and center” recital spot (although being short could have something to do with that, I’ll admit.) In gymnastics you excel, and in the schoolyard monkey bars grow out of your arms!


You are a mother’s dream daughter.


HOWEVER. I’m worried. (I’m a mother after all.)


I’m worried about your beautiful confidence blossoming into an ugly shade of pride.


I want what every mother wants for her daughter: I wish you happiness in your 5th grade world and in junior high, high school, and far into college. I want you to love yourself and find profound pleasure within, never relying on others to determine the best in you, but to discover for yourself where and how you will sparkle.


Please cultivate empathy early. When an algebra concept is easy for your brain to attack and you realize that others might be struggling, I hope you’ll ask if you can help—instead of saying out loud. “Gee, that was easy for me, what’s wrong with you?”


When a friend is struggling because she doesn’t understand why her group of gal pals isn’t talking to her, I hope you can see the bigger picture and help her through the trial.


Because putting yourself in others’ shoes is a talent that will help you the most in your life.


I know boys are imminent in your future. And I want you to meet and fall in love with a spouse who will love you and cherish you, and of course I want grandbabies…but not for about 15 years!


I promise you will meet your husband in college (not high school)! High school is for learning about yourself and for figuring out your personal style and your desires. A 16 year old may think she’s in love, but she’ll also think she’s in love at 17, and again at 18, and again and again. High school is for dating! Remember to have fun!


You know I’m your mother and that I worry about every tiny tidbit. Simply said, this is what I most want for you:


While knowing you are incredible with almost everything you touch,

I want you to be mindful of others first and to always remember

to stuff your pride under your pillow!



Your Mother


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Ever try to wake a sleeping teenager? It’s a time-consuming undertaking that’s frustrating for everyone involved, especially on early morning weekdays before the sun is even up.


That’s the reality for many parents and teens Monday through Friday, in order for the teen to get to school on time—and we’re talking school start times between 7-7:30 a.m. For those who must catch a school bus, back up about 20-30 minutes earlier, and we’re talking the wee hours.


Take our Poll: Does School Start Too Early for Your Teen


There’s been a fair amount of conclusive research and expert opinion that teenagers need more sleep rather than less.  [Listen for the applause and the “I told you so” looks from nearby teens.] But in many school districts across the country, school start time for teens—and even some middle school tweens—is getting earlier and earlier.


Since everyone is cost cutting these days, especially local governments and school districts, many schools say they’re starting earlier due to budget-friendly tiered busing schedules. This means that older kids—high school and middle schoolers—are picked up earliest, during the first tier of morning busing runs (they’re also dropped off earliest in the afternoon as well). Next come older elementary school students, and in the last tier are kindergarteners, who often are picked up by their buses as late as 8:30 a.m.


Do you struggle with getting your teen up and out the door 5 days a week? (Maybe more if your child has clubs, sports, and/or job commitments on the weekends.) And do you worry that your teen's lack of adequate sleep may be detrimental to his grades?


If so, take heart. Two women decided enough is enough and formed a not-for-profit organization to address the issue. StartSchoolLater.net, co-founded by Maribel Ibrahim and Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D., is staffed by an 8-member steering board (the women occupy 2 of the 8 seats) and a 12-member advisory board, and advocates exclusively for later school start times.


More than simply presenting solid research findings and hosting the conversation, however, this group is seeking nationwide legislation to mandate that no public schools start before 8 a.m. 


What do you think? (I know my high-schooler would heartily agree!)

My freshman asked me to drop her off early for school near the corner bakery. She wanted to grab a hot cocoa with a friend before school.


Upon rounding the corner, several older students were monopolizing the outdoor seating. Without a thought I turned and looked at the group. One girl sitting down was…um… to put it nicely… showing her whole backside. Also known as her “crackside.”


I turned to my daughter and said, “THAT is why I make a big deal out of your clothing choices each day.”


What is the deal with teen falling-down pants? Who decided lower inseams are better (and “even lower” is best of all)? Belts are no help when your pants don’t reach halfway up your derrière in the first place. I don’t care if you are skinny, tall, short or muffin topped—crack is NOT attractive!


I dare you to find a pair of remotely mom-approved jeans these days from Walmart, Target, TJMaxx, or any other teen clothing mecca. You can’t do it. They don’t exist. They stopped manufacturing jeans with a normal “rise” circa 2005. (I made that up—but it totally seems like it.)


So what’s a mom to do? How do I beat the inseam lowering standards of teen youth today?


I call it saving my daughter from “crackside’”exposure. I love the increase in shirt “layering” styles. We stock up on extremely long T-shirts, tank tops and camisoles whenever we find them. All colors all the time, is my motto.


I think we’re keeping ModBod brand in business with just my two daughters alone. You can find sets of 2 pack long tank tops in Costco from time to time. LOVE that! If you haven’t checked it out… go. You’ll thank me.


Another option is the stretchy bands of fabric meant to cover from the mid-tummy down past the tops of pants, a faux under-layer of T-shirt. We haven’t gone this route. But I’m tempted to try making my own. Cheetah print anyone?


When my daughter whines at me after I ask her to add a layer or pull her shirt down, I say, “Remember, I love you enough to cover you.”


Please tell me someone out there has more solutions to the low-rise pants fashion nightmare?



Have you ever attempted to sit in on one of your children’s classes at school and been turned away? If not, and if you were actually welcomed into the class by school officials, consider yourself lucky. Even though the ability to do so is a central tenet of No Child Left Behind, many schools put up roadblocks when parents want to sit in.


According to Jay Mathews, education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, it’s a fairly frequent practice even when it may not be a school’s policy: “The resistance to parent observations,” he writes about schools, “is not so much a policy as an unexamined taboo.”


In the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which expanded upon the 1965-enacted Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a section called “Parental Involvement” includes provisions for “shared accountability between schools and parents for high student achievement”—an aspect of which includes having parents be present in their child’s classroom.


“Volunteering and observing in their child’s classroom is an important activity for parents’ shared responsibility for high student academic achievement and is also one that helps both the school and parents build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the state’s high standards.” [NCLB, Section 1118(d)(1), ESEA.]


Yet many school districts remain virtually cloistered when it comes to allowing parents to step inside. And among the reasons given to parents for being kept out is that their presence would create a distraction.


It appears that legislative action might be required to mandate that schools open up. In Virginia, Mathews writes about a father who enjoyed spending an hour at his daughter’s school, observing her during reading practice. Later, after seeing some of Mathews’ columns about parents being denied access to their children's classes, he used his authority as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates to add a provision to pending education legislation. If it passes, which Mathews thinks is unlikely, local school boards would be required to “adopt and implement policies” allowing parents to be observers in their children’s’ classrooms.


Are you able to volunteer and/or observe in your child’s classroom without any resistance from school officials? Please share your experiences with us.



SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, expert blogger for EmpoweringParents.com and creator of The Calm Parent AM & PM program. Pincus is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Why is it so easy to go from “zero to 60” when our kids make us angry? There are many reasons, but I think it’s mainly because we allow ourselves to go to 60. And in a sense, when we get up to 60—when we react emotionally—we’re allowing the behavior of our kids to determine how we’ll behave rather than the other way around.


We do so many things automatically without even thinking about it. This is often because we believe that we need to get our kids under control, rather than taking a moment to stop and think and say, “Wait, let me get myself under control first before I respond.” The best way to prevent yourself from getting to 60 is to recognize when you’re going there—and what makes you go there. In fact, in my opinion, that is probably one of the most important things you can do as a parent.


Here’s a secret: When you get yourself under control, your kids will also usually calm down. Remember, calm is contagious—and so is anxiety. When we as parents are nervous or anxious, it’s been proven that it creates anxiety in our kids. I would even go so far as to say that being emotionally reactive is probably your greatest concern as a parent. Think of it this way: if you can’t get calm—if you can’t get to zero—then what you’re really doing is inadvertently creating the exact atmosphere you’re trying to avoid.


Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re teaching your child how to ride a bike. Your child is not getting it and is being whiny and cranky and talks back to you. You’re frustrated, annoyed, angry, and disappointed, because inside you somehow feel responsible to teach him to learn how to ride this bike, and he just won’t listen. Now you’re starting to get agitated about it. You yell at your child because you’re up to 60. The end result is that your child will probably fall off the bike. Here’s why: He’s so filled with the anxiety that’s surrounding him that he can’t concentrate. He’s feeling pushed to do something and he reacts to it by failing.


What can you do? Instead of snapping and reacting because you feel like you have to get your child to learn how to ride the bike, try turning it around and ask yourself, “How do I get myself to really be calm and how will that be helpful for my child to get to where he needs to be?” Remind yourself that you’re not responsible to get him to ride the bike; instead, you’re responsible to get yourself to zero. From there, you can think about the most effective way to help him learn.


This is why I say that if we can’t calm down we’ll probably create exactly what we’re trying to avoid—failure. Think about someone you know who is calm and serene; their presence helps center everybody else in the room. When you’re calm, that’s the effect it has on your child and your family. It will help your child de-escalate, learn how to soothe himself when he’s nervous or agitated, and will make him better able to do what he has to do in tense moments. And in that moment, he won’t have to fight against you, because you’ve effectively taken that push-pull (the power struggle) away by being calm when he pushes your buttons.


By the way, I understand that nobody wants to go to 60—no one likes to be upset. I think most parents’ goal is to get to zero, but often they just don’t know how to do it. The truth is, everybody has to find the best way to do that for themselves. (I have some ideas about how to do that that I will explain in a moment.) But ultimately, it’s about understanding how important it is not to lose it—and not giving yourself permission to do so.


And there’s a good reason for this. When we hit the roof in front of our kids, what we’re really communicating is “There are no grown-ups at home.” We’re saying that we can’t manage our anxiety. And when you try to manage your child’s behavior instead of your own anxiety, what you’re saying is, “I’m out of control. I need you to change so that I can feel better.” So the goal is to acknowledge what’s going on, and to understand how important it is to get control—and to ultimately gain control of ourselves.


The question you’re probably asking is, “Easy for you to say. How am I going to get there?” Here are 8 ways I’ve found helpful for parents when I work with them:


1. Make the commitment not to lose it. Remind yourself that you’re going to try to stay in control from now on. Notice what sets you off—is it your child ignoring you? Or does backtalk drive you up the wall? It’s not always easy, and I think it’s hard for anyone to control their temper 100 percent of the time, but still, making that first promise to yourself is the beginning of calm—for your whole family.


2. Expect that your child is going to push your buttons. Usually we get upset when our kids are not doing what we want them to do. They’re not listening or they’re not complying. In our heads, we start worrying that we’re not doing a good job as parents. We worry that we don’t know what to do to get them under our control. Sometimes, we fast-forward to the future and wonder if this is how they’re going to be the rest of their lives. In short, we go through all sorts of faulty thinking. And doing so causes our anxiety to go way up. I think the best solution is to prepare for your child to push your buttons and not take it personally. In a sense, your child is doing his job (being a kid who can’t yet solve his problems)—and your job is to remain calm so you can guide him.


3. Realize what you aren’t responsible for. There’s confusion for many parents as to what we’re really responsible for and what we’re not responsible for. If you feel responsible for things that really don’t belong in your “box”—things like him getting up on time or having his homework completed—it will result in frustration. They don’t belong in your box—they belong in your child’s box. If you always think you’re responsible for how things turn out, then you’re going to be on your child in a way that’s going to create more stress and reactivity. So you can say, “I’m responsible for helping you figure out how to solve the problem. But I’m not responsible for solving the problem for you.” If you feel like you’re responsible for solving your child’s problems, then she’s not going to feel like she has to solve them herself. You’re going to become more and more agitated and try harder and harder.

You’re not responsible for getting your child to listen to you; instead you’re responsible for deciding how to respond to her when she doesn’t listen to you. And think about it: If you feel responsible for getting your child to listen, just how are you supposed to do that? How is anyone supposed to get another person to do something; how are we supposed to control what somebody else really does? Instead, decide to be responsible for how you want to deal with your child if she doesn’t listen. Think about the kind of consequences you want to hand out, based on what you can and can’t live with—your own bottom line. In the long run, standing up for yourself will help you be the leader your kids need.


4. Prepare ahead of time. Notice when the anxiety is high and try to prepare for it. You might observe that every day at 5 p.m., your family’s nerves are on edge. Everyone is home from work or school, they’re hungry, and they’re decompressing. For many families, it’s just a terrible time of day; everybody’s anxiety is up and patience is at low ebb. Ask yourself, “How am I going to handle this when I know my teen is going to come screaming at me? What do I do when she asks to use the car when she knows I’m going to say no?” Prepare yourself. Say, “This time, I’m not getting into an argument with her. Nobody can make me do that. I’m not giving her permission to hit my buttons.” Your stance should be, “No matter how hard you try to pull me into a power struggle, it’s not going to happen.” Let yourself be guided by the way you want to see yourself as a parent versus your feeling of the moment.


5. Ask yourself “What’s helped me in the past?” Start thinking about what’s helped you to manage your anxiety in the past. What’s helped to soothe you through something that makes you uncomfortable? Usually the first thing is to commit yourself to not saying anything when that feeling comes up inside of you. In your head, you can say something like, “I’m not saying anything; I’m going to step back; I’m going to take a deep breath.” Give yourself that moment to be able to do whatever it is you need to do to get calmer. I always have to walk out of the room. Sometimes I go into the bedroom or bathroom, but I leave the situation temporarily. Remember: There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to react to your child.


6. Take a breath. Take a deep breath when you feel yourself escalating—and take a moment to think things through. There is a big difference between responding and reacting. When you respond, you’re actually taking some time to think about what you want to say. When you react, you’re just on autopilot. As much as possible, you want to respond thoughtfully to what your child is saying or doing. Make sure that you take that deep breath before you respond to your child because that moment will give you a chance to think about what you want to say.

Think of it this way: When we’re upset and trying to get our child to do what we want, we’re going to press harder. We’re going to try to control them more, to shape them up or talk some sense into them, so we yell louder. And we go from 20 to 40 and it keeps escalating. It might be the time of day. Perhaps your child has had a hard day and then you react to his mood. And then he responds in kind and it just escalates. The anxiety feeds on itself.


7. Keep some slogans in your head. Say something to yourself every time you feel your emotions rising. It can be anything from “Stop” or “Breathe” or “Slow down” to “Does it really matter?” or “Is this that important?” Whatever words will help you, take that moment and go through a list of priorities. I personally keep a mental picture handy to calm myself down: I think of a beautiful place in my mind that always calms and relaxes me. Try to come up with that mental picture for yourself. Working on that will increase your ability to be able to go there more automatically.


8. Think about what you want your relationship to look like. How do you want your relationship with your child to be someday? If the way things are now is not how you want your relationship to look in 25 years, start thinking about what you do want. Ask yourself, “Is how I’m responding to my child now going to help? Is that going to help me reach my goal?” This doesn’t mean that you should do what your child wants all the time—far from it. Standing by the rules of the house and giving consequences when your child acts out is all part of being an effective, loving parent.

What it does mean is that you try to treat your child with respect—the way you want her to treat you. Keep that goal in your head. Ask yourself, “Will my response be worth it?” If your goal is to have a solid relationship with your child, will your reaction get you closer to that goal?


When your child is aggravating you, your thinking process at that moment is very important.  The whole goal is really to be as objective as you can with what’s going on with yourself and with your child. Ask, “What’s my kid doing right now? What’s he trying to do? Is he reacting to tension in the house?” You don’t have to get her to listen, but you do have to understand what’s going on—and figure out how you’re going to respond to what’s going on. Then you can stay on track and not be pulled in a thousand different directions.


The thinking process itself actually helps us to calm down. As parents, what we’re really working toward is “What’s within my power to do to get myself calm?” So the less we can react, the better—and the more we think things through, the more positive the outcome will be. Thinking helps us to be calm and breathe; calm helps us to get to better thinking. Observing ourselves helps activate the thinking part of the brain and reduces the kind of “emotionality” that gets in the way of better thinking.


That’s really what we’re talking about here: responding thoughtfully rather than simply reacting. Someone once said, “Response comes from the word ‘responsibility.’” So it’s taking responsibility for how we want to act rather than having that knee-jerk reaction when our buttons are pushed. And if we can get our thinking out in front of our emotions, we’re going to do better as parents. And that’s really the goal.



Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry is reprinted with permission from EmpoweringParents.com. For more than 25 years, Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Pincus is the creator of The Calm Parent AM & PM program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.



It is tempting as a parent to take control of every part of a child’s life. Parents make sure their children do all their homework, get up on time, get ready for school, eat a healthy breakfast, wear appropriate clothing, and catch the school bus on time. Parents essentially decide everything! At some point in a child’s life, however, parents will not be there to make all their decisions for them.

Children need experience making decisions. They will make mistakes along the way, but you will be there to help them understand the mistakes and to do better the next time. Here are 5 ideas for questions you can ask your child, allowing him to make decisions that don’t impact health, safety, or education.

  • “Do you want to eat broccoli or green beans for supper?” They’re both green veggies, so let them choose to eat the one they like the best.
  • “What do you plan to wear to school tomorrow?” As long as they meet the school’s dress code, they should be able to choose their own clothes from a fairly early age.
  • “Why don’t you check the weather channel and decide whether you will need your hat and gloves tomorrow?” Unless you know it might be seriously harmful for them to go without the hat and gloves, why not let them make a bad decision once or twice?
  • “Are you going to start with your math homework or your English?” Children should not decide whether to do their homework, but allowing them to decide which to do first is perfectly appropriate.
  • “You can play video games for 30 minutes tonight. When is the best time for you to do that?” Some kids will choose to play right when you ask; some will choose to wait until later. As long as they are not spending too much time playing the video game, it probably does not matter.

When I’ve written on this topic before, I’ve heard from parents that they’re afraid their child will make bad decisions. To that I ask, “How will they ever learn to make good decisions if you don’t allow them to mess up every once in awhile?” Children—like most adults—are happier when they feel they have some control over their own activities.


January is having a staring contest with me.

There’s less than a week left of 2011 and I feel like the past year is making fun of all my goals. It knows what I accomplished, it knows what I failed. It knows the big ‘4-0h’ birthday is waiting to knock the wind out of my 30-something self.

But this coming year I am not going to let New Year’s resolutions get the best of me. Because I’m NOT going to make any. That’s right, Mr. 2012, you can take your ball and go home. Here are 10 GoodNCrazy resolutions I am NOT going to accomplish this year.

  • I am NOT going to get enough sleep. With 3 children, piles of dishes, mountains of laundry, 23 DVR’d “House” episodes, and multiple cell phone alarms, all starting at 6:20 a.m.—each urging me to do this, remember that, and leave the house no less than 10x before noon—who needs sleep?!
  • I am NOT going to listen more. I know I talk too much and I’m too loud. If after nearly 40 years I haven’t been able to change that fault, why should I start now?
  • I am NOT going to spend more “one-on-one time” with my kids… so far they’ve turned out okay, and we have all that car-pool time to have meaningful chats right? I’ll start texting them more instead.
  • I am NOT going to travel more. With a husband constantly traveling to various continents and time zones, this mom will be staying home, sipping hot cocoa, and wearing her new Christmas slippers, thankyouverymuch!  (Besides, for me, one ocean hopping trip per 5 years is plenty!)
  • I am NOT going to be Marge-In-Charge at PTO. Instead this year I will be the soldier. I will volunteer my time at the book fair and the elementary school rummage sale. When they ask for volunteers to fill out the board, I will be out filling up the water pitcher.
  • I am NOT going to find more “me time.” Sometimes I feel like I’m bathing in me, me, me; of course it’s my children’s voices I hear in my head not my own inner sanctum getting a blissful (and badly needed) pedicure. But, oh well…
  • I am NOT going to exercise more. Wait… actually I am. (Shhh, don’t tell the resolution police!)

  • I am NOT going to pay more attention to little details. When there is a friend in need, a sick neighbor, or my husband has sore feet at the end of the day, I’m simply going to begin chanting: I-can’t-hear-you, I-can’t-hear-you, I-can’t-hear-you.
  • I am NOT going to take a digital photography class. I’ve only wanted to do this for the last 7 years of my life. What’s one more year? (2013, watch out; I plan to digitally re-master you till you cry.)
  • Finally, I am NOT going to make any resolutions this year.

So, if you catch me sleeping-in past 7, baking a casserole for my pregnant friend, sneaking into a digital photography course, or raising my hand to chair a PTO fundraiser…pretend you don’t see me. Just wink and turn around very slowly. 

So, what Un-Resolutions are you going to make this year?


What would you do as a parent in this situation?

A teacher at Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico who passed out a voluntary, anonymous sex survey to students in a 9th grade biology class, has been placed on leave until the school system conducts an investigation, according to a recent report on the Huff Post Education site.

The survey, which was reportedly passed out as a way to teach students about sexually transmitted diseases, asked students to report anonymously if they were sexually active and to list the people they’d recently kissed. Parents were not informed about the survey before it was administered to students.

A follow-up story posted on KOAT.com, the website of an Albuquerque television station, included comments from current and former students at the school who say that the survey has been around for years, and that numerous other 9th grade classes have completed the survey over the years.

 Regardless of the eventual outcome in this situation, how would you react if such a survey—voluntary and anonymous— was given to your child by a biology teacher?

Seems that few subjects get parents as riled up as sex ed. Remember when we brought you the story about the new sex education mandate in New York City public middle and high schools?

Turns out it’s become more controversial than expected, especially concerning content for students in middle school. Flash cards depicting anal sex, oral sex, and masturbation have been removed from the middle school sex ed curriculum, according to a New York media outlet.

Problem is the schools have a high teenage pregnancy rate, which education officials are hoping to reduce through the mandated sex education curriculum. New York City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott recently said, "A significant percentage of our teenagers have had multiple sexual partners, so we can't stick our heads in the sand about this”

Many parents feel it's their job to discuss sexuality and teen pregnancy with their children, but what happens to those teens whose parents are too uncomfortable to broach the subject of sex? Education officials, in New York anyway, say that's where classroom-based sex ed comes in.

 Parents and guardians, what do you think? Please let us know by commenting below.

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Both of my children have cell phones. And both phones, in my mind, were purchased for the sole purpose of keeping in touch. With me. 

Them, not so much. To them, their cell phones serve the purpose of allowing virtually-constant contact with friends. And for my son, his phone also serves as a timepiece; read that blog post here.

When I first got the kids their cell phones - when they were both "tweens" - I learned the hard way about the cost of going over the wireless plan's small monthly allotment for text messaging. My daughter quickly burned through the texting limit (my son wasn't, and still isn't, much of a texter; if I send him a text message, he calls me back).

While I soon set limits for my daughter due to her texting proclivities, I also quietly signed up for unlimited texting through my wireless carrier. But, how great it would have been to have had some objective guidance on the subject at the time.

That guidance is now available. If you're considering a cell phone for your tween, or if he or she already has one, you'll want to read "Tweens and cell phones: What parents need to know during back-to-school season" from the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C.

The guide offers tips about why, when, and how, to purchase a cell phone for your tween. To begin, the guide suggests that parents answer a series of questions ("Why does your child need a cell phone?" and "Will the phone primarily be used for emergency calls, or for entertainment and texting friends?"), and then take the list with them when they shop. The guide also includes "Rules of the Road," with tips for parents on setting limits on cell phone use, and a comprehensive guide to the types of cell phone plans available.

It's a terrific resource, and one I truly wish I'd had.


"There's an app for that." Are you familiar with this phrase? Perhaps it's one uttered by your kids on occasion (or on a daily basis). It's a phrase my daughter says frequently right before she sighs and gently gives me one of those "Mom, you're such a dinosaur" looks. Apps are application software programs that address  almost every subject imaginable. First created for the the Apple iPhone, more and more apps are becoming available for the BlackBerry, the Droid, and many other smartphones.

There are a couple of new iPhone apps that caught my eye recently. One is called ParentLink Mobile Parent. It's an app that allows you to receive automated calls from your child's school sent directly to your iPhone. These calls are being made by most schools today, and inform parents of everything from the opening day of school to emergency school closings. This free app is available from ParentLink.net, also allows parents to update their contact information with their school's automated call system directly from their cell phones. 

An app I hope I never have to use is The Facts of Lice by Fairy Tales Hair Care. Yes, this app helps parents whose children have been infected with head lice. Not only are head lice pesky to treat, their presence means kids can't be in school as long as they have "nits" in their hair, these being the eggs laid by active lice (note: You may want to check to see if your child's school has a "No Nits" and/or a "No Lice" policy). Be aware that the company is plugging its own line of lice treatment and prevention products, and includes a salon locator where the products may be purchased locally. That said, the app also includes helpful, general information about lice, as well as a way to track an outbreak and be notified of outbreaks in your area. 

Finally, an iPhone app that no pregnant woman or mother of small children should be without: Where to Wee. My daughter told me about this site (since she complains that I use the ladies room "all the time"), and I'll admit it's come in handy more than once when we've been traveling. The app allows you to find the nearest restrooms - especially critical if you're potty training little ones - and rate bathrooms on cleanliness, and the availability of soap and paper towels. In addition, for some hilarious reading, check out the Where to Wee blog.



When my son was a college freshman, I remember dropping him off at school amid the chaos of freshmen move-in-day. After we'd helped him haul all his stuff in repeated trips up three flights of stairs in the dusty old dormitory, it was time to say goodbye. Yes, tears ensued ... and as we left I remember being so bothered that he didn't wear (or even own) a watch; how would he get to his classes on time? Instead, he kept time by the digital display on his cellphone - and couldn't imagine it any other way.

Those of you helping your son or daughter get packed and ready for the drop-off at school may want to take a short break from all the planning and fretting, and read this humorous, eye-opening, newly released list about members of the Class of 2015. 

For starters, this group of young people has never known a world without the Internet.

That and several more "cultural touchstones" are part of the Mindset List for the Class of 2015 compiled by Beloit College in Wisconsin.

The list includes everything from politics and political figures - "[To the Class of 2015] Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief" - to changes in child-rearing - "Unlike their older siblings, [the Class of 2015] spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over."

For some of us, present company included, items such as these are startling: “'Dial-up,'” Woolworths, and the Sears 'Big Book' are as antique to them as 'talking machines' might have been to their grandparents."

Read it and laugh. And if your son or daughter doesn't wear a watch, don't worry; their cell phones will serve as a timepiece just fine.






Is it just me or is getting your kids to eat breakfast before school a challenge?  I am ever-conscious of not being a helicopter parent, but when it comes to breakfast, this is one battle that I pick. 

As the school year progresses, my kids seem to be getting up later and later and doing a grab-and-go breakfast.  With exams looming, I decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with some new, quick but balanced breakfast recipes and ideas. Thought I’d share some of the latest favorites:

  • Homemade Granola with fruit and yogurt- Don’t tell my kids but I halve the sugar in the granola recipe and add in stuff like flax meal and wheat germ. And it still tastes awesome. Even if you’re running late you can throw granola in a container with yogurt and fruit to nosh on the bus. (Hopefully, they’ll remember to take the container out of the backpack at the end of the day.)
  • Whole wheat toast with fruit and Nutella®-  Sorry to say that my kids are not fans of whole wheat anything… they will tell you it’s because I was an evil mother and didn’t give them white bread  (only whole grain) when they were little. But If you spread some Nutella® on a slice of whole wheat toast, then top it with sliced strawberries or bananas, they won’t even notice that it’s whole wheat. Brilliant yummy-ness!
  • Smoothies- Another great way to sneak "better for you" foods into breakfast. I have found if I put too much protein powder in, I get complaints from the kids… and they were on to me when I added wheat germ… but, in general, if I add banana and vanilla yogurt to whatever I put in there, they love it. Mangos are the favorite frozen fruit to add to smoothies in our house. Add a little orange juice to the mangos, bananas and vanilla yogurt and it tastes like summer in a glass. As for the flax seed oil that I add-- well, we won't talk about that because no one knows it's there.

OK, now it’s your turn to tell your favorite, quick but balanced breakfast ideas! I am sure that I am not the only mom who is forever searching for breakfast foods that the kids will actually eat!

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The first day of kindergarten is undoubtedly near the top of the “parenting memorable moments” list. My oldest is going into her junior year in high school and I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.

So many vivid memories about this time of transition. What I remember in the days leading up to the big day is my daughter matter-of-factly informing us that she was NOT going to Kindergarten this year. I also remember doing everything they say to do on back-to-school checklists like visiting the school, shopping for back to school supplies, and reading books that ease transition. I think we wore out the “The Kissing Hand” in the weeks leading up to the first day of school.

On the morning of the first day, I remember the dress my daughter wore with the tights she insisted on wearing, despite the fact it was 90 degrees. Our whole family went outside to play in our driveway and wait for the bus. I remember working so hard to mask the anxiety I felt that a) she would NOT get on the bus and b) that my baby was going to the big elementary school. As the bus pulled up I hugged her, kissed her hand, and went to pick up my camera … and dropped it. My husband and I both fumbled to pick up the camera and when we looked up, my daughter had boarded the bus and was heading for a seat. The kind bus driver must have seen the horror and panic in our eyes because he called her up by name (I was very impressed) and asked her to pose for a picture for mom and dad. To our amazement, she smiled confidently at the camera, waved goodbye then took her seat as if she had been doing this forever. So much for not going to kindergarten. Next I remember my husband convincing me not to hop in the car to follow the bus and lurk in the bushes to make sure she got into school safely.  Good move, but it took a lot of will power. 

But what I remember most about the first day of kindergarten was the heaviness of heart I felt all day long. I swear, the time from when she left to the time she got off the bus, felt like 3 ½ days instead of 3 ½ hours. No amount of cuddling with my son, walking outside, or baking muffins in anticipation of her return could ease the ache. Now, I swear I am not a helicopter mom (I think my friends would concur) but the thoughts of her being in this big building with older kids and me not knowing where she was at any given time felt like someone had put a ton of bricks on my chest.  

When she got off the bus she was all smiles and gave me a big hug. Not an “I missed you so much mommy” hug but an “I am happy to see you but it was not big deal” hug. What I expected next was  to sit down to our special first day of school picnic lunch and hear all about the details of her time away from me. What I got was one word answers to desperate questions. What I wanted to say was, “Come on, throw me a bone… tell me some detail about your day. Anything!”  But instead, I retreated and let her play.

Sometimes our kids teach us. This was one of those times.  My daughter taught me that often after a big day you just want to retreat and find peace in your routine. She taught me that I needed to back off and let her unfold the details of her day on her terms, not mine. 

I am happy to report that we both survived the first day and first week of kindergarten. The pride I felt that she was thriving at school and becoming independent eventually eclipsed the separation angst. And then I blinked, and she was going into her junior year in high school!

How did you do on your child’s first day of kindergarten? Would love to hear your stories!


Sue Blaney

This is a guest post by Sue Blaney, a nationally recognized award-winning author, speaker, and publisher dedicated to supporting parents in successfully raising teenagers. Sue specializes in communication and works with parents and professionals at many levels to educate, empower and connect parents of teens. Visit her website at www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com

In my morning inspirational reading I reopened a favorite book The Art of Possibility by Ben and Roz Zander. In it, Ben Zander notes

    “The drive to be successful and the fear of failure are, like the head and tail of a coin, inseparably linked. They goaded me on to unusual efforts and caused me, and those around me, considerable suffering. Of course, the surprising thing was that my increasing success did little to lessen the tension…. {Eventually} I settled on a game called I am a contribution. Unlike success and failure, ‘contribution’ has no other side. It is not arrived at by comparison. All at once I found that the fearful question, ‘Am I loved for who I am, or for what I have accomplished?’ could be replaced by the joyful question, ‘How will I be a contribution today?’

When we measure our success by external measurements – our accomplishment, awards, money, fame, material acquisitions – we are playing in a “measurement model.” A measurement model is usually based upon a sense of scarcity… “better get yours before someone else does.” Zander suggests this is not only unhealthy, it is unnecessary. By reframing our definition of success we open up a world of possibilities – and joy. Rather than live in a stress-inducing scarcity model, we can live in a “widespread array of abundance.”

Let’s consider the high-stress world our teenagers inhabit in the context of the Zanders’ philosophy.

There is an epidemic of stress disorders among our young people. According to a new study, five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who grew up during the Great Depression. Comments I hear from parents reflect this; like “My daughter is obsessed with doing everything perfectly. She doesn’t seem to be able to tolerate anything less than perfection, whether it’s grades, friends, her looks, or anything else. And yet she is fragile and on the edge.” “The competition to get into the college of his choice is so intense it is impacting his relationship with his friends because they are competing for the limited slots.” “My child isn’t in bed before 2am on a typical school night.” Parents know this is unhealthy and you ask: “What can I do?”

Maybe you need to redefine “success.”

Many mental health professionals, educators, parenting experts, and cultural observers note that today’s teens put a high value on the external and visible measures of success. It seems today’s teens have different values to some degree, and we wonder if these values are linked to this rise in anxiety. While a valid cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, it must be considered. Professionals speculate that the sources of the increased stress come from “a popular culture that focuses on the external – wealth, looks, status” to “over-protective parents who have left their children with few real-world coping skills.” And the students? “Students themselves point to everything from pressure to succeed – self imposed and otherwise – to a fast paced world that’s only sped up by the technology they love so much.”

One 21 year old in the study is quoted:

    “The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age – that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success – not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money…”

How do you frame and define “success?” The way you define success, the way you express goals and reward your teens are how you teach them values.

The Zanders raise a good point: How would your teenager’s experience be different if rather than focusing on achieving a certain gpa, accolade or reward, he were to consider how he could “be a contribution?” How would you communicate and teach this change in attitude? How would you provide rewards?

While parents tend to blame a materialistic culture and images and experiences that influence teens toward this externally based focus, we must take responsibility for being the primary teachers of values. While parents are worried about the high rates of anxiety and depression we must realize we may be part of the problem and we most certainly can be part of the solution.

How can you be a contribution to your teen’s well being today?

Excited to have Annie Fox as a guest blogger this week. Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens since 1997. Check out her new anti-bullying forum, Cruel’s Not Cool!


A master teacher once pointed out to a group of student teachers: "If you’re not modeling what you teach or what you say you want kids to learn, then you sure as hell are teaching something else!"

Bullying is a systemic problem. Put downs, gossip, snarkiness are all pretty much the air we breathe. Yet when we see or read about mean-kid behavior we’re all righteously stunned. "They tormented the girl so badly that she committed suicide!? Then the perpetrators actually posted more cruel comments on the victim’s Facebook memorial page!!!"

Considering what passes for entertainment and bonding around the water cooler, the sidelines at the game, the teacher lounge, the TV, the blogosphere, why are we surprised? It would be more surprising if kids growing up in our Culture of Cruelty turned out to be something other than cruel.

I know it’s harsh to think that the enemy is us... but we might as well own it because until we do we are cluelessly fueling the problem. And any attempts to minimize school bullying, turn a blind eye, or infer that it’s just "kids being kids" misses the point and blows yet another opportunity to turn the ship around.

Blackberry vines have rooted amongst my rose bushes. If I simply curse them or pluck a leaf here and there, that won’t stop the spread of vines (which will totally take over if I permit it). I’ve got to get in there on my hands and knees, deal with the thorns and dig out those suckers and all their damn roots.

Same applies to bullying. Not only are parents and teachers responsible for rooting out malevolent behavior between kids whenever we see it, hear about it or sense it. But we adults who live and work with kids have the moral obligation of watching our own mouths and attitudes... all the time. Otherwise "Respect, Compassion and Social Responsibility" is just a school motto and the dirty truth is that we’re teaching something else.


Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?