SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

The Power of Positive Attention for Teens

Human beings need the attention of others. We need to interact with one another and to feel accepted and loved. When teens misbehave, they often do so to get the attention of their peers or the adults in their lives. Years ago, an acquaintance talked for 20 minutes about how awful her daughter was without ever saying anything good about her. I asked her, “Do you ever just put your arms around her and tell her you love her?” She said that she didn’t do that because her daughter didn’t deserve it. To me, it partially explained her daughter's behavior. She needed to feel loved by her mother and to have her mother’s unconditional love. Since she couldn’t get that, she at least got her attention by misbehaving. There are times when parents must discipline their children, but children must know that their parents love them despite their poor behavior. How can parents let their kids know how much they love them even when they need to change their behavior?

First of all, parents and teens need to talk to one another often. Ask your son his opinion about important decisions you need to make or what is going on in his life. Ask him probing questions that require more than a one-word answer. Tell him how important he is to you and how much you care about him. If talking to each other like this is normal, then talking about his misbehavior won’t be so stressful. He will already know you love him, because you have told him so many times before.

Second, be aware that your daughter hears what you say about her to your friends. If you need to discipline her about something, do what you need to do and move forward without continuing to talk about it. Tell others about the positive things she is doing and how proud you are of her. When she gets positive attention from you and hears you telling your friends about the good things she does, she will know that you forgave her and that you still love her. This will encourage her to behave well because she gets lots of attention for it.

Finally, learn about ways to manage your son’s behavior effectively. There are many excellent books about how to change behavior without using humiliation or other extreme measures. My favorite is Joanne Nordling’s Taking Charge: Caring Discipline That Works at Home and at School. Nordling outlines a behavior management system based on consequences tied to the behavior you need to change. She also recommends that you carefully choose which behaviors get attention and which do not. Very deliberately, you effectively shape your son’s behavior in positive ways.

Teens need the attention of their parents. If they don’t get enough, they might do something wrong to get negative attention; negative attention is better than no attention. To change this dynamic and strengthen your relationship with your child, talk often, use effective disciplinary techniques, and choose your words carefully when discussing family business with others. Most important of all—make sure she knows how much you love her.

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Help Your Daughter Deal With "Mean Girls"

Sometimes adolescent girls can be mean to one another. I am not certain why this happens. My mother always said it was because they are jealous. Perhaps so, but whatever the reason for it, it can really hurt. It especially hurts when girls are already feeling bad about themselves. The most effective way to deal with this type of bullying is with humor. This can be difficult, but with practice at home, your daughter can learn to deal with it.

If the “mean girl” says “OMG, look at those shoes. Can you believe she wears those to school?” within your daughter's earshot, your daughter can respond, “You think these are bad? You should see the ones my mom just bought for me!” This should be said in a friendly way with a smile. The worst thing to do is to look upset. This is what the bully wants to see. If the bully cannot upset her, your daughter is no fun as a target. I tell my students to pretend they are not hurt by it, and if they feel like crying they should go somewhere private.

This sounds easy to do, but it is not. This is why you need to practice with your daughter at home. Ask your daughter what comments the bully is making to her. Together come up with some humorous comebacks. (“Talk to the hand.”— “You think so, too?”— “I thought it seemed crazy, too! My sister talked me into it.”) Then, practice the lines. You say the bully’s comments and get her to practice what and how to say her response. If she has been through it several times at home, it is easier to actually do it when under duress at school.

There are other forms of bullying that need a different response, but humor is a great way to deal with hurtful comments. If the bullying is more serious, coach your daughter to seek help from trusted adults at school. No child should feel unsafe at school.

You might be interested in reading a related blog, Simple Tips to Help Kids Communicate Better.


> Bullying: How Parents Can Fight Back

> If Your Child Is the Bully

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Baking & Banking Lessons: GoodNCrazy Teen Bakes For Money

My daughter did it. She made her first sale—of cupcakes! A friend needed 60+ birthday cupcakes for her daughter’s class at school and the after school birthday party.

After checking with a gourmet shop my friend realized they were charging between $2-3 per cupcake! Let’s just say my kiddo charges much less than that. And we think she does a pretty darn good job! (The “Shark” cupcake she’s holding in the photo was for her little brother’s birthday.)

I can’t say she’s always been a superstar in the kitchen—soupy red velvet cupcakes (what did she forget to add?), and mint chocolate cupcakes (when the peppermint ran out she used mint flavoring instead, which tasted like toothpaste).

But she’s been creative and brave in the kitchen for many years. And she keeps on trying.

I have to thank/blame my husband for all three of my kids’ willingness to experiment gastronomically. He has been perfecting the mostest-bestest chocolate chip pan cookies for 15+ years! Every Sunday night he whips up a batch from “memory,”’ which, translated, means a slightly different version each time (sometimes awesome… sometimes NOT so awesome). The kids know that when dad’s in the kitchen anything’s possible. Are we out of chocolate chips? How about marshmallows instead? Should we try adding cocoa powder? Peanut butter? You get the picture.

I’m willing to try new recipes, and I will experiment a little bit especially with dinner ideas. But when it comes to baking, I’m a stick-to-the-recipe kind of girl. My kids get the bake-outside-the-cake-mix gene from their dad.

Back to my daughter: She’s been a cupcake-making fool the past 3-4 months. Here are a few of her culinary creations:

  • One more set of cupcakes for the youth church group
  • And of course… those 60 birthday cupcakes (cha-ching!)

Since it took a long time to put all those cupcakes together, she quickly learned that her per hour rate for all those cupcakes wasn’t high enough. “I think I make more money babysitting,” she said after the cupcake sale. But she likes baking more than child caring, so maybe that’s okay.

And since she’s not in this commercial endeavor alone, you can guess who serves as the cupcake-making-assistant, grocery purchaser, and [sigh] kitchen cleaner-upper more often than not. Yes, that’d be me. But I try not to grumble because I love that she experiments in the kitchen. I love that she makes her own refreshments for parties. And I especially love what she’s learning about money and business.

Cupcakes, anyone?


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GoodNCrazy Mom Wonders: Child Slave Labor or Allowance?

“Mom, can I go to the movies with friends tonight?”

“Mom, I REALLY need this new mascara.”

“Mom, I need $450 for the band trip.” ($450!?!)

“Mom, these shoes are too cute. I must have them…the company gives back to charity, and they only cost $70!” (Um…only? Plus, I don’t like them; they remind me of ugly 80s shoes.)

Right. All the purchases they think are great deals aren’t much of a deal to me.

My pockets are full of holes lately. Or more like full-of-my-14-year-old's-hands-reaching-in-for-hand-outs!

To be fair, there were school-sponsored fundraisers for the band trip expense. But selling crappy chocolate door-to-door isn’t something we are happy about (it netted about .20 cents per sale, btw!). Instead my daughter (the 14-year-old) and I came up with our own fundraiser. We called it: “Ask Dad,” and it involved finding out what tasks needed to be done around the house, and her doing them in exchange for us paying for her trip.

This included:

  • cleaning out the under-house storage room and helping haul the weird junk left-from-previous-owners to the dump;
  • tearing up a corner flower bed that needed a complete overhaul, removing all the plants, weeds and bushes, and then helping till the soil, dig and plant new plants, and tend it all-summer-long;

And my favorite:

  • clean and detail the family wagon (BEFORE each family road trip).

I love a clean car to start out on a long drive! And professionally detailing the mom-van costs more than $100!

Oh, and of course, pretty much all the babysitting of her younger siblings we might need on a weekly basis…say, for the rest of her life.

So, are we slave drivers? (Yes, that's her in the photo above, slaving away.) The funny thing is I’ve always been a HUGE fan of paying children an allowance. I love that it teaches math and organizing skills. For years I’ve expected all my kids to pay their own small school fees like for a school issued organizer or P.E. fees. Plus they pay for half of larger items like gifts for friends’ birthdays or to save up to purchase a much coveted toy of their own.

Where did we go wrong with that?

It was working right up until that $450 band trip. WHAM! And the movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes-I-NEED-Mom(!).

In short, the kids have all grown up.

And when I pay them an allowance, often they save that money and I still end up paying for the 14-year-old's movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes, along with a “promise-I’ll-pay-you-back(!), Mom!”

This brave new world of an older kid and money isn’t working out.

How do you come up with a plan to help your kids learn the value of money AND the value of work? Because I want them to genuinely enjoy the moment when they realize: “I did that, I saved for that, I am awesome” Or, even better, the moment when they realize that that “thing” isn’t worth $70 in the first place—“I’d rather save my hard earned money!” (A mom can dream, right?)

Until we figure out the magic solution to this allowance conundrum, we’re happily resorting to slave labor (as much of it as we can get out of the 14-year-old). Because movies-with-friends/mascara/and-shiny-new-must-haves don’t come cheap

At least we’ll have the learn-to-work part of the equation down.

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What Happens When This Mother-Daughter Share Fashion...and Music?

I just “accidentally” spent $100 on clothes.

I figured only half of the stuff would fit and/or look decent so it was really like I spent $50 and I’d just take the ugly back, right?

Um. Yeah.

“Accidentally,” everything fit—and looked awesome.

Now what?

I opened it up for discussion on my Facebook wall; I mean I’ve never had this dilemma before. Shopping for me tends to be a wham-bam affair. I find a shirt or capris that seem like they might work, and I buy and take home. Later I say a prayer to the hip Gods and try stuff on in the privacy of my dark closet. If they fit, I’m pleased, but more often… when they don’t I take them back between buying bread and eggs. I tend to be ‘fashion stupid’ so this is a regular event for me.

The other day I had a whole 25 minutes to myself and slipped into a discount clothing store, thinking I’d just buy a few fun and funky shirts, maybe a pair of summer pants for an upcoming trip to a social media conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Anyone gonna be at the Type-A Parent Conference in June? I would love to see you there!!)

I bought a couple of shirts with crazy stripes (totally not my usual bland mom-fashion) and not one but two (!) pairs of summer pants. I was feeling oh-so-wild that day, I guess? And later that evening I had to text my husband the above quote: “I accidentally spent $100 on clothes today.”

He didn’t mind and all the Facebook chatter ended with… “It’s almost Mother’s Day; keep the stuff and call it a gift to yourself!” Thank you, I did.

The funniest part is that my 14-year-old daughter keeps eyeing my new funky shirts. (She’s wearing one of them in the photo with me.) There’s no way MY pants would fit her… so don’t even go there. But I have to chuckle a little bit at her willingness to share my fashion, because lately she hates that I sing along to Adele. I mean, Please. As if Adele is “her” music?  When it totally is MY music.

She recently laid down a new edict: Mom is not allowed to sing along to ANY music (in her presence) unless it was written the year I was born. I’m nearly 40—do the math. I am soooo not singing along to disco anytime soon!

So, I figure if I can’t sing to “her” music… I can at least dance to it (in my new accidental outfits)!



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Expert Sue Scheff Offers Parents 10 Tips to Help Prevent Teen Drug Addiction

Sue Scheff is an author, a parent advocate, and the founder of the Parents' Universal Resource Expert (P.U.R.E.). Scheff helps families with at-risk teens, and specializes in educating parents on the daunting industry of teen help and how to find safe and quality residential therapy programs—at a time when parents are at their wit's end.

 Parenting a teen in today's society is not an easy task. Communication with your teenager is key to his success on many levels; however, as a mother who raised two teenagers, I know it is easier said than done. Drug and alcohol use among teens is an issue parents need to be aware of. There are many good kids making some very bad choices. 

A common misconception among parents is thinking that a teen is only smoking marijuana as a phase. Marijuana and the substitutes for it, such as “spice,” are more risky and dangerous than what was available in years/generations prior. These drugs can be laced with higher levels of PCP, which can literally alter the mind of your teen and cause brain damage.

Drug use (substance abuse) is a serious cry for help, and making your teen feel ashamed or embarrassed can make the problem worse. Here are some common behavioral changes you may notice if your teenager is abusing drugs and alcohol:

  • Violent outbursts, rage, or disrespectful behavior
  • Poor or dropping grades
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions or needle track marks
  • Missing curfews, running away, truancy
  • Bloodshot eyes, distinctive “skunky” odor on clothing and skin
  • Missing jewelry, money
  • New friends
  • Depression, apathy, withdrawal, and generally disengaged from the family
  • Reckless behavior

My 10 tips to help prevent substance abuse:

 1. Communication is the key to prevention. Whenever an opportunity to talk about the risks of drinking and driving or the dangers of using drugs presents itself, take it and start a conversation.

2. Have a conversation not a confrontation. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, talk to her. Don't judge her; instead, talk to her about facts behind the dangers of substance abuse. If your teen isn't opening up to you, be sure you find an adolescent therapist who can help. 

3. Addict in the family. Do you have an addict in your family? Sadly many families have been affected by someone who has allowed drugs to take over his or her life. With this, it is a reminder to your teen that you want him to have a bright future filled with happiness. The last thing you want for them is to end up like [name of addicted relative].

4. Don't be a parent in denial. There is no teenager who is immune to drug abuse. No matter how smart your teen is, or athletic she is, she’s at risk if she starts using. I firmly believe that keeping your teen constructively busy, whether through sports, music or other hobbies, will put her at less risk to want to experiment. However don't be in the dark thinking that because your teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA and is on the varsity football team that he couldn't be dragged down by peer pressure. Go back to my number one tip—talk, talk, talk. Remind your teen how proud you are of him, and let him know that you’re always available if he’s being pressured to do or try something he don't want to.

5. Do you even know what your teen is saying? Listen, or watch on text messages or emails, for code words for medicaiton being abused or specific drug activity: skittling; tussing; skittles; robo-tripping; red devils; velvet; triple C; C-C-C-; and robotard are just some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse. Weed; pot; ganja; mary jane; grass; chronic; buds; blunt; hootch; jive stick; ace; spliff; skunk; smoke; dubie; flower; and zig zag are all slang for marijuana.

6. Leftovers. Are there empty medicine bottles or wrappers in your teen’s room or car (if they own one)? Does she have burn marks on her clothes or her bedroom rug, and ashes or a general stench in her room or car? Be sure to check all pockets, garbage cans, cars, closets, and under beds, etc., for empty wrappers and other evidence of drug use. Where do you keep your prescription drugs?  Have you counted them lately? Teens and tweens often ingest several pills at once or smash them so that all of the drug’s affect is released at once.

7. Body language. Tune into changes in your teen’s behavior. Are his peer groups changing? Is he altering his physical appearance or suddenly lack hygiene? Are his eating and/or sleeping patterns changing? Does he display a hostile, uncooperative, or defiant attitude, and is he sneaking out of the house? Are you missing money or other valuables from your home?

8. Access to alcohol. Look around your home—are alcoholic beverages (liquor, beer, or wine) easily accessible? Teens typically admit that getting alcohol is easy, and that the easiest place to get it is in their own homes. Be aware of what you have in the house and if you suspect your teen is drinking, lock it up! Talk to them about the risks of drinking, especially if they are driving. 

9. Seal the deal. Have your teen sign a contract stating that she promises never to drink and drive. The organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving), www.saddonline.com provides a free online contract you can download. It may help her pause just the second she needs, to not get behind that wheel.

10. Set the example, be the example. What many parents don't realize is that they are the leading role model for their teen. If your teen sees you smoking or drinking frequently, what is the message you are sending? At the same time, many adults enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, and the teen needs to understand that they are adults and there’s a reason the legal drinking age is 21.

A very important piece of advice I share on a daily basis, which I learned the hard way, is that you have to be a parent first, even if it means your teen hates you. The hate is temporary. Your teen’s future, health, and safety depend on your parenting. Friendship will come later—and it does!

Editor's note: For additional information on signs of drug abuse in your child, read What Parents Should Know About the Danger Signals of Drug Abuse at SchoolFamily.com.


Scheff’s organization, Parents' Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.), offers information for parents on residential treatment schools and programs for children and teens. Scheff’s book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen, outlines how to locate safe and quality schools and drug-treatment programs, and details Scheff’s personal story of finding help for her teen daughter. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/TroubledTeensHelp, and on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/suescheff.


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Eliminate Distractions While Doing Homework

 Many students have a hard time staying focused on a task. Much has been written about teenagers who are growing up in the media age. Most agree that they are very good at multitasking. In a report featured on NPR, the actions of a student named Zach, which were typical of many teens, were described as follows: “Within the span of seconds, Zach switches between e-mail, iTunes, Facebook, a computer word puzzle game, and messaging his buddy online. Somewhere amid the flurry, Zach manages to squeeze in some homework, too.”

 My concern is what this behavior is doing to teens and their ability to stay focused to finish a task. If Zach is only managing “to squeeze in some homework,” how good can that homework be? And, beyond that, what is happening to Zach’s ability to learn and think? Dr. Beth Hellerstein, a University Hospital pediatrician and assistant clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said this is a recent interview with online magazine Your Teen, “When students are distracted while studying they may be learning facts but are not able to integrate them and apply them to a higher level of thinking. Doctors and educators worry about how this superficial learning will impact long term recall and application of the knowledge and skills.”

 How can students prevent themselves from getting distracted while doing their schoolwork? The first step is to identify what distracts them. In the example above, Zach is distracted by software running on his computer (email, Facebook, a word puzzle game, and instant messaging). He is also distracted by his iPod. Many teens have a cell phone, television, and snacks to the list of distractions.

 Once a student has identified the distractions, he needs to decide to eliminate them while doing homework. He needs to shut down all software except for what is needed to do the work. His iPod needs to be turned off and put out of sight. The television and cell phone also need to be off and out of sight.

 Other things that keep students from their work include clutter in the workspace, interruptions from siblings or friends, and looking for the necessary supplies such as paper, pencils, markers, glue, etc. Parents can assist by offering to help clear the workspace, keeping others from interrupting and making sure their child has the appropriate supplies.

 It takes organization and planning skills to take charge of the distractions. For help with ideas for organization, read A Notebook System That Aids With Organization. For more ideas about how you can help your child to learn more from homework, read How to Help Kids Get the Most Out of Their Homework Sessions.

You may also be interested in these related articles on SchoolFamily.com:

Summer is A Good Time to Learn to Type 

Voice-to-Text Software: Great Homework Tool for Kids Who Have Difficulty Writing 

Middle Schoolers Still Benefit From Being Read To




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Selecting Typing Software: Which is Best for Your Child?

Parents often call me to find out what typing software I recommend they get for their child. Unfortunately, this is a really difficult question! It really isn’t so much what software to buy as it is what your child does with it and how often they practice.

Here is what I recommend.

  •  You do not necessarily need to buy software. There are free typing tutor programs on the Internet that work just fine. CNet has several available for free and each has user ratings for you to see before you download the software.
  • It is very important to look at the screen (not hands) and use the correct fingers when typing. My goal teaching typing is to have students type well enough so that they do not have to think about frequently used words. If they need to type a word like “the,” their fingers should move automatically. If they use a different finger each time they type, they will never be able to do this. If they are able to type the most frequently used words automatically, it will reduce their spelling errors because many of these frequently used words do not follow the normal spelling rules. It will also increase their overall speed.
  •  Students should not be allowed to play typing games until they can type all the letters on the keyboard without looking down. Typing games encourage them to watch their hands and use the wrong fingers.
  •  Have your child practice 10-20 of the most frequently used words every day. Any word processor will work for this activity. I make a game of this by seeing how many times they can type each word in 10 seconds. It can be encouraging to keep the data each day to see progress over time. They need to look at the screen while they type, though, not their hands.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Typing correctly does not come easily. It takes a lot of work, discipline to use the correct fingers with their eyes on the screen, and many hours at the keyboard.

 Most students cannot learn to type simply by using software. They will navigate to the games that do indeed teach them. However, what they learn from a typing game is if I put my hands like this and quickly type as many letters as I can without thinking, I will do better. The game is won, but typing skills are lost in the process.

 The bottom line is this: Software alone cannot change your child into a good typist. They need some adult guidance to keep them on track. It is worth the effort, however, because no matter what they do in the future, they will probably need to know their way around a keyboard.

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"Bully"—Documentary's Rating Creates Dilemma for Filmmakers, Parents, and Students

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. 


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School District Signs Agreement to Prevent Bullying of Gay Teens

 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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Kids Grow Up So Fast...And I Like It That Way!

Paper airplanes are taking over my living room.

In the past few months my little boy has developed an origami obsession, and The “Great Paper Beast” has vomited all over my house (see photo). It’s getting on my claustrophobic nerves. I remarked about the paper airplane “Olympics” my kids hosted in my living room and a Twitter friend said, “I miss those days.”

What days,” I wondered? The days of having your kitchen plastered in kindergarten art projects? OR A little boy’s ongoing obsession with all things paper folding? Because, dude, I’ll trade all this paper glamour for ONE whole paper-free afternoon!

Reminds me of when my kids were very small and the little old lady dressed as a cliché accosted me in the supermarket, saying, “Oh how cute! Enjoy them while they’re young, it goes so fast.” I thought, “Lady? Maybe you should take these babies home for 2 hours, and see if you can remember what it is REALLY like!”

Because folks have selective memory when it comes to vomit-covered nights, 2 year whining phases and, of course, paper folding fixations.

I know I’m supposed to yearn for chubby baby smells or toddler mischief. But I just can’t do it. I can’t help myself; I enjoy living in the moment, and, even more, I LOVE dreaming about the next phase. (And the next, and the next…)

When my youngest was potty trained and could buckle himself in the car seat I literally celebrated! What did that mean for me? F-R-E-E-D-O-M. If only a few seconds of extra freedom from all that buckling while running around after the older siblings. I once counted how many times I buckled him into his seat in one day…let’s just say it was A LOT!

Now I’m staring down the barrel of a teen who’s less than a year from a learners driving permit. (I know? How did THAT happen?) And even this fearful stage doesn’t provoke nostalgia for the younger version of her.

Don’t tell her—but I’m secretly THRILLED she’ll be driving soon. And in a few years, I can’t wait to drive off on a mother-daughter college-tour road trip. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to boyfriends and the dating crap sure to follow, but what mom isn’t excited to take photos of her kiddo dressed for her first prom?!

And after all, the paper airplane thing is partly my fault. I searched high and low for a how-to “Klutz”-brand book on folding the best airplanes. I sat down with him and helped create a fleet of dive-bombers, until it was clear he didn’t need my help. I bought an origami how-to bible and a ream of square folding paper.

I take full responsibility for his recent engineering obsession.

I’m just ready to move on to the next fascination.

(Hopefully it’s not bottle rockets!)







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Teenage Girls Are Messy, and What IS That Smell?!

No one told me teenage girls are so messy! (And stinky?)


My oldest daughter is downright disgusting when it comes to her room and her laundry, and I’m scared to look under her bed. Her little sister (poor thing shares a room with the hoarding/moping/older girl monster), however, is a neat freak and the two DO NOT a happy shared-bedroom sisterhood make!! (The photo shown is an actual picture of my daughters’ shared bedroom. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.)


Movies and sitcoms make it clear that teenage boys are the stinky ones, not girls, and so I was led to believe that:


  • Boys leave slices of pizza to mold under blankets
  • Their gym socks get up and walk away on their own
  • In general, body odors from boys are much worse than girls


Well, I beg to differ.


Girls stink. Sorry, there’s no easy way to share this with you. The teen thing sets in STRONG by 14 years old and a mom can nag and whine, but no matter how many showers—and despite industrial strength deodorant—there is still a just-woke-up, morning girl smell that could knock over a hippo.


I once heard a child psychology expert talking about teens and bedrooms. He said you really have to think about their rooms like hotel rooms. When you’re on vacation you aren’t there for the hotel room; instead, you’re all about the stuff to do in the city you’re visiting. And it’s like that for teens. Their bedroom often is simply a stopover and a refueling place for the next “thing.”


My teen lately spends more time at school and at play practice than at home (including sleeping). And since she has nowhere near enough time to do that plus her chores and her schoolwork, and spend time with the family—which is more important to me right now than a super clean room—I’m trying to let it go.  


A lot of that will change, however, when her high school musical is over (they’re staging a production of “Anything Goes!”) We’ll get her back in all her smells-like-teen-spirit glory in a month, after the play!


So which is it, SchoolFamily.com readers? Do girls win the "Teen Disgusting Bedroom Award" or is it boys who have a corner on the reeking stench market?

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

No - 37.4%
Sometimes - 25.4%
Yes - 31.6%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016