Being a Mom
This morning, I had the great opportunity to join Public Radio host, Kathleen Dunn, and US Dept. of Education representative, Deborah Tempkin for an hour to talk about what parents, schools, and peers can do to stop bullying and cyber-bullying. While I much prefer being a writer…and being able to liberally revise my responses until I find just the right words…I did love the interaction with Kathleen and Deborah and with the callers who phoned, emailed, and tweeted their questions to the show. It was a lively discussion, sparked by the recent bullying-related suicide of a young man from Sioux City, Iowa.
The one thing I’ve been kicking myself about all day is my response to the two callers who talked about physical retaliations as being the best answer to the problem of bullying. I found myself a little tongue-tied during both conversations. The point I wanted to make–and that I do make when I have the luxury of writing on the subject instead of answering on-air–is that while physical retaliations may seem to solve the problem in the moment, they are not the mark of a civilized society and are never the kind of skill that best serve children in the long-term. I do believe with all of my heart that children need skills to know how to stand up for themselves, but never do I believe that revenge–particularly physical aggression–is an advisable response.
In both my scheduled workshops and my casual conversations on the topic of bullying, professionals and parents often ask me, “Is bullying really worse today than it was when we were kids?”
My answer to that question is an emphatic, “Yes.”
The 24/7 availability of cell phones, instant messaging, e-mails and social networking sites have intensified the impact of bullying, giving young people private ways to humiliate each other under-the-radar of adults and public ways to spread rumors and gossip to large-scale audiences.
To read the rest of this story, please visit the HuffingtonPost or click the link below.
It’s a banner week for me, as far as finding Mama-friends who hit the ball out of the park with their writing and reflections on motherhood. Check out this awesome post, by blogger Lisa Kaplan, who talks about over-watered first-borns (don’t we all have one?), living in glass houses, and developing some much needed empathy for one other. LOVE it!
I stumbled upon this WONDERFUL, put-a-smile-in-your-heart article yesterday and knew it was too good not to share! With gracious permission from its author, the wise and inspiring Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, I present to you, “8 Things I Want to Tell My 8-Year Old Daughter:”
My youngest daughter turned 8 years old this week. This means that she has moved into the world of tweens. Tween marketing is commonly focused on kids between the ages of 8-12 years, and it has become a stage in life when a mini version of adulthood is being promoted as fun and appropriate. But my girl is still so young. Having gone through this stage with my two older daughters, I want so much for her to hold on to and enjoy her childhood. There’s no reason to rush into being a teenager at the age of 8! And yet, that is a vision that I see in so many programs and products marketed to her. As she turns eight, these are eight things that I want her to know:
- Your uniqueness is what makes you amazing: As you enter the tween years, you’re going to feel pressure to be like everyone else, to follow the crowd, to not stand out. But the things that make you different are what make you original, uniquely you. Love those things about yourself; from your freckles to your love for animals to the way you feel things so strongly.
- Enjoy being a kid: You will be a teenager soon enough, and then an adult. Don’t stifle your exuberance, your love to laugh and run and play because it makes you look like a kid. You are a kid! Chase butterflies, play pretend, wear clothes that don’t match, run as fast as you can and play in the mud!
- Believe in your dreams: As I got older, I realized that everyone didn’t believe that I could do things I thought I could. I know that you’re going to feel that too, and that it will hurt your heart. But the voices of those who don’t believe are no stronger than your own. If you believe deep in your heart that you should pursue something then let’s do it!
- If you don’t risk, you’ll never know: It’s easy to play it safe and avoid taking risks in life, both big and small. But if you don’t risk, you’ll never know what might have happened. Whether it’s learning a new sport, trying a new food, or making a new friend, go out there and live your life fully.
- You are more than your looks: My precious daughter, you may notice that people suddenly want to tell you that you should be plucking, shaving, coloring, glossing, making-up and whatever else to make you look better. You may suddenly worry about the hair on your legs or the freckles on your nose or the cowlick in your hair. If you’re not careful, it’s so easy to begin to believe that what really matters about you is how you look. But you are so much more than that! You are brilliant, strong, passionate, curious, kind, and more! Know that these are the things that are most important about you, not the way you look.
- Know that I am here: For the past years, I have always been here for you whether it’s been to give a hug, wipe a tear, share a laugh, or have an adventure. As you get older, it may get harder to talk to me. You may have feelings that you don’t understand. You may struggle with friendships and romantic relationships. You may struggle with feelings about yourself. Please know that I am still here for you, whenever and however you need me. Whether you need to talk out a disagreement with a teacher or make a big decision, my arms, ears, and heart are always open to you.
- You were born to shine: I believe with all my heart that you were born with a purpose, that you can make this world a better place using your unique gifts and talents. Never forget that you were born to shine the beauty of your unique individuality on this old world and make it brighter.
- Love other people: Even when they don’t deserve it, even when they hurt you, even when they make you mad. Let love for others fill your heart so that it flows out of you to touch the lives of those around you. It’s easy to share hate, bitterness, and rudeness. It’s so much harder to turn to hate with love, to look at the person who is being mean to you and see someone who needs mercy. But the world would be a better place if we all learned to do that. You can’t make other people love, but you can choose to love.
Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker is a nationally certified school psychologist and licensed specialist who has worked with hundreds of families, children, and teachers in her career. She is the current director of the School Psychology specialist program and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. Along with writing and presenting research at professional conferences, Dr. Shewmaker provides media literacy workshops that help parents, teachers, and children learn to more closely examine media messages and plan a thoughtful, effective response. She is the author of the blog Don’t Conform Transform at http://www.jennifershewmaker.com.
The History Channel’s Brad Meltzer wrote this great article for the Huffington Post on what makes a real hero for a young girl. In his words:
As I tell my daughter, when you want something in life — no matter how impossible it seems — you need to fight for it. When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than you’ve ever fought before. It’s the lesson that links the lives of every single hero I picked for her. As I tell her: Don’t be the princess waiting for the prince to come save you. You can save yourself.
Check out this great gallery of inspiring heroes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-meltzer/heroes-for-daughter_b_1419605.html
The author of this piece, below, is a therapist, writer, and classmate of mine from graduate school. In this piece, he is raw and real and powerful, pulling back the curtain on one young girl’s desperation. This piece is about depression. It is about bullying. It is about hopelessness. And about hope too. Thanks, Roy DeWinkeleer, for being on the helping side!
As one reader reminded me when I shared this article on Facebook: you might need tissues for this read. As parents, we all share this deepest, most petrifying fear that this may one day be our child.
Amber had been giving her mother the silent treatment all week. She was angry about not being allowed to sleep over at a friend’s house. Late Thursday night, she left a note on her mother’s pillow, asking her mom to wash her uniform before Friday’s soccer game. When Amber returned home from school on Friday in a rush to pack her gear, she looked all over for her uniform. She finally found it in the washer-perfectly clean, as per her request — but still soaking wet! Amber was late for her game and forced to ride the bench.
When all was un-said and done, Amber’s mother felt defeated. Having one-upped her daughter in the conflict, it was clear to her that she had lost by winning. As parents, most of us have been in situations where traveling the low road is irresistible and we become temporarily reckless in our driving. But anytime we mirror a child’s poor behavior instead of modeling a healthier way to behave, our victories add up to long-term relationship damage and lasting hostilities.
So, what could Amber’s mother have done differently in this hostile un-confrontation? What can any parent do to avoid the agony of victory and the defeat of healthy communication? The following guidelines offer parents strategies for maintaining their calm in a passive-aggressive storm and responding in ways that lay the groundwork for less conflictual relationships with their children and adolescents.
To read more, please click the link below or visit the original post, on the Huffington Post Parents section.
Through the wonders of Facebook, a friend of a friend of a 4th grader shared this pearl of wisdom about conflict resolution. Only wish I had the pleasure of knowing this elementary school student personally!
In conflict with another person, if you come in fierce like a tiger, you’ll have to win. So only you will be happy.
If you come in like a bunny, scared, the other person will win, so only that person will be happy.
If you come in like a bird, with your wings and your heart open, both people in the conflict will win, and both will be free.
Will be sure to use this during How to Be Angry workshops with kids!
I am printing one of these for each of my daughters’ bedroom mirrors and posting this one to share with you!
In my book, Friendship & Other Weapons, I dedicate a session to media literacy and empowerment–specifically, helping young girls look “behind the scenes” of today’s advertising industry, to understand some of the smoke & mirrors tricks that go into creating cover-girl looks. I suggest the Dove Evolution video as a great discussion piece that adults can use to educate and inform kids.
Here is a newer video that spells things out for kids (and adults) in a clear and compassionate way–I love the way this photographer explains all of the work that goes into creating a camera ready image…and that he cared enough about young girls’ self-esteem to create the video in the first place. Cheers to him!
Moms, watch this one with your daughters! I know I will be showing this in my Mother-Daughter workshops based on Friendship & Other Weapons when we talk about the media’s impact on young girls. This is the perfect clip for creating awareness about healthy body images, photoshopping, and self-esteem.