Written on August 15, 2013 at 8:00 am , by Rosalind Wiseman
Last week I posted a mother’s question about her daughter’s struggles to maintain friendships with other girls. Today I’m responding to some of the reader comments made in reaction to my advice.
While I certainly don’t have the one and only answer to this mother’s question, I want to show you what I think are the most important aspects of her story and, as a result, why I answered as I did. I also want to take this situation as an opportunity to challenge all of us about the advice we give our kids.
From my perspective, here’s what was different about her daughter’s situation—and, thus, more complicated.
- This mother described a pattern where her daughter would become friends with a group of girls and then be rejected by them.
- This rejection took place in and outside of school. (In an extended email from the mom, she mentions summer friends and swim team friends).
- She never knew why and, understandably, her daughter didn’t want to talk to her mother about it.
I suggested that this girl at some point prepare to ask one of the girls why they had rejected her. I said it wouldn’t be easy and, yes, the girls could simply be jealous. But if there was a chance that there was something this girl was doing that was off-putting to the other girls, it was important to know that.
Some readers really disagreed with me because they felt I was setting the girl up for more rejection. My response to that is: The girl is being rejected anyway. Being continually rejected but taking no steps to figure out what is going on and doing nothing to advocate for herself takes all power away from the daughter.
In fact, the goal here is to face a situation that is difficult and intimidating. If she prepares with support, she will be proud of how she handles herself—no matter how the other girl acts. True self-esteem only comes from facing challenges that are unpleasant and sometimes intimidating. If we don’t build up our children to be able to face difficult social situations, they will not be able to handle them. It’s not easy and they need support every step of the way. But they have to face these kinds of problems. If they don’t, we are setting our kids up for social incompetence.
Another reader said “any discerning mom would know” if the girl had social skills problems that were causing the rejection. The implication being that because this mom hadn’t identified her daughter as having social skills deficits, her daughter didn’t have them. I strenuously disagree with this statement. Not only because I have seen so many well-meaning parents be blind to the social skills deficits of their children but also because we, as parents, aren’t around to see how our teen children act around their peers. We may think we know, based on how our children act around us. But that is making a huge assumption that I have found time and time again is wrong. Our children often act differently around their peers than they do around us.
Another reader commented: “I used to remind my daughter that Girl World is not the Real World so that it doesn’t matter if she’s popular/accepted or not because she will never have to see any of these people again.” With all due respect, this is missing the point. Girl World—where conflicts are inevitable and some people abuse social power over others—is the Real World. Again, our children need to build social skills and you only build them by understanding and preparing for the inevitable—getting into a conflict with another person. No, you don’t have to be friends with everyone. Popularity isn’t the goal. The goal is maintaining a sense of self in the midst of a group.
Here’s a comment I really agreed with: “If she complained of feeling rejected, I would help her recall her social successes and what felt ‘right’ about them. I would encourage her to seek friendships that give her those feelings, and to provide the same in return to her friends. I might also remind her that she herself has rejected some people, by not inviting every child to her birthday parties, for example.” Here is a parent giving a daughter a concrete skill—checking in with herself about how she feels around her peers.
What’s most important to me is that as parents we really stop (me included) to hear each other and listen to our children when they are going through the inevitable but still really challenging and sometimes-painful conflicts they get into with their peers. I believe so strongly that our children are able to handle the messiness of these situations—including social rejection—if we support them behind the scenes.
What do you think about whether this daughter should confront a former friend? Post a comment and let me know.
Written on August 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm , by Rosalind Wiseman
Recently, a mom wrote to me with the following problem:
“I have a 14-year-old daughter who is starting high school in the fall. Since she was a toddler, she’s always been confident and outgoing with lots of friends. She is beautiful, multi-talented and very smart. In the fall of 7th grade, her elementary school friends turned on her and she has not been able to find new ones since. Every time she makes friends, they eventually blow her off—making up excuses for not getting together or ignoring her when they see her—again and again. She ends up excluded, alone and blaming herself for somehow being ‘annoying.’ She gets defensive and angry if I talk about my experiences a zillion years ago or challenge her assumption that she is a loser. How can I help her?”
While this is not an unusual problem, the answer to it is pretty complex. But first let’s address the easier issue of this mother’s well-intentioned reaction to talk to her daughter about her own experiences and assure her daughter she’s not a loser. Both, in this case, are counter-productive for the following reasons. First, talking to the daughter about her past experiences probably comes across as if she thinks they’re the same and the daughter understandably doesn’t agree.
Second, instead of assuring her that she’s not a loser, a parent in this situation is better off saying something like: “If you really are feeling this badly about yourself, then we need to think through how you can feel better. You’re old enough that I know you want to figure this on your own but I’m asking that you trust me enough that we work on this together.”
Now, on to the more complicated issues. Girls in her position often learn to either hate other girls or turn themselves inside out trying to please the girls who are rejecting them. Not good. But here’s the hard thing to think about. Since this is a pattern of behavior, the big question is does this girl (and maybe by extension the mom) really want to know what the other girls think is the reason/explanation for their behavior? Because sometimes figuring out the reason for something can be pretty painful. In case either one of them do, here’s what I think are the most likely possibilities.
The girl really is as beautiful, multi-talented and smart as the mother says she is. As much as any parent loves having a child like this, it can easily cause friction with other kids. There are girls who are alienated because they’re good at something, intelligent, pretty and have a good body. (A girl can be pretty or have a good body without girls being jealous. If she has both, chances are good that they’ll either exclude her or worship her.)
Many parents, in reaction would say, “Those girls are all jealous and you can’t let them get you down.” This response is a way too simplistic soundbite. Jealousy is a complicated emotion and it often rages in the best of kids. Also there’s a very, very good chance that even if they were jealous, these other girls would never admit it to anyone—including themselves. Instead they would come up with reasons, that they absolutely believe, that justify their anger and rejection. Usually, the “reason” is that the girl is always trying to get attention or she thinks she’s better than the other girls because she’s always doing “x.” But that explanation doesn’t give any guidance about how the girl should manage herself so she feels better about how she’s handling the situation.
As a parent of a girl who is starting high school, this is the time for the daughter to figure out what’s going on—which means talking to some of the girls who have excluded her in the past. Here’s a suggestion for what she can say.
I know we aren’t friends anymore and I’m not calling you so things can go back to the way we were before. I’m calling because I really don’t know why you stopped wanting to hang out with me. I know this may sound strange but I want to know why. Maybe there’s something I need to hear and it may be hard for me to know but it’s important.
There’s a chance that the other girl will unleash on her. Or do the opposite by saying “No!” Or even say, “You promise you won’t get mad at me?” If that’s the case, the daughter can say, “I’m asking you to be honest but I hope you realize it may be hard for me.”
The big challenge here is separating the other girls’ baggage (jealousy, and insecurity) with the possibility there is something your daughter is doing that is pushing the other girls away: like not giving them enough space or not picking up small ways people communicate when they’re asking someone to stop doing something that’s irritating.
Bottom line is she shouldn’t apologize for her accomplishments or her natural characteristics. But if there’s behavior that she needs to self-reflect on, this is where she’ll learn to get difficult feedback from other people and uncover what she may need to change about how she conducts herself.
Remember I said be careful about the questions you ask because you may not really want the answer? Sometimes, even though it’s difficult and unpleasant, this is the way a girl can develop strong friendships she can depend on.
What would you advise this mom to do? Post a comment and tell me.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to www.rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question?
Written on August 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm , by jtaylor
I recently traveled to meet my girlfriends for a weekend birthday celebration on a magnificent New England island. Free-flowing cocktails, jokes, hugs and loads of fun soon replaced the stresses of everyday life. I truly love my friends. However, while sitting on the sand observing the people around me, I noticed a pattern that was heartwarming. Families. Multigenerational families, actually, that were walking, standing in line and just lounging together.
My fascination grew with every conversation I overheard. Proud grandparents, for example, would pronounce how far away their progeny had traveled, literally dropping everything for F.T.: Family Time. Watching the joyous interaction of families catching up with each other, window-shopping and making memories together made me nostalgic for the few family reunions that I’ve been to. My own family is small and our meet-ups ended long ago.
I was reminded of the importance of bringing young and old family together. The learning, helping and love reflected becomes irreplaceable after losing a family member. I thought of my four daughters and made a commitment to getting all of us together soon. Sharing experiences and making memories with family—from all generations—does not have to occur on an island, though. Finding time for family is important and can be achieved with an invitation and simple desire to see one another.
Watching the slow but attentive pace of grandparents and the amusing antics of grandchildren was a reminder of the timeline of life. As I turned to my girlfriends to toast a birthday wish, I was thankful for the wisdom and presence of our elders who gave me hope and inspiration for the years to come.
What’s your favorite multigenerational get-together memory? Post a comment below and tell me.
Written on August 7, 2013 at 10:37 am , by Family Circle
Every kid who starts off summer break full-throttle hits a point of complete sloth. The teen who was so fired up about making money discovers that all the jobs he’s old enough for were gone back in February. The tween with social calendar to rival the Royal Family’s finds herself the only kid left in town when all her friends have gone on vacation. Then there’s that pesky summer reading list.
Given the option, kids will roll out of bed around 3pm, creep out to the television, grabbing a box of cereal on their way, and remain on the couch until something makes them move.
How do you combat summer sloth to a level that will bring you peace of mind?
You can micromanage every spare moment of summer vacation. However, this gives you zero peace of mind and they become so resentful that they’ll intentionally turn their brains off not just for the summer, but well into October, just to prove a point. Better to pick your battles.
I always start by lowering my standards.
What’s the goal here, really? Well, yes, ultimately to produce viable young adults capable of contributing to the world at large, who remain self-sufficient and never return to live in your basement, but what is your goal this summer? My goal is a little peace and quiet, and for my children’s brains to not turn into guacamole.
Since I enacted my three-part plan to combat summer sloth I feel ten years younger.
1). Set a wakeup time that is appalling to both of you. 10am is good. You have the benefit of a few hours of solitude before the grumpy ones awake, and the bonus of annoying your kid when she first opens her eyes.
2). Commit to the idea that the only response to “I’m bored!” is the assignment of chores. Your to-do list will disappear like a popsicle in the sun.
3). Put in place a screen ban during daylight hours—say, 11am-5pm. I’m not normally a screen regulator, much to my chagrin. I’m a stepmom whose kids regularly do their homework in front of the television while carrying on four text conversations and playing a video game. I only intervene sometimes, because when they’re bringing home A’s, I don’t really mind. But the summer screen ban is different.
The purpose of this ban is to force your kids to use their brains. Remember that making them think was the battle you picked. Not get them interested in world peace, have them qualify for the Olympic soccer team, or read the Brontë sisters’ collected works, but just to get them to use their brains enough to not entirely atrophy. The fact that they are going to be using their brains to get around the screen ban is irrelevant.
Observe: Your kid has to devise a reliable driveway monitoring system to know when you’re back from the store so the TV can be shut off and she’s in place reading her book before you ask her to help unload the groceries. Your son discovers how to slide into his room in absolute silence so as not to draw attention to the fact that you didn’t confiscate the iPods today. Your daughter rallies her internet friends during approved screen hours to find out how to work around the parental controls.
At times, your kids will find that the simplest way of getting around the screen ban is to leave the house. They set out indignantly, riding their bikes to the house of the nearest friend without a screen ban… but along the way they get distracted by the park. They encounter a friend who’s going fishing, going to build a fort, going swimming, going for frozen yogurt, on their way to sell bracelets they made at the coffee shop. They call you on their “I’ll-make-an-exception-to-the-screen-ban-so-you-can-call-me” non-smart cell phone and ask if they can change their plans.
There’s a certain satisfaction in tricking your kids into using their brains to outwit you. It’s the same kind of feeling you get when you make them do recipe math to get pancakes for seven, or when they go running for a textbook to prove that you’re wrong about something.
Just remember when they leave the house, always reset your parental controls.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on August 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm , by Family Circle
In our September “Dr. Mom Knows Best” feature, child psychologist Polly Dunn, Ph.D., offered smart advice on everything from boosting your mood to making your kid a better person. For this guest post, Dr. Dunn provides a handbook to staying on top of your kid’s social media presence. As she tells her children: “I’m your mom and I will friend, follow and like you.” Here’s how she says you can do the same—without being glued to a screen 24/7:
She knows all about the latest social media trends from her older brother and sister, both teenagers and both with social media accounts. And not surprisingly even some of her eight-year-old friends are using these applications.
But in my house, the answer is a firm no. I know enough about social media to understand that it’s no place for an eight-year-old.
Social media sites for our kids are advancing so fast that for parents it often seems impossible to keep up. But it’s not. With a little effort, we can do our part to stay active parenting our kids both online and off. Here’s how:
1. Follow the age requirements. Most social media sites require children to be 13 to sign up, but Vine requires you to be 17. Not only should your child meet the minimum age requirement, but they should be able to use good judgment offline before becoming active in social media.
2. Be an active social media parent. If my kids are on social media sites then I am right there with them. I follow, friend and like them. I don’t comment on their posts or embarrass them, but I monitor what they are doing, just like I do in real life. You can call it stalking, but in this day and age it’s not stalking. It’s called parenting.
3. Encourage privacy. Remind your teens not to share personal information about themselves, their family or their friends online. Kids should keep all profiles set to private and make sure to only accept friends or followers that they know in real life.
4. Keep conversations going. Talk about their interactions on social media just like you would talk to them about their real world experiences. Discuss how to use manners, practice kindness and show respect online and then be a good role model of that with your own social media use.
5. Yank their social media privileges. You heard me. Using social media is a privilege, not a right. You can ground your kids from using Instagram or Twitter when they misuse it just like you can ground them from going out with friends when they miss curfew. When do they get their privileges back? When they show they can behave properly online.
Do you have any ideas to share on how to parent your children on social media? Do you agree with the ‘Friend, Follow, and Like’ plan? Let us hear from you in the comments below.
Dr. Polly Dunn is a child psychologist and a mom of four kids, ranging in age from 5 to 16. For more of her ‘Perfectly Imperfect Parenting Solutions’ visit her blog at www.ChildPsychMom.com.
Written on July 25, 2013 at 10:27 am , by Family Circle
Every first-time parent is an idiot in the beginning. No matter how many books you read or how much helpful advice people bombard you with, when the kid shows up, you have no idea what you’re doing. You’re making it up.
Around the time your oldest kid reaches middle school, you’ve made up some things that work pretty well. You may even have some confidence.
The changes in children are often imperceptible to parents. You’re going about your business, parenting confidently, then one day a teenager is sitting at the dinner table (against their will) and you think, “Who are you and what on earth have you done with my adorable baby?”
But in the world of step-parenting, kids show up ready-made. Changes are constant and rapid-fire with no chance to ramp up.
As a custodial stepmom to five it often feels like I’m constantly redefining my role. Learning curve? More like learning cliff, complete with rocky crags below.
First I was provider of cookies, crayons and new clothes… and I was not Mom, which meant something different to each of them. It was then discovered by extensive testing that I was Dad’s counterpart; that what one of us decreed, the other upheld. In time, they learned they could count on me—to bandage their boo-boos, to tell the truth, to listen; but also to embarrass them in front of their friends, to mess up their schemes, and to check their stories.
Not much about parenting is easy, step-parenting perhaps even more so. Step-parents seem to get an easier time with the milestones kids pass through, simply because the one thing we are used to is constant change.
When #1 was about to enter high school, I mistakenly dragged her along to the parents’ orientation meeting. She was the only kid there. My work schedule coupled with my stepdaughter’s caution in making friends meant that we didn’t know any of the parents. The kids of all these parents had grown up together, had mostly all been here in this town since they were born. There were numerous loud, emotional greetings being exchanged all around us: I can’t believe it! I can’t handle it! How did our babies end up in high school?
Funny, I thought. “I can’t believe it! I can’t handle it!” is pretty much what goes through my mind every single day.
Hearing these protestations over and over magically transformed a boring wait into an extraordinarily awkward one. Every exclamation only amplified the fact that we didn’t share their history, not to mention that she could have been home watching TV. She had also been in four different school systems the year before she came to live with us. Changing the grade from 8 to 9 was hardly a shakeup for her.
I turned to my stepdaughter and said, “I have absolutely no feelings whatsoever about you starting high school.” She laughed and said, “Me neither.”
We marked the milestone by cutting out early for ice cream.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com
Written on July 19, 2013 at 10:59 am , by Rosalind Wiseman
If you are a white parent of an older child or teen, have you discussed the Trayvon Martin tragedy with them? When the verdict came in over the weekend, I realized that I had not.
For a moment, I was shocked and then ashamed. I realized, as I have many times before, that my experience as a white parent raising a white son is a very different experience than it is for black parents raising a black son. I was reminded yet again, of what race “privilege” as a parent really is: the freedom to believe your child will be seen as a person, not reduced to a reflection of people’s fears and biases.
About six months before Trayvon’s death, I had a conversation with a group of high school boys about when and how they sneak out after their parents go to bed. At first the conversation was light and revolved around the boys comparing funny stories. But everything got quiet when one of the boys said:
You guys have no idea how different it is for me as a black man. So my parents don’t get suspicious, I wear sweats and a hoody so if they see me it looks like I’m in my pajamas. But what if someone on the street sees me trying to get in or out of the house like that? They immediately will think I’m robbing the place. Or if I do sneak out, then I have to walk down the street…a black man wearing sweats is not a good thing late at night in a suburban neighborhood. You know it’s only a matter of minutes before the police stop me and ask me if I live here. I could be wearing my school sweatshirt and they’d still question me.
As he related all the complexities of sneaking out his white friends were speechless. He was a good friend of theirs and they had no idea how walking through the world was so different for him. I remember one of the other boys saying, “If I ever get stopped by the police, all they assume is I’m high or drunk.” Another boy said, “I had no idea it was like that for you. I got caught in exactly that same situation last weekend but the police gave me a little lecture and then drove me home.”
If you’re a white parent and you haven’t talked to your children about Trayvon, please ask yourself why not? Does it seem too ugly and violent? Are you not sure what to say? Do we not see this as our issue?
It is our issue. Not only because we probably have friends of other races and/or our children do but because we need to teach our children to empathize—that there are people in our country who feel like their children are first seen as a problem and threat rather than a kid walking down the street.
Yesterday, I asked my boys what they knew about the case and they did know the basic facts. Then, we listened to the radio and read some of the newspaper accounts and opposing op-eds that followed the verdict as in USA Today or Wall Street Journal. We talked about racial stereotyping and fears that we all develop; whether we are aware of them or not.
But like much of parenting, the teaching moment came in an instant when I wasn’t expecting it. Not an hour later I was in the car with my boys when a guy in another car honked his horn and obviously cursed me out. Immediately my older son said, “Mom, that guy just swore at you, can I middle finger him?”
“No.” I replied. “We have gone over this a thousand times. No.”
“Why? He was cursing you. Come on, just one time,” my son said.
Then it hit me how to connect our conversations about Trayvon with this seemingly unrelated and ridiculous request. This is what I said:
Here’s one difference between you and Trayvon. As a young white man, you have the luxury of being foolishly rude without the other person assuming that you’re violent. Boys like Trayvon don’t have that luxury. They can’t middle finger someone without being seen as an angry black man. Now imagine that the guy who you get into the argument with, the one who just cursed me out thinks all young black men are punks who need to be taught respect. And you, as a young black man have had enough experience to know this. Sometimes you’re so mad about it you want to scream. Sometimes you’re scared and want to defend yourself. Do you see how easy it is for you to want to flip off that guy and not think anything of it? Can you see how different it is for other boys? Just think about it.
It got very quiet in the car and then my son said, “I get it.”
Have you talked to your child about Trayvon? What did you say? Post a comment and tell me.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to www.rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question?
Written on July 10, 2013 at 6:07 pm , by jtaylor
Words hurt. Just ask Rachel Jeantel or Marion Bartoli.
Who? Let me explain. Rachel Jeantel is the young black woman who was a key witness in the Travon Martin murder case. Her stature, weight and smooth dark-skin led many to dismiss her presence as a grieving friend and minimize her value.
Marion Bartoli is the 2013 Women’s Wimbledon champ. After winning Wimbledon handily, this French competitor was faced with the insensitive comments of BBC commentator John Inverdale. Noting that she wasn’t blond or tall, he publicly uttered, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker?’” His absurd remarks trivialized her drive and talent as if she chose competiveness as a consolation prize.
Sadly, the comments of people, parents, teachers, friends, family and strangers can leave a lasting sting. In some cases, wounds in self-esteem and self-identity are opened that are difficult to close.
Starting in adolescence, going through periods of certainty and uncertainty about just who we are and what we are is a natural part of self-development. The key is the ability to sort out and through the process without being weighed down by negativity and difficult circumstances like emotional or physical abuse.
As parents, we constantly have to teach our children to imagine a better future. Sit down with your kids and discuss situations that had an outcome that resulted in hurt feelings. Help them identify their feelings, understand the emotions and list actions to prevent future scenarios.
Who we are is more than words. Self-esteem and a healthy self-identity are a commitment to having goals, personal standards and life roles that matter. Like a butterfly, emerging from a cocoon weaved from life experiences, we fly, not fueled by stereotypes. We fly on courage, fearlessness and determination.
How do you help your children overcome negative comments? Post a comment below and tell me.
Written on June 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm , by Rosalind Wiseman
Recently, I was sitting on my 12-year-old son, Elijah’s, bed. The lights were out and he was under the covers—as in he’d pulled the covers up over his face.
Me: Honey, it’s ok to say that you’re frustrated and upset.
Elijah: I’m fine, grabbing his pillow and putting it on top of his face.
Me: You can’t bottle up your feelings. It’s like you’re covering up a volcano. Sooner or later it’s going to explode and that feels even worse.
Elijah: Mom, please I just want to go to bed.
Me: Ok…just think about it. I love you.
This conversation occurred about two hours after Elijah had not listened to me or his dad and accidently dropped a 60-pound bag of concrete on our lawn at the exact time our automatic sprinkler system came on. And remember wet concrete very quickly becomes hardened concrete. In his defense, as a somewhat recent transplant from Washington, D.C., none of us have ever lived in a house with:
1. a backyard and
2. a sprinkler system
So it was understandable that he didn’t think about it when he ignored our warning to not leave the bag on the grass. Except for the part about ignoring us.
This incident also occurred a few days after another very unfortunate event inside the house. Elijah wanted to show me that he could flip a can of spray paint in the air. When he caught it, the little nozzle came off and red paint started spraying everywhere: the walls, the floor, the sink, the faucet. The goods news is that Murphy’s Oil Soap took off all the paint—but not without me expressing my frustration and anger.
Teaching our children that it’s healthy to express these feelings is one of the most important responsibilities we have as parents. But it’s not easy because very few of us are taught how to deal with these messy emotions well. That’s the thing about families. They give us endless opportunities to practice expressing healthy ways to be angry and encouraging it in our children.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t sit down with Elijah in a calm, kind voice and tell him how “concerned” I was about the paint and how I really “hoped” he’d be more thoughtful next time. No, I fumed. I did my angry sigh—the thing both my boys know is the sign that I am making every effort not to completely lose it.
But back to the concrete: As Elijah went through the usual phases of denial and blame (on his brother and the neighbor’s dog), he tried to clean up the mess…by tracking even more of the concrete throughout our house. At this point, my husband was yelling, Elijah was sulking and I wanted to run away.
Thirty minutes later, with everyone in a terrible mood and hating each other, Elijah went into his room. And there I was still feeling angry. I mean, really. How many times do I have to tell my boys to listen to me when there’s a real possibility of them damaging someone or something?
Sitting on Elijah’s bed, I knew that if I said anything more, I’d just irritate him. But I also knew that he was really upset about how angry his dad was with him. Elijah had done something wrong, without a doubt, but at the same time he was really hurting. So what do you do in that moment?
I walked out of his room and asked my husband to go in there and tell Elijah he loved him. Of course he wasn’t feeling very loving at the moment, but that father-son connection is intense and sometimes the best thing about having a spouse is they can remind you of the larger picture. He does it for me all the time. James got up and walked into Elijah’s room. I don’t know what they said. But I do know the next morning, we all felt better.
Written on June 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm , by Paula Chin
Like many grownups, I loved Sesame St. as much as my kid did, especially the adorable Mr. Noodle—that bumbling, rubber-limbed sweetheart of a clown, living in his own little world-within-Elmo’s World (accessible only by the window shade), trying so hard with his supremely silly process of trial and error to figure out how life—and its dizzying assortment of gizmos and gadgets—works. (“No, Mr. Noodle! Put your feet on the pedals!”)
I’ve followed the supremely multi-talented Bill Irwin in the years since—Tony-award winning Broadway performances (both as mime and dramatic actor), movie and TV roles (Rachel Getting Married, CSI serial killer)—and still love him. So did my daughter Natalie, now 12; she just didn’t know it.
That’s why I took her to see his recent stage show, Old Hats, a vaudeville variety mash-up of clowning, comedy, music, theater and dance. There were floppy shoes and baggy pants, spaghetti-wrestling and hobo pathos, a live band with subversively witty tunes. And, after all these years, Mr. Noodle in person! Nat loved it all.
Art at its most creative and ebullient. Something you and your kid can never get too much of. Something you never outgrow.
Old Hats Irwin (right) and David Shiner.
Written on June 13, 2013 at 8:00 am , by jtaylor
“Fine! If you don’t let me (fill in the blank), I will kill myself.”
Whoa. If your child dares to utter these words, they are sure to get your attention. And you know what? These words are meant to. Kids who threaten to hurt or kill themselves should be taken very seriously. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults. Third. And it shockingly ranks in the top twenty causes of death in kids aged 5 to 9.
Unfortunately, the recent onslaught of media coverage around Paris Jackson’s suspected suicide attempt has really missed the point. Instead of focusing on why this 15-year-old allegedly took up to twenty pills and cut her arm, we should be focusing on why she possibly believed this was her best option. What’s driving young people to decide that their only way to make a point in this world is to make their way out of this world?
As parents, we place such a high priority on protecting our children and teens from outside threats, that we may miss the threat teens present to themselves. The teen brain is not fully developed until most kids hit their early twenties. As a result, you may find that your teen makes decisions that are reactive, impulsive and, yes, dangerous.
Every action a teenager makes means something. If we listen and pay attention, they will make us aware of the underlying significance. So what should you do? Just that: Listen, act and take a threat or action of self-harm seriously. Do what someone in the Jackson household did. Recognize the real or imagined threat of self-harm as an emergency. Call 911 and let a mental health care professional make an assessment. Lose the stigma of being overly concerned about “’other people being in your business” and get your child and your family help. The life you save may be your teen’s.
Need help with your child? Try contacting:
- The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Written on June 6, 2013 at 8:15 am , by Rosalind Wiseman
A few days ago, a friend sent me a link that truly surprised me. It was an interview with Unlocking the Truth, a heavy metal band made up of three 6th grade boys from Brooklyn, New York, that regularly perform in Times Square. That’s right, they haul their instruments to Manhattan and rock their sixth-grade selves out in front of total strangers in one of the most public places on earth.
These kids define cool, as in ahead of the curve and setting the style that others are going to copy. But what I really love about these boys is what great role models they are for other children. Here are the “read between the lines” life lessons that I found in the article on them.
1. Follow your passions no matter what. In this case, Malcolm, Jared, and Alec are three New York City African-American boys who like heavy metal—usually the domain of white guys from Middle America. They’re showing all of us to follow our hearts—regardless of who we are or what we are supposed to be.
2. Be yourself, be proud and stand by your friends. They know they’re being judged on everything from wearing nail polish to playing heavy metal, but they have each other’s backs. When you’re in sixth grade everyone needs back-up like that. Actually we all need a friend like that no matter how old we are.
3. Put yourself out there. Can you imagine how much courage it takes to play in Times Square? “The Crossroads of the World”? These boys expose themselves to judgment and possible ridicule. But they don’t let it stop them from expressing their creativity. Whether or not you like their music, you have to respect that. This is exactly the kind of risk I always encourage my students and my sons to take.
4. You have to pay to play. They work hard to earn money but when they get hungry this is what they report: “We gotta pay for our own food and drinks and hot chocolate because in Times Square it’s kind of cold.” You may not think this is a big deal but think about it from a sixth-grade perspective. You might not like having to spend your hard earned money on hot chocolate but you’re realizing how hard you have to work to pay for that three-dollar drink. And you’re also learning not to depend on or expect your parents to buy everything.
Plus, not to be superficial but if you’re a boot lover, check out the boots two of them are wearing. So what do you think of these rockers? Post a comment and tell me.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to www.rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question?