by Jennifer Dyer
If I were to write a book about parenting teens, I would entitle it Before the Hormones Hit. From what I remember, what I have been told, and what I have observed, by the time children reach their teens much of the parenting work has been done and it’s time to reinforce.
So, start today, even if you only have little ones. Build into them. Take them out on dates. Find out what interests them and be a part of that. Go to their games and school events. Have lunch with them at school (at least when they’re in elementary–middle school might not go so well…). Play games as a family. Ride bikes together. Find a hobby you can all enjoy. Have fun. Don’t wait until later.
by Jennifer Dyer
Bullies don’t have much discretion. Whether it is misguided creativity or a complete lack thereof, some people will pick on others no matter what. We’ve heard recent news stories of kids bullied about being gay, but for the people involved it may have been more a of way to push someone’s buttons rather than the issue itself. So what can we do about it?
For example, I grew up in a border town in Texas. The fact that I recently almost died from a bout with melanoma should tell you that I glow in the dark. Not a problem when you live far north, but apparently it was a problem to the majority of people I came across in school. Some people were genuinely curious, as they had never met a melanin challenged person before, but others were cruel and hateful, at least their actions were.
I also remember an incident in one of my senior classes–psychology, none the less. We were discussing morals. So, of course, the teacher, who didn’t like me anyway, asked me if I had any morals. True to form, I froze when called upon. The teacher laughed at me and suggested I was too stupid to have morals. I finally muttered that I didn’t believe in premarital sex. The teacher led the rest of the class in laughing at me then went on to let the class discuss why that moral was outdated and stupid. Even now my stomach clenches at the memory. I never, ever wanted to go back to his class again, much less see the others in that class. In fact, I left that town after high school and never looked back. I refuse to attend high school reunions and that being stuck in high school would be one of Dante’s levels of the Inferno, were he to write the book today.
Some words of advise for victims of bullying:
- Here is something that a wise woman told me during that time in my own life. Don’t peak in high school. Go on and do something big with your life. People who enjoy bullying often peak in high school and go on to do nothing with their lives. While that is not always true, it certainly helped me.
- I tell teens my teen friends to keep perspective. High school and middle school are not forever. Right now it feels like the entire world is composed on those few people, but the world is a huge place. You will be able to get away and move past it.
- Another thing I tell youngsters to to get involved elsewhere. Join groups that are not related to school. Do service projects. Run marathons, take karate classes, work out in aerobics classes where you can interact with adults, volunteer at the library or pet shelters, become a leader at your church. Expand your horizons.
- Become friends with people from other areas of town. Attend clubs and activities that meet your interests and make friends there. My own BFF and I never went to the same school and don’t even live in the same state any longer, but we have supported each other from the church nursery all the way through life’s ups and downs.
- Support others going through the same life issues. Become a mentor. Sometimes one of the best way to overcome your own fears and issues is to help someone else.
- As an adult, become a mentor. Often troublemakers just need guidance. One of my favorite shows is the Ace of Cakes. On a Food Network Chef Biography special, Chef Duff Goldman told a story about his youth in which a teacher caught him painting graffiti. This person guided Duff into art rather than delinquent behavior. (I’m not implying Duff was a bully, but from the bio shows I’ve seen, he sounded as though he was misguided.) And look where Chef Duff is now.
I’d love to have some input from you on this issue! What else would you suggest?