Who are the Cool Kids?

Echosmith’s “Cool Kids” was playing on the car radio as my grandson and I were traveling.  Afterwards I asked him who the cool kids are.  He only hesitated a second or two before responding that kids like him are the cool kids because they don’t try to make anyone like them.  They like who they are and are happy being themselves.  He continued to tell me that kids that are trying to be cool, to be liked, are usually mean in the process.  It is so important to have certain kids like them that they are hurtful to others.  They are not being themselves.   My grandson is eleven.

Imagine for a second that the definition of cool kids in school was- a young person who is confident and happy being themselves and wishes the same for all others. Wouldn’t that put a whole new spin on social dynamics in  school at all levels?

My daughter had really nice friends in school for whom I was grateful.  I recognized the group of friends without consciously acknowledging that it was a group and that groups have boundaries.  Groups with boundaries often have invisible gates that adults don’t see, but other children know they are there.   The gates became visible to me as a teacher when a young person I knew entered middle school and made a new friend and was included somewhat into her circle of friends.    They were having a wonderful time getting to know each other.  A few weeks into the school year,  the  group surrounded my friend unexpectedly and informed her that the other child was in their group,  the group didn’t feel she fit in with them, and she was no longer welcome.  “You don’t belong”, they told her.  The new friend stood by and watched, then left with them, whispering, “Sorry”.  The devastation this child felt was deep and painful.  As a teacher I  became more aware of the silent social hurt that happens without adult knowledge because I knew the victim personally.

In 1995, Patricia A and Peter Adler published in Social Psychology Quarterly ,Vol. 58, No. 3 (Sep., 1995), pp. 145-162, “Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Preadolescent Cliques.  They concluded that the inclusion and exclusion of children is the center of the later elementary years cliques,  and that this social framework impacts their character and is carried over to adulthood. imagesRHGZENLW “Cliques are circles of power wherein leaders attain and wield influence over their followers by cyclically building them up and cutting them down, first drawing them into the elite inner circle and allowing them to bask in the glow of popularity and acceptance, and then reducing them to positions of dependence and subjugation by turning the group against them.”  Their findings included a leaning toward discrimination as adults.

As parents look at their children’s friends they should ask themselves if the relationship is positively supportive of their child making their own decisions, having age appropriate activities and living from their heart. If within a specific group a child is insecure on their own,  lacks confidence to stick up for themselves and their values, is unkind to others including siblings, feels too powerful, or becomes sneaky, the group dynamic needs attention.  Being one of the cool kids may not be in the best interest of that child.

In researching I noticed that a “cool kids” definition may be different within different communities.  While I see the cool kids as popular, they have usually also been good students and often athletes or musicians, but within a group setting do see others not included as less than themselves or their group.   The studies done on cool kids in middle school through young adulthood define them differently,  with one explanation in an article, “Cool at 13, Adrift at 23”.   Jan Hoffman,writer for the New York Times quoted, Dr. Joseph P Allen, psychology professor  at the University  of Virginia, who described them as fast tracked, socially precocious risk takers.  Dr. Allen’s study found that “psudomature” behavior in adolescence was a greater predictor of drug and alcohol abuse as a young adult than was actual use of drugs or alcohol in the middle school ages.

However “cool” is defined in your child’s social life, it is clear that your awareness may be even more necessary than when they were younger.  Everything in their lives is a stage, but each stage is a basis for the next.  Knowing where they are heading is valuable.  Sometimes you have to step in.  At one time I was accused of being unfair and critical of young man.  When asked how I could dislike someone I didn’t know, I responded, “You are right.  He may be a very nice boy.  I am not judging him.  I am judging you, and I don’t like who you are  when you are in his company.”

While supporting social growth of older children, parents need to keep foremost  in their mind what they want for their children, leaving their own past experience with group dynamics out of the equation.    Help them be themselves first and foremost, holding onto their character  in the presence of their peers.

 

 

 

 

 

Model What You Want Them To Be

Today I am borrowing from a much wiser and well known writer to help convey an important parenting concept.  If like me, you grew up hearing “Do as I say not as I do,”  and tried that as a way of parenting, you probably have already discovered that it doesn’t work.  Integrity is a much better basket to put your eggs in.  Kids today see through anything less.  Being the role model you want for them, empowers you as well.

Dr. Wayne Dyer

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Wayne’s Weekly Wisdom “If you model self-pride and self-worth for your children, they will in turn leave the nest with an absence of stress and turmoil for all concerned.”

I have the following saved on my desktop because it profoundly demonstrates the importance of our awareness of our own behavior.  I notice too much explosive behavior, loss of control, and spewed anger that is justified with ridiculous excuses that make perfect sense to the person explaining them.   Is society becoming numb to inexcusable behavior? Parents and other relatives of children are their role models and need to be cognizant of their actions at all times.

This was Wayne’s last Facebook post.

I was preparing to speak at an I Can Do It conference and I decided to bring an orange on stage with me as a prop for my lecture. I opened a conversation with a bright young fellow of about twelve who was sitting in the front row.

“If I were to squeeze this orange as hard as I could, what would come out?” I asked him.

He looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, “Juice, of course.”

“Do you think apple juice could come out of it?”

“No!” he laughed.

“What about grapefruit juice?”

“No!”

“What would come out of it?”

“Orange juice, of course.”

“Why? Why when you squeeze an orange does orange juice come out?”

He may have been getting a little exasperated with me at this point.

“Well, it’s an orange and that’s what’s inside.”

I nodded.

“Let’s assume that this orange isn’t an orange, but it’s you. And someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, says something you don’t like, offends you. And out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, fear. Why? The answer, as our young friend has told us, is because that’s what’s inside.”

It’s one of the great lessons of life. What comes out when life squeezes you? When someone hurts or offends you? If anger, pain and fear come out of you, it’s because that’s what’s inside. It doesn’t matter who does the squeezingyour mother, your brother, your children, your boss, the government. If someone says something about you that you don’t like, what comes out of you is what’s inside. And what’s inside is up to you, it’s your choice.

When someone puts the pressure on you and out of you comes anything other than love, it’s because that’s what you’ve allowed to be inside. Once you take away all those negative things you don’t want in your life and replace them with love, you’ll find yourself living a highly functioning life.

Thanks, my young friend, and here’s an orange for you!

I was impressed with Wayne’s understanding and explanation that negativity within is a choice.    Choose peace, calm, patience  and love and you and everyone around you benefits.

 

 

 

Following the Adolescent Mind

Earlier this week I blogged “What were you THINKING!?!”, concerning adult reaction when older children make poor decisions.   A news report concerning adolescents taking selfies on active railroad tracks, encouraged me to continue on this topic.  In the last year over 500 deaths on railroad tracks have been reported.  One of the issues is the adolescent attraction to thrills.  Of course, it was mentioned the influence of music videos and movies.  But we must also look at the physiological development of children and adolescents.

Neuroeducation.com states that by adolescence the brain is full size but is making many organizational changes:

“At this point in development the brain has to decide what’s needed, what’s not, and how to become the most efficient. In order to do this the adolescent brain has to undergo synaptic pruning, in which useful neural connections are kept and less useful connections wither away. One important area of reorganization is in the prefrontal cortex that handles abstract cognitive abilities as well as impulse control.”

Research has shown that the brains of children mainly focus on visual processing and slowly begin to develop in planning and impulse control, a process which isn’t complete until adult maturity.  The adults who are involved with children and teens must keep in mind that the brain function does not keep up with the physical growth on the outside.  To know what is going on in that brain, parents and other loving adults must become very good listeners.  Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the  intent to reply.”  An adolescent’s adults must listen to them with intent to understand, and often to ‘read between the lines’  throughout the conversation to ascertain what they really want  to be known.   Often you need to restate what you heard for clarification as what you hear is not always what they are trying to say.    They do not want to know what you think, they want you to know what they think.  When you stop listening, they stop speaking, when they stop speaking, there is no communication.   listening to hear

Observation of  adolescents shows they are a whirlwind of brain activity in short spaces of time.  They can be a wealth of knowledge one moment, have the enthusiasm of a  puppy, interest in topics far beyond their years, or want to spend the day watching cartoons.  It is normal!  Expect them to behave like children, be grateful when they act maturely showing signs of brain growth, prepare them as best you can for the decisions that they may have to make when you aren’t around, and love them no matter what.   listening with intent

C. Beth Hoffman M.Ed, author of My Loving Self and Me

What Were You THINKING!?!

Making wise choices comes about from experiences and practice as well as maturation.  In any situation, children see what they are focusing on.  It is only with growth and lessons learned that they begin to realize that there are consequences to every action.  They are usually as surprised as anyone else when things don’t go the way they pictured them in their head.  Being allowed to make their own decisions in a risk free situations encourages them to expand on the possibilities.  My granddaughter has said more than once, “I didn’t see that one coming.”  In reality, adults don’t either sometimes.  Not doing it again in that exact way is a learned lesson.

Actions, whether judged to be good or bad are best handled with a true, calm, question about the process of their thinking.  What were the steps?  Did you think that it might not go as planned?  Was there a risk and was the outcome worth it?  Discussion with children builds their self esteem and courage, reducing stress with decision making.

Teach Kids How,  a website for parents,  lists activities for teaching children early about making choices.  It must be a continuous process for them to become confident.

 

But  too often, a child’s mistakes have an impact on the parent.  Their behavior or choice may be an embarrassment.  It may cause more effort or work when their plate was already full.  They look at the child incredulously and ask in a questioning voice, “What were you THINKING!?!” Although it may sound like a question it really isn’t.  The parent probably is not in the mood to hear the answer.  The question is really a statement that says to the child, “You were not thinking at all.”  It is not a question but a condemnation of self.  mental abuseMany parents heard something similar when they were growing up.  “Are you crazy??” or “What are you? Stupid?” come to mind.  Past generations were not immune to this kind of questioning.  Many were raised this way as well and only through self reflection as parents will they realize it did not have a positive impact on them, either.  Children develop a fear of making decisions when their choices are wrong.  It becomes easier to say, “I don’t know.”

Karen Stephens contributing writer to childhoodexchange.com in her article, ‘Parents Are Powerful role Models for Children“, says “Being a positive role model requires fore-thought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. We parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining ourselves.”

Parenting must come from the heart to raise children who are confident, caring and loving.  Teach them to love themselves by loving, respecting and caring for yourself.  “Do as I say, not as I do.” was resented by every child who ever heard it.  It won’t work on your child either.  Don’t raise your children as you were raised without forethought as to how it affected you.  Keep the best learning experiences and discover new ways to interact with your child where you  were not positively affected by the lesson.  Structure and discipline can always come from love.

 

Fearlessly Free to Be You and Me

In the 90s as a middle school teacher, I assisted a bit in the production, free to beas much as my talents allowed, of the play version of Marlo Thomas and friends’, “Free to Be You and Me “. I remember that the kids really enjoyed it as did I. Listening to sound bites of the songs brought up thoughts of changes facing children today.

Still in the same school in 2001, but as a supervisor, we were faced with the terrorism that day that the plane flew into the World Trade Center. Not far from New York City, we had a number of parents working there and for several hours, spent time locating them for terrified children. Where outcomes were devastating all around us, all of our parents were located alive and well by the end of the day. For one reason or another, they had not made it into the city that morning. For our students, a day of miracles. But I think that was the beginning of fear based living that has quietly permeated some of our society. Certainly it has drawn other negative fearful incidences to everyday life and removed that freedom to be, that was gaining strength.

Be wary! Be careful! Isn’t that dangerous? Is that safe? The vocabulary of fear is here. Don’t run, you’ll fall! Be careful! Watch out! I don’t remember this as a child. We rode bikes along the road for miles and miles. We played outside without supervision for hours. I remember one scary episode around age 10 at the Jersey shore. I was playing in the surf by myself with a small blow up inner tube. Don’t remember what I was trying to do, but I got the tube stuck behind my head and back with my arms and shoulders trapped inside the hole just when a wave hit and knocked me down. I was powerless to help myself, face down in the water without arms. I couldn’t roll over because the tube blocked me. As terror began to fill me, I was yanked up to a standing position and the tube ripped off. There was my mother who had been watching me all the time. I learned many lessons that day, many of which I probably am consciously unaware. The lessons were mine to learn, and although it is not a pleasant memory, I believe it made me a better mother, teaching me to let them experience life while watching from a short distance unencumbered by the vocabulary of fear.

That lesson is especially important today as there is so much more negativity and fear than ever before. Remove those words of fear, let them explore within the boundaries that may be necessary. Keeping watch, ever mindful that the greatest parent and His winged staff are ever present awaiting your awareness. Fear or love? That is the choice- love of God, faith in His protection, belief that you and your children are always in His hands, and gratitude- so much gratitude for the safety that surrounds them.  Or you can choose fear.

The world is full of experiences- joyful, exhilarating opportunities to do and to be and so much is missed because of fear. Fear of injury or judgment prevents living life to its fullest. Isn’t it time to remove the vocabulary of fear, and once again teach children we are all “Free To Be You and Me”?

 

About the Author

11115609_10204369689187957_9074883143868021693_oBeth Hoffman has a master’s degree in education, and after more than thirty years as a teacher and administrator in New Jersey public schools, she is now retired, giving her time to pursue interests in angels, energy healing and living from the heart. She has studied Reiki, IET (integrated energy therapy), angel therapy, and Magnified Healing. She and her husband reside in the Lake Wallenpaupack area of the Poconos in Pennsylvania where they are blessed to spend time with their grandchildren, one of the inspirations for this book.

10 Ways to Help Children Face Negative Emotions and Find Happiness

Worry, doubt, fear, sadness and poor self esteem don’t belong in children. Adults either. But we expect children to be happy and playful and full of joy. How do they take on so much negativity at such a young age? Although it is assumed that traumatic experiences are the cause, more often than not, it is something much smaller that can cause a personality to wither with no one the wiser.

During a study of key life influences, I remembered one such account when I was five or six. The den in my family home had a bay window and I had been told not to climb on it. However it was very tempting. It was my very own dance stage! I don’t remember anything in my way. Perhaps I didn’t see it as an obstacle, but the Victorian lamp that probably had been passed down through the family, hit the floor. My distraught mother cried and cried. Why couldn’t I listen? What was the matter with me? How often scenes like this happen in family life. Frustrated parents lose it and yell, something they wish they could take back. But the child gets over it and life goes on. All is well. But is it? My little self perceived an unbelievable fact that day. Lamps and other things are much more important than me. It was my first encounter with not being worthy. I began practicing playing small. My mother always thought that I had a hard time adjusting to school and that was why I became more quiet and subdued. She would have been devastated to know that her reaction to a broken lamp had that kind of impact.   I discovered this about myself in my sixties and have pondered the unknown affects I may have inadvertently caused for my children and grandchildren. But the reality is that what took place took place in my brain.

The brain chooses how it will react to situations, and that reaction becomes an emotion. Each human being has a multitude of interactions and experiences some of which trigger negative emotions while others do not. Protecting children from experiences is not possible, nor healthy. If they don’t learn to deal with small things, they will have no skills for dealing with larger ones. Research has shown that over protective parenting leaves children vulnerable when they grow and leave home. They are used to their parents as their life shield. They feel exposed and worried. Rather than hovering, or feeling guilty for our own emotions, adults can teach kids how to handle situations that have triggered negative emotions of fear, self -loathing, sadness, feeling unworthy or unloved. People expect children to “get over it” when many adults do not have that capacity either. They hold grudges, blame, show anger, or are willing to let go of relationships rather than deal with the emotions, or “get over it” themselves.   happiness

So how do we help kids deal with negative emotions in their life and be happy?

  1. Appreciate having them in your life and teach them to love and value themselves.
  2. Acknowledge their feelings and give them an opportunity to talk often.
  3. Value their concerns and commend their efforts to deal with them.
  4. Assure them they are surrounded by God’s love and His protective angels; they are never alone.
  5. Teach them to communicate with God. Listening to the answers in their heart is just as important as talking.
  6.  Be grateful and practice daily gratitude with them.
  7. Guide with questions rather than tell them how to handle their emotions.
  8. Show them forgiveness and an ability to take responsibility for your own actions so they can model you. Children need to forgive themselves.
  9. Prove that joy can be found most anywhere (without medications, alcohol or drugs).
  10. Help them to choose happiness for what they have in the present.

All experiences in life offer choices. Kids need to learn that so they avoid feeling powerless. Imagine if you or I learned this as children!

Technology or Nature? Can Kids Find a Healthy Balance?

Technologically connected kids are everywhere! Last night a commercial for one of the travel booking agency was on TV and the man was so distraught over having to leave the gorgeous island of his vacation, that he dove off the shuttle boat and swam back, hugging the surprised man upon arrival. His wife sat on the shuttle looking dumbfounded. Now here is the unfortunate sign of the times. The two children were sitting there near their mother on the boat wearing headphones playing on their electronics.

A child close to my heart yesterday was in the car for the 4 minute drive from my house to his and was bored and couldn’t wait to get home to his ipod having just used the ipad at my house. It was a withdrawal that wasn’t dispelled by our discussion of gratitude, the beauty around us and the designs the clouds made. It was a four minute ride! * This is hard for me to digest as a former technology teacher.

Earning a Certificate of Instructional Computing in the 90s before there was a degree, it was my heart felt responsibility to bring to all children the tool that was the computer. In the beginning it was educational games like Oregon Trail, and then the use of Basic to create artistic pictures, and later as the internet grew to research, recognize quality sources and record them, and create reports, slideshows, and brochures of their finished product. They did it in class once or twice a week. At recess they played outside. I had envisioned computer use growing and improving, but did not see it being replaced by the handhelds.   Many would argue the opposite, but sometimes I don’t see them as tools anymore. Sure most can do what a computer can do and do some things better, but too often for some children they are an avoidance of human interaction. Are children losing social skills because they are not socializing with anything but their electronics and in a setting where there is no feedback?

Menas Kafatos, blogged an interesting and alarming article in the Huffington Post that stated from the journal ‘Pediatrics’, that kids on average spend 30 minutes a week outside and spend more time with some form of technology than they do in school. He said that children not only have a disconnect with people but also nature. He went on to say “our brain is genetically wired to thrive when gazing at the sunset, hearing the sound of wind through trees, or feeling the warm touch of the sun on our skin.” Are children failing to thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually for lack of connection with Nature?

Science is now legitimatizing the deep connection that all living beings have with nature that spiritual leaders have contended for years. While the brain needs nature to flourish, I believe the heart needs to connect as well and that children need time outdoors to investigate, enjoy and just be one with nature. For me, meditation almost always begins with a vision of me being near water. I know others who connect with trees and rocks. Notice that those visions are all with nature?

A study at the University of Illinois showed that ADHD children without their medication that spent 20 minutes a day walking in a park like setting, did better on tests in the areas of concentration, focus and achievement than when they were on medication. Interesting…

As I sit here on my computer blogging, checking Twitter, Facebook and email, I certainly give credit for the value of technology as a tool. I couldn’t live without it. But balance in life in all areas is needed by us all, especially our children. Let them stimulate their brain and connect with their God within in the peace and beauty of nature.

*update- about 4 days after writing the blog, we took a ride to the next town over. Again he was bored. This time I ignored him and shortly he was singing to himself! Sometimes they just have to be bored to find their own creativity.

 

 

 

Find Your Inner Child. Let them Keep Theirs.

 

Finding your inner child is useful in personal growth and empowerment. The part many of us are missing is a connection with spontaneity, freedom of spirit, and pure joy at discovering new things. I recently saw a news shot of a business which offers to adults a chance to be in pre-school! They can lighten up and reduce stress by playing, creating, coloring, singing and very importantly laughing. We all benefit from feeling joy!

shared from : kineticforgiveness.blogspot.com

shared from : kineticforgiveness.blogspot.com

Reconnecting to the joyful child you once were is beneficial if as a child you felt pushed to be something you were not ready to be or was not you at all. If over time it created a somber you, unable to let loose and have fun when the situation calls for it, your inner child may be in hiding. Your inner child may also have been bombarded with limiting beliefs or left to question self- worth. Whether or not you feel a need to rediscover or heal him or her, is up to you. But it presents the question, “Am I doing the same thing to my child?”

Children do need encouragement and support to grow and move past fear, but too often it isn’t their choice but what parents want them to do, or because “everybody is doing it”.   Pushing kids to do what is expected of them by comparison to other kids, standards of schools, what you did as a kid, what your parents expect, puts a lot of pressure on your children, as it did to you. Too often it doesn’t help them grow but diminishes the sense of self, increasing a feeling of lack, increase a feeling there is something wrong with them. Isn’t that how previous generations lost their inner child?

As I write about My Loving Self and Me I am reminded, that the True Self, the Loving Self can be diminished by siblings, other children in school or the neighborhood, and parents. The book speaks to the child, encouraging them to find their Loving Self and live from their heart. But it is necessary to remind adults that they too must do the same thing in interacting with children. Ask yourself as you read, if it is your Loving Self that your children see. Model the way you wish your child to be. Louise Hay in “Love your Inner Child”, encourages people to use the following affirmation to heal their inner child: “I am perfect, whole, and complete, just as I am.inner child The more you repeat this statement of truth about yourself, the quicker you will release the past.” Say it with your children when their self-worth is in jeopardy. Encourage them to expand their horizons with love and communication, listening to their fears and concerns. Keep your Loving Self present as you parent. Let them retain their inner child as they grow into caring, responsibility, and integrity with love.

 

The writing of “My Loving Self and Me”

After my retirement I began taking classes in self- improvement, spirituality and angel healing. Early on and for the first time, I received information on ego and true self.

act like it!

It struck a chord. The concept seemed so simple and yet changing my way of thinking and being, was not. Ego was so ingrained in me! Although it is much easier to recognize now and turn around, ego is a part of who we are. So many times as I read and practiced, I thought to myself, ‘boy would this have been easier if I knew about it a long time ago!’

That was when the concept of a book came to me- to write a picture book story of children learning about ego and their True Self of God in terms they could understand. My Loving Self and Me was born! It began as one story and grew from there. As my knowledge base grew, so did the topics Gabby and Ike experienced. The relationships with the adults in their lives grew as well. In most of the stories, the adults are there, and guide rather than tell them what to do. Gram does it much better than I do! As a self-proclaimed “fixer” of other people’s problems I am still working on letting those I love see their own solutions, sometimes with guidance if they ask, but without interference.

Before retiring, as both a teacher and a school administrator, I viewed much through the eyes of the children. One of the key things I discussed with parents was perspective. How children perceive things is usually not the same as the adults in their life and to communicate with them effectively, adults need to realize that and be open to the perceptions of the child.   Children are more apt to listen and consider the parents’ point of view when they know they have been heard and a dialog is available. The days of ‘because I said so’ are long gone as a viable solution. Being comfortable with discussing daily issues prepares parents for the days when the difficult issues appear. Rarely do things come ‘out of the blue’, and children who are comfortable bringing their issues to an adult in their life, are more apt to be comfortable sharing when they have made a mistake or are in danger. Dialog and consequences that are learning experiences rather than punishment for punishment sake, carried out without judgment or disappointment, enable that sharing as well. These conversations I had with parents in school to assist them in raising successful children, I wanted to share with others as well.

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As I wrote, my focus was on children and the difficulties with which they may have to deal in their life. Two of those children, always in my mind were my own grandchildren. Creating story scenarios of other children seemed an ideal format for discussion. They have too much in their lives that creates worry without adding to it through constant discussions of ‘what if’? The stories do that for me- and you.   The situation is someone else’s and the problem ends in a solution in a couple of pages.   And “What would your Loving Self do?” after each stories extends that practice.

As a new author, I didn’t realize immediately the scope it was taking. As a grandmother and past teacher, it was all about the kids.   As a mother and past administrator and teacher, I wrote for parents. As I grew in my own spirituality and self- empowerment I wrote for me. The last two were a surprise!