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.

 

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Know What To Do!

Facilitating learning of many aspects of life is in a parent’s hands whether they choose for it to be or not. Some know exactly how they want their kids to be and others feel ill equipped for the responsibility. With the many influences available for children, preparing them, and not overprotecting them can be daunting. Having practice in a myriad of possibilities helps them and you, be more comfortable and less fearful of what they may encounter. Most of those situations with which you want them to be able to deal, you hope they will never encounter. Preparing them becomes a dilemma.

reading tween dadEach story in My Loving Self and Me, has a problem and a solution that works for the book’s characters with supportive parents and grandparents with strong spiritual background. It provides other children the opportunity to see that issues they have are shared by others. However the solutions in fiction aren’t always what works in reality, so after each story, there are open ended questions or activities for the reader to try out. This is best done with a parent or other responsible adult or in a family setting. Where solutions and possibilities work in my mind, they may not in someone else’s life. As a parent, you know best what the outcome might be in your community and school and guide them in ways that are more personal for your child. During the discussions you also have the opportunity to listen to situations that have arisen in the social life of your child, affording you insight into their private world outside of your home.   Issues may come up that are not included in My Loving Self and Me that you may never have known about had the discussions not been taking place with your child. Follow your heart in guiding and assuring them.

reading familyMy greatest joy as a new writer is for My Loving Self and Me to be a family book for facing difficult issues head on, the go to book for adults and older school age children to enjoy quite time while they read together, a source of inspiration for the pre-teens who are feeling alone, and a how to for parents of young children not yet ready for the stories. As one mother told me, my child is too young for the stories, but not too young to begin learning that he has a loving self. She added that she is already asking him what his loving self would do.

Books and e books can be purchased here on this website from Balboa Press, Amazon.com, or Barnes and noble. I would love to hear from my readers concerning difficult issues their children have faced that should be written about. Who knows? They may be the inspiration for another 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!

Alike on the Inside

 

There are moments when I regret some of the teaching strategies that were used in the seventies in reading. As I look back I remember a lot of emphasis on compare and contrast, finding same and different, and although there is a component of importance I often wonder if it has also played a role in the comparisons people make with each other.

About 30 years ago, a moment in time that taught me a huge lesson about myself, I was walking out of McDonald’s with my 4 year old. In front of us was a mixed race couple with their young daughter. My daughter blurts out, “Mommy look!” and points at their child. Embarrassed, I shushed her, then leaned down and told her to be quiet and hurried her to the car. By the time we got there she was in tears. “Mommy”, she cried. “Why wouldn’t you look at that little girl’s Miss Piggy glass?”

I was shocked at myself. I noticed the different colors of the family members, 10360543_1398844150439652_6293205814907425549_nand worried because my daughter was drawing attention to them. My four year old noticed another little girl like her, who loved Miss Piggy.

Isn’t there too little of seeing the likenesses we share? After all, isn’t that how we choose with whom we spend our time? Or do we choose who we don’t want around because of their differences? There is so much negative energy everywhere! Children see it in facial expressions, and hear it in words. They pick up on sarcasm, and jokes and soon believe it is OK to react that way. They may try it themselves and be sternly corrected, but they don’t get the mixed message. There is always a conflict for kids when they are told one thing but something else is demonstrated when adults think they are not watching. They learn from watching and copying. tsa-usa.org

In the chapter titled God’s Specially Wrapped Gifts in My Loving Self and Me, I wrote about differences of all kinds and explained that God wraps us all differently so that we can tell each other apart, because unlike Him we don’t recognize us by our Loving Selves. In the story Gram tells the children, “God wants us to look at each other with the same excitement we feel whenever we receive presents. And we need to look for the present inside!” Our souls, true selves, authentic selves, higher selves, our loving selves, whatever you call it, have no skin color, hair color, eye color, height, weight, or anything else to be compared. Inside is love energy, in each one. Sometimes it is hard to find while with others it is right there for all to see and enjoy.

I read on PBS Parents, in a section called Inclusive communities several articles on this topic. One titled “The Power of Words”, wrote about “people first language” when speaking- a boy with red hair, the girl that uses a wheelchttps://mylovingselfandme.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#titledivhair. The race, color, disability are secondary. In this article and another “Respecting Differences: Everyday Ways to Teach Children About Respect” the focus is on teaching kids to respect themselves and everyone else. My Loving Self and Me does too.

There are far more likenesses within us than differences. The likenesses are what connect us in oneness and yet too often there is disconnect, because the differences are the focus. Respect people as people first- all the descriptions are secondary. Children are born seeing the likenesses. They don’t need to be taught that differences are anything but a way for us to tell each other apart.

 

Just As I Am

 

When I was a kid, we played outside all the time. None of the kids were the same ages and it didn’t matter. We had a set of swings, a baseball diamond, and at night we played hide and seek after dark and caught fireflies in our hands. Mostly we rode bikes.   My brother was on the local baseball team and I kept score. He was a good ball player, so I remember good times, except for the coach’s son- he got screamed at constantly. I think back now that it must have been a difficult time, and wonder if even as good as he became, he ever enjoyed it.

A young man special to me has spent the entire baseball season in the outfield or on the bench. Because another child didn’t come to the next to last game, he was put on third base and he was awesome! For the last game, he returned to the bench or played right field. His spirit is gone as is that of the other 4 or 5 boys that have spent the season on the bench or outfield. They won’t return next year because it isn’t fun, and they are not as good as the others. It is easy to complain and place blame, but we all know that it happens.   If we are honest, we probably would say that those kids weren’t there because it was what they wanted in their heart. Maybe a parent wanted them to do something, or they wanted to be like someone else, or be with someone else who played. A few may be living their dream and struggling with realizing that dream. Whether it is baseball, or dance, gymnastics, or playing an instrument, few start out being as good as they expected. Immediate gratification is not available and practice is a necessity.

like you love yourself@funnyand.comThrough the struggles of learning something new, and dealing with a reduced self- confidence, children need the reminders of who they are. Encourage them to keep spiritual pride while going through the steps of achievement by reminding them of all their previous successes.   Some things may come easier than others, but they need to believe in themselves and give gratitude for each step forward which will help them to stay focused. In “The Trick to Raising Kids Who Love Themselves” By Dr. Sherrie Campbell she says,” If we are not happy with what we see in our children, in terms of attitude, responsibility and being grateful, then we have to look deeply at ourselves and what we are modeling for them.”

One of personal favorite poems from My Loving Self and Me ends,

I will strive to be the best me I can be,

And always along the way,

Love me just as I am.

Confidence and self love are crucial to trying new things because there is nothing at stake. They don’t have to win. They don’t have to be the best. They do it because it brings joy.