Dealing with tween behavior

It has already started. I see hints of it here and there. Jase is 11-years-old. In just three months he will be 12. Yes, the tween behavior has begun to emerge. There is a hint of defiance sometimes in his voice when we tell him it is time to get off his iPad or that we need to go somewhere. He questions why he must do something or even openly says he won’t do something like try a new food.

whateverIt isn’t that I don’t want him to find his own way, which is part of growing up. I like watching him grow and change. My husband and I are all for giving him room to grow and room to make mistakes. It is our desire to have him behave decently while doing that. No eye rolling. No mellow dramatic sighs or “Whatever” or the dreaded “duh.” (Heck, I have even seen some of these behaviors in Lexie, and she turns nine next month.)

Even though I know he will soon be in Middle School, and the attitude and changes will just keep coming, I am thankful we aren’t fully there yet. But it did make me want me to do a little research on the Internet to see what to expect and some tips on how to handle it.

Tips for handling the Tween years

  • Maintain your Parental Status – Now is not the time to become your child’s close friend. He is looking to you to help him through this confusing stage.
  • Pick your battles/Draw a clear line in the sand – As always, you need to decide what is important. Focus on the behaviors you want or those you won’t tolerate and let the other issues fall to the wayside. So ignore the eye rolls and sighs but enforce the no raised voices or walking off in the middle of the conversation. And of course, be consistent in following through with punishments.
  • Reciprocate Respect – Dealing with emotional tweens or teens can be trying to say the least but remember you need to treat them as an individual with their own thoughts and feelings just as they should treat you as such.
  • Explain what you want – As always, you need to deliver a clear message about how you want your child to behave. And when you think they are behaving disrespectful, take the time to make sure they know what they are doing that is wrong. You can’t assume they know what they said or how they said it was wrong. Remember they are still learning. Tell them what they are doing is wrong and offer suggestions of how to say it more respectfully.

I did find a particularly good blog by a fellow mom. She listed five things pre-teen boys want from their moms. (And her own tween approved the list as being accurate.)

1.) They want us to be there for them but not to talk all the time. (She noted that tweens seemed to tune out adults after about 10 words when given advice.)

2.) They want to be silly.

3.) They want us to set the rules but also want some say in them. (She said when she asked her son about punishments for his misbehavior, he almost always suggested a harsher punishment.)

4.) They want to be loved, even if they don’t act like it.

5.) They want us to have their back.

I am not sure any of these tips will help, but it was interesting reading up on others’ experiences and what worked for them or what the experts recommended. I guess we will take this as with everything else that comes with raising a child, you just deal with it as it happens and expect to make mistakes.



My plan to spend less time volunteering has failed

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. Maybe it was just a nice passing thought but with the New Year, I wanted to spend less time volunteering at my kids’ school and more time writing.

For the past two years, I have been an officer in the parent-teacher association (PTA) at their school. With that volunteer position comes a big time commitment. It means helping out at PTA functions as well as doing my officer position as Treasurer.

prez_volunteer_awardlogo_april_09_flat_customI volunteered enough hours in the past two years to receive the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award. This is a national award given to those who volunteer between 250 and 400 hours a year. (I received a certificate and a lapel pin each year.)

This year I am the first vice-president in charge of parent education and PTA programs. This position isn’t as time intensive as keeping the books for the PTA, but I do still volunteer a lot of my time helping with our programs.

So at the beginning of the year we had a PTA board meeting. I took myself off the scholarship committee announcing that I was trying to cut back my volunteering. I didn’t raise my hand when they were forming the budget committee.

When they talked about things that need to be done for our upcoming festival, I agreed to do the flyers and signs because that is something I love to do, and since I did them last year, I have many of the files already done.

Then came the news that the woman in charge of the fifth-grade pool party (an end of the year celebration for those leaving elementary school to attend middle school) had to step down. They were looking for those who would chair the committee or at least help out. Since I have a fifth-grader, I couldn’t say no to helping.

I bet you can see where this is going. Yep, by the time we had our first committee meeting, I had begun talking to people about last year’s party. And since I was treasurer the past two years, I had access to the party expenses. And before I knew it, I seemed to be in charge of the committee even though I haven’t officially taken on the chair position.

Ok. The party isn’t until the end of May and tons of parents usually want to be involved so I think I should be fine with this additional responsibility. And then…

The PTA needs to form a nominating committee to elect officers for the next school year. When the PTA President announced this at our general meeting last week, there was dead silence from the audience. No one wants to be on the committee, and we need five members. Finally a few of us dedicated PTA board members raised their hands. (Yes, you know I was one of them.)

After the meeting, the five of us on the committee were supposed to meet and pick a chair. Somehow three of the others met without me and said while they didn’t mind being on the committee that they didn’t want to chair it. I bet you can guess what happened next. Yep, I am chairing the nomination committee.

The good news is the nominating committee is a short term commitment. We will be done by next month.

So I had good intentions to volunteer less. I do want to spend more time writing. I guess now I will just have to find a way to do it all.

Anti-Bullying Seminar recap part II: Cyber-bullying

Last week, I wrote about a speaker I brought into my kids’ school. She addressed bullying in her presentation called, Don’t Stand By, Stand Up! It proved to be a good lecture and there was so much information that I had to break my recap into two posts. If you missed the first post where I addressed what bullying is, what signs to look for, and what students and parents can do about bullying, then click here to read it now.

Today, I will go over what she said about cyberbullying (using the Internet, cellphones or other technology to post messages or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person).

PrintWhile bullying, whether physical, social or emotional, happens while in the presence of a bully, cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two other big difference is that cyberbullying can be done anonymously, and it is distributed quickly to a very wide audience. Deleting those inappropriate messages, texts and photos can be extremely difficult.

Types of Cyberbullying

  • Direct attacks sent to a child (harassment, put downs, rumors)
  • Cyberbullying by Proxy (using other to assist in bullying)
  • Vengeful Angel – sees themselves as righting wrongs or protecting others from the “bad guy”
  • Power Hungry or Revenge of the Nerds – anonymity gives them to power/control, may be a victim offline
  • Mean Girls – bully for entertainment, group admiration fuels them
  • Inadvertent Cyberbullying – role playing, anger response, joking around

Numbers very on how many kids are cyberbullied each year. But because social media is so prevalent in pre-teen and teenagers’ lives, there is a very good chance your child will be bullied online at some point.

Preventing Cyberbullying

  • Talk to your child about cyber bullying and the importance of reporting it
  • Have clear expectations about what they can post online and their privacy settings. As a parent, you should have access to their account and should occasionally review their online communication.
  • Learn about the sites they like and check out their devices.
  • Talk to you child about keeping passwords private (except from parents)
  • As a friend (or do it yourself) and “follow” your kids on social media (but beware that they may try to set up two accounts)

Make sure to explain the responsibility and cyber-ethics of going online to your teen but realize that many teens do find ways around your restrictions such as having two accounts or using someone else’s computer or phone to appear online.

What to Do if Cyberbullied

The best answer is to keep an accurate record of what happened. Take screen shots and use this evidence to report to web host and cell service providers, law enforcement if necessary and school administrators.

The key here is to Stop, Block and Tell. Don’t respond or forward messages, block the person and then have kids report the incident to their parents. Do not encourage your child to respond to the cyberbullies.

The problem with trying to stop cyberbullying is that schools have little control outside of the school. Many state legislatures are working of modifying their laws on bullying to better address cyberbullying. The State of Texas is working to pass “David’s Law,” a bill aimed at preventing and combatting cyberbullying by requiring school districts across the state to include cyberbullying in their district policies. If passed, the law would give school districts the ability to investigate off-campus events and collaborate with law enforcement on investigations.

Until there are better ways to track and stop cyberbullies, the best defense is educating parents and students. To find out more about cyberbulling and ways to prevent it, check out these internet sites.


Anti-Bullying seminar: Don’t Stand By, Stand UP!

As I mentioned in a previous post about Parent-Teacher Conferences, I am in charge of Parent Education for the parent-teacher association (PTA) of my kids’ elementary school. And any time I share with the parents something of interest – whether it be a speaker, reading material or an Internet site – my goal is to share that information here.

I have already covered the importance of parent-teacher conferences and another on learning about the apps your kids are using. This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk about bullying and how to empower your child to Stand UP.

The presentation was called “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up!” and it was presented through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Dr. Sylvia Reyna, a retired Texas teacher, principal and superintendent.


The first thing was to define bullying and address that conflict is not necessarily bullying. To define bullying, they use the abbreviation RIP.

RRepeated over time

I Intentional – behavior intends to cause harm or distress.

P – There is a real or perceived imbalance of power.

So a child accidentally bumping into another (not intentional) is not bullying. A child kicks another once while in the lunch line (not repeated) is not bullying. And for the imbalance of power, you are looking at someone who is larger than the victim or has “power” over them. This could be a fifth grader or crossing guard intimidating a first grader.

One of her facts that concerned me as Jase is about to enter 6th grade is that bullying most often happens in middle school. I guess this is all the more reason to learn about the signs your child is being bullied and what to do to help them not to be a victim.

Signs your child is being bullied

Now this is not an exclusive list. There can be other signs and these signs can be other problems besides bullying.

  • Unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed clothing, books, belongings
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking an illness
  • Changes in eating habits like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves

Signs your child is bullying others

bullyChildren who bully are more likely to get in fights, steal, vandalize property, drink alcohol, or drop out of school. And research shows 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least on conviction by the age of 24.

  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

It would be naïve to assume your child is never going to be bullied. So the best thing to do is prepare them (and yourself) for when it happens.

What Students can do

One of the best tools to prepare your child is to practice or role play what to do when they are confronted by a bully.

  • Learn to be assertive (rather than aggressive)
    • Ask the bully to stop and then walk away
    • Ignore the behavior/leave the situation
    • Use social skills, humor or agree with the bully (You aren’t agreeing with that bullying is correct but more of a sarcastic “yeah, right” type attitude)
    • Avoid escalating the situation with anger, retaliation or encouraging others to gang up on the bully
  • Do not cry or act hurt in front of the bully.
  • Report bullying to an adult

Reporting bullying can be hard as many children fear a backlash from the kid who bullied them, or they may feel they are seen as weak or a tattletale. They may think no one will believe them. They can fear rejection from their peers or that no one can understand.

If your child witnesses bullying, they should make sure they aren’t giving the bully the audience they crave. They should tell the bully to stop or seek immediate help. Basically, they need to Stand UP and Not Stand by.

Parent Support

The way a parent reacts to bullying is also important. If you dismiss the situation or tell them to “suck it up,” you are giving your child all the more reason not to come to you when they have a problem. Bullying can hurt and you should never tell them their feelings or crying are unacceptable (except don’t cry in front of the bully). You, as a parent, need to work on teaching them the social skills of being assertive and self-confident. And most of all you should be an advocate for your child at the school and with the police, if needed.

Now there is even more to her lecture, so I think I will tackle the information on cyber bullying in a separate post. But before I sign off for today, I wanted to provide these links for students, parent and teachers to become more informed about bullying and how to prevent it.


“R” Time

Olweus bullying prevention program

STRYVE – Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere

Connect for Respect


Be sure to check next Thursday’s blog for information on cyber-bullying.

What to do when your kid “tattles”

“Mom, Jase is being mean. He won’t let me…”

“Lexie hit me!”

As parents, we are all too familiar with our kids coming to tell us what another sibling/friend/classmate did wrong. And too often, I hear parents telling their kids not to “tattle.” I have even said that to my own kids but then wondered later if I am doing the right thing.

I mean after all we want our children to come to us when something is wrong. We need to know if someone is hurting them or doing something dangerous.

My friend, Sara, had an issue with her daughter’s teacher telling her eight-year-old daughter Madeline not to “tattle” when a boy was hitting her. She was asking for help after having already told the boy to stop doing it. The teacher wasn’t hearing her plea for help. She assumed, as too many of us parents and teachers do, that Madeline was just seeking attention or attempting to get the other kid in trouble.

Sometimes adults assume tattling is an outright lie but research has shown that nine out of 10 times, a tattler is telling the truth.

I recently read an article online about tattling, and it confirmed my concern about telling my child not to “tattle” is a mistake. We are not encouraging kids to work it out or “tough it out.” We are basically dismissing their concern. There is a distinct difference between reporting and tattling.

reportingvstattlingAccording to the article, research suggests that by the time a child comes to tell you something is wrong the child has already endured or witnessed the kid’s offense multiple times. By the time they come to you, they have run out of options. They are asking for help.

As parents, we often tell our kids we want them to tell us when something is wrong. We want them to tell us the truth. But then we contradict ourselves when we tell them not to tattle.

The article suggested we stress to the children that it is important to report other’s harmful behavior – such as the case with Madeline’s classmate who was hitting her and wouldn’t stop when asked. In this case, it really isn’t tattling. And ignoring the child’s plea for help can make them less likely to report harmful behavior in the future and can teach them to be silent when they observe bullying and abuse later.

So what should you do next time your child comes to you with what sounds like a tattle?

  • Ask – “Are you OK?”
  • Ask – “Did you tell him/her to stop?”
  • If your child did not tell them to stop, then part of the problem solving would be to work on this. It can be hard for a child to assert themselves.
  • Listen attentively to your child as they tell you their side of the story. This will let them know that you are taking their concern seriously (even if you don’t agree with their perspective.)
  • End by asking your child what you can do to help. He or she may not need anything other than to be heard. Or he or she may request that you intervene on their behalf. Or this might be a time to brainstorm solution for next time this becomes an issue.

So next time Lexie or Jase comes in to tell me of some offense the other one has done, I am going to stop and listen to them instead of dismissing their claims as an attempt to get the other one in trouble. Not only will this encourage them to reach out to me but hopefully, I can help them decide what issues are important enough to bring forward and which ones they should be able to handle on their own.

My daughter’s quest to be “rare”


Rare Shopkin Toy

As Lexie collects Shopkins or other collectible toys, she is excited to find a rare or ultra-rare one. And that desire to have something that very few others possess has also spilled over to herself. She is constantly trying to find out what make her different. She wants to know what makes her unique or rare.

“Is having blue eyes common?”

“Is having your organs on the opposite sides rare?”

“Is your heart beating fast unusual?”

With brown being the dominant eye color, blue eyes are not as common. And Lexie’s eyes are beautiful, and as she often tells me, bluer than my own.

Lexie does have Situs Inversus Totalis, which means her organs are flipped as a mirror image (left to right) of the average person. Her heart, stomach and spleen are on the right side of her body instead of the left. Situs inversus is rare. You have a .01% chance of having this. But Lexie is not the ONLY one to have it. Singer Enrique Iglesias, actress Catherine O’Hara, singer Donny Osmond and basketball player Randy Foye are a few of the more notable people with Situs Inversus.

And of course your heart beating fast is very common. It can occur when you are scared, or after you have been exercising. But Lexie sometimes insists hers beats fast when she is just sitting still. (Maybe that is unique?)

originalNow I am sure many kids want to feel special. They want to know they are loved. They want to know that they are good at soccer or science or drawing. We all want to be good at something. And some people excel at shining while others would much rather blend into the background.

Jase is the one who wants to blend in. He doesn’t want to call attention to himself. But eight-year-old Lexie is the opposite. She wants to be noticed. She wants to be special. And more and more, it seems she wants to find out what makes her rare.

As her parents, my husband and I struggle with her constant questions about what makes her special. We have tried explaining that everyone has something they are good at or something that they might do better than others. However, that doesn’t mean they are better or more special. In other words, we are all special in our own way.

We don’t think Lexie does this because she doesn’t feel loved or know that she is good at drawing. Maybe she is like every other kid striving to be “better” than her brother or classmate. Maybe she just wants to know that she is not like everyone else, that she possess something that makes her different than others. Something that makes her special. We try to be factual in our answers. We don’t want to diminish what is different about her or what she does well such as drawing but not everything that happens makes you different or unique.

Hopefully as she grows older, she will grow out of this phase of needing to find what makes her unique. Maybe one day she will realize that just being Lexie is special enough.

Making a point to eat together as a family

Growing up, my husband’s family didn’t sit at the dinner table. His father was a high school basketball coach and often gone at dinner time so my husband and his brother ate mostly in front of the TV. Sitting around the table wasn’t done except on holidays or when company was over.

I grew up with a totally different scenario. We ate dinner together – every night at the table. My brother and I always knew to be home by 6 p.m. for dinner. It was considered a treat to eat in front of the TV.

Of course, in college and when I lived on my own, there were more meals in front of the TV or a book. And when my husband and I got married, we had many meals while watching our favorite shows.

And then we had kids.

family-dinner-clipart-screen-shot-2012-10-19-at-9-34-16-am-300x220I of course wanted to go back to what I remembered as a child – family dinners at the table. But my husband didn’t want to change. He liked eating in front of the TV or computer.

But there are so many benefits for eating together at the table.

1.) Studies have shown that dinnertime conversations can boost the vocabulary in young children (even more than reading aloud to your child).

2.) Kids who eat together at the table tend to do better on exams, stay in school and get better grades.

3.) Studies show that family dinners lower a host of high-risk teenage behaviors such as smoking, drinking, eating disorders and drug use.

4.) Eating together offers you a time to connect with one another and find out what happened in each other’s day.

5.) Kids who eat at the table are more likely to eat healthy and have less change of being obese. Those eating at the table usually eat more vegetables and less fried foods and soda.

Now of course, a family meal where no one talks or the parents yell at their kids won’t improve anyone’s relationship, but I do believe that eating together has more benefits than negatives. And for many families, dinner time may be the only time of the day when they can reconnect, relax and catch up on the day’s happenings.

I have often told my husband that when he shows me a study that says eating in front the TV (often in different rooms from the rest of the family) is a good thing, then we can adopt that practice. Until then, we will eat at the table most nights.

Right now, we eat five days a week (Sunday through Thursday) at the table and on Friday and Saturday night everyone can choose their own place to eat whether that is in front to the TV for family movie night or on their iPads/computers or eating while building Legos. This way we have it both ways. We can reap the benefits of eating together but also have a few days of doing our own thing.

Need help getting family dinners together? Check out The Family Dinner project for tips on getting started, initiating conversations and just having fun together at dinnertime.