Through vividly written case studies and a reader-friendly question-and-answer format, Mom, They're Teasing Me is full of specific, how-to advice for parents to help their children navigate the sometimes harsh terrain of social life-which includes name-calling, after-school fights, esteem-crushing cliques, and malicious exclusion by the popular kids. Through thoughtful discussion and insightful suggestions, parents will discover
The difference between real risk and normal social pain
The appropriate time to intervene-and when to step back
Tips on how to mediate between children-without appearing meddlesome
The importance of teaching and encouraging leadership
The redemptive power of friendship
Mom, They're Teasing Me answers key questions about the many manifestations of social cruelty, offers compelling descriptions of prime "teasing" scenarios, and illustrates how to counter them. It is an indispensable book for involved parents who want to make their child's formative years rich and rewarding.
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August 02, 2004
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Excerpt from Mom, They're Teasing Me by Michael Thompson
THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF CHILDREN: Normal Social Pain Every morning when the buses pull up in front of an elementary, middle, or high school building, an extraordinary social drama unfolds. Most adults miss the importance of this opening act of the school day, because it is a daily theater, apparently so predictable that grown-ups are not alert to its intensity. But kids get off the bus with their minds geared not to Spanish, spelling, or computer class, but to seeing their friends. They're ready for the curtain to rise on the action of the day--for the conflict and connection of social life. Children suffer when they are teased or excluded or have a fight with a friend--and parents suffer emphatically right along with them. Our job is to bear that pain and also to put it in perspective. After all, we lived through cliques and betrayals and heartaches, and our children will too. Of course, there are things we can do to ease the pain-- theirs and ours--but our first job is to take a deep breath and trust in children's resilience and in the process of human development. The social troubles children face are so predictable and inevitable that it is hard to call them traumas. Nevertheless, they do hurt and they do sap a child's confidence. Losing a friend, having a secret betrayed, and being teased are just a few examples. As parents, we want desperately to help children escape these hard lessons of life, or at least master them when they do happen. We know that lectures don't really work, but we keep giving them anyway, just in case. We aren't sure what else to do. We also know that our own endless worrying doesn't help, but we have a hard time turning it off. Research shows that the majority of kids fall somewhere in the middle of the social hierarchy. Their status ranges from basically accepted to well liked to wildly popular. For these children, intense social issues (and pain) are still prevalent. In fact, pressures and conflicts are universal as kids deal with clashes among the individual, the friendship pair, and the group. Most of the answers to the questions in this section begin with reassurance. Our goal is to help adults understand such factors as temperament, group dynamics, and child development. Our hope is that a better understanding of these things will provide some perspective, a dose of optimism, and a little relief from the anxiety we feel. Parents and other adults all have their own painful memories of social struggles. These memories are triggered when children hand over their pain to their parents. It's hard to separate the new pain of your child's present from the old pain of your own school days. It's a bit like getting your toe stepped on when it's already broken. When we label much of what you worry about as "normal" social pain, we do not in any way mean to trivialize it. The pain we feel when we lose a loved one is universal too-- and therefore "normal." But that does not lessen its sting. In fact, knowing that something is universal, that you and your child are not the only people who ever went through this pain, can be powerfully comforting. If you read between the lines as you look over the questions in this section, you'll see that more often than not, what parents and teachers are really asking is this: "Is my child normal?" "Are the children in my class normal?" There is often a great deal of anxiety and concern behind these questions. Much uncertainty and anxiety comes from a lack of experience about how normal it is for children to be in pain, or how normal it is for children to be so difficult for adults to understand and to handle. Normal children are not wonderful every minute. Their friendships aren't always a scene on a Hallmark