Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Day 24: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Dealing with broken glass)

October 24, 2013

Watch where you step. Watch what you toss.

I know a school where broken glass is a serious problem. Kids there freely toss it in classrooms and hallways, in the lunchroom and on the playground. Where do they get it? It’s everywhere for the taking and every day there’s more. The students at this school keep their pockets full so whenever they feel the urge, they lob sharp fragments at other students. When the glass hits the mark it pierces and often sticks. The fallen shards are left for others to step on.

Does it hurt the hands of the kids who throw the glass? Sure, but it’s worth a little pain because in this school it’s cool to make other people suffer. Pumps up the glass throwers and makes them feel powerful. And if all of this weren’t appalling enough, in this school kids are required to walk around barefoot. You heard correctly. No protection allowed for those tender little soles. If you visited, you’d see kids limping around with bloody feet and hands.

Not a place you’d ever send  your child, I’m sure.

So where is this school? Maybe you’re guessing it’s in that state. The place where parents have no common sense nor the time/inclination to teach their kids to be good people. If you guessed “Not my state,” you’d be wrong.  Actually, this glass-filled school is in your state. In fact, it’s the school your child attends.

(Excuse me while I cover my ears to mute the screams of: “You’re wrong, Annie! My child’s school does not have broken glass anywhere! Every corner of our school is safe.”

OK, you got me. There’s no actual broken glass lying around any school I know. I just made up the glass thing as a not-so-subtle metaphor for the teasing, rumors, harassment, and general peer-to-peer meanness found in every school.

So… now that we know what we’re talking about and we’re willing to admit that yes, there is some broken glass in our school, what are we doing about it? How might teaching our kids my glass metaphor change their attitudes and behavior? Try it and let me know what happens. The way I figure it, it’s worth the effort to protect their tender souls.

---------

Day 23: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Standing up for the underdog)

October 23, 2013

I seriously need a friend.

Kids and teens can view of themselves as powerless in a world where adults call all the shots. But that’s not the whole story. Kids have power. And every day, your children and mine get opportunities to use that power to do good or to do harm. Sometimes, turning a blind eye and choosing to do nothing results in more harm.

If we, truly value kindness and appreciate it when it comes our way, we can’t ignore suffering. We’ve got to do our part to keep kindness alive… every chance we get. And we’ve got to teach our kids to be kind. But how?

Child or adult, it takes extra social courage to exit our comfort zone and to help a vulnerable person. When kids ask me about standing up for someone who is being harassed, I tell them they should never put themselves directly in harm’s way. But I make it clear that there are many ways to help an underdog and let him or her know: “I’m not like the others who are giving you a hard time. I’m here to help.”

Fuel for Thought (for adults) —At different times we have all been underdog, top dog, and middle of the pack dog, so we know what it feels in each of those places. Being on the bottom, without support, can be terribly lonely. Think about a time when you felt like an underdog. Where did you turn for support? What response did you get?  Think of a time when you helped an underdog. What happened?

Conversations That Count (with kids)– Talk about the concept of a “pecking order” amongst animals and humans. Say this to your children: “Most of the time, when we’re not on the bottom, we don’t give much thought to those who are.” Now ask your kids what they think about that. True? Not true? How do you know? Talk about who is “on the bottom” in your child’s class. (Even kids as young as second or third grade have a keen awareness of social strata.) How do other people treat that child? How do you treat that child? What might happen if you stood up for the underdog?

Teach—Challenge your child to be a hero and shake up the social strata at school by standing up for someone who needs a friend. Follow up and find out from your child what happened with the challenge.

Please let me know how you teach your kids about the importance of standing up for the underdog.

---------

Day 16: Kindness and Respect Challenge (You’ve got to be taught)

October 16, 2013

Rebecca Sedwick (2001-2013)

(See UPDATES below) Last month I wrote about Rebecca Sedwick, a 12 year old Florida girl who jumped to her death from the tower of an abandoned cement factory. Rebecca apparently couldn’t imagine another way to end the online harassment she’d suffered for months.

I desperately want to believe that adults who knew Rebecca would have supported her and effectively stopped her tormentors, if only they had known. But she didn’t feel supported. And the tormentors weren’t stopped. Was it because not one adult knew anything about what was going on all that time? I find it hard to imagine that one child in so much pain and a group of other children with so much hate-fueled energy could escape the notice of all the adults around them. But I guess it’s possible. We’re all so busy and kids are pretty good at hiding stuff they don’t want us to know about. But still…

BullyPolice.org, a well-respected watchdog organization that advocates for bullied children and reports on states’ anti-bullying laws, gives Florida an A++ rating. Great work, Florida. Laws change behavior. And yet, at least in this case, the law didn’t deter a group of children from maliciously harassing another child. I could be wrong, but because the cyberbullying took place in public over a period of months, I assume some adults knew who was involved.

According to the AP, Florida’s newly amended cyberbullying law “leaves punishment up to the school, but law enforcement can seek criminal charges.” I don’t know if any kids were disciplined by the school or their parents, but on Monday two girls, a 12 and a 14 year old, were arrested and charged with felony aggravated stalking. The 12 year old was once Rebecca’s friend. The 14 year old allegedly posted this on Facebook last Saturday: “Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don't give a (expletive)]”

This toxic social garage stinks to high heaven. It’s now so typical it’s not really even news any more. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m disheartened. Which means I’m at risk for becoming desensitized to this cruelty. But I’m not going to let that happen. I can’t.

So I read some of the comments posted about this case. Many folks indicated that the girls were “just mean.” Meaning what? That cruelty is their nature and it can’t be changed, so why bother? These are kids, dammit. We are the adults. They learn from us. If we’ve taught them  not to “give a bleep” about anyone but themselves, then we’ve got to teach them something else. Otherwise we’re all bleeped.

Check out Day 17 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

UPDATE: April 8, 2014 AP reports on Rebecca Sedwick’s case file.

UPDATE: November 21, 2013 Charges dropped against the girls in Rebecca Sedwick bullying case

 

---------
Older Posts »
Find Annie Fox: Find Annie on Facebook Find Annie on Twitter Find Annie on Pinterest Find Annie on YouTube Find Annie on Google+ Find Annie on LinkedIn Find Annie on Goodreads Find Annie on Quora