This is not a well thought out post. I am just writing a general message based on what’s been on my mind recently. I feel like I am not the only parent out there to have been surprised to learn about their child’s self-harming until it was way too late to be an effective resource for their own child. I am still in the midst of it all so I cannot pretend to speak from the perspective of someone who has been there, worked through it and has golden advice. I am a work in progress, just like you are.
Believe it or not, self-harm is a thing that people do. Young teen girls have a slight numbers advantage over teen boys, so it is not fair to claim that it’s a girl thing.
You may believe that you don’t know anyone who would cut themselves (for example), but you may be surprised to find out the opposite.
People who self-harm will keep it a secret, most especially when they believe that they cannot tell you. They’re not looking for judgement, criticism or to be corrected when they do tell someone. If you want to know if anyone in your life self-harms you must first make it known that you’re not going to have a negative reaction to learning about it.
And if you do find yourself learning that your child has done it, your response simply must come from a position of love and support, and absolutely cannot come from admonishment nor scrutiny.
I am not someone who has ever intentionally hurt myself and it does not appeal to me, but I do know of others who have/do. I cannot relate to the thoughts that lead people to hurting themselves, but I don’t need to. What I need to do is ensure these people know that my love for them is real and that I am going to support them in getting the proper help, without judgement.
It is a long and difficult road for everyone and there is no room for us to bring along our negative baggage. I don’t know how to advise anyone to bring this up in their home without it coming off as a witch hunt, but it one of those things that should be addressed sooner than later. Find a way. If you have success, please share you story with someone.
You can’t really take my word too seriously on this topic because I seem to have lost my ability to talk to my kids. People always warned me from the moment my daughter was born that the teen years would be hell, and when the second one came along people found it amusing to point out just how much trouble I was in for. Hearing comments like that were laughable, and over time they angered me because I felt it was pretty obvious that I had a great relationship with my girls. To me, those people were flat out wrong. At least it were wrong at the time. That is until around the age of 8 (or thereabouts), for both of them. I once read that 8 years old is when girls start to diverge from their parents’ way of thinking – when they begin flexing their individuality, and that held true in my house. They began to really express their individual personalities at that time, and that was hard to deal with. I’ll admit that I didn’t deal with it very well, because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I was also out of the country for five months around this time, and custody was split 50/50. Enough complications? Ugh.
I have found that the harder I try to hang onto what we once had the worse it becomes. That relationship is gone. Those little girls are gone. They’re young women now and they don’t have the same wants and needs anymore, so for me –the same guy, mostly– to continue on with them as though they’re still 8 (or younger) is a disservice to them. And to me. I have to adapt as they mature.
I read a book called “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that I found very helpful. I ran into an article on yourtango.com today that reminded me of that book, and inspired me to write this post. If you don’t have time for the book, the article summarizes many of the principles very well. If I could condense it even further, I’d say this:
Shut up and LISTEN to what your kids have to say.
While you’re listening the only thing you should be thinking about is how what they’re telling you is –aside from paying attention, obviously– this question, “How does this make her feel?”
Kids are new – they don’t know until their taught. If you can identify how they’re feeling, say it as a sympathetic statement, or ask directly. If you translate their feelings into words they are now more equipped to express and eventually process (deal with) those feelings.
One of the challenges for the adult mind to deal with in these situations is to shut up. For us the problems kids deal with are simple, easy to solve or avoid, and largely inconsequential. We could easily deal with them in their shoes, but only if we had our adult brain and lifetime of experience. They don’t have those, so remember that. What they feel is real, regardless of your perception of it. To them, their feelings are their world; don’t deny them.
Almost 3 years have passed since my beautiful wife delivered her first child (my third). a sweet little boy. In that short time he has grown into the happiest little guy I’ve ever seen. He is affectionate, sensitive, very bright, observant, strangely obedient, and of course he has more energy than the sun!
Thinking about how he is developing so well really strikes me and I find myself in awe, daily. Clearly it is not my doing! There are certain circumstances required for a child to reach his potential, such as being guided through life by someone who shows him love, affection and kindness all day, every day. He needs someone to give him firm boundaries, to read to him (in two languages, no less), to explore his world with him, to teach him manners and right from wrong. Someone who places more importance on his well-being than their own personal interests. Someone with the patience to hold him while he cries for hours on end, for seemingly no reason.
That person isn’t me, even though this is my 3rd time around the block. The only person who fits this description is Mamá. She does this without enough sleep, without any experience, and without complaint. One day isn’t enough.
¡Feliz día de las Madres!
I saw this poster on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing, but as I prepared to re-post it I thought that I’d put my spin on it, because maybe I have some OK enough ideas.
I thought this was going to be a cute video full of silly parenting mistakes. I was so wrong. This video shows some of the worst parenting moves out there. Don’t watch it at work, nor in front of kids.
1. Let fear control them.
Simple: Mature peeps don’t let fear decide for them what to do or not do. They don’t let fear stand between them and what they want. They know that success is up to them, and fear is a weak excuse.
2. Do things to please others.
Mature peeps know that making other peeps happy is a good thing to do, but they also know that it the happiness of others is not their responsibility. Mature peeps let others manage their own happiness, but they do contribute to it.
3. They idealize romance.
Love is different each time you experience it and comes in so many different packages, and mature peeps totally get that. They may have fantasized when they were younger, but not anymore. They understand that love is a process, is complicated at times, and it changes as you change.
4. They don’t trust their partners.
Mature peeps expect that their thoughts, ideas, and actions will be respected and they give that same respect to their partners. They don’t always question their partners’ decisive actions.
5. They hold grudges.
Holding a grudge is like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to get sick. Mature peeps realize that a burned bridge isn’t any use to anyone. They like to keep a door open, just in case.
6. They obsess over their appearance.
Mature peeps care how they look because they have self-respect, but they don’t let their appearance define who they are nor allow it to determine their value in the world.
7. They don’t keep family close.
It is a normal developmental stage when humans want independence from their parents so that they can prove themselves to themselves, but as we mature we come back around to the family we have. Those who don’t have family members build new families out of good friendships.
8. They let themselves get bullied.
Adult life is so full of actual consequences that bullies run the risk of losing their job or even their freedom. But that doesn’t stop negative people from being negative. Mature peeps learn to identify the negative people and eliminate them from their lives.
9. They don’t take decisive action.
Mature peeps are careful to balance their choices, but they don’t sit around waiting to make a decision. Time is too important to waste, so they are quick to make choices and act upon them.
10. They let their ego win.
Mature peeps know their strengths, but they don’t let their ego make choices for them. Ego allows us to think too highly of ourselves, which leads us down the wrong path. Part of our maturity is knowing our weaknesses and working at getting better.
This morning one of my kids pointed to one of her friends in the school yard and said, “That’s my friend ____. She says that I’m her favorite WHITE friend.” The girl that she pointed to is a young black girl. She told me that she is really nice and they’re ‘friends in good standing’ (my words, not hers as hers are very colourful and difficult to remember perfectly).
Moments later the 3 of us (both my kids & I) are having a discussion about racism because they tell me that –at their school– it is OK for non-whites to talk about racism all the time at school, and to call people by their race, whereas whites cannot say a word about race without being called a racist.
Important points: This does not mean that the bulk of the dialogue they’re involved in at school is race-based. Also, in our town whites are the minority – Canada is diverse like that.
She doesn’t like being called the “white friend” because she can clearly see that is a racial comment, but she can’t say anything about it because she is then accused of being racist. They’ve told me on numerous occasions that a few of the black kids will respond to even the most innocuous and non-race-based speech with, “that’s racist!” and “you’re just saying that because you’re racist!”
I think that there is something to be said for poor anti-racism education, because these scenarios sprang up around the same time that school brought ‘taught’ these topics.
The other kid in the car –the one who is tough as nails on the outside– asked why there even is a BLACK history month. She has no frame of reference to compare that idea to, so in her mind there is no balance. There is no any-other-history month so she can’t see why blacks get one. Does that not reinforce the importance of unbiased education?
My advice to them was this:
Don’t let anyone call you anything based on your race, tell them that you don’t like it and no one should be labelled by their race.
Once upon a time there was a very excited young girl of 13 who one night found herself sitting with her family, happily watching TV. She was also anxiously awaiting the answer to a most important question she asked of her father. A question that would determine the fate of the child’s beloved. An answer with the power to forever change the course of her life. A single one-word reply delicately held the balance between chaos and calm. She knew that her daddy would be the one to swoop in and save the day for her. He’d do anything for her and she just knew it; he was the best daddy ever (there was ample proof of this for when she was little she would frequently present him with hand-crafted awards attesting to this fact).
When her most wonderful and beloved father finally arrived he was –in her adoring eyes– riding a pink unicorn that burst into the house atop its very own magic rainbow. Father was dripping with sparkles and spraying intense beams of sunshine into the room. She sprang to her feet with a glorious leap that would render the most proficient of kangaroos acrimonious with envy. She squealed with glee at the moment of truth: father was here to grant her wish at last!
And he knew of the intense pressure that had been placed upon him before his arrival. He had known that when he was to next see his delicate little princess she would be on the verge of experiencing every single positive emotion she’d ever felt, all in a single moment; a nuclear tween blast 13 years in the making. Fathers know these things, don’t they?
First he went into the kitchen to address his hunger and thirst, as well as to give her the chance to discuss the matter. Things of this magnitude are not to be taken lightly. She followed and watched, patiently – an uncommon trait for her. He slowly prepared a tea and then un-boxed some cold pizza, offering her some of course. He knew she didn’t like pizza; he knew she didn’t want to do anything except cross the bridge to the answer she had been so patiently waiting for. The elephant in the room was crushing her, but she didn’t want to risk asking again for fear of jinxing it. Did he bring it up? No, he didn’t, and he wasn’t going to either, but she didn’t know that. She filled the uncomfortable silence by excitedly talking about how many things would be set right in her world in only a few moments, hinting desperately to him that she was on the edge of the cliff.
As he should, he had more patience than she. He calmly moved his tea and cold pizza into the living room to join the rest of his wonderful family. This family was not the typical family as it was both split and mixed at the same time. This beautiful young lady was his oldest child born to a woman with whom they did not live, but rather they shared her. Father was remarried now, to a great woman who fully captured his heart, and together they gave her a little brother – her ONLY little brother. No one ever did learn how she felt about that little brother, but it was most certainly clear by her actions that this little boy held higher status than that of her closest younger sister. For a splendid 15 seconds he held the world in his palm for he had everyone he truly loved in one room, and they were all happy. He sipped his tea and it was the perfect temperature. His cold pizza wasn’t anything special, but it served its purpose. He soaked up the minute details of the moment and inwardly wished that this was normal. Moments like this don’t come along often, they’re rare, in fact. One might say that they should be cherished. Maybe that’s true, but not for this father. He marches to a different beat.
His little princess finally broke down and asked one more time, trying to sound as upbeat as she could, “Daddy, can you put the internet on my iPhone, please?” This might sound like such a simple question to most, but for her it was a gateway to a new beginning. She had only received this magical device mere hours ago, from her mother no less. Her mommy was so cool, and so kind, and so giving! Her first iPhone 4S, in white, packed with her favorite songs and WiFi access, but no cellular. Her mother was wise enough to give her time to prove that she could handle the device before allowing her to fully experience all of the joys that the magical iPhone offers.
Even though she asked politely, he did what only came naturally to him. “I don’t think I want to do that,” he said flatly. He wanted to grant her wish, he really did. He knew that there would be consequences to saying no, but he also knew that there would be greater consequences to saying yes.
With those 8 words he managed to shatter every single one of her hopes and dreams. There would be no recovering from this one. He was supposed to save her, but he didn’t. He ripped her rainbow colored heart out and threw it on the ground where he could apply all the force his 205 pound body could direct into a size 13 foot. How could he!?
The light of the rainbow flickered just then. She grasped as the harsh reality began to sink in, “how will I talk to mommy?” The depth of his uncaring heart was finally revealed as he calmly replied, “not putting internet on that changes nothing. You can carry on as you did before you got it.” Had she not been able to reach her before now? No, of course she could. It was a poorly formed negotiation on her part, the devastation in her heart was preventing her from thinking clearly or she would have been able to come up with a much better argument.
He was a stone cold –maybe even evil– man. They were right, they who warned her of him. She hadn’t believed before and now she could not deny it.
Reality delivered one of its harshest blows. Sadness. Unbearable sadness. No, not sadness, emptiness! Her head fell parallel to the floor. She was defeated. Alone. Empty. Her dreams gone, her daddy had stolen them from her. She slowly and quietly crept out of the “living” room, silently slid up the stairs and retreated to the darkness of her bedroom where she could finally be safe. Where no one would notice her. Where she could at least hide under the blankets if that venomous warlock of a man ever tried to enter. It was the most secure location she had available to her, and it would have to do for the next 3 days until she would be able to make her escape to the land of WiFi access and the caring embrace of BFFs and anonymous Instagram likes.
Did her father chase after her or try to talk to her? Hell no! He finished his pizza and drank that tea! It was the perfect temperature and it’s only like that in a very short window of opportunity. He realized that he could have done without that pizza though, and he was regretting it before he finished it. He only took it because it was slowing him down and it gave him an opportunity to offer her a slice – it was a deliberate distraction at best. He did listen closely to her retreat though. He heard her close her window and flick off the light. He surmised that his refusal to put the internet on her precious new white iPhone 4S resulted in a complete withdrawal from society to the point where the only remaining option was sleep.
Time passes with such ease during sleep, and there were only 3 days left. Just 3 days until she could connect to the people who matter most, to the endless stream of memes, selfies and likes. Only 3 more days until she could reconnect with an endless supply of “other,” more caring people who could really understand her struggle with a father like that.
Little did she know, her father only wanted to have a short chat about how to properly make use such a device. She didn’t know that he just wanted to ensure that she would be responsible with it. She didn’t know that he just wanted to feel confident that neither of its two cameras would see things a camera should not see. She didn’t know that he just wanted to hear her explain how she would not do anything that could harm her, or anyone else. She didn’t know that he also wanted to know if she knew how to use its features like connecting to WiFi networks and how to make an emergency call. She didn’t know the most important thing: he just wanted to make sure that his little princess was going to be safe, as all daddies do.
She didn’t get that chance to spend that time with her daddy. He was too mean, he could not understand her, and now she couldn’t even stand to be in the same room as these people who claim to be her “family.”
The struggle is real.
3 more days.
You think you can handle it but you’re never prepared, and each day is a new challenge just sittin there smilin at you saying, “bring it, old man.” So you try to beat the system by learning ahead of time (a book, advice etc), but it’s futile: the kids are doing the same thing! They’re watching you. They’re comparing notes at school. Make one mistake and they’re going to exploit that until you’re on your knees praying for their compliance.
Maybe you figure some things out and you’re on top for a minute. You stop and take a breath, maybe use that moment to try to be ready. Wait, you’re not the only parent here… The kid has another one! And that parent wants to have a say in how badly you screw up. They have their own crazy parenting ideas and they’re going to try to get you to go along with them. Don’t think that they’re not going to use the kid as bait or guilt. When the kid screws up it is going to be on you, pal. If the kid does well it won’t be because of you, it will be the little darling’s own achievement, thanks to mom.
The game is rigged, and you’re going to allow it because you love the little fart knockers more than you love life itself. You’re going to wish you knew what you were getting into and you’re never going to take it back nor give up.
You’re insane, as required to parent.
So, LAC Daoust wanted some money. Welcome to the club, right?
I had some phone cases left over and offered them to her at my wholesale cost so that she could sell them at retail. It took a few weeks for her to want money bad enough to give it a shot.
I offered 7 iPhone 5 & 6 cases to her and volunteered to help her go door-to-door in our neighborhood. She, without prompting, dressed up as best as she could (no pantsuits in her closet), grabbed a clipboard to take orders, and excitedly attacked our street.
She started off strong, but the relentless stream of “no” started to weigh her down. She lost all hope and said that she wanted to give up and go home, but I coached her through the rough spot and said that you never know where that yes is going to come from. You have to push forward and keep going – don’t say NO for them, let them, and when they do say no play with them a little. For example, when men said no I would ask them if they’re sure because I could get them a pink one, specially for them! Laughs!
Anyways, the very next person to answer their door bought TWO, turbo-charging her resolve to push forward! A few houses later she made 5 sales, and NONE of them were the cases that we had on us – she took 5 orders and got 5 deposits on her order list.
Next step: Hand-delivery with personalized thank-you notes 🙂