Disrespectful teens, disrespectful parents

How to get your teen to clean up their room
by Anthony Wolfe, The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Nov. 03, 2009

If you force your kid to clean up, your victory will be short-lived. Trust that they’ll tidy up with time

The courtroom of the Honourable Justice Maureen Rascomb in the case of Matthew Thibodeau v. his mother.

Matthew: “It’s really very simple: It’s my room. Yes, it’s a giant mess, but I’m the only one who lives there. No one else even needs to go into it. I keep the door closed so nobody has to see it except me. I live here. I am part of this family. This is the one and only part of this house that I have any say over. My mother rules the entire rest of this house. I like my room the way it is. I choose not to pick it up. To me, the room is comfortable. End of story. My case rests.”

His mother: “It is my house. I own it. When I die, Matthew gets half ownership of the house along with his sister. But I’m not dead yet. The house still belongs to me. Matthew’s room is in my house. I own his room. I will not tolerate that the room that he lives in in my house – my room – be an abomination. When he gets older and moves out, he will have the right to have his room any way he wants. But not now. Not here.”

It’s an eternal household debate. Yet the bottom line is this: Who is right is really not the main point. 

My take: YOU own his room? It is YOUR house? The house belongs to YOU?

What about your son? Your daughter? Do they not also live there? It may be “your house” since it’s your name on the mortgage, but is it not also THEIR home?

When I hear statements like this, my reaction is that I fully understand why the parent is also complaining that s/he doesn’t feel respected by the teen – the teen almost certainly doesn’t feel respected by the parent either, so what else would you expect?

Bottom line: If you wouldn’t treat your spouse or a good friend that way, don’t treat your teen that way either. You are presumably trying to help your teen learn how to grow up to be a responsible and respectful adult. Start modeling what a responsible and respectful adult should look like.

Beautiful Boo

A beautiful girl’s memory: Girl’s death inspires Web site for teenagers
Wednesday February 19, 2003
By Mike Strobel, Toronto Sun

Boo MacLeod, forever 18, lies beneath a granite heart in an Orangeville graveyard. She is buried next to Lyn-Zee Kelly. I wrote last year about Lyn-Zee, whose death at 17 inspired her mom to start a home for unwed mothers. That the two young women lie side by side is pure chance. But it is as it should be.

Stephanie “Boo” MacLeod was inspiring, too. Monday was the second anniversary of her death from meningitis. Maybe you saw her smile light up our announcements page this week. You could not help but smile back.

I make my way to her mom and dad’s Rexdale bungalow, where the photos of a tight-knit family cover the walls. Where Boo’s room is as it was the day she fell into a coma at Etobicoke General. Where her parents, Ed and Enid, both 47, and sister Natalie, 22, are working on Boo’s legacy: http://www.beautifulboo.com.

It is new online and will be a place for teenage girls to share stories and seek inspiration. About love. About looks. About all the dreams and demons that dwell in teenage girls.

Boo had her share of demons. After Grade 8, she drifted into depression. Her family thinks she tried to carry the problems that beset a family. Oldest brother Eddy’s marriage breakdown. Other brother Paul’s struggle to become a cop (he’s now with the Peel force). Boo couldn’t fix it all, so she went to ground, limping along at Thistletown Collegiate, taking credits here and there. She didn’t know she was beautiful and smart. She thought she was fat, ugly, stupid. After she died, her mom found a photo collage of skinny models in her room.

She was four years adrift. Sick Kids’ teen clinic finally brought her out of it the summer before she died. It was a magic summer. “She was Boo again,” says Enid. She gussied up the bridesmaids when Eddy remarried. She had a flair for makeup. She got a tattoo on the small of her back. Boo, it said, in Japanese. You can see the cloud lifted from her face in the photos from that summer. The rebel in her took over. The rebel who, after she got her tongue pierced, lived at brother Paul’s house ’til the swelling went down. So her folks wouldn’t know. She caught up on nightclubbing, using Natalie’s ID. She went back to school full-time. The world was hers again. “She was always so magnetic,” says her dad. “She would light up a room.”

Then on Valentine’s Day, 2001, she felt off. They thought it was the flu. But the next night, Enid found her in the bathtub, sick and weeping. In a cubicle at Etobicoke General, Enid tried a cold cloth on her daughter and waited for blood tests. “Then she sat up and made sounds that weren’t words. I ran for the doctor. But she just stopped breathing.”

On Feb. 17, with her room full of family, they turned off the life support. The seventeenth of the second month.

Funny thing. The MacLeods are not very religious, but after Boo died, they found a Bible she had picked up at school. She had highlighted Genesis 7:11.

In the second month, on the seventeenth day … all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

I dunno. But I do know Boo’s family will not let her memory die. They have high hopes for beautifulboo.com. It was Natalie’s idea. Her longtime beau Stanley Bergman, 24, does the tech work. Ed is a graphic designer. Enid and Natalie are spreading the word to high schools. And they all have “Boo” tattoos in Japanese. Natalie got hers on her back after the funeral. Ed got one on his shoulder last month. Enid got one over her heart on Monday. Stanley has one. So do Boo’s brothers and their wives. Her locker at Thistletown is sealed, full of notes and photos. Best friend Patricia Peatling drew a rose on the door.

On Jan. 6, the day Boo would have turned 20, a family mob gathered at the Orangeville grave. Eddy and Paul live nearby. Ed and Enid plan to move up there, too. They lighted candles and drank tequila, Boo’s club drink. They wrote messages on 18 balloons – “I miss you,” said her mom – and let them go. Then one of the closest families I ever met huddled in the cold and watched the balloons disappear in the slate-grey sky.

From: http://www.beautifulboo.com/

One and a half months before her sudden death in February 2001, Stephanie wrote this poem, the only thing that would be written in her journal of Dreams & Aspirations.

I came to realize a short while ago
that the only person that I can be is me.
I cannot please everyone,
but I can please myself.
I will not be liked by everyone,
but I can like myself.
I do not need anyones acceptance,
I just need to accept myself.
I always tried to be the best of everyone.
Then it came to me,
the people that I am taking
the pieces from are not perfect,
so then why do I expect it from myself?
All I can be is me,
and being me is just wonderful.
I am a strong young woman who is
very bright in many talented ways.
I am a person who knows how to love,
And gets love in return.
I am me.
I am beautiful.

teens, grief, memorial, inspiration, eating disorders

When Your Kids Are Popular with the Wrong Crowd

When Your Kids Are Popular with the Wrong Crowd
By Sylvia Rimm, PhD
Author of Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America’s Middle Schoolers.

    One boy in my school got his ears pierced. His friends thought he was cool, so they got their ears pierced, too. Other people thought they were weird, so they formed their own group. ~ 5th-grade boy

There seems to be nothing more difficult for achievement-oriented parents to tolerate than seeing their kids bond with a negative peer group. Students who don’t value school are often antiparents and pro-alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and casual sex and thrive on irreverent and often obnoxious music. Your kids will probably proclaim that they are good and loyal friends or that they’re much nicer and less shallow than the “preppies” and “jocks.” These negative peers may indeed be kinder to your children than some other kids you’d prefer for them to befriend. Your kids may become secretive, say that you’re controlling, and protest that you have no right to say with whom they can be friends.

Below are preventive strategies that can work well for encouraging your kids to avoid negative peers.

  • Don’t pressure kids to make friends. Many of the antischool kids I’ve worked with are lonely, attention seeking, and sometimes aggressive as elementary-age children. Parents and teachers are anxious about their kids’ lack of friends, even when they do have a few. Parents and teachers often put pressure on them to make friends, and the kids connect having a large group of close friends with healthy adjustment. They feel that adults are disappointed in them when they don’t have friends, and by middle school, they become so anxious about making friends that they’re willing to do almost anything to be included in any group that validates them. They develop a deep resentment toward the bright, achieving, or athletic kids who haven’t accepted them, and they share that resentment in order to build solidarity with another group. In some ways, they believe that “good kids” are bad, because the “bad kids” are loyal to each other, although they may appear tough or mean to outsiders.When your kids are a little lonely, it’s important to label it as independence even though you realize it isn’t easy for them. In that way, you avoid putting too much pressure on them to make friends and become popular. Use this time to help them learn skills and develop interests that will enable them to share activities with others. For example, learning to play chess will encourage them to play with other kids, developing an interest in music or art will give them a passion to share with other positive young people who also enjoy those activities, or playing soccer or taking gymnastics classes will make them feel like part of a team. Once they have friends who share their interests, they will be less likely to feel pressured to unite with negative kids.
  • Avoid conspiratorial relationships. Rebellious adolescents are often overempowered by parents who are divided. A mother who allies with her child against the dad, or a father who allies with a child against the mom, teaches a child that relationships become closer and more intimate when two people share a common enemy. Learning to feel close to a person only when there’s a common enemy can become a very negative but intense habit, which transfers naturally to finding a peer group or even a boy- or girlfriend who is against school or parents.This alliance-against-an-enemy relationship with a parent becomes an even greater risk during or after a divorce. Mothers who have been rejected by their husbands can be especially vulnerable to sharing intimate details about the husband’s behavior. Although at first it seems that kids understand the situation and value the intimate sharing, this too-intimate practice almost always backfires. Divorce is no time to assume that children are mature enough to be your counselors or confidantes. Not only does this place kids in an impossible dilemma, but it also teaches them to disrespect and rebel against their other parent, which will in turn cause the other parent to teach them disrespect for you. You’re giving up your adult responsibility when your kids may require it most.
  • Help kids adjust to a move. Another important prevention scenario takes place after a move to a new community. I recommend having your child paired with other kids initially when moving to a new school. The kids with whom she’s paired could make her feel more comfortable, as well as include her in a positive group. The selection of those new friends should be made carefully. You can probably do that most diplomatically if you share with the teacher or counselor your child’s positive interests. If you do this, it’s more likely that your child and those with whom she’s paired will have activities or interests in common.Sometimes teachers pair negative or needy kids with new students in the hopes of helping them. Caution your child that finding good friends takes time. Be reassuring that there’s no need to hurry it along, and that you’re certain that eventually he’ll find good friends. Seeking popularity encourages the quest for status and quantity of friends, which may or may not turn out to be a good thing, depending on the values of the popular peer group in the school.
  • What if your child has already been influenced by a negative peer group? The solutions below may help when you need positive intervention.

  • Change schools or teams. There are several possibilities for helping your kids ditch negative peer groups. Sometimes changing schools or teams can be effective. This has proven to be extremely powerful for some kids who have been clients at my Family Achievement Clinic. Most middle schools use a team approach with between two and four teams in a school. Talk to your child’s school counselor about the possibility of changing to a different team to get him away from negative peers. This may help your child make new friends, particularly if he has at least one positive friend in a new team. Changing schools or teams works most effectively when negative relationships are just beginning, before your child is overly engaged with the group. It also works best if the negative group doesn’t live in your neighborhood.
  • Prohibit friendships. Sending a clear message to your child that you wish he not befriend a particular individual or group may make a difference for middle schoolers. You’ll need to justify the prohibition by explaining that the other kids’ behavior is unacceptable, and you’ll permit them to be friends outside of school only if you see a change in the other kids. When both parents agree on that philosophy, your child will likely accept it. When both parents don’t agree, don’t waste your time prohibiting the friendship. This is an important communication that both parents should talk through carefully.

  • Develop new interests. The most positive technique for removing kids from a negative peer group is to get them involved in positive peer experiences, such as fun enrichment programs, special-interest groups, drama, music, sports, Scouts, religious groups, summer programs, camps, or youth travel programs. They may not want to join without their friends, so introducing them to someone who’s already part of a group may encourage them. A teacher or group leader may help to facilitate new friendships.
  • Enter contests. Encourage your child to enter contests or activities in which he has a chance of winning or receiving an important part. Don’t hesitate to talk to a coach or teacher privately about your efforts to reverse your child’s negativism. Winning kids are often excluded from peer groups that are negative about school. Winning a speech, music, art, or sports contest often gives status to students and causes them to appear more interesting to positive students. Sometimes a victory is enough to separate a tween from a negative peer group.
  • Plan an exciting family trip. A family trip is also an option for distracting your wayward child from negativity. Time away from peers in an entirely new environment can channel your child’s independence. One-on-one trips with a parent may be effective in reducing tension and enhancing family closeness. A trip with only one parent and one tween may be more productive than if the whole family is present, because the tween will be freed from sibling rivalry issues.
  • If you introduce any of these courses of action to your children, don’t expect them to like it. These options shouldn’t be suggested as choices, or your kids surely won’t choose them. You can, however, permit or even encourage them to make choices among the options. For example, they can choose between a summer writing or music program, which will hopefully encourage new and positive interests and friendships.

    Copyright © 2005 Sylvia Rimm

    Author: Sylvia Rimm, PhD, is a noted child psychologist who directs Sylvia Rimm’s Family Achievement Clinic and is a clinical professor at Case School of Medicine, both in Cleveland. Her books include See Jane Win, a New York Times bestseller, and Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children, which was a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award. A syndicated newspaper columnist and a favorite personality on public radio, Dr. Rimm has also appeared on NBC’s 20/20 and The Today Show and MSNBC’s Weekend Today. She and her husband reside in Cleveland, Ohio.

    For more information, please visit www.sylviarimm.com.

    parenting, peers, peer pressure, teens, teenagers

    Teens afraid to go to school

    A new report released today by the CDC indicates that US teenagers fear violence in the schools more today than a decade ago, despite some evidence that the rate of violence is actually declining.

    In my work with Canadian teens, I see a similar trend. However, I wonder about the conclusion that violence is actually declining – perhaps that conclusion depends on how one defines “violence”. Indeed, in my practice, it is rare to find a teen who has not been intimidated, threatened with violence, physically intimidated in some way (e.g., being surrounded by a group of teens and harassed), or physically assaulted, with the degree of assault ranging from slapping to punching and kicking.

    The number of U.S. teenagers skipping school for fear of getting hurt climbed over the past decade, even though violence in schools actually declined, the government said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the increase in part to a rise in schoolyard threats and lingering fear from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and other school shootings in the 1990s.

    More than one out of every 20 high school students – 5.4 percent – skipped at least one day of school because of safety concerns in 2003, according to the CDC survey. That is up from 4.4 percent in 1993.

    At the same time, CDC statistics indicate an overall drop in school violence over the past decade.

    The percentage of students who said they had been in a fight in the preceding year dropped from 42.5 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2003. Only a little more than 6 percent of students said they had carried a weapon onto school grounds in 2003, down from 11.8 percent in 1993.

    The CDC said students may be reluctant to go to school because of a “heightened sense of vulnerability” tied to the school shootings of the 1990s. Also, one in 11 students surveyed in 2003 said they were threatened with or injured by a weapon on school property in the preceding year. That was up from about one in 14 students threatened or injured in 1993.

    teens, teenagers, school violence, high school, school system