I am no parenting expert. I have worked as a school counselor for almost 14 years so I've seen my fair share of adolescent and teenage challenges and I have 2 young daughters. But I'm no expert. I'm just like you. I'm learning as I go. I love my children fiercely and try my very best, but sometimes parenting knocks me on my knees. Raising children is hard work. Really hard work. It takes all your energy, time, and patience. It challenges you in ways you never thought possible.
There is no handbook for parenting. My girlfriend often jokes that they forgot to give her the instruction manual when her daughter was born! It's not easy, and I see all of you and know how hard you are trying! I have major respect for fellow parents. It is not my intention to judge you. I think we still have a lot to learn. Together.
This really needs to be said and you may not like it. Its a risk I'm willing to take for my own children and for yours, too. I'm DONE with staying quiet about the way we are raising our kids. I've had enough. I'm calling BS on the 'boys will be boys, girls will be girls' mentality when it comes to parenting. So many of us are failing our kids because we suck at this thing called parenting.
We can do better.
We need to do better.
It started in fourth grade. FOURTH GRADE. Sweet innocent girls in my daughter's grade who you'd never suspect would utter the word 'fat' were saying just that. To each other! By fifth and sixth grade, 'fat' was a word that was to be deeply feared and hated. Barely size-zero girls became acutely aware of their developing bodies and feared what others were saying about them. Their strong and healthy bodies are subjected to scrutiny. ALL. THE. TIME. They talk about others and themselves using words like fat, thick, ugly, or gross. They hear the f' bomb daily on the bus. Boys taunt the older girls on the bus if they are moody. "Do you have your period?" they ask. One boy even asked another girl what it felt like to wear a tampon. The girls and boys pick on the girls for having too much hair on their legs, yet shame them for shaving 'too early.' When the girls ignore the boys and talk to their girlfriends? They must be "lesbians!" My girls have been told if they eat too much Nutella they will get fat. They've been told they are going to hell if they don't accept Jesus. Tampons are dangerous and toxic. The list goes on and on. My. Head. Is. Spinning!!!!!!!
To add insult to injury, most kids this age are terrified of being seen as tattle tales. They'd rather bottle the shame and depression than tell on someone for harassing them. Heck, I've heard that some boys on the bus coach them to not talk to their parents! "What happens on the bus stays on the bus!" Yes, this happens in perfect suburban A+ school districts. I've talked to some parents personally. I've talked to the principal and teachers about my concerns (and I SO appreciate them for all they do). But it's not enough. It's not enough because we need you to get on board too.
I'm often told this is 'just how it is.' Its part of growing up! Teach your children to be tough. Tell them not worry about what others think. But does it really have to be this way? Or, have we just accepted a toxic culture and turned our heads to something that is so detrimental to our children?
Kids needs guidance and instruction on how to talk (or not talk) about things. Do you talk to your kids about how their words and opinions hurt others? Do you teach them that opinions are NOT truths and don't have to be shared (especially when they are hurtful)? Do you set good examples in your own relationships? Do you talk about body image and body shaming?
I am challenging the 'that's-just-the-way-it-is' and 'let's-pretend-its-not-happening-because-it -doesn't-affect-me-personally' mentality. This has to stop. Boys cannot 'be boys' and girls cannot 'be girls' any longer. This is pure BS. I can guarantee you if a coworker asked me if I had my period or called me fat, he'd been written up and/or fired. I cannot drop the f' bomb and I certainly don't body shame others as a hobby. If my legs are hairy or not, its none of your business. You can't comment on it and get away with it. It's called harassment and its illegal. Verbal harassment is a thing, people. Do it once, okay. A warning of how your behavior was indecent is fine. Do it again, it's now harassment. I've watched high school students get charged and fined for verbal harassment. People who act this way lose friends. People who think its okay to act this way end up lonely and depressed because no one likes them and they don't have any authentic friendships. The victims and bystanders end up confused and depressed. It's a never ending cycle that has got to stop.
I'm begging you to please do better. Be involved. Know what your child is doing and saying. Teach them how to be good citizens. Teach them right from wrong. Ask them what is going on in their lives. Read their texts. Talk to other parents. Teach your children to be kind and tolerant. Teach them to be empathetic and courageous. Don't let older siblings parent your child and know what older siblings are saying and doing in front of them. Be present. Be available. Don't judge. Tell them that tolerating bullying only makes it continue, and that talking to a trusted adult is not tattling, its courageous and empowering. Remind them that repeated and excessive verbal harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated in today's world.
Can we all agree to remind our children that our traditions, values, and opinions aren't accepted by everyone? Can we agree to teach tolerance and acceptance? Or at least silence? Can we PLEASE stop downplaying things as 'that's-just-the-way-it-is?' Can we take responsibility and raise our children to be kind and respectful human beings?
Whose with me? Whose done with this permissive BS culture? Whose ready to give our children the world they deserve?
Heidi shares personal stories of her ordinary chaotic life. She gives an honest raw look at what it means to be a mom, wife, counselor, and friend struggling to keep it all together. Her personal experiences with grief, relationships, depression, poor self-image, bullying, anxiety, and relational aggression give her a unique perspective on what its takes to overcome tragedy as an adolescent and adult.