Monday, July 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: Cliques and Your Teens

Bullying today is a major concern for all parents of children of all ages.  Bullying and cyberbullying is more than the sticks and stones that used to be thrown verbally.  It has put being mean and teasing at a whole new level which no one should have to tolerate.

Let's look right here in Broward County.  Last October we had 15 year-old Michael Brewer nearly burned to death after being set on fire by other teens.  Is this bullying?  In March of this year 15 year-old Josie Lou Ratley was nearly stomped to death with the steel-toed boots of 16 year-old Wayne Treacy.  Was this bullying?

Bullying has extended into violent attacks that are nearly killing kids, not to mention driving them to suicide such in the Phoebe Prince case.

Today, as yesterday, cliques are a part of our culture.  The concern is they are starting younger and younger.  These younger children usually do not have the cause and effect thinking ability that comes with maturity in older adolescents.

Cliques or clicks?  As much as we want to click the mouse and turn-off the cliques of today's teens and tweens, they will still be a part of society.

Connect with Kids has some great insights for parents:
  • Cliques are groups of friends, but not all groups of friends are cliques. On the positive side, cliques can offer an opportunity for children to develop their social skills, to watch others and to learn ways to behave appropriately. On the negative side, children in cliques are getting practice in whatever behavior is being modeled - which can be bullying and risk-taking. Often one or two popular kids control who gets to be in the clique and who gets left out. Kids may act much differently than they did before they were part of the clique.
  • Bullying is commonly thought of as physical, verbal and/or emotional abuse, sexual harassment in person or online. Yet in addition to physical abuse, bullies tease, spread rumors and eliminate and exclude people from groups. Bullies frequently torment their victims such that they feel helpless, defenseless and are often in real physical and emotional pain.
  • First and foremost, talk with your children, especially teens, in ways that encourage the sharing of information. Let them know that you are concerned and want to help, but most of all let them know it is not their fault if they are being bullied or excluded. Never approve of retaliation, which often escalates the problem.
  • Schools and homes must establish clear rules about bullying behaviors that will not be tolerated. Consequences must be outlined and enforced. If your child is being bullied, talk with administrators and teachers to discuss your concerns and develop a plan of action. You should expect the bullying to stop. Talk with your children about how to stand up for others who are being bullied. Help them to understand that getting involved and seeking help is not "tattling" but an important solution to the problem. And make sure your home is a safe haven.
Being an educated parent leads to safer and healthier kids.

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