Help me: Children Verbally Abused by Peers

20 05 2014

This happens in communities all the times – I see it in the children/youth ministry and I see it among my almost 10 yr old daughter and her friends – and it breaks my heart.

Child # 1 just happens to be friendly to others and tries to be understanding in tough situations and then by chance and sometime “on purpose” because she gets along with others well – she gets paired up or simply stuck in a group with Child #2.

Child #2 is maybe jealous , can’t handle the niceness or Child #1, or maybe gets frustrated in their own shortcoming but knows Child #1 won’t lash back so passive aggressively blames the failings and frustrations on Child #1 – privately or in a group setting.

I’m in an odd place in trying to figure out how to be the adult in these situations – because:

1) often the children come to me to report, Child #1 is hurt by child#2 and doesn’t like it and needs it to stop. Child #2 claims they’ve done nothing wrong and it is the fault of Child #1.

2) I don’t always see or hear the interaction.  Other friends chime in to support child #1, and no matter what Child #2 keeps up the shenanigans.

3) Child #1 knows all the others are on their side, but that doesn’t matter when you are a tween or a teen = because you’ve been embarrassed in front of them, so there must be something wrong that you are the one verbally abused.

In church, school playground, and “team work” related activities parents have committed children to participate in Child #1 has no real way to get away from or ignore Child #2.

So what do you do? I can see why child #1 might actually love participating in a ministry program or attending church, or avoid going on the playground during recess, or not want to be in an extracurricular they really love – becasue if they go it is more than likely they will be attacked (in a way the adults won’t see) by child #2.In a few cases, I KNOW it is NOT the fault of the parents and in other cases , it is more than  obvious the parents have modeled this behavior for their children.

Also what do you do in group settings where child #2 gets ostracized by others, after they have repeatedly been reprimanded by the community of friends of child #1.  In church, the school playground, other activities — these kids need the interaction with others, but they become unwanted after damaging the hearts of other one too many times.

How do we love Child #2, while protecting/supporting/empowering Child #1? How might both be engaged without  both dropping out  because they’ve been hurt.

When is it OK to talk to parents as an adult who hasn’t been an eye-witness but has children eye-witnesses?

How do you talk withthe parent of Child #2 when they are a leader of the group, or not willing/to embarrassed to  admit their child could have been so hurtful to another?

I get stuck in the middle as a parent (my kiddo is so often the Child #1 and it breaks my heart). Tough when I am usually the leader of what ever program Child #1 and Child #2 are participants of…. “Your child is picking on my child” – They see me as the leader who thinks their child is perfect and can do no wrong.

Please share your suggestions and similar experiences in the comments below.


Saying Goodbye to the School Year

19 06 2013

Ah the emotions that come with the end of the school year.

Katie had kindergarten “graduation” today and is sad that tomorrow is the last day with a great teacher and class. She is nervous to be a first grader. Which is the same thing that happened when she transitioned from PreK to Kindergarten. She went kicking and screaming from one awesome experience to another. Katie has had her ups and downs with friendship, staying quiet in class, and trying to put more words than colorful drawings on her weekly journal entries. Math has come easy for her, reading has been rocky but she’s starting to love it, and writing/spelling is not her strong suit but she still gives us little notes and makes lists all the time.

Ellie doesn’t want tomorrow (last day of school) to come because one of her really good friends is leaving our school. She has shed a lot of tears over this. A LOT. I want her to just accept it and get over it (because the distance between Bothell and Lynnwood is not very big). But, I have to bite my tongue and let her grieve and try to give her hope for the future. She says it isn’t fair, every year since Kindergarten (she’s finishing 3rd grade)a really close friend has moved away from her. I prayed with her asking God to help her stay connected with her friend, but also to help her open her heart to allow others to be friends with her. I’m a little concerned she might simply shut down and not let others get close because she is afraid she’ll lose them. Alas, on to the fourth grade for Ellie

My emotional tank has given a lot to them and I know they still will need more listening, consoling, hugging, encouraging, and glimmer of hope tomorrow morning and night.

Teaching children about Peace at Advent – a real life experience

10 12 2012
Our home Advent Wreath

Our home Advent Wreath


So I came up with an original idea for a children’s sermon yesterday. So often I am   pressed for time and drained of creativity that I lean on the inspiration and wisdom of others for a 3-5 minute children’s sermon. I’ll share my fave resources later in this post. It was the second Sunday in advent and I live to educate the children (and congregation) about the happenings of the liturgical church year. The second candle in the advent wreath is often a symbol of peace – the first candle symbolizing hope.

I have a lot of “quirky” favorite hymns/songs for Advent and Christmas and one particularly beautiful song was running through my mind. I realized it would be PERFECT for talking about Peace. Looking at the words of “Before the Marvel of this Night” I read it as a poem describing God’s commissioning of his angels before they visited the shepherds and the world with their message of “Jesus is born! To God be the glory!”. Is also read it as a commissioning for believers to go and tell our world about the gift of peace that comes to all of us through Jesus. So I crafted a children’s talk where I asked the kiddos to imagine they were Angels on a mission and to hear God’s instructions to them before going to the world.
I was so excited, it was awesome and beautiful all at the same time.

Fast forward to real time and actual giving of children’s sermon – I start up and their are a few usual distractions – of other people’s children – just the littlest ones getting used to coming up for a talk, etc (which by the way – if the parents are reading this – does not bother me at all!!).

Then I read the poem.

As I am reading I look down at my feet and see my two daughters (one is 5 years old and one is 8 years old) fighting over a pencil. I finish reading and as I am commissioning the children and adults to go out into the world as agents of peace, I calmly reach down and pluck the pencil out of their hands, and keep talking. I’m puzzled because my 8 yr old is still very frustrated squealing in a whisper “mommy she won’t give it back” over and over. I can see there is something my 5 yr old is guarding with her life but I don’t know what it is. They keep playing keep-away while I continue to talk about being agents of peace. My girls clearly are not getting what wisdom their mother was attempting to impart to them (perhaps God feels this way often?). So to make sure they are listening I stress ways we can bring peace – including to our brothers and SISTERS and PARENTS. (Insert congregational giggle here) and they keep on fighting. I swear they were oblivious. So I wrap it up with a prayer and sending children off to class — and then, in the hallway, help my daughters make peace with one another over a satsuma orange one swiped from the other.

I’ll have to introduce them to the musical version of “Before the Marvel of this Night”, maybe they’ll finally understand peace??
Read the rest of this entry »

Depression Sucks

14 11 2011

I have depression – anyone else? It is risky for me to put this blog post out there, but I’m convincing myself that maybe it will help someone else or at least give me something to fall back on and hopefully see progress.

Depression is actually nothing new to my life. Except that it hasn’t been an ‘always’ underlying depression and it hasn’t been something to cure with medications. It happens with life transitions and sneaks up on me… very slowly seeps into my life and takes over my life before I even realize it is there. It always takes some good hard work but eventually I can push it out. Until it comes back again an I have to figure out how to keep going with life while kicking depression out. Below is a post I started several months ago. Somedays I feel better and other days I feel worse.

Fall/Winter is definitely settling in on us in Seattle. Dark before or by 5pm…the depression makes me want to go to bed so much earlier and yet being a mom and a wife doesn’t necessarily allow for that option. I’m realizing I’m going to have to work double time and not let it get the best of me in these dark days. Dear God, be with me in this and keep me strong.

begun on 6/9/11 
I have depression and it sucks. Literally. It sucks the live out of me and I hate it.

I recently began working with a therapist who it seems will be able to help me get my life back on track.

Things I could accomplish and look forward to accomplishing without depression holding me back:

* Not yelling at my children for every little thing. My poor kiddos some days, and of course they yell at each other, because that is what I do to them. Especially as we are going out the door to school and right before dinner and when they won’t get to bed. I know those are normal times to be frustrated with your children, but I know it is possible to be calmer and less perfectionistic in those situations than I am.

* Not annoyed at my husband and his work schedule vs my work schedule. I am the one with ‘flexible’ hours but I get so incredibly jealous that he gets to stay and meet his deadlines while I have to jet off at 2:30 p.m. almost every school day to pick up E and bring her to some activity. Of course after the activity is dinner, homework, bath, getting kiddos to bed, and then maybe clean the house or try to get some work done. Usually I just want to sleep though.

* Have a cleaner home. I wouldn’t just go straight to bed or stare at the internet or sit and wallow if I wasn’t depressed. I’d have the motivation and energy to get this pig stye cleaned up and organized. I did wash dishes tonight… because I can’t sleep. Doug and I always joke about (in a serious manner) how I would make an awful housewife. I rarely get anything done when I have a lot of time at home.

* Be happier… cry less about nothing. I sit and wallow and am hardly motivated. I have friends that right now in real time are dealing with breast cancer treatment, cleaning up a home swallowed in a mudslide, fundraising immediately for friends in need, have more kiddos than I do, are in major pain and taking care of younger kiddos on a regular basis, pregnant, have a newborn baby, etc. I’m constantly in awe of their simple daily accomplishments and wonder WTH is wrong that I can’t be motivated to enjoy life. I would have less negative tweets on Twitter and posts on FB. (edit-I’m actually updating and tweeting less on my depressed days because I’ve recognized this pattern. So if you wonder where I’ve gone either I’m fighting negativity or or perhaps I’m hopping from one thing to the next being productive. I’d prefer the latter.).

* Better able to do my ministry work – coordinating events and communicating with volunteers in a timely manner, supervising interns and leading a planning team more successfully and not so on the fly. Confident, rather than intimidated and paralyzed by fear, when what others will think of my ideas and propositions, and decisions.

* Communicate positively, let alone – on time or in a timely manner.

Sticky Faith ch 3

2 11 2011

These are my answers to questions for Chapter 3 of the Sticky Faith Ministry Parents Online Book Club.

  1. What are some ways you identified yourself growing up? How were they helpful to you as you grew older? How were they harmful?
When I was growing up I identified as shy, quiet, sorta-smart, really really skinny and short, redhead but wanted black hair because everyone noticed my red hair, not athletic – but good at baton twirling, loved learning about music and singing, and enjoyed doing ‘church’. Also I was the oldest child in a single-parent family – often I was considered the good child and my sis/bro made out to be trouble makers. 

Being coined as quiet/shy and too skinny and taking this on as my identity was harmful in giving me a low self-confidence in so many ways. I have a hard time taking complements on my hair,body, clothing, etc. Even in athletic abilities, shy & skinny set me apart from participating because it involved my body. I dabbled here and there but nothing seemed to stick. I found tennis in high school and did pretty well with that. 

I believe I made up for my lack of self-confidence by being involved in whatever I could to lift others up or achieve a status that had to do with what was inside of me rather than how I looked on the outside. Knowledge, Heart, and Faith. Sometimes this got me to places that were quiet vulnerable with my peers. I gave a speech my sophomore year in high school that apparently got me the vote for “Most Easily Embarrassed” my senior year. 

The activities I was involved with though because of my lack in confidence in my appearance did give me several mentors that through the years God used to help rebuild my self-confidence. This is an on-going God project in my life.

2. Of Nouwen’s three answers to the question, “Who am I?”, which of these are you most prone to rely on? Describe what that looks and feels like. Which of these does your child rely on? What does that look like?

I think I take #3 (I am what others say about me) and use #2 (I am what I can control) to prove I am or am not what others say about me. Everyday I take encouragements/words of affirmation to heart and really try to live up to the good things people have to say about me. If I am told something not so great about myself, or someone says I need to improve certain skills or attitudes, I immediately go to work to change that perception others might have about me. It eats at me day and night until I either fix it or realize it simply is a perception and may not be reality. My mind gets tired emotionally bouncing from affirmation to disappointment. 

I’m pretty sure Elie (7) is a “I am what others say about me” type… she is always very concerned about approval from others to dictate whether she is happy or sad. Reminds me very much of myself and I try to safeguard her from it, probably too often. I don’t know what Katie (4) relies on, probably “I am what I control” at her age.

3. On a scale of 1 to 7, 1 being easy, 7 not so easy, how hard is it for you to see yourself as the beloved child of God? How easy is it for your child? Describe what you mean.

Depends on the day, some days more or less than others. I guess if I have to I’ll choose 3. I don’t think I look for approval from God, but definitely base others’ approval (or my perceived others’ approval) as a litmus test on how I am doing as a human being. Ellie is a 2, she knows God loves her and is always telling others of God’s love for them. Katie – probably a 1 at age four. She has had an epiphany in the past few months that she is a child that God loves SOOOOO much – she’s not afraid to let you know either.

4. Name some ways you can emphasize who your child is (a beloved child of God) rather than what your child does. How would this emphasis change your approach to your child’s extracurricular activities or academic achievements?

* I’ve been trying to do this already with Ellie and, man, is it hard somedays. There are days she has low self-confidence in her homework abilities, piano practicing, friendships and more. She is at an age where girls constantly threaten “I won’t be your best friend or I will be your best friend if….” and the promise is more often than not made out of trickery or simply a broken contract. We work to teach her what it means to be a good friend… sometimes that probably comes across as “you’re a bad person if you are a bad friend”. Lately, she keeps asking me “Mommy. do you love me?” and I answer “yes”. I try to find out why she asks, but she rarely has a reason why. I assure her I love her no matter what. 
With Katie, she is still PreK and the extra curriculars are different – and she is treated differently than Ellie when she plays. We always try to affirm them when they make good choices and treat someone well. 

Stomach Aches and School Worries

7 02 2011

Ellie woke up saying her stomach hurt and she didn’t want to go to school. She looked a little wiped out and didn’t have a temp. I asked if there is something happening at school that she is avoiding. No mommy, nope. I wasn’t so sure she was telling the truth, but she swore up and down she was sick. Every time I’ve sent her in not feeling well and not believing her, I’ve been called at work to pick up my puking burning up little girl and then feel horrible for sending her.  So I kept her home for a bit and still got ready to take Katie to PreK.

I noticed she was suddenly very chipper and playing with Katie. I decided to test a few things. I offered her a cup of orange juice, thinking if her stomach really is upset she’ll either say no thanks or she’d drink it and her stomach would hurt more. She drank it down without a single problem. I started packing her backpack up and got them to get their socks shoes and jackets on, while observing Ellie didn’t seem to have any stomach pangs during any of it. I was really torn about this… do I believe her and let her stay (on seriously one of my busiest days of the month) or do I risk not believing her and sending her to school? If I send her to school she’ll cry and protest, if I stay home and she’s not sick, she’ll try this again. So I prayed “God pleeeeeease give me some guidance on this”.

After a little bit I had an idea. I’ll take her to school, walk into the office with her, and ask to see the school nurse to see whether the nurse thought Ellie was too sick for school. I waited until I was ready to go. Said alright time to take Katie to school, handed Ellie her backpack and said ‘and you too’. She didn’t like this. I told her my plan. She said “but I’m worried I’ll get everybody sick”. I said the nurse can help us decide that. Then she started crying saying, but nobody will play with me or be my friend if I go to school. Aha! I knew it! (Didn’t say that outloud to her though). I let her tell me her worries, hugged her, came up with a few ideas of what to do and then we prayed about it – God help her to be a good friend and look for others who will be a good friend to her.

Then we were off and she told me right away she didn’t need me to go in with her, that she could handle going to the office to get a late note and walk into class on her own. Dropped her off and she was on her way. An hour and fifteen minutes late… but she is there and don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch my sick child so that I can lead my PEPS group this afternoon and prep for a work meeting tonight.

This instance brings back to my mind, how do Doug and I coach our daughters in friendships. It is really hard when you don’t know what is really happening. The questions that fill my mind with curiousity — is my child being bullied at school? Is she being a bully? Is it as big of a deal as she makes it out to be? I don’t want to dismiss it, but I don’t want to make it a bigger problem than it is.

Last night I picked up a book I forgot I had… tucked under a few others. “Little Girls Can Be Mean”. I read the first few pages after last night’s/this morning’s post. The book mentioned that a symptom of bullying or simply not being comfortable with confronting others at school is a stomach ache. I believe God gave me those words last night to help me work with Ellie this morning.

Now if I could only find my wallet…. my day would be a lot better!

%d bloggers like this: