From the Publisher
“Deeply needed advice, reassurance, and good news . . . This much-needed book is a true gem.”
–EDWARD M. HALLOWELL, M.D., author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness
“A VALUABLE RESOURCE . . . [The authors] help parents deal with a range of social problems. . . . Just as important, they help parents distinguish between the kind of social antagonisms that can traumatize a child and the kind that are just part of growing up.”
“Once again Michael Thompson, Lawrence Cohen, and Catherine O’Neill Grace have reached into the hearts and minds of children and parents and given us deeply needed advice, reassurance, and good news. They show us how to deal with some of the most painful moments of childhood and, not only survive them, but thrive. Michael Thompson combines the knowledge and wisdom of a brilliant psychologist with the heart and love of an experienced parent. This much-needed book is a true gem.”
–EDWARD M. HALLOWELL, M.D.
“Few parenting challenges compare to helping a kid cope with teasing or being left out. With empathy and understanding, Mom, They’re Teasing Me gives parents age-by-age information and practical advice to guide and comfort kids through every stage of their so-called social lives.”
Editor in Chief, Nick Jr. magazine
“What a wonderful and helpful book. It is right on target dealing with a very difficult issue–one that all parents confront–in a truly sensitive and intelligent manner. Above all, Michael Thompson and Lawrence Cohen give answers–why it happens and what to do about it. I was really impressed by their ability to make helpful sense out of a truly difficult part of child-raising.”
–ANTHONY E. WOLF, Ph.D.
Author of Get Out of My Life, But First Could You
Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?
Childhood angst tends to torment parents as well as children and can erupt into the tragedy of school shootings. These books address such problems from fairly dissimilar perspectives. Psychologists Thompson (coauthor, Raising Cain) and Cohen (Playful Parenting) collaborate with journalist/ author Grace on a sensitive and straightforward advice manual that focuses on 40 key questions regarding the social life of children. Conversational and upbeat in tone, the book is divided into three sections designed to help readers distinguish "normal" social pain from more lasting trauma. The text covers friendship skills, tattletales, racial bigotry, bullying, and personal hygiene and also suggests techniques for building positive leadership and conflict-resolution skills. The issues addressed are drawn from actual questions raised during their workshop/consulting experience. The answers reflect cumulated wisdom about what matters in the life of children from grade school through adolescence, and the book as a whole similar to but more practical than Charlotte Giannetti's and Margaret Sagarese's recent Cliques. In contrast, Garbarino (human development, Cornell Univ.; Lost Boys) and de Lara, a researcher and family therapist, focus on the pathology of mainstream high school life in America. Based on interviews and discussions with rural and suburban students from "All-American" communities and published research, the book debunks myths about school safety and discusses multiple aspects of emotional violence in a school setting, including stalking, bullying, dysfunctional adaptations to harassment, and teacher violations. The authors exhibit an insightful understanding of school cliques (e.g., "hicks," jocks, and "Goths") but tend to be alarmist when depicting daily high school life. However, the research is impressive and generates many valuable suggestions for improving the school environment. The book concludes with resources and readings on bullying and violence prevention. Though Garbarino and de Lara's book is more focused on school management issues, both books are recommended for public library parenting collections. [Thompson's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/02.]-Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN
Read an Excerpt
THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF CHILDREN: Normal Social Pain
Every morning when the buses pull up in front of an elementary,
middle, or high school building, an extraordinary social drama unfolds. Most adults miss the importance of this opening act of the school day, because it is a daily theater,
apparently so predictable that grown-ups are not alert to its intensity. But kids get off the bus with their minds geared not to Spanish, spelling, or computer class, but to seeing their friends. They're ready for the curtain to rise on the action of the dayfor the conflict and connection of social life.
Children suffer when they are teased or excluded or have a fight with a friendand parents suffer emphatically right along with them. Our job is to bear that pain and also to put it in perspective. After all, we lived through cliques and betrayals and heartaches, and our children will too. Of course, there are things we can do to ease the pain
theirs and oursbut our first job is to take a deep breath and trust in children's resilience and in the process of human development.
The social troubles children face are so predictable and inevitable that it is hard to call them traumas. Nevertheless,
they do hurt and they do sap a child's confidence. Losing a friend, having a secret betrayed, and being teased are just a few examples. As parents, we want desperately to help children escape these hard lessons of life, or at least master them when they do happen. We know that lectures don't really work, but we keep giving them anyway, just in case. We aren't sure what else to do. We also know that our own endless worrying doesn't help, but we have a hard time turning it off.
Research shows that the majority of kids fall somewhere in the middle of the social hierarchy. Their status ranges from basically accepted to well liked to wildly popular. For these children, intense social issues (and pain) are still prevalent.
In fact, pressures and conflicts are universal as kids deal with clashes among the individual, the friendship pair,
and the group. Most of the answers to the questions in this section begin with reassurance. Our goal is to help adults understand such factors as temperament, group dynamics,
and child development. Our hope is that a better understanding of these things will provide some perspective, a dose of optimism, and a little relief from the anxiety we feel.
Parents and other adults all have their own painful memories of social struggles. These memories are triggered when children hand over their pain to their parents. It's hard to separate the new pain of your child's present from the old pain of your own school days. It's a bit like getting your toe stepped on when it's already broken.
When we label much of what you worry about as "normal"
social pain, we do not in any way mean to trivialize it.
The pain we feel when we lose a loved one is universal too
and therefore "normal." But that does not lessen its sting. In fact, knowing that something is universal, that you and your child are not the only people who ever went through this pain, can be powerfully comforting.
If you read between the lines as you look over the questions in this section, you'll see that more often than not, what parents and teachers are really asking is this: "Is my child normal?" "Are the children in my class normal?" There is often a great deal of anxiety and concern behind these questions.
Much uncertainty and anxiety comes from a lack of experience about how normal it is for children to be in pain,
or how normal it is for children to be so difficult for adults to understand and to handle. Normal children are not wonderful every minute. Their friendships aren't always a scene on a Hallmark card. In fact, they throw us all kinds of curve balls. I often share with parents this quote from the brilliant child psychiatrist D. W. Winnicott in his book The Child,
The Family, and the Outside World, "What is the normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No,
that is not what he is like. A normal child, if he has confidence in his father and mother, pulls out all the stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wangle and to appropriate.
Everything that takes people to the courts (or to the asylums,
for that matter) has its normal equivalent in infancy and early childhood (and in adolescence), in the relation of the child to his own home. If the home can stand up to all the child can do to disrupt it, he settles down to play; but business first, the tests must be made."
We have to bear the pain that our children share with us,
pain that might break our hearts or annoy us or remind us of our own horrible peer experiences. And we have to keep a sense of perspective about all that pain. Indeed, the first rule of worrying as a parent is to take the long view.
There is a story about an anxious first-time mother who called her baby's pediatrician constantly, sometimes several times a day. After a couple of months of this, he asked to see her. This is what he said: "Mrs. Smith, you have given birth to a child. You have opened yourself up to a lifetime of worry. You have to pace yourself." Kids, too, need to learn to pace themselves in the long-distance race of growing up.
In the first of the two case studies that follow, you will meet a mother who learned to manage her worry and to promote,
rather than anguish about, her child's friendships.
The second case study in this section will introduce you to Karen, a young adult, and her reflections about the complex interplay of identity, friendship, and popularity during adolescence. Karen's ability to look back on her own social life helps her make sense of a struggle that was hard to understand when she was living through it. We hope her view will give you added perspective on your own children's experiences in the world of friendship and popularity.