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Mom, They're Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems

Mom, They're Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems

by Michael Thompson

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From the acclaimed authors of Best Friends, Worst Enemies, here is the perfect companion volume: a practical, how-to guide for parents to help their children navigate the sometimes harsh terrain of social life at school, on the playground, and in the neighborhood.

Almost everyone agrees (and remembers): Childhood can be a traumatic time. Kids


From the acclaimed authors of Best Friends, Worst Enemies, here is the perfect companion volume: a practical, how-to guide for parents to help their children navigate the sometimes harsh terrain of social life at school, on the playground, and in the neighborhood.

Almost everyone agrees (and remembers): Childhood can be a traumatic time. Kids frequently face peer rejection, name-calling, bullying, after-school fights, esteem-crushing cliques, and malicious exclusion by the popular kids. And parents often feel powerless to console their children. Now help is here. Mom, They’re Teasing Me is a specific, hands-on guide for concerned parents who want to give their children the tools they need to cope with social cruelty. Through vividly written case studies and a reader-friendly question-and-answer format, this compelling book shows parents what a child may confront with other children, and then offers concrete advice on handling each situation.

Mom, They’re Teasing Me deals in-depth with specific aspects of social cruelty: the four major types of children at risk for social isolation and their unique problems; the ordinary pain of those children not at risk—but who, nevertheless, cause their parents concern; and bad class dynamics in the school and neighborhood. Through thoughtful discussion and insightful suggestions, parents will discover

• The difference between real risk and normal social pain
• The appropriate time to intervene—and when to step back
• Tips on how to mediate between children—without appearing meddlesome
• Essential advice for parents who worry too much
• The importance of teaching and encouraging leadership
• The redemptive power of friendship

Mom, They’re Teasing Me answers key questions on the many manifestations of social cruelty, offers compelling descriptions of prime “teasing” scenarios, and illustrates how to counter them. It is an indispensable book for every involved parent who wants to make their child’s formative years rich and rewarding.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


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 day--for the conflict and connection of social

Children suffer when they are teased or excluded or
have a fight with a friend--and 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 ours--but our first job is to take a deep breath and
trust in children's resilience and in the process of human

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

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Michael Thompson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, lecturer, consultant, and former seventh-grade teacher. He conducts workshops on social cruelty, children’s friendships, and boys’ development across the United States. He is the author of Speaking of Boys and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Raising Cain, as well as Best Friends, Worst Enemies, with Catherine O’Neill Grace and Lawrence J. Cohen. The father of a daughter and a son, he and his wife live in Arlington, Massachusetts. Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the author of Playful Parenting. He is also a columnist for The Boston Globe. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter. Catherine O’Neill Grace is the author of numerous nonfiction books for children and was a former middle school teacher. For fifteen years she wrote a Washington Post column for young readers about health and psychology. She and her husband live in Waltham, Massachusetts.

From the Hardcover edition.

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