Category Archives: Parenting, Bullying and Ideas.

The Internet and the Kids that use it.

I love the interwebz. A lot. So much so that if I forget my cellphone or ipad when I go out, I start having heart palpitation’s. It has become my connection to the world, my friends and unlimited information. Google has “diagnosed” many of my illnesses, Youtube & Pinterest have inspired me and taught me about things I’ve never even heard of. Facebook has connected me to my past and Twitter has given me the gift of many new & amazing friendships. I love the Internet.

In saying all that, I also recognize how dangerous this big open virtual playground can be. It is filled with pictures, people, ideas and opportunities that I don’t consider healthy or safe. It has allowed us to become over-informed, over-stimulated and much more bold than we would ever be in “real life”. The screen has become something that we can hide behind and become whoever we want to be. It’s easier to be a total jerk, to bully, to tease and to just be downright annoying. It brings the whole world into the privacy of our own homes and leaves us alone with nothing but our conscience to judge or challenge our choices.

As an adult, I know how hard it can be to always keep myself in check. To guard what I post or how I respond as words don’t always relay exactly what I’m trying to say. I’ve learned to question things that I see and read. I understand that the Internets idea of reality, isn’t actually so. I’m an adult and it’s tough … imagine what it’s like to be a child or a teenager? With one click of a button, you get to see things that you’ve never seen or even heard of before.

As parents, we need to keep them safe. Not blinded without access but safe.

As my kids have grown, I’ve found lots of little ways to stay on top of their internet usage and to help them make good choices. Lots of people have commented that I’m too tough, or that I do too much “spy work” and don’t give them enough privacy. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve got 18 years to help them become the best that they can be, and I take that job very seriously. My job is to guide them, protect them, and help them make choices that they’re not yet strong enough to make. Based on that principle, I give you this.

My Guide to Monitoring Kids on the Internet. (Super basic, super easy stuff that works).

Number One. Do NOT be so naïve in thinking that you’ll just keep your kids off the internet and block them from everything. You can probably do that to some level, but guaranteed they’re sneaking around behind your back. AND you’re not monitoring it AT ALL. Teachers also use the internet & Facebook for a lot of stuff now. Your kids are GOING to have to access it.

* Even if you’ve allowed an account somewhere, watch it. Have you noticed that it’s suddenly gone silent or the posts are few & far between. Odds are really good your kid has another account. Find it. (They’re favourite thing to do is to reverse their names, use a middle name or something really stupid. Usually, they keep at least one of their real names in their alter-ego)

Number Two. Help your kids set up the accounts that they want to have, especially Facebook. Set their privacy settings so they’re not sharing everything, with everyone, everywhere. Teach them to not list their school, address, phone number, etc. Talk about why it’s not safe, how the internet is forever, how people lie, etc. They’re going to laugh at you, but keep saying it.

* Check these settings and what is displayed on their pages on a regular basis. Facebook quite often asks for updates and they just fill them out without thinking. Also, update the privacy & restrictions in their devices and then password it. That’s the simplest way to stop explicit apps & information from being downloaded & shared. For my younger kids, I actually remove Safari/Explorer from their devices completely.

Number Three. Passwords. Know them, so you’re able to enter their account at any time and see everything. They may have blocked you from seeing some stuff, so this is the simplest way to see what you’re missing and/or to remove any inappropriate stuff.

* At our house, if I pick up your electronics or go to log into something and I don’t know the password. The item belongs to me for a week. (Not just apps, but passwords for the actual electronics as well). If I have no access, neither will they.

Number Four. Check stored photos, videos, and search requests. Lots of people don’t check there & it’s so important to do. These items can be very telling and/or very shocking. It’s also a great way to know what you need to talk to your kids about.

*If I find something inappropriate, I take a screen shot, and then delete it. I then show them what I’ve found, and we have a serious conversation about it. Full access is then completely revoked for a week, and then earned back slowly. You get wifi back, but not Facebook etc.

Number Five. Go through their Friends list, and challenge your kids on how they know the people that they’re “friends” with. If they can’t tell you, delete them. Kids will befriend pretty much anyone that asks to be their friend, and once that connection is made, strangers have access to all their info.

*If you see really suspicious or odd names, look further. I’ve found many conversations from “hot chicks” that are very exploratory & inappropriate. There are predators out there, so be aware.

Number Six. Make up a fake account with the picture of a cute boy/girl and befriend your kids.  🙂  You’ll be surprised at how quickly they accept your friend request, and by being a “friend” that they consider a peer, you’ll be able to monitor things from another viewpoint.

* Yes, this is pretty sneaky and spy-ish. And yes, I have 2 separate alter-egos.  LOL.

Number Seven. Instagram. Youtube. Textplus. Skype. Are not innocent apps …. watch them. Closely. We don’t allow Skype on any of our kids personal electronics at all as it’s all too easy to participate in a “free show”.  😉

* Check their phones/ipads/laptops, etc. and see what apps they are using. Ensure that you have passwords and that you personally follow all of their accounts. Stuff may still happen, but you’ll be aware of it and will be able to deal with it.

Number Eight. Nobody goes to bed with their electronics. Pick a time for them to be brought down to the kitchen or your bedroom. Nothing good happens after dark … especially when you’re 14 & alone.

*When they complain that they won’t be able to wake up in the morning, hand them an alarm clock. For super saavy people, you can shut down their IP addresses at a certain time so all internet access is limited.

Number Nine. Snapchat. Kik. Ask FM. Delete them, and when they re-add them, delete them again. These apps are scary, and are SUPER hard to monitor. The potential for abuse, harassment and sexting is HUGE with these ones. They are going to scream and complain about this, but don’t give in. If they need to send pictures, they can do it a million other ways.

*I’ve changed the settings in my kids phones/ipads so that they’re able to download apps and/or updates, but they cannot delete them. This allows them to receive updated versions of games, etc without me having to log-in to do that. But it doesn’t allow them to delete the evidence of using something I’d disapprove of. This REALLY makes them think because they know I’ll catch them.  🙂

Read this: 4 Apps Teens Love that Parents need to Monitor

And this: Why you should delete Snapchat

Number Ten. Set up a support system with your kids friends parents. If you see something inappropriate within their group, say something. I know that I would want someone to tell me if they knew something about my kids. Be open if someone approaches you, and don’t instantly shut them down. It may turn out to be nothing but it could be huge, check it out.

*I saw a group of 16 year old kids plan out an entire bush party on Facebook. They posted the address, directions, amount owing for the 2 kegs they had already purchased, etc. This was 100+ underage kids drinking & driving in our neighbourhoods. I called the police.

MOST IMPORTANTLY. Your kids are on the internet. They’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc. FIGURE OUT HOW THEY WORK…..you need to be one step ahead of them at all times. You don’t need to become a social media genius, but you do need to learn about privacy settings, tagging, abbreviations, etc. Thankfully, our kids think we’re dumb, so with even a little bit of work, you can stay well-informed.

There’s also some great little apps that we can install on our electronics to track and control what/when our kids do online. Use these to help you be aware of what your kids are up to. They’re a great help and back-up for when you forget. Don’t put all of your trust in them, and stay diligent yourself, but use these.

Apple Users can try:  Parent Kit

Android Users can try: Funamo

Some cellphone companies also have some monitoring services as well. Ask your provider if they’re able to actually send you your kids texting conversations. If you want to know where your kids are at all the time, turn on their locator device, subscribe to a tracker via your cellphone company or try this. Be sure to not forget about your home computer, especially if it’s in a dark corner of your basement. Again, check your “internet options” and update your privacy settings but you can also use this awesome program for another layer of security.

I’m not saying that you need to do all of this or even any of it. What I am asking you to do is to be aware. Keep your eyes open, listen to your kids, monitor the time spent on their devices and don’t be afraid to say No. They do not need full access to everything at all times, no matter if they yell that you’re mean and the only one that doesn’t let them use certain things. You need to be the little voice in their head teaching them right from wrong until their voice gets strong enough to speak alone. Say No, but then talk. Explain why you’re restricting things, why it’s good for them, and why you’re not changing your mind. These opportunities are some of the best & most memorable teachers, don’t let them slip by.

I so dearly love the Internet but I love my Kids more. Even if it makes me the worst mother in the world.

Bullying … A Revisit

Well I’m almost 2 weeks into the Summer Blogging Challenge, and I’m about to be a cheater. I’ve been in celebratory mode all day, and haven’t had a spare moment to do anything but nap and relax in the peace and quiet. 😉  In other words, I didn’t write anything new today.

But, I’ve got a plan. Instead, I’m going to share one of my favourite blog posts from the past. One that I think it’s incredibly appropriate for this time of the year. One that will hopefully make a difference in the lives of the little’s around you.

Forgive me for my laziness but please read these words that I had to say …..

Bullying. Sucks. A lot. Having been the fat kid growing up, I suffered through my share of it. Not from my peers so much, but from older kids and people in the world around me. Society as a whole can be really hard on  people who are different. Different in any way, shape or form. Body shape, skin color, height, weight, age, sex, glasses, crooked teeth, freckles, etc, etc. It’s a never-ending list of stupid being perpetuated by people who have ZERO confidence in themselves. I survived it, but it hurt. A lot.

Having said all that, I’ve also been the parent of bullies, on a few different occasions. (Remember ~ I’m a foster parent). I’ve seen the world through their eyes and their outlook is just as grim as the persons being tormented. These kids believe that they’re worthless and stupid and ugly and horrible and that no one likes them. They feel abandoned by their parents, their friends and the world as a whole. They are lonely in a way that not many of us can understand. They feel powerless in their personal lives and bullying gives them POWER. They are controlling the situation instead of the situation controlling them. Bullying is almost NEVER about the victim, it’s about the Instigator. Almost Always.

It’s sad and maddening, but bullying is never going away. No matter how many posters we hang up, or how many commercials get shown on TV, bullying is here to stay. Think about how many “bullies” you know right now in your own group of friends. We all know someone who will push and push until they get their way. We’ve all got a friend that thinks it’s funny to pick on you or your other friends, and then justifies it with a “just kidding”, or “you know I love you”. I can guarantee we’ve all had bosses that took their position of power to an unreasonable level while we just had to stand there and take it. Are those not all instances of bullying? Adults do it ALL the time … we just use bigger, fancier words.

I think that it is worth educating kids on how to handle a bully. How to safely tell on them, how to avoid certain situations, and how to walk away. Kids need to feel safe at school and in their community. But there’s other ways to educate our kids and teach them to be better, in spite of the bullying going on around them.

Number One. Teach children their worth. If you’re a parent, make sure your children know how fabulous they are. Teach them about strength and confidence and grace. If you’re a teacher, pay attention to the kids that come from bad situations. Be their positive influence. Build your kids up so they find value inside of themselves as opposed to searching for it in the world around them. In my experience, my little “bullies” have had almost no self-esteem and were just desperate to have someone, anyone pay attention to them. No one made them feel good about themselves, so they set out to make other people look worse than they felt. Empower your children. They need your strength, until they feel it themselves.

Number Two. Teach children to not be followers. This seems like a pretty obvious statement, but how many of us really teach it? We teach our kids that there is strength in numbers and that they’re safer in groups. We should be teaching them how to be leaders … good, strong, positive leaders. Bully’s are not all that scary when they’re standing there on their own. Teach children to leave jerks and morons standing there by themselves and walk away. Teach them that it’s not rude to walk away when their friends are being mean or fighting. They don’t need to always have their buddy’s “back”. We spend so much time teaching kids to be polite and not enough time teaching them to be their own person. Give your children excuses for getting out of uncomfortable situations … “my Mom will take away my phone if I stay here”, “If I say that, my Dad will take away hockey”. Something, anything, but give them your words, until they have their own.

Number Three. Teach children that they have a voice. Kids need to understand the power that their words carry, especially positive ones. Teach them that it’s okay to tell people what they’re doing is wrong. That it’s okay to say No, and to stand up for someone else. Teach them how to tell someone when they see bullying occur. Teach them that a smile and a Hello can make a difference in someone’s life. Encourage them to speak up and not be quiet.

Number Four. Teach children that they don’t have to be friends with everyone. A lot of times bullying starts because kids are different from the majority of their peers. Everyone is NOT going to be friends, and that’s okay. The world is a big place and there is a match out there for everyone. Kids need to know that. A lot of times, they think we want them to hang out with the “weirdos”, so they fight against doing the “right” thing.  I always tell my kids that they don’t have to be friends with everyone, but that doesn’t mean they get to be mean to anyone. Ever.

Number Five. Be an example. Do not laugh at the fat person that walks by. Don’t point out someones dirty, awful clothes. Don’t call people ugly, stupid, crazy. Don’t laugh when your children tell you an inappropriate story. They are watching you. They are copying you. Show them the proper way to behave. If you aren’t guarding your words and actions, why in the world will your children?

Finally as parents and adults, OPEN YOUR EYES.

Do not assume that your little “angel” is behaving appropriately at school. If someone tells you that your child has been misbehaving, don’t brush it off, look into it. Talk openly about bullying and the different forms it takes. Be present in their lives.

Watch for changes in your children. Are they pulling away from you, are talkers suddenly quiet, are social butterfly’s now hiding in their bedrooms? Have they stopped eating or are they grossly overeating all of a sudden? Something is wrong. Get them help.

Bullying is about Power. I’m giving my kids the power, so bullying has NO POWER over them. How about you?

 

This post is part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click on the links below to check out some of the other awesome bloggers involved in the challenge. So much awesome.

Liam ~ Natasha ~ Zita ~ MagzD ~ Peter ~ Christine ~ Cliff ~ Hethr ~ Tracy

Grade 7 was my Nightmare

As most of you know by now, I’m overweight, and have been my entire life. It’s changed over the years, but I’ve always been bigger than everyone around me. Always. Because of that, I’ve spent a good portion of my life being people’s punching bag and the butt of many a joke. But Grade 7 was the worst. By far.

It’s bad enough moving into a new school with older kids, and not knowing what you’re doing or where you’re going. It’s the first time we had to switch to different teachers for each class, and not have recess. Everything was different. And I was the fat kid.

I can vividly remember walking down the Grade 7 hallway, and having 3 grade 9 boys call me over. I can still see their faces, and I still know their names. In fact, 2 of them have tried befriending me on Facebook, and yeah, not happening. But I digress … they called me over which I thought was nice, or I hoped would be nice and well, it wasn’t. They looked at me and said, “do you like football” and I said No. They then told me that I should because when I got to high school, I was going to make an awesome linebacker. “The school needs a big mama on the front lines’. They laughed hysterically and left me standing there, alone. I refused to cry and give them the satisfaction of winning, but it still really hurt.

I spent the ENTIRE year being teased by these boys and their friends. Every time I walked by them, they commented about my weight. EVERY TIME. It was either names, or football references or “see you at tryout’s”.  I never responded to them, or even acknowledged their existence. But it was 3 years of heart stopping palpitations at the sight of them, and their words were etched on my brain.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the kids that did it, there were teachers too.

Our school had an event called The Turkey Trot. (How’s that for a stupid name)?  It was basically a really long run, and the winner won a turkey. Obviously, I’m not a runner and the promise of winning a turkey wasn’t all that exciting or inspiring for me, but it was what it was, and we were all expected to participate. Fortunately for me, I had sinus surgery 3 days prior to the event, and I had a doctor’s note to get me out of it.  Woot!! It said that I couldn’t participate as my sinuses had just been ripped apart and breathing would be an issue. But what this horrible teacher read was, “she’s fat and just doesn’t want to participate”, and he MADE me run the race. Made me.

So off I went. I ran for about a block and a half and quickly discovered that my doctor was right, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. So I walked instead. Soon enough, the other overweight classmate and I ended up walking as everyone else ran by us. We were trying, we just couldn’t keep up with everyone else. But we were trying, and we didn’t quit. Unfortunately, our teacher didn’t see it that way. He called us fat and lazy, and if I remember correctly, called my “running” partner fat in front of the whole school. Needless to say it isn’t a happy memory. It was the day my friend and I were humiliated in front of our peers by a teacher. The one person that was supposed to protect us from bullying was in fact, perpetuating it.  I ended up with a bleeding nose for 3 days, and we both had to bear yet another mark left by mean words and judgement.

Even with my friends, I wasn’t safe from bullying. I know that their intentions weren’t to be mean to me, but their words hurt me more than anyone elses. They were my “safe place”, but even they felt like it was okay to “say it like it was”. I hated phys. ed for obvious reasons, but hated the “track and field” unit the most. Especially high jump. Really?? High jump for fat people … not so much. I would do everything I could to not have to participate in this unit, anything. I would beg my Mom for notes, I would get a headache, I would do whatever. It wasn’t that I was lazy, it was that I just plain and simple couldn’t do what they were asking me to do. It was 60 minutes a day of people laughing at me. High jump, long jump, triple jump, sprinting, long distance running, all things not made for me. It was humiliating and horrible.

Well, my friends wrote me a note and handed it to me at the end of the school day. I had a 10 block walk home, and I cried for 8 blocks of it. The note said, “we know why you hate phys. ed, it’s because you’re fat and it’s hard for you. Everyone knows that’s why you don’t participate so stop being a baby”. I think they were hoping it would empower me somehow, but all it did was sting. They were right, but having this group of people call it out like that, left me feeling so exposed and vulnerable. I felt safer thinking that no one knew why I was hiding, and now my secret was out.

Why couldn’t people just leave me alone? Why did my weight matter so much to them? And why in the world did my being different give everyone license to say whatever they wanted to me?

Speaking out against bullying has kind of become “my thing”. I’ve written numerous blog posts about it, and if you’re interested, you can read them all here. I go out of my way to teach my kids that they are not better than anyone else, that their differences don’t make them more “normal”, and that I EXPECT them to always choose the high road – no matter how hard it is. If you’re around me and you start teasing people or make rude comments, you will get called on it. No one deserves to be made to feel like they’re “less than” ever.

I try to not see the differences in the people around me. I accept that we may all believe in different things and/or have different opinions, but that it doesn’t make one of us more “right”. I recognize that many of us have been deeply hurt by others, and that sometimes all we need is a listening and non-judgemental friend. I don’t pretend to be perfect and I most certainly don’t expect others to be either. I choose to not point out others weaknesses or flaws in order to steer the focus away from mine. I strive to be a light to this world instead of someone promoting darkness. I want people to not go through what I have.

It’s time for us to get real, and stop assuming that we’re better than someone else. Our looks, our beliefs, the clothes we wear or the churches we attend shouldn’t be fodder for cruelty. We don’t need to agree with each other, and we don’t even need to get along, but we do need to be decent human beings. Say it, believe it and model it to the world around you. We are “different” from each other, we are not “better”.

Today is Anti-Bullying day. I hate that we actually have to have a day to remind people to be decent human beings and think about others before they open their mouths. We shouldn’t need to put on pink t-shirts to “take a stand” and make a difference. I appreciate that it’s a reminder that we can do better, but please, no matter what colour shirt you wear, DON’T BE A BULLY.

meanpeople

Rocks in the River

Growing up in my house was different. Not different bad, “just” different.

My parents started fostering when I was 12 years old, and because of that, things were quite often, really crazy. Sometimes we’d have 8 kids living under one roof, and chaos quite often did ensue. There was lots of laughing, story telling and fun. But more often than not, there was a whole lot of loud, whiny and complaining children.

Obviously, that kind of busyness and that many little bodies from different walks of life, needed things to run “differently”, and that is where my parents excelled. My Dad was crazy but my Mom was his level-headed balance that kept us all alive. Literally.  🙂

My Dad spent many years working for different marketing companies, doing motivational speaking and encouraging people to reach higher and do better. A part of that involved putting different and unique plans and tools in place and naturally, he brought some of those things home to us.

If we got lippy or rude, we had to do push-ups or sit-ups. We had to write out “lines” saying positive statements. We were given the Think and Grow Rich and the Richest Man in Babylon books as presents. AND we were expected to read them. We had to write out the hours that we spent doing chores or helping out around the house, if they weren’t written down, we didn’t get credit for them. We had water fights IN the house, and had to listen to my Dad’s “mix-tape” that played NOTHING but Don’t Worry be Happy when we went on family vacations. We stopped at EVERY tourist attraction on our way to anywhere. We were led up on cliffs and waterfalls while my Mother screamed at my Father.

We were also “dragged” and I say dragged because none of us were excited to be going, to see different motivational speakers. I saw Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy, all before I was 16 years old. There were “positive thinking” signs ALL OVER our house. My Dad would write sayings out on poster board and tape them all over the place for us to see everyday. He installed speakers in our bedrooms and bathrooms, and we would wake up every morning to the Zig Ziglar, “Born to Win” soundtrack. Every morning. To this day, I can still hear those words in my head. There was always something new to encourage us and lift us up. It never ended.

Now back to the whining and complaining. I believe I was about 13 years old when my parents had, had enough and put a plan into place. We had no idea what was going on, but my Dad had us all invite our best friends along and hauled us all down to the river bottom for a picnic. When we got there, we had a great time eating and playing with our friends, and then my Dad got weird again. By now, we were very much used to his strange games and stories so when he asked us to go and find the biggest rocks that we could carry, we did it. Without question.

Needless to say, we all managed to find some huge rocks and hauled them back to the picnic site. We all sat down, and were given felt markers and crayons and were instructed to write the words “I Can’t” on our rock. We all rolled our eyes but did it. He then told us to decorate them and make the rocks beautiful. We did. Once they were all beautified and complete, he said, “pick them up, we’re going to the bridge”. We all did some serious complaining as we had all found the biggest stinking rocks we could carry, and “the bridge” was at the top of a steep hill. And we were at the bottom of it.

It took awhile to get our little wagon train of whiny and complaining rock yielding children up the hillside but we did it. Once we were up there, he asked what our rocks said, and we all screamed, “I can’t”. And without much ado, he said, throw them over the edge and into the river. Our initial response was heck no as we had just hauled them up what was basically a mountain and now he wanted us to just throw them away. Why would we do such a thing …. but we did.

Once we watched them all crash into the river and fought over whose rock made the biggest splash, he told us to be quiet and listen. Then he spoke the words that I will never forget. He said, “I can’t is no longer alive at our house. As of this moment, it is dead. If you say it, it will be ignored. You may use other words such as I won’t, I don’t want to, or I don’t know how, but you cannot say I CAN’T”. We all looked at him, laughed and giggled and agreed and ran back down the hill to tell Mom what our crazy Dad just made us do. She just smiled and nodded.

Well, we went home and life went on as usual. The fighting and complaining started and so did the “I can’ts. But this time, my parents were ignoring us. We’d be screaming I can’t, and they would just stare at us and smile. Let me tell you, your hissy fit loses a lot of its steam when you have to stop and change what you’re saying to “I don’t want to” and realizing that you were just basically being a whiny baby. We kept trying the I can’ts for a couple of months, but we eventually gave up. CAN’T really had died, and 100% without question, it made a significant difference in our lives.

That one simple trip to the river showed us that anything WAS possible because failure was no longer an option. At the time, we were all sure that there was something really wrong with my Father, but now we get it. That positive attitude made us into the people that we are today, and frankly, I CAN’T is still dead in all of our lives. My life growing up may have been really different or weird, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Thanks Mom & Dad.

you-can

Want to stop bullying? Then stop it.

I’ve written a couple of different blog posts about bullying … one explaining my take on the situation and another one showing how I’ve tried to deal with it in the past. In both of them I talked a lot about building our kids up so that bullies don’t have to power to take them down. I still wholeheartedly believe in that but I think it’s time that we as a society stand up and take responsibility for our part in perpetuating this insanity. Children look to us to lead them and guide them. They copy what we do. We are their guides and leaders. We need to take that more seriously. Now.

I’m thankful that people are finally really acknowledging bullying and the horrific ramifications that it brings about. What makes me sick is that it took the death of a young girl to make people take notice. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first death as a result of bullying. We should’ve taken better notice a long, long time ago. My hope is that these same people who have jumped on the “bullying is bad bandwagon” will actually do something to make a change and not just use this event as a way to make themselves look righteous. Please let that be what happens.

If you want bullying to stop, we as a society need to stop bullying. Stop telling and laughing at fat jokes. Quit pointing out “gingers” and making ignorant comments about them. Stop commenting on buck teeth, freckles, greasy hair, pimples, etc, etc. Quit pointing out the faults of everyone around you and/or laughing along when someone makes ignorant remarks.  Next time you get the urge to call someone fat or ugly, picture your daughters face on their shoulders. Not so appealing now is it? Grow Up.

Don’t post on Facebook how upset you are by bullying and how awful it is, and then go and post ignorant “jokes” or pictures. Don’t say that bullying is terrible and then start all of your sentences with “I don’t mean to be rude”, or “no offense”.  Don’t shove people out of your way in the grocery store, don’t butt in line, don’t belittle people in lower positions than you. Be respectful. Be polite. Be a decent human being.

When your children make ignorant comments about peers or people in their world. Correct them. When they tell inappropriate jokes. Correct them. When they comment that someone is poor or stupid or ugly. Correct them. Please don’t agree or laugh with them. You are their example. When the opportunity to teach your children arises, use it. Talk about how we’re all different and that it’s okay. Discuss how some people look different because they can’t help it. Teach them about money, and how not every has as much or has more than your family. Explain to them why they’re being corrected. They’ll get it sooner than you think, and their bad habits will be replaced with kind and compassionate ones.

Really teach your kids their worth. No one should ever think that they need to lift their shirt and bare their breasts to make someone like them. Teach them that they don’t need the approval of others to be valuable. Show them that they don’t need to be “sexy” to get attention. Teach them that the number of friends they have on Facebook or the numbers of TBH’s they participate in, is in no way reflective of their value. Kids need to be built up and reminded DAILY of how awesome they are. If they are getting approval and encouragement at home, they’re not going to seek it out everywhere they go. Kids still want to fit in and belong, that’s never going to change. But if they feel secure and “know” their worth, it’ll be a lot tougher for someone else to take advantage of them or beat them down. Period.

Teach your children that they don’t need to share every little piece of themselves with others. Facebook , Instagram and Twitter are not diaries. Pictures and words are forever, help them understand that. Talk to them about online predators, and REALLY talk to them. If you’re going to allow your children to use social media, take the time to figure out how it works. Learn what texting shortcuts mean. Never assume that your child is smart enough to know when they’re being lied to or scammed. And on the flip-side, don’t assume that your child would never behave inappropriately online. Kids that are normally shy or quiet will quite often open-up online because it’s so anonymous. They can hide behind a fake persona and become anything their minds can imagine.

Consider setting up a “fake account” with a picture of someone cute. Pretend to attend another local school, pick common “likes” to your kids – food, sports teams, video games. Then send your child a friend request and see what happens. If they don’t initially accept it, try again. Add a note to your request saying something like, “we used to play ball together” or whatever.  Once they befriend you, starting asking questions. Will they give you pictures when asked for them? Will they tell you where they go to school, share their phone number, address, etc, etc? If you invite them to an awesome party, will they agree to go? Maybe your kids will surprise you and will never accept your request but if they do, use this to show them just how easy it was to get them talking. Predators do this EVERY DAY.

We need to change what is normal. And what is expected. Children aren’t sexy. Physical appearance doesn’t determine your worth. Money does not equal power. Domestic Violence is not cool and should not be ignored. Movie stars, pop icons and their lifestyles are not reality. Please figure out a way to help your children see that and believe it. We need to set higher standards for our children and ourselves. Stop accepting wrong behaviour as normal.

Frankly, we as adults also need to recognize the power that we have. Our words bite just as much as those of a teenager. We are just older and “smarter” and a little bit braver. We somehow find ways to justify our behaviour because we “know” that we’re right. We’re educated, churched and have lots of life experience. Quit mistaking those things as “rights to abuse or bully”.

Politics, religion, ideals and opinions will always be fodder for bashing. Instead of joining in on the bandwagon of crazy behaviour, listen. Hear what people have to say, and then agree or disagree. If you have a concern or you don’t understand something, ask about it. So many of our “fights” are a result of mis-information or blatant gossip. Before you make a judgement, make sure you have all the facts. Agree or Not, doesn’t really matter. Your response is what’s important. Hatred should never be an option.

Bullying is a horrible, horrible thing but it’s just a symptom of something bigger. As we all move forward, working towards change, please think of this one simple word. Respect. Respect for yourself, and respect for the people around you. If we could all just focus on that, the world would be a much happier and safer place.

X is for X-Rated And Y is for Why?

I was out doing some shopping the other day and saw something that really bugged me. A little girl of about 8 was picking out some back to school clothes. She was complaining that the shorts weren’t short enough and that the shirt was too long. Her Mom said nothing, and just handed her another shirt which the girl immediately vetoed because you wouldn’t be able to see her bra straps. She then asked to go and look at the little kids clothes because they’d be tighter, and her Mom said “Good idea”, and took her to check them out. Not one time did her Mom suggest that she didn’t need tight clothes to be beautiful and that made me sad.

Have you noticed how much younger our kids are getting “older” now? Do you have a 9-year-old that thinks she 16? Do you let your 9-year-old dress and act like a 16-year-old? Or do you encourage your little ones to just be little? How often do you talk to your toddlers about their little “boyfriends/girlfriends”? Do you encourage them to hug and kiss their friends? Do you let your kids dress inappropriately for their age, because it’s in style?

When my daughter was young, I was amazed at how hard it was to find her clothes that covered her belly and didn’t have words plastered across her butt. Plain, old nice little kid clothes were hard to find, and that was 14 years ago. It’s even worse now. I do not understand the point in dressing our toddlers and pre-teens like young adults. I just don’t get it. Why in the world do they need to wear skin-tight clothes that accentuate their “non-curvy” areas? Why do they make padded training bras? Why does a 7-year-old need “daisy duke” length shorts? WHY??

I also don’t understand why we encourage our young children to have boyfriends and girlfriends. What’s wrong with teaching our kids that they don’t need a partner to make them whole? Why in the world do some parents feel the need to “facilitate” dates for their pre-teens? Do these same people have no idea what their kids are talking about and/or planning? Trust me when I tell you,  their “date” isn’t always an innocent puppy-love thing.

 I’ve read emails, and Facebook and text messages between hordes of children and can confirm many things that you probably wouldn’t even believe.  11 year olds are performing sexual favours on each other. They are actually not “swimming” but are hiding behind the pool in the bushes having a “date”.  Family change rooms at recreation centres aren’t only being used for getting dressed. Skype and Facetime are overflowing with racy pictures, and homemade movies.  Sexting is very popular, and you would be surprised at how graphic their messages can be.

I know that this may sound extreme to some people, but please think about these things before you encourage dating and “normalize” the whole relationship thing. I’ve got no issue with teenagers dating, but I do have issue with children dating. Teach your children to respect themselves and members of the opposite sex from a very young age. Encourage them to be strong and confident and to wait. Then when it’s time to start dating, they’re ready. They will recognize their own worth and will be able to stand up for what they believe and want. They will be strong enough to withstand outside pressures and they will look for a “partner” as opposed to “something to do”.

What about drinking and smoking? Are you one of the parents that buys their kids liquor and let them drink at your house because at least you know they’re “safe”? Do you  let your kids have “just one sip”? Do you buy cigarettes for your kids and/or their friends? Do you ignore your kids smoking? Newsflash .. those things are illegal. You are not only allowing your children to do the wrong thing, you are teaching them to break the rules. May seem like a little thing, but it’s not. Your children are watching you and learning. Be a good example.

I guess I just say all that to say this. We need to stop pushing our kids to grow up so quickly. Let them be kids. Don’t glamorize drinking and smoking. Don’t encourage them to start “dating” at a young age. Don’t let them get caught up in changing their appearance to look like someone else. Let them play, let them sing and dance. Hug them, hold them and let them cry. Say No sometimes and Be the person that you want them to one day become.

Why are we so intent on raising X-Rated kids? Please make it stop.

This post is Day 27 & Day 28 of the Summer Blog Challenge – 31 posts in 31 Days

Please visit my fellow challenge bloggers and read their stories.

Meaghan at Magz D Life
Tam at Tam I Am
Liam at In The Now
Jessica at2plus2X2

O is for Oblivious

Please promise me that you won’t be the parent that chooses to not see what’s really going on with their kids.

Please promise me that you won’t be scared to ask tough questions when something doesn’t appear right.

Please promise me that you will take what they tell you seriously, no matter how weird or crazy it sounds or looks.

Please promise me that you will not become oblivious to what’s going on around you.

We’re in the middle of dealing with some pretty serious stuff with kids right now. It’s heartbreaking, terrifying and maddening all at the same time. I would love to just brush it all off as attention seeking or bad behaviour, but I can’t. I would love to just be able to close my eyes and pretend like it’s not happening, but it is. I want to stop thinking about it but I need to fix it. I want my kids to just be kids.

So many parents choose to not believe that their children would do something really bad or illegal even. They refuse to believe that their 12 year olds are drinking, using drugs and having sex. They’ve never even heard of cutting, asphyxiation games or rainbow parties. I’m telling you these things are very real, and your children can and will hide them from you.

Kids today are dealing with things at 11 & 12 that I didn’t even learn about until I was an adult. They’re “leaving” rehab 5 years before they’re old enough to even drink. They’re pregnant within months of getting their period.  They are desperately seeking love and attention from anything and anyone. Things that would terrify you and I are normal daily occurrences for them.

Watch for changes in your children or your children’s friends. Big swings in moods or attitude, change in appetite or weird sleep patterns are quite often signs that something is wrong. Wearing long sleeves all the time, even when it’s +30 or lots of bracelets, could mean that they’re covering something up. Does your kid that loves to hang out with Mom, suddenly never leave his bedroom? All of these things could mean something or they could mean nothing. Just pay attention to your kids, and watch for changes.  If something doesn’t feel right to you, test it. A Mother’s intuition is an amazing thing … listen to it.

I know that not all kids are dealing with this stuff, but I do know that there’s a lot more than you would think. I’m one of those parents that reads everything that their children write on the internet. Facebook. Twitter, Textplus, imessage … nothing is safe from my eyes. My children all know that, so they’ve had fair warning. Do I think I’m imposing on their rights? Nope, they’re children that quite often need to be protected from themselves. Because of that, I’ve seen and heard many things and can say without question that my children are not alone in their battles. And frankly, if you haven’t checked in on what your kid is saying or doing online because “they’re good kids and you trust them”, go now and read. I will hope and pray that you find nothing.

What I’m asking you to do as adults, is to step up and mentor our youth. Be an example of what they could be. Show them that it’s okay to be smart, and funny, and to just be themselves. Become a “safe” adult in their lives and give them the opportunity to share without judgement. Don’t treat them like they’re a nuisance or a waste of space. Listen when they speak and then respond in terms that they will understand. When you learn something a bit scary, don’t freak out. You’re going to want to, but don’t. If they’re sharing, let them keep going. If they need more help than you can give, get them the help they need.

Be a strong presence in their lives and never assume that your child is perfect. Your kids need you to “see them”. Please, please do not be oblivious.

*Again this is 13 years of foster parent speaking. I’m not painting all kids or even my kids with the same brush. I just desperately want people to open their eyes and see things that they may have never seen before. I want kids to get the help they need before it’s too late. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.

This post is Day 17 of the Summer Blog Challenge – 31 posts in 31 Days

Please visit my fellow challenge bloggers and read their stories.

Meaghan at Magz D Life
Tam at Tam I Am
Liam at In The Now
Jessica at2plus2X2