Fighting siblings


Today’s Question:

“I understand that it’s summer and my kids are spending a lot of time together but the constant fighting is so annoying! Mostly arguing, stealing toys, tattling, but it can escalate to hitting, biting and total meltdowns. It bothers me to see my kids treat each other so poorly. I try to limit their screen time but it’s so tempting to give in just so I can have some peace! No matter what I do, the problem persists and I feel like I’m failing at teaching my kids how to love each other.”

 

Parent Educator Answer:

It is so common for moms to see behavior they don’t like and think, “This is a problem and I need to solve it.” So we go to work, breaking up fights, resolving conflict, separating kids or taking away toys or whatever the triggers are. If this works, great. If not, it might be you are trying to solve a problem that isn’t yours to solve. 

Imagine your daughter and son are fighting over whose turn it is. One yells, the other bites, then pushes, then tattles, you know the drill. I find it helpful to separate out who is responsible for what. 

Your daughter is responsible for the words she chooses to say to her brother and the way she chooses to say them. It’s her business whether she bites, hits, kicks, or whatever she does with her body. She also gets to choose how she wants to feel about her brother’s actions. If she wants to interpret his behavior as mean, unfair, or a competition to rise to, that is up to her. Write her name on a piece of paper with a circle and write down everything that is your daughter’s business. 

Then we move on to kid #2. Put his name on the paper with a circle and write down his words, his feelings, his actions. He gets to decide what he wants to think about his sister’s behavior, his mom’s behavior, and his own. If he wants to believe he is right and everyone else is wrong, that’s his choice. You can let that go. If he thinks the world is unfair and you love his sister more than him, that goes in his circle. That is his problem to solve, not yours. 

The 3rd circle is God’s business. Even if you aren’t a God person, anything YOU don’t have control over goes here. The fact that you have two children who share living quarters is God’s business. Your children’s innate personalities, we throw those in God’s circle, it’s just how they are wired. The fact that many siblings fight with each other as a way to learn social dynamics isn’t our business. Kids can be like puppies, fighting, wrestling and learning social boundaries.

Watch your children argue with each other. Could they leave the room at any time and are choosing not to? Is it possible they are ENJOYING fighting with each other? “Verbal jousting” is more entertaining than a lot of other things kids could be doing. If one kid is having fun by fighting, and the other one isn’t, God’s business.

So what’s left? If what your children think, say, feel and do are not your problem to solve? What the heck is mom’s business? 

Your business, Momma, is what YOU choose to think, feel, and do. You get to decide what you want to believe about your fighting kiddos and the rules you set in your home. To do that, we’d better dive into the life coaching.

Life Coaching Answer:

When we think “This is a problem and I need to fix it.” We put on our Supermom cape and go to work. We get to the bottom of things. We make decisions. We yell and put kids on time out. We give consequences. If this works, great. The problem comes when this DOESN’T work. 

If the result is that our kids are still arguing and we are still thinking this a problem and I need to fix it. We start spiraling up (yelling more, getting more annoyed with them) or spiraling down (walk away, give up, stop caring). When we have the thought, “This is a problem and I need to fix it” and WE CAN’T, we feel like a failure. We start thinking things like, “I’m failing at teaching my kids how to love each other.” This thought makes us feel completely dejected, hopeless, and ashamed, which makes Supermom feel very, very tired. 

I know you want your children to get along, but that’s really up to them. They get to decide what kind of relationship they want to have with one another. You can suggest peaceful ways to interact, you can let them see you resolving conflict in peaceful ways with your friends and family. Learning to let go of things you have no control over will set you free. 

 

One thing that is your business are the rules you establish in your home. Kids like clear, consistent expectations for behavior. It makes them feel safe when they know what to expect, and that an authority figure will follow through with 100% predictability. 

I suggest my clients establish House Rules that everyone abides by. Rules that everyone in the house agrees will make for a peaceful place to live. For example:

  1. No name calling.
  2. No hitting or hurting.
  3. Ask first before borrowing someone else’s belongings

Post these rules on the fridge or a public place where everyone can see. Make sure your kids know what the consequences are for breaking these rules then follow through. You may want to say things like “use nice words” but that may make a better consequence. Let’s say your daughter hurts her brothers feelings, her consequence may be that she find some nice words to uplift him. 

Siblings have been fighting since the dawn of time. To think, “I must not be doing it right if my kids are fighting” is not helpful. Just like a teacher isn’t responsible for your child’s grades, you aren’t responsible for your child’s relationship. You get to TEACH kids how to treat each other. Teach them your values, establish rules and expectations, teach them to apologize and make amends, but whatever they do with your amazing lessons is their business. 

Supermom Kryptonite – Being the hero

I remember when my son was scary sick. I was bouncing from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out who could help him. I was stressed and scared and nearly lost my mind when they sent his prescription to the wrong pharmacy, right before closing time. I felt like I was all alone in trying to solve his health problems.

So I pulled out my life coaching notebook and this amazing thought popped into my head, “I was made for days like this.” Suddenly I had a burst of energy. My Supermom cape was ON! I could totally handle this. I’m great in a crisis. This is my son, who better to come to the rescue than his mother? I am the perfect person for the job. I researched, I persisted. I found alternative practicioners who knew how to help. I was the hero and I felt great about all I did to help him. 

So why is it a kryptonite? 

Because then he turned 14 and I was fired. He wanted to be his own hero. He didn’t want my help anymore. He wanted to solve his own problems. 

This sounds great on paper, but it was an identity crisis for me. It’s not like he was perfect, the just wanted to be left alone with his own problems to solve. It was a rough transition and to be honest, it’s still hard to not be allowed to help. I loved being the hero. 

Some kids never become their own hero. I’m sure you know some adults who need mom and count on mom to come to their rescue. It is easy for kids to get stuck feeling helpless, unwell or incapable. Moms may inadvertantly keep their kids from “adulting” in order to hold on to their role as hero. 

I was lucky I had life coaching colleagues who warned me. “Be careful not to let your son identify as a sick person and you as his care giver.” I didn’t like hearing it, but another coach told me, “Your son doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him.”

Being a Supermom feels great, but don’t get stuck there. Make sure you hang up your cape frequently. Let your kids work out their own problems, allow them to struggle, so they can be the heroes of their own lives. 

 

Supermom Powerboost – Ear phones

When kids are going at it with each other, it can be really hard to ignore. You can think about the benefits of bickering and how your kids are learning about respecting boundaries and resolving conflict.

If that doesn’t work, pop on a noise cancelling headset. These babies are the best mom invention I know. Not those tiny airpods that your kids can’t see you wearing. Big, obvious earphones work great to demonstrate you are not listening, nor interested in hearing about, your children’s conflict. No amount of “MOOMMM” is as compelling as your music, your podcast, or, let’s be honest, the beautiful sound of silence.

Putting big earphones on is a non-verbal way to say to your kids, “I trust you to work it out”. When kids see you disengaged, they realize this relationship is theirs to figure out and you are giving them permission to solve their own problems. Only if they break a house rule do you need to get involved. Let them be their own hero.

Quote of the Day:  “My Mom taught me a lot. A lot about minding my own business and leaving other people’s business alone. And let them think what they want.” Ray Charles.

Attention seeking behavior

This Week’s Question: Attention Seeking Behavior

Hello Torie,

I recently found your podcast; thank you for providing such great information. I want to pick your brain about parenting a child who shows more attention seeking behavior than her siblings.

My middle child (a 9 year old) is constantly pointing out how life is unfair for her and how everyone else has it better. I try my best to be as “fair” as possible to each child. I also point out how even though it seems like everyone has it better than her, she actually has a lot to be grateful for as well (which I know doesn’t go over too well).  My other two kids are pretty laid back and compliant, so, in comparison, she seems more needy!

When she was younger, this would manifest as a lot of crying spells/meltdowns over seemingly insignificant things, which I know is normal, but her behavior was so unlike my other two.  She also tends to be the instigator when it comes to any sibling fights.
She will still say things like, “You don’t love me,” or “You don’t care about me,” and I tell her firmly that’s not the case (obviously!!). One common situation is that my youngest is very attached to me and will reach for my hand when we’re walking, so naturally, I oblige. But then my 9 year old will complain that I’m holding her sister’s hand instead of hers.
In the past, I’ve given her more attention and tried to make her feel special, but once I take away this attention, she melts down and seems to demand even more. She responds well to time together and one-on-one attention, but even then, it has to be on her terms (I have tried to initiate on my own, and she will be indifferent at times).
How do I balance the attention she needs versus the attention that she wants?
-Grace

attention seeking behavior

 

Parent Educator Answer:

This is a great question to talk about defining and accepting your child’s TEMPERAMENT.  Temperament refers to the different aspects of a personality.
Grace is calling this “attention seeking behavior” but sometimes when she gives her attention, it doesn’t work. What I’m hearing in this behavior is a temperament that is sensitive, dramatic, persistent, and intense.
The great thing about kids is that often they tell you exactly what they are thinking. Grace’s daughter genuinely believes that life is unfair. She thinks, at times, she isn’t loved or cared for as much as her siblings. She truly believes she is getting the short end of the stick.
There is nothing her mom can do about what her daughter chooses to believe. We cannot make people think differently (clearly she’s tried already to convince that she is loved and treated fairly).
There is no amount of attention mom can give her to make her think differently. She could spend 48 hours straight one on one time, come home, hold little sister’s hand, and she’d be right back to thinking, she doesn’t get enough love. So trying to get her to think differently, through words or actions, isn’t going to change her.
When a child is intense and dramatic, we tend to see them as powerful. They seem so strong and capable, we get annoyed that they don’t act differently. We tend to match their intense energy, yelling, and putting in the time out. This is why I’d like to add the word “sensitive” to describe Grace’s daughter’s temperament.
She’s been having meltdowns since she was little. She struggles to feel safe and loved. Her brain easily goes to a fear response. Nobody acts their best when scared. We don’t know why she was made this way, it’s no one’s fault, the world needs all kinds of people.
Thinking about having a sensitive child helps us slow down, quiet our voice, lower our posture, speak softly and kindly. When her emotions overwhelm her, her brain goes into fight or flight. Our goal as parents to help her shift out of fear so she can access the logical, calmer parts of her brain. She cannot get there on her own.
We don’t have to agree with what she is saying to calmly validate what she is feeling. “I understand you feel like nobody loves you. You feel jealous of the attention I’m giving your sister. It’s hard for you to believe that you get as much as your siblings.”
Think about if you truly believed you weren’t loved by your mom. How would you feel?  It would be so scary to be a 9-year-old kid thinking your mom doesn’t love you or she cares more about your siblings than you. Even though we know it’s not true, she thinks, at that moment, that it is. She’s terrified. So she screams, yells, and fights for love and attention.
If you were to come to her, get down on her level, touch her, use a calm voice, repeat what you hear her saying, it would calm her down. It would also make it hard for her to believe you don’t love her when you are clearly making her feel seen, heard, and felt.
We cannot make our kids think differently but we can help them feel seen, heard, and felt. In a nutshell, that’s all we really want.

Life Coaching Answer:

I remember talking with my parenting coach and having this huge a-ha. I was embarrassed because I was supposed to be this “parenting expert” and yet I was pulling my hair out with trying to understand my strong-willed four-year-old. But I sucked it up and hired a coach and I’m so glad I did! The lightbulb went on when I realized, “It’s her TEMPERAMENT”.
Arguing with her temperament was like arguing with God. This is how she was wired, who am I to think she should be different than she is? From that day on, once I accepted her rebellious, strong-willed, non-people-pleasing personality, life got so much easier!
What gets in our way when we see a difficult personality trait in our kids, is the belief that we can change them. This will exhaust and frustrate us. It’s not our job to change their personality, but to work with it and appreciate them FOR their personalities.
I think Grace is doing this. She sees the value in her daughter’s strong will, but she’s arguing thinking she “shouldn’t act this way” or “If I was a more attentive mom she wouldn’t behave this way.” This will just anger her and make her tired.
Trying to control something we have no control over will drive us crazy. Personality is something we cannot control. A good question to ask yourself is: “How can I be a great mom to a kid who is sensitive, intense, and scared?
Imagine there is another kid like yours out there in the world. Let’s say she’s having a meltdown at a park. She is saying, “You don’t love me” to her mom. You are watching this scene and thinking, “Wow, that mom is a really great mom.”
You are totally impressed at how she is handling her daughter’s meltdown. Imagine what she is doing? What is she saying? What energy or emotion is she rooted in?
The reason our children’s personalities bug us is because of how WE FEEL AND ACT when they annoy us. We don’t like that our kids can turn us into yelling, out of control, crazy people!
If we got to be the PARENT we wanted to be, their behavior wouldn’t bother us. We try to control their behavior so that we can act like a good parent. This doesn’t work so well. Putting the focus on OUR feelings and behavior works much better. You get to decide how YOU feel and behave, regardless of how your child acts.
Focusing on controlling the one thing you have control over will feel much more empowering.

Supermom Kryptonite – Therapy

I believe one of the reasons we live in a culture of perfectionistic parenting is because of therapy. You’ve got a whole generation of women who went to therapists and learned all the things our parents did wrong.
A common goal of therapy is to take you back to childhood situations where you didn’t receive what you needed and give you the compassion and empathy that you needed at that time. It works. It feels healing and healthy.
But the side effect of it is an entire generation of women who have learned that there is a right way and wrong way to parent. We learn that doing the wrong thing can have devastating consequences and cause pain to our children.
If we are to be good parents, we need to always say and do the right things and prevent our kids from experiencing negative emotion. Therapists don’t say this, it’s just a side effect of the therapy model.
Children are going to experience negative emotion. Parents are going to yell, mess up and say the wrong thing. There is no way that any parent can do everything right. The reason I like life coaching so much, is you learn how much control you actually have.
No parent, spouse, or child has the power to make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. It gives you permission to be imperfect, but still strive to do your best. Accepting the things you have no control over, like your child’s temperament, helps you relax and enjoy things as they are.

Therapist vs Life Coach

There is a time and a place for therapy so since I just bagged on it, let me tell you where I see the value.
Therapy was based on the premise that a client is mentally and emotionally unwell, and it’s a therapist’s job to bring them up to a state of wellness.
Life Coaching works with the assumption that a client is already mentally and emotionally healthy and stable, they just want to feel better, change something up, go after a goal, settle into a new identity, etc.
People hire life coaches to help them with parenting, career, relationships, creative pursuits, athletic pursuits, entrepreneurial pursuits, etc.

Supermom Powerboost – Therapy

A client is better served by a therapist when they have experienced trauma and they’ve never spoken about it. Whether this trauma was during childhood or adulthood, it’s so helpful to tell your story to a compassionate witness. To revisit this traumatic story, once or twice, talk to someone without judgement.
A therapist helps you identify the emotions you felt and interpret the trauma in a way that is empowering. It can be hard to move forward in life without this, so it really can serve an important and helpful role.
Once you have told the story of your trauma to a compassionate witness and processed the emotions of the event, repeating that story again can actually keep you stuck in the past. Life coaching is more present and future-focused.
I don’t care so much about what happened in your past, but about how those events might be impacting your future and getting in the way of creating a life you want.
If you feel like it’s time to “open this can of worms” and finally speak out loud about something that has haunted you for a long time, find a therapist in your area. You won’t get a boost of energy right away, but over time, cleaning up the past will help you feel more energized about your future.
If you don’t have a trauma that needs verbalizing and you just want to feel better, try life coaching.  If you’ve already been to therapy and you want your life to continue to get better and more aligned with your higher self, go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me
Quote of the Day is the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer. I always thought this was a perfect fit for parenting.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

I found a vape pen in his backpack

Today’s Question: Vaping Teen

“Dear Torie, I just found a vape pen in my son’s backpack. I confiscated it, but I haven’t said anything to him about it. I know I need to say something, but the only word that comes to my mind is idiotic. Can you help me figure out what to say to my fourteen-year-old smoker?” -Anonymous vaping teen

I thought this was a great question and one which may be very timely for a lot of us who have teenagers or those who are approaching those teen years. So, who better to ask to help me answer this question than Marlene Mahurin, the TUPE (Tobacco Use and Prevention Education) project coordinator for Nevada county.

She is a credential teacher and is passionate about supporting parents to take an active role in preparing their children for the teen years. Not only does she have the perfect resume for helping us answer this question, but she also happens to be my childhood best friend, and we are still finding ways to work together and partner together today!

Marlene wanted to provide a bit of background knowledge about vaping because it is hard to know how to support our kids making safe, healthy choices since we didn’t have devices like this when we were teenagers. In fact, Marlene notes, the way this question is asked shows the difference between how parents and kids think of vaping. The parent ends her question wondering what to do with her fourteen-year-old smoker, her vaping teen, whereas most kids don’t consider what they are doing as smoking. 

Well if vaping isn’t smoking, then what is it? Is it still something to be concerned about?

More About Vaping

Marelene tells us that vaping is defined as “smoking on an electronic delivery system.” Every vape contains a liquid, a battery to heat the liquid, and an absorbent material to hold the heated liquid vapor. The user inhales on the mouthpiece and exhales a vapor or, more accurately an aerosol. Marketing companies want teens to think it’s vapor because inhaling aerosol sounds too dangerous.

Unlike cigarettes, vape pens have no tar (The kind which turns your lungs black and shrivelled after smoking for many years) but that does not mean they are safe. The biggest risk involved in vaping is nicotine. Products will claim to not have nicotine in them and so kids will think they aren’t ingesting it, but, unfortunately, a majority do, and the amount of nicotine is usually very high.

According to Marlene, vape devices have come a long way from the original large designs that create huge clouds of vapor and are now much smaller and easier to hide, produce less visible vapor but still contain a higher nicotine content. The newer products like the Juul and the Soarin’ are smaller and easier for teens to use: so they do. Often. Very often. Sometimes daily or multiple times a day.

Marlene stresses that vaping is a very widespread problem and the reason it is spreading so fast is how highly addictive it is. One Juul pod holds the same amount of nicotine of a full pack of cigarettes, and kids are going through as many as three to four Juul cartridges in a day. 

Teenager’s brains are still growing, so it is much easier to develop an addiction. Once one a substance is introduced, it can prime the brain and make the teen more likely to become addicted to other drugs.

There are a couple of health risks specifically from vaping. Marlene warns of a few case’s of teens getting pretty severe pneumonia from the liquid that pools in the lungs and there are some worries about the effects of inhaling from a heated plastic device.

The long term effects of vaping and nicotine addiction, however, are still relatively unknown because these devices have not been around for very long and there is not a lot of data. 

Recommended Resource

Marlene recommends a great resource for parents who want to learn more or who want a video from a third party to show to their kids called Tobacco, Vaping & Marajuana: A Parent’s Guide to a New Epidemic 

In terms of our anonymous mom’s question, Marlene recommends first checking with her vaping teen to make sure that he is fully aware of what he is doing. If the child thinks he is using a product without nicotine, make sure you check.

Make sure he understands the health risks. Also, ask questions. Why did he try it? Is he stressed from school? How often is he using it? Why was he drawn to it? Does he feel like he’s already addicted? If it’s an issue, what can we help him stop? 

Unfortunately, your teen may not respond well to direct questiong so it can be helpful to “come in through the back door” and try to be on their side. Try asking questions like, “What have you heard about vaping?” “Do you really think vaping is as common as people say?” “What do you think about the risks?”

Remember, the kids are seeing this every day, so they probably will know more than we do. These questions can be especially helpful if you want to open up the conversation in advance, and are unsure if your child is vaping or not. If they say that it’s no big deal and there’s nothing wrong, watch the video Marlene recommended with them and learn together.

Life Coaching Answer:

These questions can be hard to ask your teen because of what we make it mean when we find a vape pen in our kid’s backpack. Marlene makes it sound easy to be casual and curious but in order to have that relaxed energy, we’ve got to clean up our own thoughts. 

But it is really important to control what you make your child’s vaping mean about YOU. 

It is easy to slip into the “OMG! My kid is VAPING! I’m a TERRIBLE parent!” Or to make finding this vape pen means that, “Now my kid’s going to be a DRUG ADDICT laying around on the couch at twenty-five with no job!”  What are you making it mean about YOU that is keeping you from taking productive action from calm-confident energy?

Marlene suggests recognizing that vaping is an EPIDEMIC. It is everywhere. You should almost expect your kids to try it or at least be surrounded by friends who are trying it.

Even if you don’t think your child is the kind to try something like that, vaping is so common that it is hard for anyone to ignore.

So even if your angel child has tried vaping, remember that it does not mean they are on an unstoppable ride straight to drug addiction and that you have failed as a parent once and for all. Now is the time to step in early and educate your teen about the risks.

Supermom Kryptonyte: Head-in-the-sand

What you don’t know CAN hurt you. Avoidance and pretending something isn’t a problem that is, feels icky. Talking to your teen about something like vaping is tough, but it is important to catch it as early as possible due to the likelihood of addiction just like a teenager smoking.

It’s easy for parents to come up with excuses to avoid the topic. “I’m too tired or I have to much other stuff to do” because these are almost always true. Confronting the topic and taking the weight off your shoulders will GIVE you some much-needed energy.

Supermom Powerboost: Knowledge is Power

Seeking out information can go a long way to making you feel more confident and more able to handle a situation.  Once you overcome your fears and open up the conversation in a relaxed way, you will feel so proud of yourself!

In the case of vaping, as with many other things, it is important to check where your information is coming from. Companies like Juul put out their own information which can be misleading. Marlene recommends taking a look at TUPE and at the video for up-to-date information about vaping and health risks.

How can I protect my kid from a bully?

Today’s Question: The Bullied Kid

“My 9 year old daughter was bullied all year by the same boy. I brought my concerns to the teacher multiple times and told the yard duty to keep an eye on her at recess. On the last day of school he purposely pushed her down while they were standing in line and knee got all banged up. When I came to pick her up, the teacher said she fell and banged her knee but that she was fine. She was NOT FINE! She needed support! And why was he even allowed to stand next to her in line? The teacher knew this punk ass kid had been picking on her all year. I am livid!

I talked to the principal and she was trying to defend him saying he has behavior issues and the counselor was working with him. Um, NO. The teacher knew what was going on and still made her stand next to him in line. I’m so upset. I’m at the school all the time volunteering. My daughter hides behind me whenever she sees him, she’s terrified. I’m trying my best not to go crazy on them but this is not ok.

School is out for summer but I’m worried about this repeating next year. How can I ensure this student is not in her class? I want to help her feel safe but I don’t trust the school to look out for her. How can I protect my daughter from this bully when the school won’t?”    Allison

bullied kid

Parent Educator Answer: Why Do Kids Bully

I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this Allison. When I first started working as a parent educator (18 years ago?) no one talked about bullying. Slowly, people started talking, and boy did it spread like wildfire! Every American Idol contestant has been bullied in school. Educators made efforts to bully-proof their schools. Anti-bullying campaigns raised awareness. This problem is taken much more seriously now than in the past.

Because this term gets used so much, I think it would be helpful to define it. Bullying is the use of coercion and force to abuse and intimidate. In order to be considered bullying the behavior must include:

  • repetition
  • an intentional act to hurt or harm
  • an imbalance of power

It sounds like your daughter has been exposed to some repetitive behaviors this year. We don’t know if the boy’s intention was to hurt your daughter. He could have been mad that she was walking too slow, or annoyed that she was in his way. It could be he was going to push whoever was nearby and your daughter was an easy target.

It seems like this shouldn’t be important because the fact remains your daughter got hurt, she is scared of him, and the teacher hasn’t been able to protect her. This is important because the word bullying is often misused.

Sometimes, it’s just mean behavior. For example, in the last podcast, Andria wrote in about how her daughter tells girls she’s not their friend any more and gives them the cold shoulder. It would not be surprising, in this day and age, for this hurt girl to claim “bullying.”

The third criteria, the imbalance of power, is important to take a look at. It sounds like your daughter and this boy are the same age. If your daughter is in a minority race, religion, sexual orientation, then there is an imbalance of social power. If there is a significant size difference or she is disabled in some way, there can be a physical imbalance of power.

If there is no external imbalance of power but just a perceived one, where he thinks he can pick on her because she’s an easy target, then it may just be mean behavior.

Whether it’s real bullying or just mean behavior, finding ways for the victim to feel powerful is the most important thing.

The Bullied Kid: What To Do

Here are some ways to support your daughter so that you and she feel powerful:

  1. Talk to your daughter about things the teacher or yard duty could do to help her feel safe. We can’t make him “be nice to her” and the teacher can’t be expected to protect her from him all the time. Would she feel better if he switched seats or classrooms? Could she ask friends to stick by her side at recess? Encourage her to problem solve and ask for what she wants.
  2. Teach her to use powerful words with authority figures to get the attention of adults. Words like harassment, abuse, bullying, hostile environment are attention-grabbing and powerful. When kids are scared they tend to shy away, like a turtle pulling into its shell, hoping no one notices them. This makes them appear like an easy target to those looking for one.
  3. Document and share everything. The school’s hands are tied in many ways, but you and your daughter can help get the result you want by focusing on facts, safety, and sharing your documentation.
  4. Write an email to the principal stating how if this aggressive behavior continues next year, you will hold her out of school until they can provide a safe situation for your daughter. Be clear that you are holding the school accountable for her absence and they will need to make arrangements so it doesn’t impact her academics negatively.

Parents really do have a lot more power to affect change in schools than they realize.

What’s most important is for your daughter to feel heard, seen, felt, and protected. We are wired to experience bad things. This is not the issue. She can handle boys being mean, angry, and stupid. She can handle getting physically hurt and feeling scared. That’s just part of being human who is alive on the planet. Our job is not to prevent bad things from happening to our kids.

Our job is to help her feel supported, understood, and powerful.

We want our children to be able to identify an injustice and believe they have the power to change it. In order to create system wide change, we need to have confidence, persistence, and understanding.

Life Coaching Answer:

I’ve been teaching various parenting topics for 18 years: friendship challenges, puberty, money, anxiety, raising a reader, toilet training, you name it, I taught a class on it.

But I will NEVER teach a class on bullying and here’s why.

Right now, think the thought, “My daughter is being bullied.” Notice how you feel when you think that thought. Defensive? Tense? Tight? Ready to leap into action? What kind of action do we want to take from this state? We want to fight.

With clenched fists, we brace ourselves. We want to punch that bully. Or his parents. Or the school. The THOUGHT “My child is being bullied” makes us want to bully right back!

It’s a natural response. We are powerful momma lions wanting to protect our children, heck, ALL CHILDREN from these bullies. We think things like: “He needs to be taught a lesson.” “He can’t go around hurting people.” “The schools can’t allow kids to behave this way.”

None of these thoughts is helpful.

We can teach this boy lessons in kindness but we can’t make him learn. He does go around hurting people so clearly he CAN hurt people. The schools are obligated to educate all children, even ones with behavior issues. They can instruct and provide consequences, but there are protocols they have to follow before they can legally remove a child.

When we hear the word bullying, we jump into fight mode. This makes US feel powerful, but doesn’t help our KID feel powerful. It also doesn’t help us jump through the necessary hoops in order for productive action to be taken.

The schools need us to write down the specifics, exactly what FACTS took place, but it’s hard to do this when we have such a strong emotional response. Instead of helping schools take appropriate legal action, we get mad and stay mad.

Empowered

If you really want to help your daughter, remove the word bullying from YOUR vocabulary, but encourage HER to use it. She feels empowered because she knows bullying is wrong and this isn’t her fault. You can help her stay focused on taking productive action to make her school a better, safer place for everybody.

The best result to come from bullying is the victim learns her words have power, she feels supported, and believes that she has the ability to create social change.

Supermom Kryptonite – Complaining

In episode 16, I mentioned that getting together with girl friends and venting about frustrations can be very helpful. Venting your emotions into a journal or with a trusted friend, can release the pressure, helping you think more clearly and hear your own wisdom.

Complaining is repeating the problem from a place of powerlessness. It implies that nothing is going to change and you are helpless. Every time we repeat the same negative story, we reinforce the synapse in our brain, making it stronger and feel truer. Be careful not repeat anything that you don’t want to grow. Complaining not only makes us feel tired and helpless but negatively impacts the mood of those we are complaining with.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Let off steam

In order to access our calm, logical, and effective part of our brain, Momma Lion needs to let off some steam. We want to honor the anger, it’s an important emotion to have. Anger signals injustice. Don’t suppress it, instead:

  • go to kick boxing class,
  • scream your head off at your daughters swim meet
  • rip up a magazine
  • stomp on a cardboard box

Let your kid see mom process anger in a healthy way so they learn healthy ways to let it out.

Today’s Quote of the Day

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed; it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

When my daughter says she’s fat

Question of the Day: “What do I say when my daughter says she’s fat or talks negatively about her body?”

I’ve been asked this question many times over the years. Because I’ve been teaching sex education since the dawn of time, people assume I also know how to answer questions about body image, but it really isn’t my area of expertise.

To help me answer this question, I’ve called in my colleague Susan Hyatt.

Susan Hyatt is a master certified Life Coach who has helped thousands of women to transform their bodies and lives. She’s the creator of the Bare Process, the Bare Deck, the Bare Podcast, and an online community called Bare Daily. Susan has gained an international following of women who love her honesty, humor, and fearlessness.

Susan has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Woman’s World, Seventeen, and O: The Oprah Magazine, and was a Finalist for the Athena Award, honoring her work in the field of women’s empowerment.

What should a mom say when her daughter criticizes her body and says “I’m fat”?

Susan: “When a young woman says ‘I’m fat,’ it’s usually an invitation for conversation because they are feeling less than confident. Some kids use ‘fat’ as an insult but others are starting to reclaim the word fat saying, “So what if I’m fat? Why is fat an insult?” When your daughter talks negatively about her body, ask her to tell you more.”

“Don’t jump into fat being a terrible thing. So what if you are? Is that a big deal to you?”

“If you ask more questions they might elaborate, ‘my thighs are getting big’ or ‘I over-ate.’ You’ll want to ask questions so your daughter can think deeper about what it means to live in the skin she is in. If she says, ‘I weigh more than I did last month.’

Separate thoughts from facts

You can help her separate her thoughts from the facts. The fact is I gained 5 pounds. My thoughts about that are: “I should be skinnier then I am.” She gets to choose what she wants to think, about the facts. 

Torie: “I think the natural response for many moms when their kid makes a negative statement about themselves (“I’m fat, I hate my body, I’m ugly”) is to say “No you aren’t honey, you are beautiful just the way you are.” This creates a resistance and doesn’t seem to give us the result we want, which is our kids to think positively about themselves.”

Susan: “Yes, When we immediately jump in and say, ‘No you aren’t fat. You are beautiful,’ not only does it cause our kids to push back against us, but we reinforce that gaining weight is a horrible thing. Kids may think ‘She has to say that, she’s my mom,’ or they will argue and advocate for the thing they think is horrible: pinching their fat belly to PROVE that they are right and we are wrong.”

“If you agree with them, and start to talk about exercise or weight loss, that’s not a good plan either. Parents should be neutral, get more info, and talk [to their kids] about confidence and taking care of themselves from place of love. We’ve been trained to think [being] fat is the worst thing you can be. There are a lot worse things you can be in this world than having a few extra pounds on your body.

“The culture of ‘fat phobia’ has done a lot of damage to the mindset of women. Clearly pushing back against being fat and seeing fat as an insult isn’t working. The obesity epidemic in America has tripled since the 80’s.”

“Many people think they can beat themselves into submission, trying to motivate themselves with negative self talk. It’s the opposite of what a human body needs.”

Torie: “I can remember being a freshman in high school, and after lunch all the girls would gather in the vanity room before heading back to class. It was a room with mirrors on all four walls, and girls would fix their hair or put on makeup before heading to class.

I remember one day, one of the girls looked at her reflection and said, ‘I hate my nose’ the girl to her left said, ‘I hate my hair,’ on it went, around the room. I hadn’t learned how to hate on my body yet (thanks, Mom!) but I wasn’t going to be the ONLY one who says, ‘I love my body’ so I made something up about hating my eyebrows and on it went.”

“Do you remember the first time you picked up on the idea that you were supposed to hate your body? What would you have loved to hear at that age?”

Susan: “We want this sense of belonging, we’ll do and say things that are terrible for ourselves just to belong. It takes a lot of courage, even as grown women, to be the one in the room saying I love my body as it is.”

“I was 11, with my older sister, who is 6 years older than me, playing with a Polaroid camera. I had a box fan to blow my hair, while we took pictures and played.  She was holding the photo up to the light to develop when she gasped and said, ‘Oh my god your thighs are big.’ My first thought was, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been walking around and something’s wrong and I didn’t even know it. She’s my older sister so she must be right. I need to diet; I need to shrink myself.'”

“I would have loved to hear: You are more than your appearance.”

“We are trained to believe our external appearance is our commodity in the world. Our power comes from how attractive we are to the male gaze.”

“I would have loved to hear: you are fine as you are. You have a lot more to offer the world than thin thighs. It’s important to compliment your daughters on things other than their personal appearance. ‘I love how smart you are, how artistic; that was such a kind thing you did. I love your questions. You are so curious.”

“We need to communicate to our daughters that their value in society is beyond how thin they can get.” 

There is an entire industry built around keeping you believing something is wrong with you. Don’t believe it and don’t buy into it.

Torie: “Teenagers have this natural rebellious streak, so giving them something to push back against can be helpful. Saying the media messages are designed to keep you small, not using your voice, can evoke their inner rebel.”

Susan: Tell your teen, “We want you to be a big, bold, brave version of yourself and the best way the diet industry can keep you from that is to keep you focused on your thighs. A diet teaches obedience.  Do you want to be obedient or do you want to shake stuff up? All that time spent counting, obsessing, weighing, ruminating is time that could be spent making an impact on the world.

The fastest way to grow any economy is to empower girls and women. We are 83% of dollars spent in consumer industry. The patriarchy wants you to be quiet and distracted, Why? Because an empowered woman in the patriarchy is a dangerous woman. If we have any hope of closing the pay gap before 2026, it’s going to be from disrupting the pattern of dieting.

Take a look at social media news feeds and make sure it feeds you, not depletes you. How do you feel while scrolling? Curate news feeds and beware of your mental diet. Make sure it’s filled with all shapes and sizes.

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in your way from saying the right thing?

Susan: “Moms have been steeped in diet culture just as much as the kids. Most moms want something different for their daughter but they don’t believe it for themselves. Learn together.”

“My sister was no villain; she was steeped in her own issues and diet culture. Be honest and say, ‘When I was your age, (or last week), I was envious when I saw my friend on social media because I thought, That’s never going to happen for me or I wish I looked like that.’ I’m learning to tell myself different things, let’s work together. I don’t want to waste my time pinching my fat in the shower, getting dressed a million times, then not going out because I don’t look skinny enough.”

It can become a bonding thing. 

Torie: “When you can humble yourself and admit you don’t know everything, it will create an easier relationship with your teen.

Try saying, ‘You’ve listened to me criticize my body for the last 12 years, but now that I hear it coming out of your mouth, it doesn’t feel good to me.’ How about we figure this out together?

Kids are in a major growth journey, why not join together? Ask your daughter, ‘Am I still a good mom, even though I have extra weight on my body?'”

Susan: “When teens think you are trying to be the authority, they won’t listen. This isn’t about having the perfect conversation, just opening the channels of communication.

If you lecture them about feeling positive about their bodies, they won’t respond. Aim for a collaboration or invitation.”

Torie: How do you balance the idea “I’m perfect as I am AND I want to change?”

Susan: “We’re all messy works of art. I can love my country and recognize we have work to do. I can love my body and decide to get ripped abs but from a place of love and peace, not oppression and obedience.

How does it feel to have that goal? When you think about a weight loss or exercise goal, does it feel like a celebration? Is your motivation from a healthy place or a dangerous place. 

How you feel about your goal will determine the result you get.

Supermom KryptoniteBeing rooted and taking action from negative emotion.

Torie: “Taking action from negative emotion can drain your energy. You might do the same things as someone else like eat healthy and exercise, but if you do it from shame or self hatred, it’s never going to give you the result you want.”

Susan: “Exactly, if you go to the gym while rooted in fear and anxiety over what might happen if you don’t, it’s not going to work. If you are exhausted from self-care, then your self-care is rooted in fearful, graspy, needy energy. Others go to the gym because they love the feeling they get when they go. This gives them a positive self image, emotions and motivation to keep going. Be a woman who takes amazing care of herself from a place of love.”

Supermom Powerboost – Move your body.

Want a quick boost of energy? Put on your favorite playlist and dance, by yourself, for 5 minutes. That is an instant mood booster. Check out Susan’s “Summer of Yes” playlist. Or, copy Torie and sing and dance to your favorite broadway show tunes.

Quote of the day:

“It isn’t about the physical weight you have to lose, it’s about the mental weight that blocks you from loving yourself.” Susan Hyatt

Check out Susan’s BARE book and mother-daughter book club www.Letsgetbare.com BARE daily membership community. Listen to BARE podcast. Follow on Instagram: @SusanHyatt