Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Why is it so Hard to Say “No”?

Adolescents look to adults for security, safety, and to be positive examples; this also meanslatigo-fence they tend to push buttons and test boundaries – “No” is often low on the list of a teen’s favorite words.  As adults, we have to make a concerted effort to create firm boundaries for our kids that are not only respectful, but geared toward creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. This means we have to say “no” even if it’s not a popular answer, and it means we have to hold the boundary surrounding that answer, regardless of the outcome. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s perfectly okay to say it, own it, and honor it.

 

It’s easier to back out of a “No” than a “Yes.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Your teen is relentlessly asking you if they can hang out at a friend’s house; you are engrossed in a project or conversation. Out of frustration, you hastily give permission. However, a bit later, you realize you had said, “yes,” in error – you actually want your teen home for dinner, and being at a friend’s house means he or she won’t be home in time. So you change your mind. All of a sudden, you have an angry teen on your hands – you’re unfair, mean, et cetera. Speaking out of haste or frustration has a negative impact – it illustrates an unstable boundary and creates an environment where kids don’t know what to expect. In the scenario above, no one wins:  your teen is disappointed and angry at you, and you’re frustrated and angry at your teen.

 

Why is it so hard to say “No”? And better yet, why is it so hard for us to hear “No”?

 

“No” is a boundary. It is a way of advocating for ourselves and ensuring we are meeting our needs. It allows us to set boundaries so we can take care of ourselves and create healthy boundaries with others. “No” is not mean; it’s not spiteful. “No” is honest and it represents self-respect and self-awareness. It also cultivates emotional safety and stability.

 

Sometimes, saying “No” can feel like we are letting someone down, or maybe like we are letting ourselves down. Maybe we want to say, “Yes” when what we really need to say is “No.”  This is a hard skill to learn, for teens and adults.

 

If/when you are faced with a difficult situation where there might be pressure to say “Yes,” or where you are uncomfortable saying “No,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the outcome be helpful or harmful to yourself or others?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Is this “Yes” to please someone else or to honor myself?

 

Hearing “No” can be difficult because often times, the truth is, we aren’t really asking; we are making a veiled demand that is presented in the form of a question. The politeness we assumed in the asking then comes crashing down because the reality is, we weren’t asking in the first place. When things are in a stasis, this is a great conversation to have with your teen. And it’s a great perspective to be aware of for yourself. Are you really asking your teen to take out the trash, or you demanding that they do it? If they said, “No,” how would you respond?

 

Hearing “No” also can breed a sense of disappointment.  We may feel like we aren’t getting what we want. We may feel rejected. There is an unfortunate comfort in being polite and saying what we think others want to hear. When we are inauthentic and we omit our truth, we evoke a passive anger later on. Bringing some awareness into cultivates authentic and honest communication.

 

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a lifetime practice. Some boundaries are easier set than others. Practicing saying “No” is a good start. In fact, it’s an empowering start.

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Parenting Prevention Safety

What You Need to Know About Text Bombing

are you really laughing out loud? (Photo credit: MrPessimist)

The concept behind text bombing is to save time: you can send mass texts out to multiple people telling them where to meet you, et cetera. Ultimately, it was designed to be a cheap tool for efficiency. According to this latest from Huffington Post,  text bombing is the latest technological tool used by cyberbullies to go after their victims. The sender can be anonymous and the apps can be programmed to auto-send persistent, negative messages. Text bombing someone means you are sending 1000-10000 text messages to the same person in the same day, and it can go from being simply annoying to cruel. In the banal sense, one could look at text bombing as the equivalent of crank calling someone. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, text bombing has sinister underpinnings.

 

Imagine repeatedly receiving a text message saying, “die” or “no one likes you,” in the same day.  The victim of the text bomb has to endure receiving the same hateful and/or degrading message time and time again, experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression. Unless you have a means of blocking the text messages, there’s really no way to stop the barrage of hate. You are in a relentless technological loupe.

 

Alas, you can protect yourself!  You can download one of these spam-blocking apps, which allow you to block numbers and texts from coming in:

 

For the Android, you can use Text Bomb Defender or Anti SMS Bomber Pro.

For the iPhone, you can use NumberCop.

 

Parents, if you are worried that text bombing may be an issue for your child, look for the following:

  • A spike in the phone bill
  • Make sure your child’s phone isn’t rooted. (“Rooting an Android phone means that you give yourself, rather than Sprint/Verizon/T-Mobile/AT&T’s software, the permission to act as the administrator of the phone. New Android operating system 2.3 and higher only allows 30 SMS — texts — from the same phone at one time. Teens with rooted phones can still send thousands of texts.” – via Internet safety expert Sedgrid Lewis)
Categories
Bullying Mental Health Parenting Recovery Suicide

Bullying: Helping the Bullied and the Bully

Compassion (Photo credit: Sarit Photography)

As National Suicide Prevention Week continues, I realize we can’t let the week pass without talking about bullying. The recent documentary Bully deftly brought to light egregious bullying behavior, some of which led to suicide. The conversation continues, however. We are more aware now that the bullied child is suffering, often in silence, and often filled with shame and anger about why this is happening to them. They are always asking the eternal question, “Why me?”  Unfortunately, there are still an alarming number of bullying incidents that go undetected, and there continues to be a systemic problem in the way we deal with the bullies themselves and the children being bullied.

Children who are bullied won’t typically tell anyone this is happening,  typically feeling helpless in their endeavors to get help. From the bullied child’s perspective, there is an implication of great risk in asking for help. Experience has proven the bully makes sure they live in a state of fear of retaliation. This is particularly true when dealing with verbal bullying such as name calling, exclusion, ostracizing, rumors, racial, cultural, and sexual taunts. In these cases, proof is often difficult. This presents a catch-22 situation for parents, teachers, and administrators: it becomes one child’s word against another’s. As parents, we have to play the role of detective and suss out the situation, looking for key emotional and physical signs that our child is being bullied.

From Sheri Werner’s book In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention and Compassion for All, she lists the following things to look for if we suspect bullying:

  • Becoming moody or short tempered.
  • Finding excuses for not wanting to go to school.
  • Claiming physical illnesses such as stomachaches and headaches that may have, in fact, actually evolved into such physical symptoms.
  • Returning to bedwetting.
  • Beginning to have nightmares.
  • Developing either a lack of appetite or increase of eating compulsively.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Deterioration in the quality of schoolwork.
  • Having insomnia, anxiety.
  • Starting to become quiet, withdrawn.
  • Exhibiting physical signs like bruises, torn clothing, scrapes, and so on.
  • Expressing sadness and/or violence in writing or drawings.
  • Displaying unusual acting out behaviors.

Bullying doesn’t have to end in suicide. Suicide is never the answer. You are your child’s greatest advocate. You have a multitude of options:

  • Individual counseling/therapy
  • Group counseling/therapy
  • Form your own support group
  • Become informed.
  • Go to the school: find out what they have in place for bullying prevention.
  • If they don’t have anything in place, take steps to help develop a school anti-bullying policy.

 

I’ve seen this more times than I care to admit: a bullying situation resulting in the bullied child being punished and/or being told to “ignore” the bully or try to “make friends” with him/her. In truth, the child bullied needs support and compassion. But so does the bully. Yes, you read that right. The bully needs support and compassion as well, and more than likely an intervention of sorts. I truly believe that bullying is a symptom of a greater problem. What that problem may be isn’t an excuse for the negative behavior, but it still needs to be addressed.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to find compassion for a child who bullies, because their behavior is so hurtful and over the top, but suffering comes in all shapes and forms and it behooves us to take this into consideration.  A kid who goes home to violence, neglect, etc., or who suffers from unaddressed mental illness or a learning disability, or who didn’t have sufficient emotional connection in their early years may not know how to handle problems that arise. From the perspective of the administration and teachers, this is really an opportunity (and challenge) to A: monitor the bully, and B: help redirect and reteach the bully to change their thinking and behavioral processes to fit into a healthier social model. For the bully, their saving grace might just be the school they are in, if that school has methods in place to help them. The key is not to give up on them; they, too, deserve a chance to recover and change.

 

There are resources out there! You are not alone in this, regardless if you are the parent of the bullied or the bully.

www.soulshoppe.com (elementary and middle school)

www.challengeday.org (high school)

Books to read:

The Mindful Child – Susan Keiser Greenland

In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention With Compassion for All – Sheri Werner

Categories
Communication Stress

Rest Your Thumbs: Communication Without Texting

Oh, technology, how far you’ve come.

When I was a teen, a computer was something only geeks or millionaires had; cell phones were something futuristic and reminiscent of the 80’s show Hart to Hart

and their “fancy” car phones. So when the first phones came on the scene back in 1983, coined The Brick, and weighing in at two pounds with a mere half-hour of talk time, the collective response was amazement. The price tag was hefty, which raised its status, making it all the more desirable and of course, cool. There were even rap songs about the Brick! Realistically, if you had one at that time, they served no other purpose than for social status and of course, “emergency” phone calls. The Brick couldn’t do much more than make a phone call anyway.

In 2012, we now have miniature tools of technological genius, which allow for us to communicate via text messaging, voice, email, and various social-media outlets via a host of apps. What we’ve ended up with are varying forms of non-confrontational and non-contiguous means of communication. This type of communication works for many people, especially when one considers the amount of multi-tasking we do these days. Unfortunately, texting has evolved and become the primary form of communication for many, particularly teens, whose need to stay connected socially is often a key component to their social survival. Let’s face it, it’s far less scary to test the waters of a burgeoning relationship via text than it is in person. The trouble with this is two-fold:  texting lacks sincerity, and it lacks accountability – two things which are crucial in building the bedrock meaningful friendships and relationships are based upon. The non-contiguous factor also has its positives and negatives: you can share a nugget of information that’s not time sensitive, therefore not requiring immediate response. But you can also say things you’d never say in a million years to someone’s face and “walk” away.

This comment, “Words are bullets,” which I once heard in a meeting seems to really ring true in the case of text messages and digital communication. In this sense, a text can be like a virtual Uzi. I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself, where I’ve received a nasty message via text but upon direct confrontation, I was met with sheer nervousness, darting eyes, and denial. What’s concerning is the deterioration of our communication skills, particularly amongst adolescents. As a culture, we’ve gotten lazy when it comes to expressing ourselves, though our thumbs might disagree.

My own goal this year is to minimize the use of texting as a primary form of communication. I’ve been successful thus far, and have experienced more meaningful conversations with people. Try this: put your phone away for a prescribed period of time. If you need to tell someone something, pick up the phone!  You might be amazed how the quality of your ensuing conversations increases. I know I did, and I multi-task with the best of them.