When Violence is part of Dinner Conversation

Yesterday’s ChildGrower blog was about the Ohio school shooting and the sad and permanent choices made by immature teens.

The post was not about bullying but most readers did not hesitate to make the connection.

Though it is still unknown whether bullying played a role in the shooting deaths of (now) three students,  comments on the EmpoweringParents facebook page , which featured my post, thank you EP,   were largely focused on bullying behavior and prevention.

Bullying prevention, gun control, school safety and mental health issues and more, led as topics explored by journalists and professionals dissecting yet another violent situation we’d all like to prevent

There may never be any clear answers or causes behind this shooting – or similar shootings- but talking about it with your children, maybe over dinner, will be more effective prevention tactic than all the media coverage and school anti-bullying programs  in existence.

Social skills are grey areas.

Teens, craving both anonymity and popularity, navigate the narrow path between fitting in and flaunting their authentic self.  Someone’s difficulty connecting with classmates is another’s inability to overcome shyness.  Enormous emotional, physical and educational growth takes place for adolescents  while grouped together in one building  sometimes for as long as eight hours a day.   Effective communication skills allow everyone, and especially teens,  to navigate a world of imperfect people.

A teen, ignored or deliberately avoided, might need social skills more than bully awareness.  He or she may need extensive time with trusted adults,  like teachers, coaches or the school guidance counselor to learn and practice social skills, assertiveness and confidence.

One parent commented she is grateful her own angry teen has not taken the same path.   We worry.  But worry doesn’t accomplish much. Sometimes we have to say it out loud. We are afraid of what our angry teen might do and we are desperate to get them to talk with us and let us help them learn the skills to deal with situations that cause them pain.

Throwing in a few hugs on a daily basis will go a long way toward establishing a supportive environment but don’t wait until Junior is a teenager, start racking up the hug count early and increase as each pair of pants is outgrown.

Prevention of violence in schools

Are students part of the best solution? There’s a lot of discussion out there about classmates actively preventing bullying and even helping schools avoid situations like the one in Ohio’s campus cafeteria. Some of the current prevention strategies suggest students can recognize and report suspicious behaviors including bullying activity, violent threats, suicide hints and other mental health meltdowns.  Administrators and parents are not objecting to this new critical role for students and many are actively promoting it.

Heaping another duty on immature, irrational students,  this one a very critical responsibility, is a duty best left to professionals.

The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) recommends 250:1.  Does anyone else think one guidance counselor to 250 students is absurd?  Then be aware that in some state ratios are 450:1.  But wait, most schools, including Ohio do not have guidance counselor  mandates at all- including Ohio.

Education funding is being slashed across the nation with operating budgets decreasing for the past 10 years in my home state.  How many schools can afford to prioritize the funds needed to support the emotional needs of  hundreds of students walking, talking, maturing in real-time response to every negative and positive interactions that occurs in cafeteria’s and on playgrounds across America?

With shootings like Ohio continue to occur, how many schools can afford not to?

What can a parent do?
  • Do you know if bullying is part of the cycle of your child’s life?
  • Can you admit and address the problem if your child is the bully?
  • If your child is  a victim,  can you rely on the programs almost every school is trotting out including awareness campaigns and declaring prevention is in place while hoping results will be positive?
  • If your child is a witness to bullying does he or she have the words and the courage to do something, anything?

Despite the teenage surly appearance at times, or the constant eye-rolling and shrugging of shoulders, teens  and preteens do hear and learn from parents. You don’t have to be a guidance counselor or mental health expert to start an awareness campaign of your own.   The Family Dinner is a great place to start a tradition of exploring the national news and sharing the most important news of your teen’s day.

Many moms and dads just like you talked about it over last night’s dinner table.   Care to share what you learned?

by ChildGrower-A. Woz


Link and Think

Some of the best coverage of the these related topics are linked below.

Sharing the words of Marlo Thomas on the sad and desperate loneliness of bullied children (linked above) published by the Huffington Post on 2/29/2012.


Dr. Frank Ochberg is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University and former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Published on CNN on 2/29/2012



Covergirls don’t pick any Sci Fi?

Post (not the title) stolen from Karen:  Great to see everyone at Barnes and Noble that could make it to the book pick, sorry to miss a few of you that couldn’t make it. Here’s a listing of what will be happening for the next few months. We are keeping the 3rd thursday of the month at 7:30 pm as our meeting time unless there is a holiday- Karen

September 16 -Marti’s house for “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

October 21- Carole’s house for “The Other Side of the Bridge” by Mary Lawson

November 18th – Marcia’s house for “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann

December 16th – Mya’s house for “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen

January 20th – Karen’s house for “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave

February 17th – Theresa’s house for “Father of the Rain” by Lily King

March 17th -Lynn, for “Love, Anger and Madness-A Haitian Trilogy” by Marie Vieux-Grauvet

April 14th – Annita’s house for “Wildwater Walking Club” by Claire Cook or a Science Fiction book, darn it.

Recipe Day- Bookclub on the Deck by A. Woz

It seems I always get to host our group on starry nights in the spring.

We gather on the deck with fresh salads on our forks and this time, a lovely mojito beverage with mint picked from the front porch flowerbed.

Our discussion is not about food,  not even much about the book we have finished, White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.  We do talk about unlikeable characters, family loyalty, traditions,  but it’s really all reflections of normalcy as compared to our regular lives.

On evenings filled with re-enactments of our real-life laughter moments, frustrations, and a-ha moments, this group really knows how to take the topic from India’s caste system and segue effortlessly into the rigors of teaching our children manners, gratitude and our attempts to accept whatever our ten year olds think it is they need that week, which tonight, includes serious inquiries into getting a cell phone.

The deck railing hides the pushpins holding a string of last year’s twinkling white tree lights and with a blanket and a spare sweater the guests settle back in despite the cooling evening air and voices tinged with shivered sounding syllables. We hug our glasses of wine a little closer and lean in to add our opinions as we try to reclaim the book discussion that brings us together each month.

For just a moment, we are interrupted by the ringing telephone. The neighbor has called to report that a bear has been spotted a half mile away at an intersection in Hometown USA. The guests quickly look under their chairs, lift their sandaled feet and pedicured toes just a few inches  off the deck floorboards,  as if to protect themselves from an ankle lick from a wayward bear.

With gentle assurances we turn on the yard light, make sure the dogs are safe inside the fence and resume our sharing of the details that make us who we are. As our giggles float to the willow tree and the grapevine covered arbor in the side yard, we step back inside to add a spoon of Watermelon Lime Salad to our plates or to grab another serving of Totellini Mozz salad. While we chat, my husband who has graciously tucked the children into bed has an opportunity to have the last of Mel’s Cabin Salad- his favorite.

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for July
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson for August
  • You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon for September

– book picks recalled and published here with credit to Karen and her iphone.


For best results, use fresh ingredients from a local Community Shares Agriculture farm share. We support Vermont Valley CSA Farm- and farmers Barb and Dave Perkins.

Tortellini Mozz Salad

Fresh or frozen tortellini- tri colored best

2 med. tomatoes diced

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, drained

10 basil leaves, torn

2-3 T Olive Oil

1 can medium olives

Fresh ground pepper.

Cook tortellini according to directions, drain, allow to stop steaming before adding the remaining ingredients. Toss and serve immediately.

Mel’s Cabin Salad

Fresh lettuce mix

1 pint any combination fresh seasonal berries- mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.

4 oz slivered almonds

4 tbsp PoppySeed Dressing drizzled on top  (Marzetti’s Natural is a good choice)

Just toss and serve in a pretty salad bowl.

### enjoy! for ChildGrower blog, A. Woz

Red Tent Book picks for 2010

  • Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout- discussion March 4
  • 19th Wife- David Ebershoff – discussion April 14
  • The Photograph-Penelope Lively – on May 6
  • The White Tiger-Aravind Adiga – on June 3
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel – on July 1
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-Stieg Larsson on August 5
  • You Remind Me of Me -Dan Chaon for discussion after the mad return to school on September 9

-and we shall gather in the home of a friend, and eat, drink and be merry.

Busy 4 y.o. by Childgrower A. Woz.

momandjaedytoestouchAdapted from an October 2009 on-line forum discussion post from a frustrated mom on the EmpoweringParents.com website where Woz serves as a contributing blogger and frequents the EP forum to share ideas with other parents.

This mom was at her wits end because her boy was constantly going from one problem to another. If he wasn’t on top of the cupboard digging in the sugar bin, he was dilly dallying around when they had to get out of the door in the morning. Her little guy was touching everything at the stores they visited and was doing everything BUT getting ready for bed dragging the night time routine into long past bedtime and long past mom’s patience level.

Oh mom of a “busy” 4.y.o,

I have been there.

“Busy” is a nice way of saying, frustrating, unfocused, so time consuming, annoying!

Or some would say, “Sensory learners, Spirited, Curious, Fun.”

At age 4, kids are learning by exploring and they are learning how to do things to make you happy and how to do things that make them happy.

They have nothing else to do in a day except learn, while we are juggling parenting, cleaning, working, bills, and so much more. What should take five minutes (brushing teeth, getting PJs on, getting out the door) can take much longer since 4 year olds have no concept of time.

Lucky them! They don’t need to think about time- they have an entire lifetime to live and they dive in headfirst to the learning and the greatness of the world they live in…

It’s almost too bad that this natural curiosity, this giggly happy time, this zest for doing everything fun all the time has to be tamed at all….

But, even though they are fun and frustrating, cooperation is still important, limits are still important, sometimes the schedule has no flexibility and things have to get done.

For young kids the book, How to talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Faber/Mazlish is Incredible! Not only is it in part cartoon form and part workbook form, but it has good practical ideas to try. Yes there is some theory, but most of the book is about teaching parents the skills to handle children with words.  One of its best lessons is the one word reminder. Try “Teeth!” instead of saying for the umpteenth time,  “Johnny, you have to get your teeth brushed, now, lets get-agoing.”

Repeat just one word. The word is a firm reminder, and focuses the kid instead of making them feel shame for not listening.

A pre-school teacher also used this idea for the situation where kids are running through stores touching- and sometimes breaking- various things.  The theory is that kids only hear the last part of what you say. So when you say, “Be careful you’ll break something, please stop running!” about all kids grasp is “running!”.

So they run. Mrs. T suggests tell them what you want them to do.

“No running,” becomes “Walk!” and “No touching!” becomes “Hands in your pockets.”  or “Look with your eyes. ”

At age four, kids don’t get the idea that other people are more important than they are. They are self-focused and the world is all about them, so the idea of respecting property is a little over their heads.  Kids probably think “Mr. Shopkeeper should WANT met to touch them because I love toys more than anyone!”

Nothing works all the time of course, but one of a kids’ jobs is to test the boundaries and learn from the limits. That is their entire purpose- to learn by doing, testing, touching, loving life.

I guess that makes a parent’s purpose to teach by asking, limiting, hugging and loving the teaching process. Remember discipline is teaching, not punishment.

Hang in there- lots of teaching is going on with 4 y.o.s and sometimes, we are the ones learning the most!

Good luck! A. Woz.

GenYers by A. Woz

Have you heard anything like this lately?

  • A co-worker tells his boss that the young man sitting out in the lobby waiting for an interview has brought his mother along and wants mom to go on the tour of the facility.
  • Just this week someone is fired because after two years, her work product still has too many errors.  Six months prior in a performance review where the manager spells out very clearly the accuracy and attention to detail needed to dramatically improve,  she seems unfazed, unconcerned and proves unable to train herself to double check her work before she passes it to the next party.
  • A neighbor calls to say she is worried about her son who works part-time and then spends the rest of his time playing video games and going to the gym.  When chided by dad to turn off the game station and pitch in with laundry and dishes, the son gently reassures his father that he probably wouldn’t have time for that as he knows he will soon be hired at a new place where management will treat him with respect and pay him what he is worth.
  • The new hire at your brother’s office is always late. Even though there is a big project due mid-day, the new guy leaves for a kick-boxing class over lunch hour and then looks surprised when HR requested that future forward he is to shower and change out of sweaty clothes before returning to his desk.

Does this seem hard to believe?

Prepare yourself for these and more incredulous moments if you are hiring a Generation Y worker.

And brace yourself if you are a parent shouldering the blame for creating this generation of why-should-I-work-hard-for-you workers.

Since when has putting child-rearing as a top priority been a bad thing?

Since Generation X grew up I guess.

Relax,  it isn’t just the endless activities, the effort to build confidence, the willingness to adapt to umpteen scheduled activities that has caused the uproar.

Its all of that plus the incredible intelligence and worldliness of Generation Y’s experience with global technical and constant need for communication that has taught them to focus largely on short term rewards and to look out for themselves above all others.

After all,  isn’t “short-term” exactly how we treat the environment, the market, the entertainment that we consume on a daily basis?

Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy believes globalization and technology has shaped Gen Y’ers into young adults who seek to maximize the tangible benefits and the connections to people in power from the short time they are working in unstable institutions with uncertain futures.

Knowing industry is ever-changing, outpaced, out-dated and aware that today’s cutting edge is likely tomorrow’s old Facebook look, Gen Yers question authority, command an ever-present access to accurate research via technology and have mastered the short term goal of focusing their brilliant ideas and earning their trophies.

Generation Y children are born between 1978 and 1990. In Tulgan’s words, “Generation Y is like Generation X on-fast-forward-with-self-esteem-on-steroids….parents have guided, directed, supported, coached, and protected…and structured.”

Not surprisingly, most Gen Y employees report that they love their parents, trust them, and will continue to seek advice from them even from the workplace cubicle via the ever present cell-phone and- if you are willing- they will bring them in to work or have their parents call you to clarify your needs, without any of that debilitating embarrassment factor!

Yes, bosses report more and more that mom and dad are calling to inform employers of the gifts of Susie Q and sometimes chide them for expecting too many hours at the workplace.

But, be aware that Gen Yers are loyal to mom but will not transfer that goodwill to a boss unless the boss earns it.

Weak managers, managers who don’t make time to oversee every detail of training and cheerleading, managers who aren’t seeking new ideas, and supervisors who are unable to reward workers with flexibility or monetary reward tied to competition driven projects will not get any of the loyalty or the work output they want from Gen Y.

It is expected that this group of Generation Y workers is very capable of carrying traditional companies -kicking and screaming-  into the highly volatile but profitable marketplace of the millennium- and presumably they can do this without having mom or dad in the break room cheering sonny boy on.


Tulgen calls it “in loco parentis management ” where supervisors provide strong management in the workplace to fill a void where the parent has always been.

Ironically, managers report, “If you hire a Generation Y worker who is not close to (her) parents, you may be sorry. Among today’s young workers, those who are closest to their parents will probably turn out to be the most able, most achievement oriented, and the hardest working.”

Ideally, the best place for a Gen Y worker is at a company that can offer flexible reward system that includes monetary incentives, time off, varying start times, and has a supervisory staff willing to teach the basic skills of good manners, critical thinking, and the consequences of their actions.

Sigh. I thought that was what I have been doing? Haven’t I?


A. Woz for EP, December 4, 2009.

Spaghetti Ear by child grower A. Woz

 field of pumpkinsJohn Hillmer, featured on the cover of Field & Stream magazine and named as the Field & Stream Conservation  Hero of the Year worries that teens are part of an entire generation involved in after-school sports, text messaging and electronic communication and they are losing their outdoor heritage.  Launched in 2007,  Hillmer started  K.A.M.O., Kids and Mentors Outdoors with the  idea of providing a chaperone to take kids on excursions into forests and rivers at no cost to the clientele.  www.kamokids.org

 The  book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv repeats the same message. It focuses on the disconnection children have from the land and the research implies that kids who are behaviorally challenged can benefit from time in nature, away from the buzzing, the crackling, the lighting up and the beeping of our modern busy world. 

I agree, there is nothing like the stillness of a mountain top or the silence of a farmer’s field to make me grateful for the important things in my life- like family.

I joined facebook this year to keep connected with my college age sisters who tell me that email is obsolete and they just facebook (a verb not a noun!)

Admittedly, I enjoy easy communication that doesn’t require me to say, Hello, How are you, then the idle banter as we answer in a non-answer form that really is  more formality than truthful response. 

Texting, facebooking, tweeting, cuts all that fake conversation out. Grandma would say that the conversation part is essential as it is called manners.

I’m just sick of being connected all the time. I want to be out of cell service reach sometimes so I can recharge my mental batteries and find some peace and quiet. 

Teens on the other hand, aren’t sick of connecting. They don’t want to use texting to be more productive or avoid work. For them, texting is work- it is the work of growing up. It is the work of navigating the social and technical world that makes up the teenage experience for this generation.

They they know how to use technology and they use it with the same morals and values that are instilled in them by their parents- whatever those may be. 

All of this is a necessary phase of growing up?  Can skills with Facebook, Myspace, (email is outdated) Youtube, Texting, be common languages for new careers. Sure!

Think about it this way. When I was a kid it was Atari, then boomboxes and Pacman, then the Commodore 64 computer and the microwave, the automatic garage door opener and the enormous satellite for 33 fuzzy channels.

A technological connections were made, our generation  improved those  gadgets and grew our brains and sometimes made our head spin around on our neck at the vast expanse that is the web.

And what happens  if (gasp!) they are turned off, out of battery power, out of wi-fi range?  Will teens panic if they have to actually talk to each other?

Not likely. They don’t mind talking to eachother at all. They just like to talk while they are texting and while they are listening with one ear bud to the latest music on their ipod.

When cellphones first became mainstream for high schoolers, my husband was astounded to see a kid call a friend in the front of the bus on his cell rather than walk the 10 feet and talk  with him.  It was a sign of more things to come.  Multitasking had begun.

When I was a teen it was the standard land line, yes, still connected to the wall.  Somehow I survived the leap from rotary dial to push button and so did my parents.

As teens, we were on the phone all the time and when we weren’t on the phone with our friends, we were trying to get our brother off the phone who was chatting with his girlfriend. “Even after you have seen each other all day?” my dad would ask, “What do you possibly have to talk about after you just saw each other all day long at school?” He used to warn me that my ear would some day grow itself right to the receiver and I’d have a spaghetti cord to drag around (oh!) that right, that  was back in the day when the phone was attached to the wall and the only privacy we could get was to hide in the closet, door shut, with the telltale phone cord stretched tight across the hallway and hope that you didn’t clothesline dad when he came home from work and we could moon privately over the cute boy in study hall.

For teens, technology like the cellphone, the flip phone, the texting, the facebook status update- all of this is the glue that holds them together. And though I agree with Hillmer that we need a little more connection time with nature I am pleased to see that my technology using nieces and nephews are incredible conversationalists, funny, social, athletic and also more up to speed than I ever am on on what everybody in the family is up to. 

Yes, they are playing crazy video games and yes they are texting with their friends even after they have spent the whole day at school with them, but they are also using technology to keep up with their favorite Uncle, find out the latest scores for little brothers football game while they are off at college and checking the weather so they can make a drive 150 miles south for a visit with Grandma Dorothy on her birthday.

OMGosh, I may not know all the texting abbreviations and I may not be as handy with my thumbs as teens are but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see that ILY is pretty much the same as XOXO no matter how my kid gets that  message. 

### for ep by Annita Woz, October 15, 2009.

%d bloggers like this: