In which I am not a child psychologist, but I still think I’m right about this.

I’m still going to kind of ignore my blog this month, but I’ve been learning something(s) important, and writing it down helps me to learn it all the way.  And it helps me to remember it.

1.  Children need you to listen to them in a not-freaking-out kind of way.  If this is true with small children, it must be triple true with teenagers.  Grant had his first incident with bullying this week.  I could tell something was wrong,  and I had to ask a few questions before the whole truth came out, and it still took a couple of days before the story was ready to be told.  I also learned that when the “lioness at the gate” finds out one of her cubs is getting knocked around, she doesn’t feel very docile at all.  But since lionesses wandering the halls of elementary schools swiping at naughty children with her claws and growling at unobservant teachers is kind of frowned upon, I had to take a more civil approach.  I will also rely more heavily on child-specific prayers than before.

2. Children today are much more savvy about the world –both the good and the evil– than we give them credit for, but they don’t really know what it all means.  They know stuff is out there; they see it and hear about it, but it’s hard to make sense of it all.  I think this is partially because we live in a mass-media generation and a whole spectrum of news, music, pop culture and images are hurled upon them before they can possibly know how to navigate it all.  (That just reminded me of an awesome Elder Holland quote.  I’ll dig it up at the end of the post.)  This is why point #1 is important.  They need the help of someone older and wiser to help them make sense of all the mixed messages they get from the world.  You’re the best candidate for that if you’re a listener and they know it.  I’ve also learned this week that sometimes they won’t know it unless you just tell them that you’re a listener and then prove it.

3.  This is a weird topic to bring up, and believe you me, I did not expect to have hour-long discussions with my children about it while they are this young, but anyway . . .  Did you know that all the messages out there (both in popular culture and in the teasing words that children say on the playgrounds) can confuse young children about issues like gender-identity and sexual orientation?  Remember how when we were little, it was really normal for children to go through a “cooties” stage– where girls think boys are yucky, and boys think girls are gross?  I’ve realized this week, that in the context of current social culture, it is very easy for children to become confused about what that means.  If a little boy doesn’t like girls and just likes to hang out with boys (which is TOTALLY normal at certain levels of development) he could be teased about being “gay.”   Since children are much more aware of issues like homosexuality and same-gender attraction than we were in generations past, (again I emphasize that awareness does NOT equal understanding), they may not know how to reconcile those issues with their own feelings.  Lest you jump to weird conclusions, all this stemmed from Grant being called a slur at school, not really understanding it, and not knowing if that word was a true label for him or not.  Talking about it openly and honestly helped him to get a much clearer picture of himself and his own feelings.  My point is:  Holy buckets, it’s a hard world to be a child in!  Can you even imagine all the crap (sorry, I couldn’t think of a better word) they have to try to sort through and figure out?  And at such a young age?  To not be misunderstood, this is not a battle cry for homeschooling or any kind of parenting movement other than BEING AWARE and LISTENING and ASKING QUESTIONS, and for goodness sake, PRAYING a LOT!

4.  I realize that points 1, 2 and 3 all kind of ended up being the same thing.  Whatever.

5.  Thank God for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When I can draw upon the scriptures and the family proclamation and the teachings of living prophets to help my children navigate this crazy world they live in, I feel adequately armed.  (I am still scared, but I’m so glad I can call on divine help.) I can give them a context and framework for all they see and hear and feel.  I can share my testimony and express confidence in them.  I can say, “You can come and talk to me and your dad about anything and we will listen and we (you and us together with God’s help) will find the answers.”  I can stand in the shower and plead with Heavenly Father to help me understand their little hearts and help me to say the right things.  And He hears me and helps me.  I just realized that He’s the one who teaches me how to listen.

“In such times as we are in, whether the threats be global or local or in individual lives, I too pray for the children. Some days it seems that a sea of temptation and transgression inundates them, simply washes over them before they can successfully withstand it, before they should have to face it. And often at least some of the forces at work seem beyond our personal control.

“Well, some of them may be beyond our control, but I testify with faith in the living God that they are not beyond His. He lives, and priesthood power is at work on both sides of the veil. We are not alone, and we do not tremble as if abandoned. In doing our part, we can live the gospel and defend its principles. We can declare to others the sure Way, the saving Truth, the joyful Life. We can personally repent in any way we need to repent, and when we have done all, we can pray. In all these ways we can bless one another and especially those who need our protection the most—the children. As parents we can hold life together the way it is always held together—with love and faith, passed on to the next generation, one child at a time.”  — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland


17 thoughts on “In which I am not a child psychologist, but I still think I’m right about this.

  1. I think you are right too. I’m amazed at what goes on and is said to kids now. Thanks for the reminder to pray and listen. Sometimes I feel like a detective trying to figure out what’s going on.

  2. I agree that kids are getting more “crap” at a younger age and quicker then they can process it.

    That is one of my biggest concerns is bullying. I hope that all works out and that Grant will figure a way to handle the bully.

    Thanks for the reminder to listen a little more and talk a little less.

  3. I am a Mother — hear me ROARRRRRRR! Yes, you are so right. We need to be there for our children to listen and not judge and to try to remain calm (that’s hard sometimes). I have been through this a few times with Gabe. It’s so hard to know what is going on if they don’t tell you… another reason why I’m so thankful to be at home with them. I’m here enough to know Gabe and be able to see or sense when something is wrong. Prayer is the key.

    I hope you can get things resolved. Don’t back down! Some teachers and principals I’ve encountered don’t take bullying as seriously as they should. I think we need to be there for our kids and stand up and make things better for them. 🙂

  4. Yikes. Sometimes it’s hard not to be fearful. You have an awesome approach. I totally agree.

    When I was writing parenting articles I was just totally using my own philosophy (I didn’t research) and with nearly every one, from how to get kids off the computer to how to discipline unruly tweens to helping kids who are starting to date I ended up talking about how our kids need to know we care about them and what they think and feel. And besides just telling them that they can talk to us about anything, we should show interest in even the “unimportant” things. Building a relationship of trust. Like that they trust that we really know and care about them. Just like you mentioned. It’s um, really nice to have God on our side, too.

  5. Like our child psychologist says, children are wonderful perceivers, but they’re terrible interpreters.

    I believe that building relationships of trust starts with eye contact. Someone once told me that if you find yourself ignoring a child, try focusing on the color of their eyes. It’s my favorite way to dial back in to whatever important thing they’re trying to talk about, or a great way to remind them that you’re ready to listen to whatever frightening thing they need to say.

  6. can i just ask that you never, ever stop writing? you can ignore your blog for a while, but i find such comfort and support in every one of your posts, especially as my husband and i prepare for the arrival of our little girl. i know it’s a tough world out there, and it’s so nice to see other people who are navigating it with the Lord’s help (and with good results for their kids). you are really an inspiration. that might make you feel uncomfortable, but just know that it’s truly meant and truly a blessing to me.

  7. Hooray for the gospel! For it is in the foundation on the Rock of our Salvation that gives me confidence in sending my children out in the world every morning. It isn’t easy to see and hear and know (just a little) of what’s going on out there, but I have not heard any of the brethern speak fear from the pulpit about this rising generation. No, their words are of confidence as we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I am strengthened in the example of Mormon, who, at a young age and for all of his life, lived in and observed “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations . . . ever eince [he had] been sufficient to behold the ways of man.” And even in those circumstances (as they are now), Mormon kept himself worthy, raising up a son to whom we owe gratitude for the preservation of the Book of Mormon!

    I’m grateful to know that as mothers who teach the truth and trust in the Lord – we are are not alone!

  8. Thank you so much. With two children in elementary school, I appreciated you vocalizing your thoughts (which I share!) on the world our children are growing up in. Thank goodness for the gospel.

  9. I don’t know if I have ever commented here before…but I have been coming since the family celebration.

    I totally agree with all of the above. Children are so good at hearing EVERYTHING, and not always good at telling us, or even interpreting it.

    Thank you for the reminder to listen more, pray more, and act on the inspiration recieved. We do homeschool, but it is still so aplicable for my kids. So, thank you.

  10. What an insightful post. I love reading your posts about your older children as it helps arm me for battles sure to be faced in the future. Thank you.

  11. I pray in the shower, too.

    This so taps into the talk for the week, Elder Cook’s. I’m standing on the other side of this, and while my children don’t (yet) know how to call anyone names like the one spat upon Grant, it’s just a matter of time before they’re exposed to stuff like that at school, and I worry that one of my children is going to always be the aggressor. I told him yesterday, after reprimanding him for bullying his brothers, that bullies don’t have friends, just people who are afraid of them. This seemed to have some impact, and I will continue to reinforce, while simultaneously reinforcing his twin’s need to assert himself more, to stand up for himself more, to not shrink and cower. I worry SO MUCH that the boys will perceive this difference in parenting, and that it will impact them adversely, but I cannot do it exactly the same way with these two extremely different boys. Steph, almost every prayer I utter is completely child-specific. I spend so much time praying over individual children that I hardly think about anything else when I’m on my knees. I probably overlook a lot of important issues, but my kids are my biggest worry. Bar none.

  12. I never really thought about it much, but you are absolutely right. The things kids have to deal with now days are so much more than what we had to deal with while growing up. Being a listening ear is so important, and even though my son is only three, I needed to hear this. I need to start listening to him now, so when he does come to these problems, he will already have a strong moral support behind him.

  13. I got the main message of this post, but I just wanted to tell you that you kind of squashed some fears of mine that I was discussing with Dal last night. Your post helped me realise that I really CAN do this parenting thing. I just need to remember to keep Heavenly Father in the equation. Thanks Steph.

  14. I tell you, this parenting job is hard! I battle with the keeping it calm aspect in dealing with one of my teens almost every day.
    And I do think you’re right.

  15. Those are some great things to think about. I especially liked our initial thought on being around to listen. I think also it’s helpful to have all those earlier deposits of love and attention so that your children know they can confide in you their insecurities and anxieties.

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