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Trolling for Feedback

If you do nothing else today, let your kid know that something creative they did was awesome. And don’t just say it, show it. Be expressive and genuinely impressed with what they’ve done. Don’t critique it. Don’t offer how it could be better. Just let them know that their effort to try something new or take a creative risk was incredible. Because the very fact that they had the courage to share their work was indeed quite amazing.

For those who haven’t yet caught up, your children are able to put themselves out their for all the world to see more easily than ever in the history of kid-dom. They may write a poem, sing a song, do a back flip, dye their hair or share their opinion on Taylor Swift’s new album. They then have the ability to share this with the world with the simple click of a button; opening themselves up to every troll on the internet who is sitting at home in their underwear looking for things and people to make fun of.

I’m not even going to get into the ill-advised photo that goes viral. Or a video someone takes of someone else doing something stupid and then posts without the person’s knowledge. That’s an entirely different subject. No, I’m talking about kids innocently utilizing social media for Internet-Trollfeedback, and expecting or at least hoping for something positive or at the very least constructive.

All too often what they get instead is a comment from some idiot, hiding behind a fake profile, poking fun at people who have the guts to actually put themselves out there. All it takes is one negative comment on a new video post or instagram photo to induce extreme embarrassment and cause a kid to recoil into an insecure ball of shame curled up in the closet.

If you haven’t already done so, first talk to your kids about the fact that once they post something, it’s there for ALL the world to see, so make sure it’s something they genuinely feel good about. I made my stand up comedy debut in front of about fifty people and still wake up with cold sweats over over how bad it was. I can’t imagine what it would be like if it had happened in front of 100,000,000 people (and trust me I keep waiting for the tape of it to emerge on YouTube). But that’s the potential the internet provides. Mind you, chances are your kid’s video is going to max out at 45 hits, especially if it’s something innocent and unassuming. But they need to remember that when you post something on-line, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable and somewhere down the road you’re going to get a dislike or negative comment. As adults we get it (though it still sucks), but to a young kid who expects everyone to love what they do it can be a hard lesson.

So be your kid’s first “like.” Let your kid know that they’re amazing and what they do is amazing. Let them know that not everyone is going to like what they do. And that it doesn’t matter. They need to keep searching for the audience who gets them and loves what they do. Teach them to be able to brush aside the negativity, accept any and all criticism, acknowledge when they may need to take some of it to heart and adjust, but to NEVER let it stop them from moving forward. The truth is you can post just about anything and get both good and bad responses. And isn’t that the truth every day?

We can curse the internet and the volume of things our children are now exposed to, or we can embrace it and take every opportunity to use it as a life lesson for our kids. But it takes effort. It takes monitoring. It takes observing. It takes listening, watching, talking, discussing and caring. It’s going to take your time, but what better way to spend your time than learning about your kids and teaching them the realities of the world, people and the very society they’re so eager to interact with. What better way to teach them to deal with adversity, and develop a thick skin. Two attributes that will do them well in a world filled with so many unassuming trolls.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Too Young To Date?

Sing it with me, “She is 13 going on 29.” Honestly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be an eleven-year-old in today’s society. The peer expectations and influences are mind blowing. The idea of dating has actually come up in our households. It’s also coming up in our daughter’s friends households and I’m sure there are different opinions in every home if not more than one. Couple that with the fact that our kids are inundated with messages on television and on-line that are down right scary; and you’ve got quite a challenge. As parents it can be difficult to stick to your guns on the topic. So I started putting some thoughts on paper and came up with 10 tips that may (or may not) help.

1. You know as well as anyone that our kids are great at making it sound like everyone else’s parents are “OK with it.” Well, trust me, they’re not. Just call and ask them. They’re likely in the same boat as you are. A goodyes relationship with your kid’s friends’ parents is golden. Support each other as much as you can. Or if nothing else, let them know the rules in YOUR house so that they’re aware because I guarantee you your daughter’s friend has said “Her dad said it’s OK.”

2. It’s OK to make your ten-year-old delete their “Vine” and “SnapChat” apps. I’m sorry, but they’re not appropriate for a nine or eleven-year-old. I don’t care who else has them. Some of the videos and images shared on these platforms are down right offensive. And I can’t think of any reason a ten-year-old would need to ensure an image is gone after a few minutes. Why go there?

3. I’m a firm believer that every kid, as much as they argue and battle, like knowing that you’re all up in their “stuff” when it comes to their personal lives. That doesn’t mean you have to be hateful about it. Just a part of it. They want to know you care enough to stick your nose in their business. I also believe whole hardily that they need and “want” us to help them say no, because on their own they feel pressured and overwhelmed. Knowing they can use us as an excuse to say no is not a bad thing. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to be mean or a jerk about it. Just subtly let them know you’re watching and involved.

4. Trust your gut, but be open to giving a little. It’s important for your eleven-year-old to learn how to interact with the opposite sex appropriately. If we can encourage boy/girl friendships and give them opportunities to learn to respect and appreciate each other as more than just the opposite sex at an early age I think it’s a win / win. Because in a couple of years their bodies and hormones are going to take over and they’re not going to be thinking straight.

5. Now more than ever you need to put aside your differences and work out a mutually agreed upon plan of
action with your ex in terms of how you’re going to approach dating and your pre-teen. If your kid knows their mom and dad are unified and that both are going to be communicating and sharing, it’s a huge coup. the-delicates-too-young-to-date-londonConversely, if they feel left to themselves to figure it out or learn that they can play mom and dad against each other, I can’t imagine it working out well.

6. It’s going to mean giving up your free time and off-nights, but be open to being there as a parental chaperone for group get togethers perhaps even along with your ex. It’ll drive your daughter crazy but as a dad (and mom), this is a great compromise; “Sure, you can go as a group to the movie, as long as I’m there too.” And if you go, don’t make a big deal about it or be an ass. Just be there.

7. Listen. Just listen. Don’t wait until it’s a big discussion or argument. Make a point of opening the floor to your kids at an early age over tea before bedtime, or at the dinner table. And just listen. You’ll be surprised at what they’re willing to share once they get rolling.

8. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t believe for a second that if you ignore it it’ll go away. Your kids are being exposed to things we didn’t see until we were much older. And I’m sorry, but you can’t protect them from what their friends are sharing and talking about. Don’t think for a second that just because you’re not talking about it that they’re not aware of it. And if you stick your heals (and head) in the sand and wait until they’re sixteen to talk about it, brother you’re going to be in for a big surprise.

9. Educate yourself. Do your best to keep up with the latest apps and what kids are talking about. Your kids find things on-line. So can you. Learn what’s influencing them. Don’t just send them off into the world without fully understanding to the best of your ability what they (and you) are up against.

10. Baby steps work best. So start now. Don’t wait until she (or he) is fifteen.

Remember, the underlying tone here is, this shouldn’t be about sex. This should be about learning how to be social on expanded fronts. That said, as a dad I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start talking to your daughter about how stupid boys get when they’re thirteen and around girls and why they get stupid. Give your daughter some perspective and teach her that she too should have as much control over a situation as anyone. It’s good to be trusting, but in some situations having your guard up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And please, PLEASE, teach your sons to respect girls. Don’t let them be stupid or ignorant just because they’re boys. That’s not an excuse. Educate them. It’s your job. Above all, don’t be stupid yourself believing that your boys and girls are perfect angels. Because they’re not. No matter how smart or good they are, they’re still going to be dealing with hormones, peer pressure and ignorance. Don’t be afraid to be the adult. And remember, every kid has a different capacity for understanding. You should know best what your child can handle.

This is a touchy subject I know. And everyone has their own opinions of what’s appropriate at what ages. But I think the more open we can be about it and the more we can stand up as parents and guide our children appropriately starting at an early age, the more chance we have of getting our kids into adulthood with an appreciation for each other. Lord knows the internet can at times send the wrong messages. We need to be there to help them decipher those messages and understand self control, boundaries and rules can be a good thing.

Good luck! We’re rootin’ for you!

 

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