Name Calling: When to Get Involved as a Parent

From January 18-22, students across the nation were encouraged at school to treat one another with respect, and address each other with only kind words in honor of No Name Calling Week. This is currently one of the largest anti-bullying initiatives moving among the youth in America.


Name Calling: When to Get Involved as a Parent
This beautiful movement is gaining popularity, and supporting the value of virtues such as respect and kindness to teens. However, the issues of name calling and bullying do still exist every week of the year for many teenagers.


As the parent of a teen, it is very important to know when and how to get involved if your teen is being called unkind names at school, or is calling others names.


What is Name Calling and Why Do Teens Call One Another Names?

Not all teasing is malicious. In fact, teens frequently tease one another in friendly manners that demonstrate endearment, closeness, and shared memories.

According to Earlychildhood News, however, name calling is a variation of teasing that children and teens use to assert and test their power and dominance over their peers. The tone and intent of this type of teasing are usually both aimed to hurt, diminish, or overpower another person.

So why do some teens name call, while others do not? The reasons can be varied, but name calling is a typically a patterned behavior that a teen has learned from their parents, siblings, friends, or television.


What Happens if an Adult or Parent Intervenes?

As the parent of a teen who is being hurt by teasing and name calling, it’s very difficult not to immediately intervene and attempt to diffuse and correct the situation on your teen’s behalf. Depending on the situation and the teens involved, it is also hard to determine if your actions will help resolve the conflict or fuel it further.

Common results of parental intervention include:
• The victim of name calling feels weak or powerless by a parent coming to their defense, which ultimately makes them feel worse about themselves.
• The teen doing the name calling loses further respect for the person they’re bullying because they did not stand up for themselves.
• The teen being called names becomes reliant on parental or adult involvement to resolve conflicts or issues with peers.
• The name calling teen will cease their teasing when parents or adults are present, but will continue when they are not present.
• The name calling will stop entirely, and the teens will become, or return to being, friends.

The last result is ideal for everyone involved, and it does happen often times when parents become involved, but only if parents intervene at the right time, in the correct manner.


Guidelines for When to Get Involved

Israel Kalman is a school psychologist who created the program Bullies 2 Buddies, which is designed to help adolescents learn how to resolve conflicts on their own. He asserts that teaching teens to diffuse negative comments will help them become stronger and more resilient in dealing with confrontation and conflicts positively.

If you learn that your teenager is being called names, or is the one calling others names at home or school then you can use these questions to help guide your involvement decision.

Is the teasing fun for both teens?
If both teens seem to be having fun, and are jesting each other in harmless ways, then you probably do not need to intervene unless the situation escalates or the teasing becomes cruel or derogatory.

Is there an underlying problem or argument driving the name calling?
If the name calling or teasing happening appears to be a result of an underlying conflict or issue the teens are having with one another, then it is a good time to involve yourself. Stop the name calling, and ask both teens to speak to you about why they are upset, and guide them in resolving their conflict together based on what you discover.

Do the name calling instances occur repetitively?
If you notice that teasing occurs repeatedly, and that one of the teens involved may be getting upset or hurt by certain names, this is a good time to intervene. Ask the teen being teased if they are okay, and if they indicate they are bothered, then help them firmly tell the other teen to stop.

What does your intuition and judgement say?
Always trust your guiding, parental intuition and judgement when considering when to intervene. If you feel strongly that you need to help resolve the situation, then you are most likely correct.


If your teen is being called names, or has a problem bullying or calling others names at home or school, and you feel the situation has grown beyond your control, always consult a professional counselor or therapist to help you and your teen.

Teen Dating Violence: How to Protect and Support Your Teenager Through Awareness

If your teenager has reached the age where they are beginning to engage in romantic relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends, and go on dates unsupervised, then it is natural as a parent to be both excited by their development and worried for their emotional health. Building a foundation for healthy relationships with others is very important as your teenager ventures into more intimate relationships, and you want your teen to make good choices and stay safe and healthy.

Teen Dating Violence: How to Protect and Support Your Teenager Through Awareness

Unfortunately, many teens are victims of dating violence. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. While this month is an important time reserved to focus on eliminating teen dating violence through understanding and awareness, many teenagers suffer from dating violence all year round.

To best protect your teenager from being a victim of dating violence, you need to be informed, aware, and know what to look for so you can ensure your teen is forming healthy, safe relationships as they begin dating.


What is Teen Dating Violence?

According to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, teen dating violence is defined as “a pattern of behavior that includes physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse used by one person in an intimate relationship to exert power and control over the other.”

Teen Dating Violence generally happens to teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 19 years old, and occurs regardless of factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation.


Statistics of Teen Dating Violence

According to a nationwide survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23 percent of females, and 14 percent of males who had experienced rape or physical violence in a relationship, first experienced some type of intimate abuse between age 11 and 17.

Additionally, the Family & Youth Services Bureau reports that 1.5 million high school aged teenagers experience teen dating violence each year. This is much higher than other types of teen violence, as one in three adolescents experience some type of verbal, physical, or emotional abuse form their teen dating partners.


What to Look for to Protect Your Teenager from Dating Violence

Teenagers may often remain silent if they are being abused by a dating partner, and not share the information with friends or family due to embarrassment or fear. However, there are some warning signs that you can look for that might indicate your teen is experiencing dating violence:

• Loss of interest in school, failing grades, or dropping out of extracurricular activities they once enjoyed
• Anxiety or depression
• Avoiding eye contact and acting secretive
• Constantly thinking or talking about their dating partner
• Sudden crying spells or hysteria for no reason
• Bruises or scratches
• Changes in clothes or makeup
• Avoiding friends, or changing peer groups
• Changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Sudden use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
• Loss of interest in family time


How to Help Your Teen if You Suspect Dating Violence

If you suspect that your teenager is the victim of Teen Dating Violence, then recommends doing these things:

• Give your teenager the opportunity to talk and share openly, and listen quietly until they finish speaking.
• Let your teen know you are there to listen, love, support, and help them- not to judge or blame.
• Try not to speak negatively about the person they are dating, and communicate your concern for their well-being and safety.
• Caution your teen that abuse typically tends to escalate, and even small signs should not be ignored or they might transform into something far worse.

If your teenager refuses to speak to you about an abusive situation, then it is a good idea to seek out help from a professional teen counselor who specializes in helping teens who suffer from teen dating violence. They can help you speak to your teen, and help your son or daughter get out of a bad situation before it turns into something worse, or creates a pattern of unhealthy, abusive relationships into adulthood.

Why Does My Teenager Hate Me?

“I hate you!”
Just about every parent of a teenager has heard those dreaded words come from the mouth of their child. For some parents hearing those words can send them into utter turmoil, causing a battle within their souls that could undo even the strongest of warriors. None of us want our children to hate us.

Why Does My Teenager Hate Me?
The teenage years can be wrought with anger, emotional, hurtful outbursts, and difficult times for teens and parents alike. In these times of strife with your child, it is very easy to become discouraged and lose your patience and waver in your faith. However, by better understanding how the teenage brain grows and changes and where the “hate” or anger truly stems from, you can better understand your teen and the role you play as a parent and spiritual role model in their lives.


Physiological Reasons for Anger in Teenagers

In the teenage period between childhood and adulthood, there is a lot happening inside the bodies of teens. They have changing hormones, and emerging independence driving many changes in how they perceive the world around them as they grow and change.

Additionally, research published by PBS Frontline demonstrated that the teenage brain is physically unique from that of an adult, and functions much differently. In this study at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, researchers used a functional MRI (fMRI) to compare the brains of 18 teens ranging in age from 10-18 with images from the brains of 16 adults. During the experiment, both groups were shown pictures of human faces and asked to identify what emotion the face portrayed. The adults were able to correctly identify the emotion of fear, whereas the teenagers recognized the same emotion as “shocked, surprised, or angry.”

By examining the MRI images captured while being shown the photos, it was revealed that teens process emotion in the amygdala of their brain, while adults used the reasoning and governing frontal cortex. These results showed that teens process emotions and feelings with the more impulsive region of their brain, making them physiologically prone to misunderstanding of emotions and more intense, anger based reactions.

In the book The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults authors Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt wrote about a study on teenage brain activity conducted by the National Institutes of Health. In this study, researchers used the fMRI to examine the connectivity of brain regions. They found that connectivity within the brain moves from back to frontal lobes, where reasoning takes place. The brains of young adults are only 80 percent developed, so researchers concluded this gap in development was a very likely cause for the irrational and erratic mood swings and emotions expressed by teenagers.


Parental Modeling: The Impact of Your Behavior

In helping your teenager and your family cope with teenage anger, Focus on the Family recommends that you look into yourself and your soul, and search for ways to improve or change your own behavior as a spiritual role model and parent in the following ways:

Ask yourself what behaviors you’ve been modeling for your child, and take a personal inventory
While the teenage brain may process emotions differently than the adult brain, behaviors can also stem from what they are observing and witnessing from their parents communication methods and patterns. If heated argument or anger has been part of how you work through issues with your teen, then taking a calmer, collaborative approach may help you get through to your child more effectively. Have patience if this is a behavioral change for you, because it is a change for your teen also and it may take them a while to adjust and mirror you.

Show tough love if necessary
If leading by example with kindness and patience does not begin to change your teen’s behavior, then you may need to implement stronger measures of change through tough love. By firmly showing your teen that anger, emotional outbursts, rage, or cruelty are unacceptable in your family you can establish rules and boundaries they understand will be enforced if broken.


Root Causes of Anger

Anger, at any age, is often a mistaken as an emotion when truly it is a reaction caused by trying to process and deal with another strong emotion.

Anger has its roots in more complex emotions lingering from pains experienced in the past, such as:
• Rejection
• Reaction to unchangeable life circumstances
• Grief caused by favoritism
• Unresolved feelings about false accusations

Anger can also be present when there are attitudes left unexplored or resolved including:
• Pride and selfishness
• Enviousness
• Taking offense
• Mismanaged expectations

By understanding what is at the root of your teen’s anger or resentment, you can help them achieve peace and harmony through identifying what is driving their behavior, and helping them deal with it from the root up.


Could Your Teen be Depressed or have a Mood Disorder?

If your teen exhibits angry behavior for a sustained and lengthy period of time despite your efforts to help them, coupled with changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or moods, it is a possibility they could be suffering from depression or other mood disorders.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2013 over two million teens aged 12-17 experienced at least one major episode of depression during the year, which was over 10 percent of the overall population in that age range at the time. If you feel your teen might be suffering from a mental or mood disorder contributing to their angry behavior, then you should consult a therapist specializing in adolescents.


How Should You Act in the Face of Your Teen’s Anger?

Understanding that your teen’s brain functions differently, and that there may be a root issue instigating their anger can certainly help you get through to them more effectively. However, with the level of emotions involved, it’s likely overwhelming knowing where to begin, and just how to act when your teen has an inappropriate outburst.

We advise avoiding doing these things when faced with a difficult and angry teenager:
1. Resist the urge to say hurtful things in return
2. Do not yell or raise your voice
3. Do not issue punishment or make big decisions
4. Do no use the words “You can’t, you should or I told you.”

Instead use these tactics to keep control of the situation:
1. Remain collected and calm
2. Listen to what your teenager has to say, and acknowledge hearing them
3. Pay special attention to your nonverbal communication
4. If you are having a hard time staying calm, simply say that you need to take a “time out” and walk away

If your teen is struggling with anger issues, it does not mean that they hate you. They might be having trouble reasoning emotions, or could be dealing with underlying, unresolved issues or depression. Your love, guidance, patience and time will help show your teenager they are safe and loved, and help them get through the hard time they’re experiencing.


If you feel like your teenager is suffering from depression or a mood disorder, it is recommended to consult a specialist to help you and your family find the way back to peace and happiness.