Sunday, September 27, 2015

Standing by and not standing up

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

We talked about bullying a lot in school for the last few years. I read about a girl, Felicia, who jumped in front of a train last year and killed herself.

She slept with four guys on the football team at a party. Then she said she was bullied. The newspapers said it was consensual sex. If it was consensual, how is that bullying?

Why didn’t she just not get high or drunk or whatever and not have sex with four guys?

I mean I feel bad for her cause she killed herself, but then I don’t feel bad because she had sex with four guys. Who does that?

She had a “RIP Felicia” tattoo on her arm. So was she just bad?


Dear Confused,

It’s easy to be confused when someone commits suicide. It’s a final ending of a precious life.

You may be blessed with loving friends and family. You may have never been in a bullying or abusive situation. You may have true confidence and a good sense of self-worth. If you are that blessed, it means you have an opportunity and a responsibility to be a good leader. What does that mean?

It means, next time, you must stand up for someone like Felicia and not stand by. Felicia told authorities and others that she was continually sexually harassed and gang raped by a few boys.

That fact alone tells us that the “tough girl” was feeling vulnerable and wanted help. Apparently those boys felt no dishonor in what they did. Instead, they demonstrated their supposed superiority by publicly, horrifically and continually shaming her.

It’s also easy to be confused when newspapers report that Felicia’s sex was consensual. They usually report the facts as supplied by the authorities. Prosecutors may not have been able to prove rape in a court of law, but consensual sex was not proven either.

Pseudo-confident people may cover up their pain with symbols like tattoos. Our guess is Felicia inked “RIP Felicia” because you couldn’t see her losses, her sense of not belonging, or her deep feelings – so deep that she couldn’t cry except in the days before her suicide.

Felicia may have become vulnerable when she was younger and her parents died. She evidently had trauma from losing them and also when she was placed with her aunt. We don’t know if that trauma compelled her to run away from her aunt over and over. However, we do know Felicia was put into several foster care homes. Felicia may have felt she didn’t belong.

Your ability to ponder how Felicia’s depression (mental illness) could have contributed to her emotional pain can increase your ability to have empathy.

Remember you are a child of God and so is Felicia. She is loved by God, too. There’s no confusion about having the courage to help others stand up and be counted.

Felicia was cruelly objectified when all she really wanted was to be loved. That’s a righteous desire. Love and our relationships matter the most in life forever.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri       

Monday, September 21, 2015

Can A 9-Year Old Be a Sociopath or Psychopath?

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
We are the parents of a nine-year-old boy, Mark (not real name) who has a sweet little sister, Jane (not real name). Jane is 7. Mark seems to have no-zero-nada concern, care or any emotions and he especially doesn’t have empathy for Jane.

We have rewarded Mark for his good behavior and punishment like Time-Out when he disobeys. He used to say in a calm, relaxed, and eerie manner, that he didn’t care if he got a reward or did nothing about being upset in Time-Out. Mark would refuse to apologize to Jane when we asked him, “Wouldn’t you like to say you are sorry to Jane” and he would stare at me and say nothing. 

So we had his dad ask the same thing. However, Mark would answer in a cheery tone, “nope”. So we started telling him he would not return to his regular activities until he apologized. But he would not apologize and sometimes say directly to us, “I hate Jane.”

Now we know he will do anything to get his way and pretend to be nice to Jane. Jane told us that he said he was “sooooooo sorry” in front of us but told her privately that she deserved nothing and he will not talk or play with her unless he has to do it.

Mark is very coldhearted to all of us until he wants something and then he apologizes and will even cry about his sadness about hurting Jane. But he will turn on a dime and be exceedingly rude, brutal and just recently held up Jane’s doll and choked it. Jane was so upset she flew into hysteria and we couldn’t calm her down.

We try very hard to be affectionate but firm. What’s going on?

Parents of a “Coldhearted”Son

Dear Mark’s Parents,

You have managed to be patient, caring and good at parenting! We hear that you fear your son is callous, unemotional, and not capable of remorse at this time. As he is growing and his brain is still developing the situation can be complicated.

His ability to mimic emotions and “fool” you (and probably everyone else in his life) that he needs to give him what he wants, is profound and dangerous … especially for Jane. Do NOT let him be with alone with her. She needs security and protection. That has to come first.

You may have already taken him to a therapist or psychiatrist, but all of you must go now. They may be able to tell you if they think family therapy can help. However, if he pretends so well, even trained experts may not be able to assist. He must not be alone with other children.

What Mark is willing to do or capable of needs to be assessed. He might be able to learn, at least, to identify genuine emotions and that may save him from potential severe behaviors, like violence leading to jail.

Jane needs opportunities to learn to be a strong leader and have therapy to move away from being a victim and learn how to define herself with worthiness.

Please let us know how you are all doing. We care about you and your precious family.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri       

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mentors and mentees

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,                                           

I think it’s great what you are doing but kids at my school and teachers and principals aren’t really interested anymore about bullying. It’s like it happens to everyone and so what?

I have been bullied since I was like in 6th grade. It was like everyday because I got braces. Well, everyone had braces but I was the one that these girls who were popular thought it was funny to make faces at me, poke me all the time, and laugh.

It was worse in the seventh grade when, I guess, the same girls posted pictures of me with me smiling and my braces showing. So I started getting sick all the time and didn’t go to school very much so I got bad grades. I also tried drinking and smoking pot. But it was dank.

When I told my parents, they told me to “straighten up my act and then you won’t be bullied.” I told my teacher one day because I was crying out in the hall and having anxiety so bad that I thought I was going to die. My teacher was really nice and she said she would watch out for me but she couldn’t really do that.

So I gave up and then this girl that was sort-of the only friend I had from church said she noticed I was bullied and why didn’t I stand up for myself. I didn’t answer. So she started standing up for me in high school and now she’s my friend.

I wanted to tell you that because I look up to her like a Mentor. Thanks.

Just a Mentee

Dear Mentee,

What a brilliant solution to help you not be a victim anymore! You really overcame big challenges without becoming an addict, a self-harmer, or committing suicide. These are all things that happen quite often to those that are bullied like you were.

In fact 28 percent of students ages12-18 are bullied badly enough to stop 160,000 students from attending school each year. This is reflected in reports by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

You were blamed for being bullied when adults needed to let you know that it isn’t your fault. You didn’t deserve to be bullied, humiliated, ostracized, and shamed. You are of great worth in the eyes of God.

Your new friend became your Mentor and you allowed yourself to become the Mentee. She stood up for you instead of standing by.

As you continue to heal, you and your friend could start a Mentor-Mentoring program at your school by:

• Having your program authorized and supported by teachers, parents and administrators.
• Holding monthly meetings with volunteers, preferably those who have gone from being a victim-survivor-leader … our foundation’s Triangle-of-Triumph™.
• Creating an active mission to let students know they matter, they belong, and they are valued.
• Letting bullied students know that bullying is unfortunate but it can be stopped.
• Helping the Mentees know their voice counts and they can’t ignore bullying and expect it to stop on its own.

Helping other victims find hope and worth will cause you to become a strong, compassionate, and giving Servant Leader.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Permissive Parents

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,                                           

My granddaughter is a spoiled brat. She tells her mother—my daughter-in-law—what to do, how, when, and where to do it— everything from what she wants for dinner to what time she will go to bed.

I don’t get this. I had rules and if my son didn’t follow the rules, he had consequences.

I was very good to my son, however, I didn’t let him talk back to me or tell me what he was eating for dinner and then order me to make it for him. When he was young, he had a star chart and was rewarded for following a schedule and our home’s rules. When he had so many stars, he got something special. If he volunteered to do something, he received praise and only sometimes … an extra reward.

I don’t understand why he lets this go on. He says its better this way and he respects how his wife is almost like a friend to their daughter!

I love my daughter-in-law, but she coddles her daughter way too much, takes her shopping, out to eat and to spas all the time. She doesn’t make her wear clothes that are appropriate for her age.

Lately, my granddaughter has started trying to manipulate me the way she does her parents. Now she doesn’t want to come over because I am “mean and boring.”

What did I do? How do I handle her without wanting to hang her upside down by her toes?

Grandma’s Not Spoiling Granddaughter

Dear Grandma,

You sound like you are an amazing mom who did a fantastic job of raising her son to be a self-regulated and responsible young man. You set boundaries for yourself and as an example for your son. You are no doubt a strong willed person. We need more loving leaders as parents and fewer “friends-with-your-kids-parents.”

Your daughter-in-law has good intentions, however, she may not realize she is creating a narcissistic daughter who may bully, manipulate, and damage herself and others with this self-centered behavior.

How you approach your granddaughter is really important. She needs you to have rules but not your anger. She is confused and doesn’t understand something she hasn’t been taught. Try to be patient but in your best neutral way, say no and don’t accept her disrespect.

Here are the top five damaging results we’ve seen from permissive parenting:

• Difficulty in self-management and self-discipline which causes low self-worth masking pseudo-confidence
• Letting her always get her way leads to future disappointing relationships when she doesn’t get her way
• Instant wish fulfillment but not long term satisfaction that comes from hard work, ethics, manners and healthy relationships
• Thinking of herself in the same role as her parents and non-acceptance of authority
• Parents make constant compromises on important issues such as education which hampers the girl’s life opportunities

Your granddaughter is need of structure and limits. For all of your sakes, speak up in a kind manner to your son and his wife first.

We applaud your concern for civility!

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri