Posted by: coachingparents | March 27, 2009

A Tween’s Struggle to Remain Authentic

“You can’t go around being what everyone wants you to be, living your life through other people’s rules, and expect to be happy and have inner peace.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer


I remember what it was like to struggle as an intuitive young person.   In an excerpt from Raising Intuitive Children, a book Dr. Goode and I co-authored, I recall an example of how as an intuitive person, I was viewed by my peers and what the world around me felt like.


“As an intuitive high school student, I always felt different from the other kids I went to school with. I was disappointed when I sensed a student being fake or inauthentic. I had an uncanny way of knowing when other students were gossiping or being cruel to myself or others. I quickly learned I wasn’t able to conform to one of the “cliques,” which often left me feeling like an outcast. I became an easy target for being picked on because I didn’t have the ability to change my personality. High school was an emotionally challenging time for my intuitive style.


“I also recall a time when girlfriends of mine were cruel to me. I remember being the target of a Halloween prank during my junior year of high school; when several girls decided it would be funny to egg me in the face at point blank range. What hurt most was that the one I thought was one of my best friend’s was part of the cruelty. Is this what having friends is like?”


Such incidences of bullying are common for intuitive and sensitive children and teens, even adults. The truth is we can only be authentic and true to our nature, because that’s all an intuitive child knows how to be; cruelty is a learned behavior.


My oldest son began middle school this year and has had similar struggles maintaining his authentic self.  Recently, we’ve had a few incidents in which he has flexed his muscles of being a tween aged boy.  He’s gotten in trouble for saying some things we have deemed inappropriate in our house and was caught texting in school.  Nothing major and certainly nothing we have been overly concerned about.


In a two week period however, I received several calls from his teachers about assignments he wasn’t turning in and his talkativeness during class.  The frequency of the calls (4 in 2 weeks) began to concern me so I sat down to connect with him and get to the bottom of what was going on.  Fortunately, this child is communicative and has an easy time expressing his feelings.  In this instance, it took a little more prodding, but what I uncovered was how he was feeling around some of the kids in school.


There had been a few times prior to this where he had shared the behaviors of some of the kids and at times how he was the target of their comments.  In this situation, he had been a witness to some of the cruelty directed toward other kids and not wanting to be the recipient, he had kept quiet.  A text book example of feeling like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place.  I could relate to how he was feeling; when you can intuit things about the other kids you want to stay off of their radar, because you inevitably feel like you are next on the list for being attacked. 


To sit across from this normally confident child and see his feelings pour out over the cruelty he was witnessing was heartbreaking.  Knowing he didn’t approve, but couldn’t intervene was obviously going against his authentic nature and showing up by his falling behind in his school work.  I discussed this with a few close friends to get their opinions about ways to guide him with how to handle this situation.  For me, it was hitting too close to home to be impartial to his experience. 


Their suggestions were informative and helpful.  The first suggestion was for him to create his role in this dynamic. 

  • How could he avoid condoning their behaviors without becoming the target?  
  • What would give him the confidence he needed to be authentic and how would that look to him?

 My close friend shared a story about her own daughter’s experience with needing to fit in with the group, but not wanting to drink alcohol.  They identified a role for her that enabled her to be a part of the group, but not pressured to do what the other kids were doing.  She became the designated driver to avoid the pressure to drink. 


The second suggestion I received was to encourage my son to stay out of the drama.  Encourage him to vocalize his objection- “I don’t do drama,” or “I don’t get into drama like this.”  Words he could use that would empower him to feel confident enough to rise above the cruelty without the fear of becoming the next target. In this instance, he is viewed as the neutral party by everyone involved. 


It’s no laughing matter, but the kid who remains neutral could be the one who throws a lifeline to the one’s being picked on.  As parents, we hate to see any child being hurt and we especially don’t like to see our own children crumble under the pressure of their peers when it comes to standing up for another, but the backlash kids face today is often much worse than the feeling of being the hero.


So here’s what kids are facing in school with their peers, what about outside of school? In my next post I will share how what kids are facing outside of school could be having as great of an impact on their self-esteem and ability to be authentic to themselves.


© 2009 by Tara Paterson ACPI Certified Coach For Parents, All Right Reserved



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