Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Compassionate Parenting

It may seem like compassion and mindful awareness have become trendy buzzwords lately with all the attention from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and others. Please don't let that stop you from learning more about these important topics, especially in relation to being the best parent you can be. I've found so many helpful resources online and have selected a few of my favorites to get you started. Enjoy!

The Power of Words to Teach Compassion to Your Children
by Jim Taylor, Ph.D., PsychologyToday.com
"We live in a world where compassion seems to be in short supply. Children are bullied and cyber bullied. Homeless people are beaten. The poor are blamed for their plight. You as parents can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Your words can convey callousness and indifference. Or your words can communicate caring and warmth. You can use words to help your children to appreciate and instill the value of compassion in their minds and lives. One way to use words is to develop catchphrases that capture the meaning of compassion in a compelling and memorable way.

The catchphrase that we use to encourage compassion in our daughters (ages nine and almost seven) is “sharing is caring.”" Read the entire article>>

Opening the Heart of a Child: Cultivating Compassion in Children and Teens
by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., PsychologyToday.com
"One wonders how could anyone be so cold-hearted, so without compassion, that they have no awareness of, or care about, how their actions effect others. The fact that 13 million children are affected by bullying in the U.S. each year is staggering and points to a desperate need to develop the skills of compassion...

In my experience, when kids appear cold-hearted, when they seem to not care about the suffering of others, and sometimes even inflict that suffering, they are often detached from feeling – for themselves as well as others. It’s as if their hearts are closed. So connecting with, and opening the heart is key and crucial in cultivation of both self-compassion and compassion for others." Read the entire article>>

Compassion - Outstanding - Making People happy - Adopt a friend - Sharing - Smile as you go - I always help - Others - No one left alone

Self-Compassionate Parents, Happier Teens
By Emily Nauman, GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu
"Researchers at Radboud University collected data from 901 Dutch families,  using questionnaires to measure adolescents’ depression and anxiety, as well as parents’ well-being and approach to parenting.

The results, published in the Journal of Child Family Studies, replicate past research suggesting that mindful parenting is associated with better well-being in parents. Mindful parenting involves integrating the principles of mindfulness into parenting: listening to the child with full attention, being emotionally aware of and non-judgmentally accepting of the self and the child’s feelings, and not being overly reactive to stressful situations." Read the entire article>>

An Exercise in Self-Compassionate Parenting
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral.com
"When their kids have an outburst, many parents give them a “time-out.” Neff, however, suggests giving your kids a “time-in.” In her book she includes a helpful exercise based on Coleman’s MAP [Mindful Awareness Parenting] protocol. It aims to help your child process “big feelings,” such as a tantrum or crying.

When kids misbehave, sometimes it’s because they’re seeking support and connection, Neff explains. This exercise helps you connect to your child and teaches them to express their emotions healthfully.

According to Neff, this exercise “allows your child’s feelings to ‘be felt’ and accepted. It shows your child that you are willing to help him and that your love means you will be welcoming and accepting of his emotions – even difficult ones.” Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Books that Teach Kids Compassion

Lately it has become clear that helping children be kind to each other is one of many effective anti-bullying technique. Looking for ways to talk about compassion and kindness with your child? Reading a good book together is often an easy and fun way to start the conversation with specific examples.

Chapter Books (ages 8-12)
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody, unable to speak or move any part of her body except for her thumb, is determined to make everyone understand that she is so much more than her physical challenges from cerebral palsy.

Arlene on the Scene by Carol Liu
Arlene is a feisty nine-year-old girl who doesn't let anything-- including the physical challenges of having CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)--stop her from working towards her dreams.

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Twelve-year-old Catherine struggles with the challenges of having a special needs brother. She's sometimes embarrassed by his behavior and tries to protect him by helping him fit in using specific rules.

Picture Books (ages 3-8)
Horace and Morris but Mostly Delores by James Howe
These three best friends decide to create their own inclusive clubhouse for both boys and girls after discovering that separate clubhouses are no fun for any of them. An excellent book about inclusion.

Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Despite the teacher's attempt to introduce the students to flavors from around the world, everyone makes fun of Yoko's sushi lunch and no one will try it. A great book about not judging something you don't understand.

Arnie and the New Kid by Nancy Carlson
Philip, the new kid, is in a wheelchair and, for some reason, Arnie cannot resist teasing him. Then Arnie falls and decides that being in a wheelchair would be much better than having to walk on crutches.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Reading Harry Potter Increases Empathy

Recent studies have shown that reading fiction makes you more empathetic and compassionate. Are your kids (or you) fans of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling? Whether or not you like Harry Potter, it's nice to know that one of the most popular book series for kids in recent decades can show us so much about compassion, bullying, and the power of choices.

Bullying vs. Compassion:
Psychology Lessons from Harry Potter

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” - Professor Dumbledore
by Dr. Janina Scarlet, TheMarySue.com

(photo by Elia ©2007 via Flickr.com)
"Harry Potter, “the boy who lived,” is one of the most famous and influential fictional series, alongside classics like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. What’s especially striking about the Potter series is how accurately author J. K. Rowling illustrates the terrible struggles many of us face; among them, bullying and prejudice, which are arguably the main themes of the series...

Throughout the series, we find numerous examples of bullying, including the Dursleys, the Malfoys, Snape, Umbridge, and Voldemort. All go to different lengths and all have different origins, yet there is one thing they all have in common: the “Us vs. Them” attitude, which is referred to as in-group bias. In-group bias refers to favoring one’s own group and regarding it as superior and displaying aggression or prejudice toward the other group, which is seen as inferior. Having biases against other groups is related to self-esteem, where demonstrating the superiority of one’s group over another can lead to temporary increases in self-esteem. We see examples of this, specifically in trying to put down other group members, in all the bullies listed here. Reliance on putting down others in order to make oneself feel superior, however, is a dangerous game. It potentially sets those playing it up for failure, as self-esteem — when defined this way — is highly unstable, and can lead to major disappointment, depression, and violence...

While the series demonstrates different kinds of bullying, prejudice, and abuse, it serves a very important function: it makes us more compassionate. Compassion is defined as recognizing the suffering of another, being able to put oneself in “another person’s shoes” (empathy), and to want to help this person (or non-human animal)...

There have been several studies that demonstrate how reading the Harry Potter series reduces prejudice and increases empathy in the readers...The results of the study found that the children in the experimental group showed significantly less prejudice after the intervention compared to the children in the control group. These results suggest that these books increase empathy and promote acceptance of diversity. To further support this point, another study found that reading emotionally driven passages from Harry Potter increases the brain’s empathy response. Taken together, these studies suggest that learning about the suffering of another, connecting with another person, or even fictional characters, can help increase perspective taking, empathy, and compassion."

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Self-Compassion: Being Your Own Best Friend

When talking of compassion and kindness, we often focus on how we behave towards strangers and family/friends. But, a large part of being compassionate towards others is knowing how to be kind to yourself. Self-compassion can boost your physical and emotional health, help you during setbacks and motivate you to reach your goals as well as strengthen your relationships. Here are a few resources to get you started on understanding the importance of self-compassion:

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas of Austin and the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
Watch the TedTalk video>>

5 Science-Backed Reasons It's Important To Love Yourself
by Lindsay Holmes, HuffingtonPost.com
"When it comes to close relationships, by now we've probably got this whole "best friend" thing down pat. We give them a confidence boost when they don't feel their best. We're supportive of them when they fail at something. We encourage them when they're unsure of taking on new challenges. We're an all-around uplifting influence in their lives.

These positive behaviors toward our friends are probably as natural as breathing. So why is it so hard to do this for ourselves?

We rarely give ourselves the credit we deserve -- despite the fact that a plethora of research shows that if we treat ourselves with the same kindness we use on others, we'd live healthier and happier lives. Isn't it about time we turn that around?"
Read the entire article>>

(photo by Kiran Foster ©2012 via Flickr.com)

5 Strategies for Self-Compassion
by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral.com
"It’s interesting that in other areas of our lives we understand that being harsh doesn’t work. Take the example of parenting. Decades ago, we thought that harsh punishment and criticism were effective in keeping kids in line and helping them do well, Neff said.

However, today, we know that being a supportive and encouraging parent is more beneficial. (When you’re told you’re a failure, the last thing you think you’re capable of is succeeding, or even trying.)

Self-compassion acts like a nurturing parent, she said. So even when you don’t do well, you’re still supportive and accepting of yourself. Like a kind parent, your support and love are unconditional, and you realize that it’s perfectly OK to be imperfect.

This doesn’t mean being complacent. Self-criticism tears us down; it presumes that “I am bad.” Self-compassion, however, focuses on changing the behavior that’s making you unhealthy or unhappy, Neff said."
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What to Do When You're the Family Scapegoat

12 Steps to Breaking Free from Being the Family Scapegoat
by Glynis Sherwood

  • Did you grow up having doubts about your self esteem or personal worth?  
  • When things went wrong in your family, did you tend to be the fall guy?  
  • Do you find yourself encountering recurring disrespect from friends or colleagues?  
  • Do you feel unsure of yourself and/or have difficulty experiencing trust in relationships?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these statements, you may have been scapegoated by your family. The term 'scapegoat' refers to a family member who takes the blame for difficulties in the family. Scapegoating is a form of bullying.  Family relationships profoundly impact our identity and how we view ourselves.

How to Tell if You Have Been Scapegoated:
You are held responsible for family problems, conflicts or challenges, even if they have nothing to do with you.  Other people blame you for their actions.  You may end up feeling a lot of shame for being ‘the bad guy’, and/or anger for being blamed for negative family dynamics.

You are attacked and disbelieved if you tell the truth and ‘blow the whistle’ on negative and/or inappropriate family dynamics.

There has been a history of one or more family members being verbally, emotionally or physically abusive towards you.  Other family members seem to accept or look the other way when you are bullied or aggressed against like this.  You may feel like the ‘black sheep’ of the family.

About the Author: Glynis Sherwood - MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, specializes in recovery from Scapegoating/Bullying, Low Self Esteem, Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Addictive Behaviors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Sibling: My Lifelong Rival or My Lifelong Friend?

Our relationships with our siblings change over time...sometimes rivals, sometimes friends...sometimes something in-between. Recent research has shown that sibling relationships have the potential to be the most powerful and long-lasting relationships of our lives...if we can see past the jealousy and resentment to the wonderful possibilities that exist. I've always been fascinated by sibling relationships and I've gathered together some interesting articles that include advice, suggestions and tips for handling these important relationships.

Holidays With Family: Repairing Sibling Relations
Unlike with Vegas, What Happens in Childhood does not stay in Childhood
by Avidan Milevsky, Ph.D.
Adult siblings are not immune from similar dynamics that plague childhood sibling interactions. At the core, adult sibling disputes are a manifestation of unresolved childhood feelings. For example, sibling rivalry or jealously concerning achievement or success is often the underlying emotion in both childhood and adult sibling interactions. Parental favoritism is also often a salient feeling that exists in adults that can trigger harsh reactions between siblings. Although we may not say it out of our mouths for fear of sounding childish but if we are honest with ourselves we would admit that we often think “it’s not fair that you have that cool job and I don’t” or “why do you get such an awesome boyfriend and I don’t” or “why are your children so well behaved and mine are at not?” or “mom is making such a big deal about your new job, she always liked you better.” Read the entire article>>

Healthy Sibling Relationships: Your sibling is an important person in your life.
by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C.
Did you know that research has shown that healthy sibling relationships can significantly benefit us later in life? Those with positive sibling relationships report higher life satisfaction and lower rates of depression later in life. Also in times of illness and traumatic events, siblings provide emotional, social, and psychological support to each other. Research shows that this support is common regardless of whether they live next to or far away from each other. Read the entire article>>

Reconnecting with Siblings as Your New Year’s Resolution
Tips to reconnect with your sibling—a resolution with life long benefits
by Avidan Milevsky, Ph.D.
Instead of resolving to “have a better relationship with my sister” choose a more specific resolution that can be tracked clearly as you accomplish this goal. Resolve to “go out for coffee once a week with Becky” or “send her a nice text or email at least once a day.” Framing it this way is easier to track and see if you are accomplishing your goals. Read the entire article>>

Solutions for 10 difficult sibling scenarios
by Claire Sulmers (RealSimple.com)
Scenario 1: Your sibling constantly passes judgment on your career or your kids
Just get over it? No. You don't have to stand for it. By putting you down, he's probably trying to make himself feel better.
What to do: "Be assertive, but not defensive," says Peter Goldenthal, a family psychologist based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and the author of "Why Can't We Get Along? Healing Adult Sibling Relationships" ($18, amazon.com). Contain the urge to match his tone and rudeness.
"You may not be able to change his behavior, but you can change the way you respond," says Marcia Millman, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Tell him what you think, then "try disarming him by telling a joke or mentioning something about him that you genuinely admire," she says. You can choose to act like an adult, even if he can't.
Sample script: "Actually, I'm really happy with Jimmy's choice of major. He should be able to find just as many job opportunities with an economics degree as you did with your business degree." Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Books About Sibling Relationships

Siblings: You're Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together (Laugh & Learn)
by James J. Crist Ph.D.
The Laugh and Learn series of books for kids aged 8 to 13 are easy to read, practical and not the least bit preachy. Siblings: You're Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together is no exception. 

A great book to read with your children to start a conversation. From tips for handling specific situations like bossiness, bullying, and privacy issues to suggestions for creating stronger sibling relationships, this book tackles the subject of sibling rivalry in a casual, playful manner that doesn't obscure the deeper messages. 

Includes a section for parents with a reading list as well as information on half siblings, adopted siblings, step siblings, and siblings with special needs. The entire Laugh and Learn series is highly recommended by therapists, teachers, parents, and kids. 

Why Can't We Get Along: Healing Adult Sibling Relationships
by Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D.
Are you ready to release the negative patterns of the past that haunt your relationships with your adult siblings? Why Can't We Get Along: Healing Adult Sibling Relationships presents a wealth of suggestions and information in an easy-to-read format. 

Peppered with interesting case histories from Dr. Goldenthal's family psychologist practice, the book focuses on understanding yourself and how you can be the one to break the cycle. Why Can't We Get Along includes specific advice for understanding and accepting their personality and mood problems, letting go of past resentments and patterns, and much more. 

With practical tips for talking and listening to your siblings as well as compassionate encouragement to understand your role in the relationship, this book is an excellent first step on the road to healing your relationships with your adult siblings. 

Find the book on Amazon>> 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is it Time to Let Go of Past Hurts?

With the busy holiday season upon us it’s often easier to just go with the flow of family obligations and suffer silently (or, perhaps, not-so-silently) as the holiday parties and gatherings stir up memories, old resentments and, sometimes, pain.

Is this the year you’d like to enjoy the time with your parents, siblings, cousins and distant relatives without regressing to the overwhelming angry and hurt feelings from the past? In the following article, Dr. Judith Sills offers excellent suggestions and advice for how to let go of past hurts by reconsidering the events and people involved (including yourself) from a different perspective. Reading one article may not be enough to heal all your pain before the next big family gathering but perhaps it will be the small step you need to take now.

Let It Go! Past hurts and old injustices have a way of keeping us stuck in our tracks, unable to move forward or experience joy. It can take a radical reboot to get past yesterday. Here's how.
By Judith Sills, Ph.D.

Look Closely. A long shadow may be clouding your future. It's the shadow cast by the pain in your past—the parent who wasn't there, the ex who betrayed, the boss who humiliated you.

Or perhaps you're stuck in place by the unhappy residue of your own bad choices—the job you should have left earlier, the sexual secrets you keep, the doctor's visit you delayed.

It is heart-stoppingly easy to get stuck in the darkness of bad memories. They are emotional quicksand and exert a strong downward pull on the psyche.

Sometimes the past traps us through unexamined clutter spilling from every tabletop and corner, elbowing out the new and the possible. Or it commandeers your daydreams, obsessively replaying old losses, past injustices, nagging guilts about the sibling you tormented or friend you let down...

...The power to get past the past does not lie primarily with the nature of events themselves. They count a lot, sure. But so do the steps forward a person is willing to take and how much effort he or she is willing to expend to push some emotional rock up, up, and out of the way.

Getting unstuck involves remembering an injury, but reconsidering it from a different, more empathetic perspective. Moving forward may mean reconfiguring a relationship so that you are less giving, more realistic.

But it rarely means cutting off those ties. Think alteration, not amputation. Getting unstuck requires being truthful with yourself about how you feel—still angry, sad, or anxious, even though you wish you weren't—but holding out the possibility that someday you might feel better.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing with a Purpose: Prevent Bullying

In Other Words: One Author’s Personal Journey to Address & Prevent Bullying
by Trudy Ludwig

I haven’t always been a children’s author. Previously, I was an advertising/marketing copywriter. I did this for about 15 years—even though I didn’t feel passionate about my craft. Don’t get me wrong. I knew I loved to write. I just didn’t love what I was writing. My professional life shifted 11 years ago when my daughter, a second grader at the time, became the target of some bullying friends. It was one of those experiences that had a profound effect on both of us. 

How do you explain to a 7-year-old…
… the complexity of friendships?
… why her best friends one day can become her worst enemies the next?
… how to gravitate to kids who can accept all the goodness she has to offer and give it back in kind?

I went into research mode to find out as much information as I could about relational aggression, a form of emotional bullying hidden within friendships that often goes below the radar of parents and teachers. I learned that relational aggression (i.e., gossiping, spreading rumors, intentional exclusion, the silent treatment, etc.) is evident as early as preschool and appears to peak in middle school.

Researchers report that relational aggression is much more pervasive than physical aggression in our nation’s schools. Kids—both boys and girls—also find it more hurtful than physical aggression. In my search for age-appropriate books to address the very real and rampant problem of social cruelty among peers, I came up empty-handed.

Frustrated with this resource gap, I wrote MY SECRET BULLY (Riverwood Press, 2003) to help empower children to make healthier friendship choices. The outpour of positive reviews and heartfelt responses from young readers, parents, educators, and bullying prevention experts and organizations gave me the impetus to continue writing more books to help kids connect with their peers in helpful, rather than hurtful, ways.

Read the entire article at Reading.org>>

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Helping a Child Make Friends

One strategy teachers, counselors, and parents use to prevent bullying among children is to focus on forming strong friendships that provide support in tough situations. Yet some children struggle with the nuances of making the first connections and finding reasons to stay friends after the first interest is shown. Here's an interesting article with specific suggestions on how to support a child/young adult as he/she tries to make new friends.

Do You Know a Child Who Struggles to Make Friends? 
Young people who lack social support are vulnerable to being bullied.
by Signe Whitson, L.S.W.

Do you have a student in your school or classroom that struggles to connect with his peers? Is your own child frequently on the receiving end of cruelty at the hands of classmates or “friends?” We know that young people who lack social support are particularly vulnerable to being bullied. What can we do then, as professionals and as parents, to teach our kids the skills they need to make positive friendships and maintain nurturing peer relationships? This article present five strategies for adults to bear in mind and pass on to kids as the school year begins.

1. First & Foremost: It’s Not a Character Flaw 
For many school-aged kids, the ability to make new friends comes as naturally as breathing. For others, however, connecting with peers is a source of stress each and every day. Many adults assume that there must be something wrong with kids who struggle socially. This deficit-model can be a damaging mindset that puts extra pressure on a young person who is already beyond his coping skills.
Rather than think of friendship struggles as a character flaw, regard the ability to make and maintain friendships on a par with any other skill that a young person needs to master. Just as you would offer individualized instruction and run though extra practice problems with a child who lagged behind in math, commit to spending extra time offering a socially-awkward child extra practice with friendship building skills such as starting a conversation, engaging in back and forth dialogue, finding common interests—and even ending unhealthy friendships (more on this advanced skill below.)

Bottom line: Kids who struggle socially benefit from adult guidance in developing the skills they need to reach out to their peers and establish friendships.

2. Start with Strengths 
Think about a child you know who has difficulty making friends. Make a list of his or her strengths. For example, is he particularly interested in a certain subject—animals or science or technology? Does she enjoy a particular activity—soccer or swimming or the arts?

While it’s easy to hyper-focus on all of the things a young person is doing wrong in social relationships, when we start from a problem-perspective, we have very little to build upon. Instead, focus on the things that the young person is already doing well and make a plan for how to address his social challenges by building on his inherent strengths.

Read the entire article at PsychologyToday.com>>

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Author Spotlight: Trudy Ludwig

Trudy Ludwig is the award-winning author of a number of books for young children including The Invisible Boy, Better Than You, Confessions of a Former Bully, and My Secret Bully. Her focus is on helping young children navigate the social world of friendships, teasing, and bullying. Her first book, My Secret Bully, was inspired by the experiences of helping her own daughter deal with bullying from her friends. All of Ludwig's books are wonderful jumping-off points for conversations with kids about their own social interactions and experiences.

My Secret Bully 
"Here is the all-too-familiar story of Monica. She and Katie have been friends since kindergarten. Monica loves being around her when she's nice. But there are times when Katie can be just plain mean. And Monica doesn't understand why. Monica is a target of relational aggression, emotional bullying among friends who will use name-calling and manipulation to humiliate and exclude. But with a little help from a supportive adult—her mother—Monica learns to cope and thrive by facing her fears and reclaiming power from her bully."

The Invisible Boy 
"Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine...This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource."

Confessions of a Former Bully 
"Ten-year-old Katie finds herself where no child wants to be, in the principal’s office with both her parents. Caught bullying a friend on the school playground, she must meet with the school counselor once a week and figure out how to atone for her actions. As Katie learns more about herself and her options, she keeps a diary-like notebook of reflections and advice as well as facts about physical, emotional, and cyberbullying; why people bully others; and what tools kids can use when they experience or witness bullying."

Just Kidding! 
"D.J.'s friend Vince has a habit of teasing D.J. and then saying, 'Just kidding!' as if it will make everything okay. It doesn't, but D.J. is afraid that if he protests, his friends will think he can't take a joke. With the help of his father, brother, and an understanding teacher, D.J. progresses from feeling helpless to taking positive action, undermining the power of two seemingly harmless words."

Trouble Talk 
"Maya's friend Bailey loves to talk about everything and everyone. At first, Maya thinks Bailey is funny. But when Bailey's talk leads to harmful rumors and hurt feelings, Maya begins to think twice about their friendship... Includes additional resources for kids, parents, and teachers, as well as advice from Trudy about how to combat trouble talk."

Listen to Trudy Ludwig Chat About Her Work 
In this short podcast chat for parents of children in grades K - 5, Ludwig talks her book Confessions of a Former Bully and shares her Totally Awesome Empower Tools, strategies kids can use to assertively deal with bullying. Listen to the podcast here>>
More About Trudy Ludwig and Her Books

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October is Bullying Prevention Month

October is Bullying Prevention Month and I've gathered a few resources for you to explore.

Source: The Bully Report "Where does bullying occur most frequently in your school?"

Share Your Strategies for Preventing Bullying at DoSomething
Submit your story about how you beat bullying. It might be featured in the collection of
tips and tactics DoSomething will send to all participants soon. Share your story>>

Bullying Prevention Month: Apps Designed to Help Parents Protect Kids
by Sue Scheff, author and parent advocate

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, AT&T has compiled a list of apps designed to help parents protect their children from bullying and to create awareness around the problem.
  • STOPit – (Android, iOS – FREE) The STOPit app empowers victims and bystanders of cyberbullying to confidentially report instances of malicious online activity. User-created reports are instantly sent to pre-selected trusted adults, school administrators and the like. Key features include:   the STOPit button, which lets users screen capture offensive material; the HELPit button, which provides a gateway for children to seek help and advice around the clock; the FRIENDit button, which provides witnesses of cyberbullying the ability to screen capture offensive material and anonymously send to pre-selected, trusted adults; and the REPORTit button, which allows children to share evidence directly with law enforcement officials assigned to their investigations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Preparing Children to Be Strong, Resilient Adults

"When we look at children today, we see them in the moment. We rarely picture a cute 5-year-old or a texting preteen as an adult. But we must prepare children to become healthy, productive, contributing 35-year-olds if their generation is to repair our world, and lead us into the future." - Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg

Book Review:
Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings
by Kenneth R. Ginsburg

Dr. Ginsburg is a nationally-recognized expert on building resilience in children and teens. He's a pediatrician specializing in adolescents as well as a parent himself. His book is practical, easy-to-read, and  highly recommended by parents, parent groups, counselors, coaches, and doctors. Building Resilience is a handbook that you will regularly refer to throughout your child's life.

Learn how to help children from toddlers to teens build resilience, make their own mistakes, solve their own problems, and manage stress in their complicated lives. Building Resilience is full of anecdotes, specific advice and strategies, and example interactions to help you be a better listener and ask better questions to help your children think for themselves.  The book addresses topics including social media, school, peer pressure, and family issues. Other great features of this book: sections that pre-teens and teens can read themselves with worksheets on how to manage their own stress as well as a section for parents about building their own resiliency.

Dr. Ginsburg focuses on the "7 crucial Cs": competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, control. These range from praising effort rather than outcome to recognizing a minor inconvenience versus a true crisis. This is information that is sure to prove valuable in all your interactions with children or adults.

In the end, we all know that parenting is about one goal: providing an environment where children can grow into healthy, strong, self-sufficient adults who can solve problems and love/accept themselves. This book is an excellent resource for helping all of us achieve that goal.

Interested in hearing more from the author himself? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Freedom to Read! Read a Banned Book!

Next week, join me in celebrating the freedom to read during the American Library Association's Banned Books Week.

Some great children's books that have been questioned or banned over the years:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
    Despite being the winner of the Newbery Medal, this book about a the death of a boy's close friend has been on the American Library Association’s list of the 100-most-banned/challenged books for years. 
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    This popular picture book has been deemed "too scary for children" by many parents and libraries.
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
    This picture book about same-sex penguin parents was the most challenged book for three years running, according to the American Library Association.
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
    This classic book of poems and drawings for children has been banned multiple times for encouraging, among other things, "messiness and disobedience."
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
    One of the best-selling books of all time, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has been questioned and banned repeatedly for its supposed encouragement of black magic.

Download the ALA's 2013-2014 List of Books Challenged And/Or Banned (pdf)>>

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Building Resiliency in Yourself and Others

“Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.” - Al Siebert, PhD, author of The Resiliency Advantage
Our first article is a great introduction to building resiliency in yourself and your children. From "Pump up your Positivity" to "Hang on to Humor", the 5 methods to build resiliency are specific and helpful. I especially like the anecdotal stories and specific book recommendations.

The 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency
by Jessie Sholl, ExperienceLife.com

"Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune? Why do others fall apart? Find out which character strengths make all the difference — and how you can develop them yourself.

Victoria Ruvolo was driving home from a niece’s piano recital one wintery evening in 2004 when a large object smashed through her windshield, hitting with such force that it broke every bone in her face. The object turned out to be a frozen turkey. The thrower: a teenage boy named Ryan Cushing, out for a joyride with friends in a stolen car. Ruvolo’s passenger managed to grab the steering wheel, push Ruvolo’s foot off the gas pedal and steer them onto the shoulder. After being rushed to the hospital, Ruvolo remained in an induced coma for two weeks." 

Read the entire article>>

Our next article digs deeper into the study of resiliency with one of the leading researchers in the field. Nan Henderson is the developer of the "Resiliency Wheel", a visual representation of the 6 elements in a person's environment that can support and build resiliency (read the article to learn more).

Hard-Wired to Bounce Back
by Nan Henderson, M.S.W., author of Resiliency in Action: Practical Ideas for Overcoming Risks and Building Strengths in Youth, Families, and Communities

"Researchers are documenting an innate “self-righting tendency” that exists in everyone. How can you use their findings to help yourself and help others be more resilient?

Can individuals learn to be more resilient, or are some just born with the ability to bounce back from adversity?  Both, according to researchers, whose work suggests that human beings are born with an innate self-righting ability, which can be helped or hindered. Their findings are fueling a major shift in thinking about human development: from  obsessing about problems and weaknesses to recognizing “the power of the positive”–identifying and building individual and environmental strengths that help people to overcome difficulties, achieve happiness, and attain life success.

After 15 years of  studying and reflecting upon the myriad studies on human resiliency, dialoguing with thousands of people of all ages about the topic, and writing extensively about resiliency, I have come to believe that individuals are hard-wired to bounce back from adversity.  I also believe everyone can expand this innate capacity for resiliency within themselves and others. People bounce back in two ways: they draw upon their own internal resources, and they encounter people, organizations, and activities that provide them with the conditions that help the emergence of their resilience.  Psychologists call these internal and external conditions “protective factors” and conclude, “these buffers” are more powerful in a person’s life than risks or traumas or stress.  They fuel the movement towards healthy development."

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just "Shake It Off"

I think it's fantastic when popular songs include positive messages! In one of Taylor Swift's latest songs, "Shake It Off", I see positive messages like "be yourself", "your talents are valuable, too", "ignore the negative comments of others", "you can feel good without making others feel bad", and more. 

Here's an interesting article I found with suggestions for how to talk to your kids about the messages of this song.

5 Surprising Lessons in Taylor Swift ‘Shake it Off’ Video
by Sarah Mills, LearningLiftoff.com

While you and your children may love to sing and dance to Taylor Swift songs, you probably never considered that kids younger than dating age might learn something from the lyrics. But that just might be the case when you listen to and watch her latest release, Shake it Off.

After showcasing several talented artists displaying their particular brand of dance, the end of the Taylor Swift Shake it Off video features a group of seemingly everyday people busting out their own unique moves. Swift and the video’s director, Mark Romanek, reportedly opted to highlight other artists to illustrate that you don’t have to put others down when building yourself up. Everybody has different talents, and showcasing talent can be a collaboration.

Read the entire article>>

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Help Your Sensitive Boy Become a Confident Man

“The Strong, Sensitive Boy offers practical advice and innovative solutions for parents, teachers, and anyone working with sensitive boys. I highly recommend it.” –Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys and The Minds of Boys

Dr. Ted Zeff's book The Strong Sensitive Boy: Help Your Son Become a Happy, Confident Man is a valuable resource for parents, teachers, coaches and family members of boys who are highly sensitive to feelings, sounds, lights, tastes, etc., and not as interested in roughhousing or violent movies and games.

Dr. Zeff helps you learn how to respect the sensitivity and support your highly sensitive son so that he understands who he is and chooses to be true to himself and not feel pressured by our society's standard definitions of masculinity. It's no secret that our culture has a specific belief about what behavior is acceptable for boys: repress emotions, act tough, show you are strong, anger and violence are normal reactions.

A combination of research and anecdotal information, The Strong Sensitive Boy includes stories from highly sensitive men who were bullied by parents, teachers, and other children. The stories are deeply moving and powerful. The book features a helpful list of resources and suggested readings but my favorite parts were the specific examples on how to handle sports, school environment, sharing this information with a teacher, helping your son make friends, and disciplining with gentleness. I also appreciated the special chapter for dads who are raising sensitive boys that talks about how to understand how the dad's own beliefs about being a man may not be serving the needs of his son.

If your son is old enough, I recommend that you read this book with him so that he can better understand himself and see high-sensitivity as a gift and not a curse. Sensitive boys and men are strong and in touch with their emotions. Other common traits of sensitive men include creativity, strong values, compassion, and intuition, not to mention good communication skills and empathy. As parents, teachers, and those who want the best for a sensitive boy, we can work harder to nurture his character and individuality to encourage more self-confidence and higher self-esteem.

Read more at Dr. Ted Zeff's website>>
Buy the book on Amazon>>
Questionnaire to determine if your child is highly sensitive: http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test_child.htm

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Expert Advice on Parenting a Sensitive Boy

Parenting the Highly Sensitive Boy
by Rebecca Eanes, parenting advocate
"As I said, I began to realize my own son's sensitivity when he was a toddler. He would easily startle, hate surprises, not want to be in crowds (no big birthday parties, and please do not sing to him!), and was sensitive to noise. He had a slight aversion to scratchy material and tags and was (and is!) a picky eater. I didn't realize then that perhaps the textures of some foods bothered him." Read the entire article>>

The Highly Sensitive Boy: Does your son cry often?
by Maureen D. Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, via PsychologyToday.com
"Does your boy cry often? Has he ever been bullied? Does he enjoy his time alone and quiet space? Is he deeply affected by violence? Or keenly perceptive to how you are feeling or thinking? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be raising a highly sensitive boy. Highly sensitive boys come with deep talents but can be "trying" if you seek to raise them in the regular way." Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Your Sensitive Boy is Being Bullied

Are you the parent or friend of a sensitive boy, a boy who may not enjoy the rough-housing, boisterous activities other boys seem to enjoy? With their reactions to crowds and noisy situations, keen awareness of what others are feeling, and lack of interest in sports or violent activities, sensitive boys may be easy targets for bullies. But, they don't have to be. Dr. Ted Zeff is a nationally-recognized expert on sensitive boys and shares some key tips for helping your boy not be a victim of a bully.

 Five Strategies to Prevent
your Sensitive Son from Being Bullied

by Dr. Ted Zeff, author of The Strong, Sensitive Boy
"Did you know that 20 percent of the population has a sensitive nervous system and the trait is equally divided between males and females? Therefore, 20 percent of all males are sensitive, or one out of every five boys has a finely tuned nervous system. A highly sensitive boy (HSB) can be easily overwhelmed by noise and crowds, fearful of new situations and shy away from aggressive interactions. He generally reacts more deeply and exhibits more emotional sensitivity than the non-sensitive boy which unfortunately could result in being bullied.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, 160,000 children miss school every day in the United States for fear of being bullied and more than 50 suicides have been linked to prolonged bullying. School-related bullying has led to depression and poor school performance in many children.

Although research has shown that infant boys are more emotionally reactive than infant girls, by the time boys reach the age of five, they have usually learned to repress every emotion except anger. Societal values emphasize that males should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and emotionally self-controlled, which is the opposite of a sensitive boy. When boys don't conform to the "boy code" and instead show their gentleness and emotions, they are often ostracized and humiliated.

Bullies tend to target kids who seem different from others. Since the 80 percent of non-HSBs are hardwired neurologically to behave in a different manner than the 20 percent of HSBs, many sensitive boys do not fit in with the vast majority of boys and risk being bullied. Bullies also target kids who don't fight back and who react deeply to teasing. Research shows that 85 percent of HSBs avoided fighting and most sensitive boys become more emotionally upset from bullying than other boys.
 Read the entire article>> 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Teach Kindness and Tolerance Through Song

We all know how much children love music. Songs can do so much more than just entertain...some songs can teach children about kindness and tolerance.

Listen to the song “Be a Buddy, not a Bully” on YouTube:

Be a buddy, not a bully
A real friend, who's good and true
Let's all be friends
Friends are where it's at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When Little Obsessions Become the Bully

Most of the time our little obsessions are somewhat inconvenient, mostly to other people, but doing no real harm to others or ourselves. The frequent, repetitive behaviors we use to pass the time and soothe our emotions can quickly turn into an obsession that may lead to self-abuse.

To some degree we are all self bullies, letting our emotions rule over sensible behavior. We may overindulge in food, drink, work, play, television, computer, gaming, gambling, social media, or any other activity. And, who has not castigated oneself for doing something so utterly dumb, embarrassing, and/or senseless, vowing never to do that again? Yet, we do it again and again.

But obsessions and addictions, while bullying to our sense of self, can make us a bully in turn. Who has not demanded a loved one give “just one more minute while I finish this game…cup of coffee…tv show…newspaper...”

Unfortunately, at some point, our seemingly harmless obsessive behavior may cross the line and negatively impact the lives of other people. Sometimes the act becomes not only a moral issue but a legal one, too, and the victim has a responsibility to report the behavior seek help.

In writing a previous article, Consequences, I researched and reported on an anesthesiologist, Dr. Arthur Zilberstein, who has had his license suspended for sexting, having sex with a former patient, and illegally prescribing drugs while on duty at a local Seattle hospital.    

As reported by Carol M. Ostrom at the Seattle times,
“The patients listed in the statement of charges were undergoing various surgeries, most often deliveries, including cesareans, but also for a cardiac-probe insertion procedure, a laparoscopic esophagus repair and a laparoscopic pediatric appendectomy, from April through August 2013.

The charges say those were just examples, taken from six days while Zilberstein was on duty.

In one case — the esophagus repair — the state says Zilberstein exchanged 45 text messages with sexual innuendo in less than an hour and a half, with 21 initiated by Zilberstein.”

I think it would be safe to say that the man-who-can’t-keep-it-in-his-pants has, at the least, an obsession with, and likely an addiction to, sex. It is an example of addiction becoming the bully, as the self becomes the victim of uncontrollable behavior.

It is confusing to me that someone with the wherewithal to make it through medical school, not to mention the aptitude and fortitude to go through the rigorous training to become a doctor, could exhibit such an extreme lack of regard for his profession, peers and patients, ethics and the laws.

But that is the nature of obsessions that become addictions. While he slides down the slippery slope, (in his case I would call it an avalanche), he takes with him a whole lot of people, those who know him as a son, brother, uncle, friend, lover, student, as well as colleague. It would seem an easy decision to get professional help so readily available, but like a bully who has the victim under his domination, the addict, or obsessed person, cannot always make rational choices.

I applaud those who have wrestled their demons into submission, who have entered therapy, twelve-step programs, group meetings or self-help regimens. Bullies of whatever size, shape and dimension can be converted, can be transcended, transformed or transmuted. Now I have to go; there is chocolate waiting for me. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writing Everyday: The Diary Habit

"It is necessary only that a life should be interesting to the person who lives that life. It you have a desire to keep a diary, it follows that your existence is interesting to you. Otherwise obviously you would not wish to make a record of it." - Arnold Bennett, author of Self and Self-Management: Essays on Existing (published in 1918) Read a longer excerpt here>>

30 Days to a Better Man Day 8: Start a Journal
via ArtofManliness.com
"My grandpa, Bill Hurst, was a journal writer his entire life. His journal was quite simple. He just kept a small notebook in the pocket of his pearl snap shirts and jotted down a short description of the things he did and the people he did it with. This is something he did pretty much every day for his entire life. He also kept extensive diaries of his time as a forest ranger in the Wasatch Range.

About 12 years ago, my grandpa took all these diaries and daily journal entries and began to write his memoir for his children and grandchildren. The finished product was a 500 page behemoth filled with stories from my grandfather’s life." Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Making Habits, Breaking Habits

What are the keys to breaking a bad habit or creating a good one? How long does it take? Why are habits good for us?

According to psychologist Jeremy Dean, making and breaking habits involves understanding how habits work, how our brain uses habits to make its job easier, and how some situations encourage specific habits.

Dean's book Making Habits, Breaking Habits presents an in-depth exploration of the research on habits. He writes, "The connection is context. We tend to do the same things in the same circumstances. Indeed, it’s partly this correspondence between the situation and behavior that causes habits to form in the first place."

The book begins by defining habits, examining their roots, and uncovering the brain's tendency to to things automatically. Dean then explores how habits look in our everyday lives and how habitual thoughts affect our moods. The book ends with specific techniques to break bad habits, create new good habits, and how to use this information to be more creative.

My main takeaway from this book: Working with your good and bad habits may feel hopeless at times but with knowledge, patience and creativity, we can use our brain's power to go on "autopilot" to our own advantage.

Find Making Habits, Breaking Habits on Amazon.com>>
Read more from Jeremy Dean on his blog PsyBlog>>

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


con·se·quence ˈkänsikwəns,-ˌkwens/ noun: consequence; plural noun: consequences     1. a result or effect of an action or condition.    

For every action there is a reaction. It is a basic concept that usually comes with a hard lesson learned. One young teenage girl learned this the hard way when her response to intimidation and bullying on Facebook by her peers resulted in her parents confiscating her phone and putting her on restriction.

“No fair,” she protested, “I was the victim!” “But,” her parents responded, “your language was inappropriate. You should have told us and let us handle it in the right way.”    

Her parents took the information for a conference with the principal. The bullies were suspended from school for that incident and others. The parents told their daughter that she could “earn” back the privilege of having her phone by doing an unasked good deed and her chores without being nagged for a point a day, one hundred days.    

This is a perfect example of good parenting. They monitored telephone calls and computer time. They were aware of and responded with swift actions to the good, bad and ugly situation. They simultaneously supported their daughter by going to principal at her school, making the authority aware of the problem, and reprimanded their daughter for bad choices of words and irresponsible behavior. Finally, the parents allowed their daughter to work and earn back not only her cell phone, but the respect of her parents and others as she does some nice deed. All this was accomplished while the parents reinforced the values inherent in the discipline without drama, violence or recrimination. What a wonderful way to turn a potentially ugly situation into a positive way to teach values, appropriate behavior in a negative social arena, and a means to ‘save face’ for a burgeoning adult.    

Then there is the example of an anesthesiologist, Dr. Arthur Zilberstein, at Swedish Medical hospital who has had his license suspended and is charged with sexting and sending explicit selfies while on duty and in charge of patients. He is in trouble also for prescribing drugs without proper evaluation and treatment plan and also prescribing drugs to his girlfriend who was a former patient, and having sex with her in the doctors’ lounge and hospital call room, while on duty, leaving unattended patients under anesthesia, and improperly diagnosing and treating other patients.    

These are serious charges and very alarming when considering that if a person is under anesthesia, one can only trust that the medical team is ensuring one’s survival and optimal care. Who goes to the hospital with a checklist of questions for the medical team? Did you wash your hands? Is everyone on the medical team competent? Anyone have a personal problem that might affect his/her ability to do the job? You depend on the ethical and professional skills of the doctors and nurses to help you survive. I should not have to worry about staph infections, MRSA, or sexual predators.

The man-who-can’t-keep-it-in-his-pants has violated the medical code of ethics and jeopardized patients, exposing not only his genitals but his total disregard for the law, peers, institution and patients. For that he got a suspension and cannot practice in the state of Washington. Perhaps the positive thing about his selfies is that they will always be there on the Web, and future employers will have access to viewing them. Consequently, I can only hope that he cannot ever practice in another state, anytime, in his lifetime. Or mine. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Look! See Jacquie. See Jacquie doing a happy dance! Why is Jacquie happy?    

A profound change has happened in the bully arena. In an article published January 26, 2014 on TVNZ.com, the headline reads: “School ditches rules and loses bullies.” The principal, Bruce Mclachlan, at Swanson Primary School, in Aukland, New Zealand, signed up to be one of eight schools in an experimental study done by researchers at Aukland University of Technology and Otago University. Their goal was to promote active play. The principal went one further step and provided a playground free of “playtime rules.”

What happened over a two-year period is phenomenal. Children thrived on the playground, using their imaginations in “loose parts pit” which had stuff like wood, tires and an old fire hose. There was a decline in “bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.” After a two-year trial period, there was no need for a timeout area or as many playground supervisors. The experimental study is testing the theory that risk taking allows for the development of the frontal lobe of the brain, “meaning they (children) work out consequences.” In other words, active learning--as opposed to gaming, TV, and "playing by the rules"--encourages children to work out problems on their own, with each other.    

Of course, the downside to active play is letting children take risks that might cause injuries. In the USA, parents have demanded and enforced through litigation, restrictive rules and supervision on the playground. Ironically, this may foster the very bullying environment that prevents children from learning to negotiate the physical and social skills necessary to get along with one another. Educators and parents would have to agree to ‘back off’ and allow children to navigate their physical and social surroundings without an adult compromising each encounter. Fine in theory, but do I want my child to possibly be hurt? It seems it is a trade-off that merits consideration from the research; free range play with minimal supervision has a domino effect on growth, brain development and learning, as well as social skills.

It is worthwhile to Google “School ditches rules…” and check out the other articles, YouTube videos, and comments about this not-so-new-idea. If enough parents were motivated to attend elementary PTA meetings and teacher/parent conferences with significant proof that something can be done to stop bullying, think how all children could benefit, both the victims and the perpetrators. I think it would be worth the risk of jettisoning rules on the playground for a happier, healthier childhood.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Celebrating Resiliency: Kid Survivors are Everywhere

“...resilience is the ability to live creatively, with joy and satisfaction, whatever our circumstances. It’s like a beautiful flame inside of us that just needs fanning to take hold and transform any challenge into a gift. It’s a resource that when you call on it, can help you grow your life in surprising and beautiful ways.” - Becky DeGeorge, teacher and life coach

Writing for Resiliency: Young Readers as Survivors
By Sheila O'Connor, author of Keeping Safe the Stars

"[The Boxcar children] gathered dishes from the dump, made beds and brooms from pine needles, earned money for the family, found food, created their own home to replace the one they’d lost. They had integrity and courage, perseverance and imagination—all the qualities I longed for as a child.

Revisiting that story, I realized the deep impression that book had left on my young spirit, how much those resourceful children had informed the life I tried to live then, and later on the books I hoped to write.

For me, kids-on-their-own is more than a literary invention; it’s the life I lived, and the life countless kids still live now. In more ways than we’re able to imagine, kids get themselves to school, find food, feed their families, care for siblings, face challenges and miraculously find ways to solve problems for themselves.

Of course, I wish that it weren’t so; I always wish a parent or a teacher or a grandparent would step in to save the day, and often times they do, but just as often kids have to wait for help. Or ask. I see it in the schools; I see it on the street.

Kid survivors are everywhere. They’re in every neighborhood and school, they’re rich and poor, and too many of them have to keep their secrets to themselves.

When I write, whether I’m writing books for grown-ups or kids, a part of me is always in conversation with those children, survivor kids, kids who want to find their stories in a book."

Read the entire article>> 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amazing Song About Bullying from Two Young Boys

Check out the YouTube performance of the duo, Bars and Melody, Charlie Lenehan and Leondre Devries, two young boys who recently went on the show Britain’s Got Talent and wowed everyone with their amazing song about bullying.

Read more here>>

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When Good Books Fall Flat

I finally finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Goldfinch by Pulitizer-winning author Donna Tartt, wondering if I have grown so jaded that I cannot appreciate a good book anymore. Both of these books have the potential to be more than a good read, although I found myself bored with the main characters and marveling at how much the plot thinned out in the resolution.

I haven't seen the movie "Divergent", but having read the book, think it would come to life on screen better than on paper. In The Goldfinch, the main character, Theo, spent a lot of his youth drugging and very little of his adulthood atoning for some very serious amorality. I suppose I may sound harsh, but I found his method of atonement rather facile and lacking in sincerity, or rather I think I found this plot device incredulous.

Then, a friend loaned me Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Smart, funny and a delight to read. Thank you, thank you, thank you!