OUR Children – Do You Hear Them?


A child murdered by her parent.  A child hit by a car in front of her house.  A child caught in the struggle between foster and biological parents.  A child entering a new school in a new city.  A child moving away from her friends.  A child rebelling dangerously against her parents.  A child living homeless.  A child unexpectedly losing her mother.

This week children are weighing heavily on my mind.  Preparing to return to my classroom, I am overrun with emotions, nerves, memories, fears, and expectations.  Starting up a new school year is supposed to be exciting-a fresh start, a new chapter in the life of a child, a time for families to gather together and celebrate a new beginning.  Yet as I go through each day, it seems as if I’m bombarded by children in crisis.  It scares me.

I’ve been teaching for 20 years, mostly all of those in junior high schools. I’m used to dealing with kids as they experience the joys of ‘tween’ and ‘teen’ years.  But this month it feels different.  Less exciting.  More serious.

What is happening to our children? Are things really so different from when I walked the halls of my school as a 9th grader, mainly concerned about how my overalls looked (it was the 70’s) and if my hair had curled correctly that morning?  Sure, I had friends who had family problems, and knew kids who got in trouble.  But all this?


Who is making the choices here?  Parents know that we need to empower our children, teach them how to be confident, strong, mature humans.  We choose to give them experiences that will nurture their talents, expose them to the world, and teach them how to survive when they leave home.  We remember images of our babies, smiling up at us as we hold them.  Our toddlers curiously pulling everything out of drawers.  Our  kindergarteners learning to write and glue and skip.  Our elementary school students lining up, playing ball, and performing class musicals.  Our teens biking to school alone, having slumber parties, getting their drivers license.  Our graduates, leaving home.  But these kids-what are they learning?  That life is hard.  That children can be powerless.  That even good parents can make bad choices.  That no one is listening?


No parent thinks that as they send their child out for the day that a car will hit them and knock them out of their shoes, left unconscious on the street.  No parent thinks their estranged partner will commit the unthinkable act of taking their child’s life.  No parent thinks their child will steal, lie or cheat.  No parent wants bad things to happen to their child.  But they do and it’s scary and I’m mad.
I’m mad that children are victims.  I’m mad that adults don’t take the time to look kids in the eye and really SEE them.  Slow it down.  Pay attention.  Pause.  Listen.  You will be amazed what you can learn-not just about your own kid, but about all kids.  What is in their control?  Really think about why they act the way they do-they’re trying to tell us something.  Think about what is out of their control.  Think about what choices have been made for them.

What I’ve learned from decades of working with teens is that they almost always want to do the right thing.   Kids don’t always know what the ‘right’ thing  is-but they usually can find their way if someone takes the time to listen to them.  I’ve learned that kids like limits-they like to have things to choose from.  And yes, they will challenge – testing limits is a natural process in learning.  They like choice.  Kids don’t like to be boxed in and feel like all the adults in their life know what’s best for them.  They like to be listened to.  I’ve learned that children shouldn’t be seen and not heard.

What I’m still learning is that bad things happen.  Adults will make choices that have superb and terrible impact on kids, and that’s the way life works.  I’m still learning that kids are strong, resilient and remarkable and can survive and thrive despite amazing experiences that would send most of us screaming into the abyss.

Please, listen and hear what they’re saying.  Give them a voice.  Give them a choice.


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Elisabeth-Thank you. I know we all live busy lives. There are kids who MAKE us see them-and they do it for a reason. And almost more troublesome are those who become invisible.

  2. WOW! Such an impacting, powerful post. The part that really spoke to me is where you wrote:

    “I’m mad that adults don’t take the time to look kids in the eye and really SEE them. Slow it down.”

    I need to apply this to my life–I know I do. Thanks for having the courage to post this. I really needed to read it 😉

  3. Melynda-I’m so glad you found and connected with mamawolfe!

    Do Sweat-I love your blog-we are kindred spirits, I think! Excuses are useless, I tell my students. It’s hard to do the right thing as parents and teachers. But, it’s oh so worth it!!

    Desiree-Thank you. It is hard to work outside the home AND raise my own children. I think we all (mostly) make decisions that have good intentions, but only in hindsight do we know if we did the right thing…but sometimes, that’s too late. And kids make bad choices, too, even with the support of the best intended parents. I just want people to pay attention to all of the children as a collective.

  4. You have shared some hard realities and pointed out some tough truths, and I say, “Well done to you!”

    I am the Mother of two adult children. I, too, trained as a teacher, but when my own children came on the scene I chose to give up teaching in order to focus solely on raising them. I was a senior school teacher and felt it would have been impossible for me to devote my time equally between these two important jobs. I have never regretted that decision. It meant we did without many of the luxuries others had, but that was an insignificant sacrifice in comparison to the time and attention I was able to give to my children.

    You are so right…all children require safe boundaries, freedoms and choices within those boundaries and they all need and want their parents to HEAR what they have to say.

    I think Brenda’s comment is a valuable contribution to your post, as she offers several excellent points of her own, expanding on those you yourself have raised so admirably.

  5. I wish that my daughter would be lucky enough to one day have a teacher as caring and dedicated as you.

    This post is a good reminder of how often we take for granted that our children would still be here whenever we told them we’re too busy right now. As parents, as much as we love our children, too often we are also of the mind that thinks, “oh, that kind of thing would never happen to my kids.” We made excuses, telling ourselves, “It’s just this once, and then I will spend quality time/listen/pay attention to them next time.”

    But there might not be a next time. With all the craziness that happens in the world today, how much more should we put into each of the time that we spend with our kids.

    A cautionary post, very well-written!

  6. I’m so glad Elisa told me to come over. I tried to follow you and hope ti worked. You are amazing and your thoughts echo mine beautifully. It is one of the things that I get angry at the most. Thank you for putting words to these feelings.

  7. Shirl-I’m not sure it has all gone wrong, but I think we as a society are becoming more awre of the issues our children have to deal with. As our society becomes more complicated, ALL our lives are effected. Children seem to be the all too often silent victims.

    Jacqueline-Thank you. You are exactly right-children often take the brunt of the family issues-what we see at schools is what they bring with them-while there are MANY great parents, it’s so interesting to talk to kids and see what they are really thinking. Our kids are under a lot of stress in our communities and schools…it’s not just that kids are making bad choices, but that they don’t know how to deal with what life is throwing at them.

    Bec-Thanks for following mamawolfe!

  8. Wow Jennifer. I am so speechless and I mean that in the best way. What a post! I can’t tell you how much that it touched me. “the choices made for them”. It is my belief there is nothing that a child can possibly do to deserve half of what goes on in some families. The funny thing is they label the child “problem” and nobody even listens to their voice. THANK YOU for being such a beacon.

  9. Hi, I’m your newest follower. I agree with you in this post. I home educated my daughter for 5 years and when she did go back to school to take her exams, I couldn’t believe some of the stories she told me about the other kids lives: incredibly sad and damaging. Where did it all go so wrong?

  10. Brenda-I completely agree. Sometimes I try to tell myself to just accept that the world can be a hard place, that people are mean and not all parents know how to do the right thing. But the other, stronger part of me says NO-that’s not ok. Makes me crazy, too.

  11. I just figured out what I was missing with my teenagers and pre-teens. I think this is a really good reminder that we should stop and listen. Sometimes we just caught up in wanting what is best for our kids and are too busy telling them what to do and we forget to talk with them and see what they need.

  12. Wonderful! I don’t understand why innocents are hurt, ever. Or why people have children if they don’t understand the commitment of love, time, life, breath, that it requires to raise a child. We are responsible for shaping their vulnerable little lives. You summed up what crosses my mind every time I hear about a child’s live being lost because of neglect or bad choices. Makes me crazy.

  13. Hi Kirsty,
    Thanks for the comment. You’re a TK (teacher’s kid)! When I was building a school in Nicaragua many of the children didn’t have shoes-but one would expect that there….not in the US! That is a very sad, sad, story…

  14. I’m sure it’s not any worse now or different, just that you’re seeing things in a different light.
    Both my parents are teachers too. The other day my Dad was telling me about how he went shopping with a student of his to buy him some shoes. Apparently they have to feed him, buy him clothes etc etc.
    No, the family is not poor, not at all in fact. They have money.. they just don’t share it with their son.
    That absolutely shocks me. I can not even imagine!

  15. Karen- thanks for commenting! I’ll head over and check out your thoughts on the subject! If everyone just took a moment to notice not just their kid, but someone elses, we might make some change happen. Wahoo! on being my 100th follower!

  16. Michael Ann-thank you for commenting. I completely agree about our focus-we need to pay attention to more than their safety when they’re little-they learn that we care by watching our responses at such an early age!

  17. Wow… I completely understand! Who will be there to listen.
    I wrote a similar post this week: http://karendawkins.blogspot.com/2011/08/stepping-up.html

    We need to step up and support our kids — especially families in crisis.

    Thank you for teaching. Thank you for caring. I pray that you’ll be able to touch hearts that need you most and I pray that others will come around your school and support the kids there. Specific prayer for you today.

    Much appreciation!

  18. Wow, that was a powerful piece, Jennifer. It put a lump in my throat. There are days where I am overwhelmed by these thoughts too. Something as simple as seeing a mother out pushing her child in the stroller, all the while busily talking on her cell phone rather than to the child. That is when it starts–the lack of attention. I know there are more harmful things, but this really bothers me. Yes, it’s important to have “me” time, but our primary focus should be our children. After all, we brought them into this world.

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