Challenges of Invisible Children – Can You Help?

By  Wanda Parker

I was recently at a KidTrek Associate Afterschool Center and witnessed the following.

The kids were divided into two teams to do a study on the history of Thanksgiving.  Their assignment was to individually read the history and then the Center Director would alternate asking each team a question about what they had read.  The team was to work together to come up with one correct answer.  They could refer back to their papers to find the answer.  The 5th and 6th graders had three pages to read, the 2nd – 4th graders had one sheet to read.  The teams each had mixed ages.

I was amazed as the room became quiet and every kid was intent on reading and studying.

Then it was time to get into the game.  Javier, a sixth grader, got his team pulled together and they were excited to be ready for the second question.  Team A answered their question readily.  Now it was Javier’s team’s turn. He yelled out an answer – but it was incorrect.

Javier immediately shut down.  “This is a stupid game.  I don’t want to do this.  I won’t do this.”  He completely disengaged and went into his own world.  His only interaction from that point on was to make snide comments.

Javier was in control – in his own mind that is.

Javier is used to winning.  He is great at most games.  He is a macho kid.  He is academically capable – when he tries. He is likeable and the younger kids look up to him.  I’ve seen him go to the aid of a second grader with a bruised ego one moment and then in the next moment lash out at a fifth grader, for no apparent reason.  He is a kid full of anger and terrified of failure.

Javier has three main coping skills – he lashes out, at times physically; he shuts down and disengages; he verbally denies interest. 

Because Javier has had a Secondary Nurturer who is walking with he and his parents through life there have been huge changes in his behavior.  He isn’t as violent as he was a year ago.  Today if he hits someone he will come to Mr. Robert and say, “I hit so-and-so.”  That is huge – he is wanting to change that behavior.

The purpose of each coping skill is self-protection, it is his way to maintain control.  You can read it in his eyes, “If I pretend to not like this then it doesn’t matter what the outcome is.”  If he is allowed to continue in this faulty-reasoning he is going to end up becoming another sad statistic. 

His father used to be abusive. His father has very high expectations and we suspect is still verbally abusive when Javier doesn’t perform to expectations.  The father’s expectations are faulty. The father is respectful of the Secondary Nurturer and wants Robert in his son’s life, but he isn’t yet open to receive direction for himself in regard to parenting. The mother is open and does ask for direction.

My question to you the reader – do you have any suggestions for this Secondary Nurturer?  How can Javier be shown his faulty-reasoning?  How do the adults in his life set-up consequences in his life so that shutting down, being cynicle is more costly than going through the pain of not being the best?  Please brainstorm with us on this by leaving a comment below.

If you are new to our blog go to to learn more of our mission.  You can read a description of a Secondary Nurturer at


9 responses to “Challenges of Invisible Children – Can You Help?

  1. My suggestion to this Secondary Nurturer is to “back off” of the father. The Secondary Nurturer is already trespassing on the man’s parental rights and interfering in his home. Pushing him furthre by impugning his beliefs and behaviors would be very counter-productive.

    I understand that the Secondary Nurturer is allowed to be there, and I believe it’s a good idea. My wording in the first paragraph was to illustrate the underlying cultural meme involved. I think a soft touch is required – even if it slows progress.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts.

    That is why the SN has gone slow with the father. He has been amazingly supportive of the things the SN has done directly with his son.

  3. That’s seems rare and wonderful.

  4. Lots of prayer does work miracles. 🙂

  5. Sometimes it’s a lot of work that is the miracle in response to prayer 🙂

  6. jonolan, do you have any thoughts for the SN of what he might further do with Javier to help him see his faulty-reasoning?

    It is this faulty-reasoning that leads kids into becoming the sad statistics of tomorrow.

  7. Wanda- this is a hard one. I had the opportunity to work with several kids that had the same pain and expressed it in similar ways (one right now at AWANA). One suggestion that worked for me in loving on the child:
    Maybe have the SN allow Javier to try new things with a smaller crowd of kids, a lot of time the failure in front of people (or peers) is the issue and that is when the snide comments come in (defense mech, “see i don’t care anyway”etc). I know that cannot go on forever but to build his confidence and ability to take risks, praise is hugely important as well. I also let the child see me make mistakes and “fail” at new things and then apologize or discuss it in front of everyone (to show him by example that “strong” people fail & then grow from it. I would also give him some “extra” responsibilities around the Kidtrek center and talk to him A LOT about being a positive leader for the other kids! Again praise is huge!!! If he can get positive attention to replace the negative it can eventually become habit. After a while I also do think it is important to let him deal with the consequences of the negativity or snide comments (i.e. do not “baby” him or beg him to particiapte b/c that only reinforces the negative attention seeking behavior). Hopefully, he will WANT TO particiapte and if his behavior causes him to not be able to he will see it. It can be hard though thru all this but the SN knows the situation better, pray adn trust what God tells YOU as He has called you to this role! I guess that is way more than one suggestion but I love when God puts these kids in our paths as He wants sooooo much for them and we just need to rely on him and listen!

  8. Roxanne, thanks! Those are great suggestions. I really like the idea of failing in front of him and letting him see it isn’t the end of the world.

    A good reminder to all of us that kids don’t need “perfect” adults around them. They need “real” adults who model responding in a healthy manner in difficult circumstances.

  9. The only advise I could give to the SN on dealing with the father – if it must be done at all – is too engage him w/o correcting him. Sort of how can we improve the child’s behavior? Dialog w/o any condemnation will probably be needed with the father.

    Frankly, he’s already given up a lot of control and authority. That’s a hard thing right there, so he’s probably going to be touchy.

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