Wednesday, 6:33 am
Boulder, CO
“The most destructive criticism is indifference.” – (Edgar Watson Howe)

Good Morning…

This post is about the one thing you must not do. When you’re tired, frustrated, upset and crying yourself to sleep at night because of your teen’s out-of-control behavior, this can seem like your best option…

…It never is!


Woman Beat To Death By Ex-boyfriend Outside Of Traffic Court (philly,pa)


A 21-year-old pregnant woman died following a beating outside
traffic court in Spring Garden, just outside of Philadelphia, PA.
A witness reported, “We saw all these guys beating this girl and
no one tried to help. She was screaming for help,
‘stop, please, help me!’”


Preventable? Definitely!

So, what went wrong? Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. and the author of the national bestseller Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion would most likely say…

Pluralistic Ignorance!

Pluralistic ignorance is a form of social proof, “in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single by-stander, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react.” (Influence, p. 133)

Basically, you and I are less likely to help someone in danger if we are in a group of by-standers than if we are a single by-stander.

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, might say the reason no one stepped in to help the 21-year-old pregnant woman was…


What is indifference? In a 1999 speech, titled The Perils of Indifference, given at the The White House, Wiesel said, “…the word means ‘no difference.’ A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.”

The dictionary defines indifference as…

…a lack of concern or interest.

So what does this have to do with you? A LOT!

Pluralistic ignorance is a psychological phenomenon in which you involuntarily respond to a situation based on how the other people around you are responding.

Indifference, on the other hand, is a voluntary choice. For example, “what happens to my neighbor is a matter of utter indifference to me.”

Wiesel went onto say…

“Of course, indifference can be tempting — more than that, seductive.
It is so much easier to look away from victims.
It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work,
our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome,
to be involved in another person’s pain and despair.
Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless.
Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest.
Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.”

This is important — when it comes to our teens and our relationships with them, the most dangerous thing to say yes to is…


We reduce them, through our indifference, to abstractions!

Their pain and despair not only makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable…

… it reminds us of our own private anguish.

Their joy and happiness not only makes us feel inept and unworthy…

… it reminds us of our own failures.

After all, as Wiesel said, they are… rude interruptions.

However easy it is for you and I to do so, it is 100 times, no 1000 times more destructive to look away than it is to act.

When you are tired, frustrated and upset, backing down, giving up and crying yourself to sleep are never the best option.

Be too restrictive or be too questioning…

… but do something. Say something.

Just don’t be…


Anything is better than indifference.

Remember the 21-year-old pregnant woman who died? The best defense against pluralistic ignorance and indifference is…


If you find yourself in a crowd watching someone in danger, remember what you learned here today. Do not choose to act or not to act based on the “seeming calm of others.” You now know better. It is better to act and look like a fool, than to not act and witness, quite literally, a pregnant woman be beat to death.


… if you find yourself tired, frustrated, upset, unappreciated and crying yourself to sleep at night because your teen’s behavior has you feeling like your hands are tied, don’t do nothing.


Yours truly,


P.S. If you are not sure what to do and would like more information about our mentoring program or to set-up a FREE consultation Click Here. That’s right press Click Here.

P.S.S.  VENT!!! If your not sure you want to contact me, BUT would like to get your frustrations, anger, worry, HELPLESSNESS off your chest send, me an email at vent@boulderteenmentoring.com or VENT!!! This is completely confidential and you will not receive an email from me other than an automatically generated email.

P.S.S.S. Be sure to leave a comment. Tell me what you think. Do you agree with me or do you think I am full of…?



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  • http://www.facebook.com/christieconnor1 Christie Marino Connor

    Henry, Great commentary. Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve actually read Cialdini’s book & frequently bring up some of his points in discussions with my husband as we are asking ourselves, “And why did we do THAT???” Thanks for making the connection to parenting.

    As a side note, I lived about a dozen blocks from that Spring Garden traffic court about 15 years ago, for several years. Even then I’d experienced volatile social & race relations. Lines seem to be drawn very distinctly, both figuratively and geographically, with a lot of anger and resentment in that city of brotherly love — such a sad outcome for that young mother-to-be. Really a tragedy.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Christie,

      Thanks for taking the time to write. Many parents struggle with their children’s behavior and blame themselves for behaviors in their teen that are automatic. Commitment and Consistency as well as Social Proof I think play a big role in how teens behave and how parents can use those to influence their children. Another good book of a similar theme is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (I think that is how you spell it).

      No parent can control what their child does when they are out in the world with their friends. The best a parent can hope for is to have some influence over their child. That influence is like an invisible rope connecting the parent to the the child. It helps keeps the child safe.

      Really the best way to create that positive influence is to have a rock solid relationship with your teen. Without that strong relationship the uphill battle just gets steeper and steeper as they get older. I think Cialdini has some great suggestions on how to some positive influence.

      I picked that incident to show what can happen in an extreme case of indifference and to show that it is in part natural for us to behave that way. It takes vigilance and awareness not to sucked into it. Unfortunately though I think the story of the mother is too strong an image. I don’t think most folks who come to that blog get past that to the meat of the post.

      Thanks again for you comment.


  • kelley davies

    I saw your ad on gmail.  I live in Boulder, I’m 27, and I’m male.  My parents, especially my stepfather, were indifferent to the point of social castration on my part.  I became isolated, angry and desperate as a teen and developed schizophrenia.  His other children have had premature children from drugs.  He is an absolutely horrible father, and a horrible person, raised by horrible parents.  He goes to church every day as if this is a solution.  I hope he dies of cancer.  This indifference is everywhere.  I can’t even clean my room without getting incredibly anxious. I write him emails and he doesn’t respond.  He is a coward and a cold-hearted, pathetic father, and my whole family is completely indifferent because of the unresponsiveness he demonstrated.  I want him dead.  He is cancer so maybe it will come soon.  Thank you for this post.  BTW, I meditate every day for an  hour or two to get past the pain.  I have over 3000 journal entries in the past year.  I walk 5 miles a day and interact with people in need.  I’m on social security and my room is an absolute mess because I’m too afraid to clean it. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Kelley, Thanks for your comment. I am sorry for you troubles and I am glad to hear that you are taking steps to work through your pain. Meditation, physical activity and giving of yourself to people less fortunate than you are all powerful ways to move forward and past the pain and emotional chains of the past. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. With small steps you can create a life of enrichment and meaning for yourself.

    With the same small steps you can clean your room. Just put away one item at time.

    Thank you again for sharing with me.

    Big love,