The 30 Second Challenge

thirty, seconds, thirty second game, challenge, positive reinforcement, bully, school, teacher, parent, teenager, junior high

thirty, seconds, thirty second game, challenge, positive reinforcement, bully, school, teacher, parent, teenager, junior high

Gabriele is an 18-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL.  She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”



30 seconds.
A young girl becomes a victim of human trafficking.

30 seconds.
An earthquake shakes a nation.

30 seconds.
In Africa, malaria takes a child’s life.

30 seconds.
A diabetes diagnosis changes someone’s life forever.

All it ever takes is thirty seconds to unequivocally mark a life, a nation, a world.


You have a daughter. She’s twelve, but so close to thirteen that she can scratch for it. She lies to you every day that school was “fine” and her façade of getting by makes you feel less guilty about being so distant. She has friends, yes. They’re fine too.  You never taught her how to read or write because her school promised to do the job for free, and you never taught her how to play sports or play an instrument because she never showed any interest.

You never taught her how to fight.

Let’s break it down into 30 seconds:

1 Fits of shouting

2 Tight fists clouting

3 First blow

4 Adrenaline rush

5 Second blow

6 Hush

7 Curse, cry, react

8 Head hits the floor and

9 Crack

10 Gasping for air

11 Wrenched hair

12 Balance lost to her closed eyes

13 Get up

14 Shove

15 Down

16 Spurs of lies

17 Kick, pick

18 Sick, slick

19 Plead

20 Bleed

21 Shattered pride

22 Cover her face and

23 Hide

24 Breathe

25 Third blow

26 So loud

27 Silence from the crowd

28 Fear paralyzing, heart rate escalating

29 Pulse more painful than the blows themselves

30 Done

This is your daughter.
This is your daughter “fine.”

Thirty seconds wasted to a degrading act of bullying is not uncommon in junior high schools across the nation. Called the “30 second game,” students are still participating in this shameful game where nobody wins. The game first came into headlines in late November of last year when a teenage girl was beaten inside a Detroit school restroom while her peers recorded the fight. The game consists of two teenagers, usually not equally matched, who are forced to fight for thirty seconds. The game is highly dangerous and wholly demeaning, and schools are doing very little to nothing about it.

And this isn’t the only problem in junior high schools. With each passing year, the junior high schools are becoming worse academically and behaviorally. Researchers have noticed that the time when teenagers attend junior high school denotes the most significant decline in self esteem. Because the schools are failing academically, motivational programs are cut and strict testing remains, with consequences for teachers and administrators when students perform poorly. The teachers do not have time to “parent” your children anymore. Now, the damage of past parenting comes into light.

Though living in a world where the teachers and administrators effectively stop the fighting and bullying thriving in our teenager’s schools seems iridescently perfect, the reality is that a teenager leaves school to sleep in the bed her parent makes for her.

So I’m going to pose a challenge for you. It’s called the 30 second game. But this time, let’s make it constructive. If positive reinforcement for intervals of just thirty seconds can significantly affect speech fluency in stuttering children, then what more can thirty seconds do? Let’s find out. Start by giving your teenager thirty seconds of undivided, positive, high energy attention every day. This may sound too easy, but surprisingly one in three parents do not know how to effectively discipline their children, according to a study conducted by Dr. Shari Barkin. If a home lacks positive reinforcement, the child will tend to act out in negative ways to get the attention that comes easily with misbehavior. So start with thirty seconds and see what happens. Then, take the game further, spending more and more positive time with your teenager. The positive reinforcement will develop self respect and a decreased need for attention elsewhere. Maybe it will be the parents who change the schools, the lives, the nations.

Let’s break it down in thirty seconds.



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  1. 5/25/12: Articles for Parents This Week | Radical Parenting - May 25, 2012

    […] The 30 Second Challenge What is this scary new teen trend and how to make this dangerous game into a positive one. […]

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