Counter Culture: For When Your Kids Feel Different

I like to watch my 6th and 8th graders get off the bus and walk up the driveway from the dining room window. It’s their first year to ride the bus home from school and it has brought them closer in a way I didn’t expect, but constantly prayed for. I mean your little brother is annoying until he’s the only one you know in an unknown situation, ya know?

I hand them snacks and listen for the highs and lows of their days during the precious 30 minutes before I head out to pick up their little sister a few blocks away. It’s the small window of time where they want to talk about ALL THE THINGS. And if you have kids this age, you know how important it is to listen. Because junior high is a whole new world and so many of the things we’ve taught them and prepared them for are here.

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My oldest said one day last week, “We watched a Social Media Awareness video today,” and I could tell by the look on her face, she was waiting for me to respond. “Really? Tell me about it.”

And she did, little brother listening, munching on a granola bar, an apple in hand and eyeing a bag of chips. (This is normal, right? I’m looking at you moms of tween boys).

She told me that the teacher asked some questions before the video and had the students raise their hands, questions like:

Who has a Facebook account? Who is on Instagram? Who has a Twitter account?

And so on and so on…she named several social media platforms I had never even heard of.

By the time her teacher was done, my daughter said she looked around and nearly every hand was raised.

Hers were folded in her lap.

I cringed at her story. Because for this time in her young life, we’ve said no for her to social media. We have explained that it will have a time and place in her life, but now isn’t the time. We all have to decide when our kids are ready and deal with the filtering and follow-up of allowing these social media influences when we’re ready.

Our decision (and her decision to comply and not sneak around us) has separated her from some of her peers. This isn’t to say she’s the only one or that all social media in the hands of junior high kids is wrong. That’s not what this is about, it’s about choosing to raise your kids based on what you feel like is right for your family, even if it goes against cultural norms and as a result, makes them feel different.  We’ve made counter to cultural choices regarding modesty and not allowing the too short shorts and whatnot. We refuse to think it’s cute for our kids have boyfriends or girlfriends and well, they just don’t. We don’t allow our son to play Teen rated video games and we insist on not letting things interrupt family dinner time.  You get my point.

“Did you feel alone? Are you okay?” I asked dreading the answer. Because my kids are lovely and amazing but they both wanted smart phones yesterday.

Her answer surprised me. “Mom, I was so glad I didn’t have any of those social media accounts. The video talked about all the horrible, terrible things that can happen, like being lured into bad relationships, older adults seeking out kids, all the bad language and sexting and did you know people can take your images and do bad things with them? I just don’t think I’m ready for all that responsibility,” she confessed.

I’m not going to lie, I WANTED TO HUG HER PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR THEIR COURAGE.

[Sidenote: I know many of you homeschool or send your kids to Christian schools. I love that choice for your family. We send our kids to public school. We have had some of the most amazing, Godly teachers I've ever met. We evaluate each year in our constantly changing world and haven't ruled out any form of education, but for today, public school is the right answer for us.]

If I have learned anything in our quest to raise our children counter to our cultural that is all about instant gratification, growing up too quickly, objectifying our children sexually, THE LIST GOES ON, it’s this:

Raising our children to be different than the world, makes them different.

And when really all they want to do is blend in, they stand out. Teachers notice, as do other parents, but kids notice most. And if different is anything like it was when you were a kid, you know just how hard that can be. And it may not be opting out of social media that triggers it for your child, it might be not dropping your tween off at the mall to meet friends or not allowing your kids to see PG-13 movies…it might look different for every family. But when you decide to stand up against a cultural norm, there’s usually a few people in your life, community, even church, who will question your choice. Mainly because it makes them question their decision to go with the flow.

All the right-from-wrong teaching, character building, faith-instilling, inspirational parenting you’ve spent years living in your home is producing children who do not fit into the mold our society has deemed normal. And it leaves us with kids who sometimes feel left out, different and even alone. But this doesn’t mean we’ve failed them, it’s through this, their faith is being forged, their relationship with you, rocky days and all, is deepened and their dependency for a friend like Jesus is becoming clear.

Here’s the thing:  We live in a culture that has drifted further from truth and Biblical principals than ever before. Where the line was sort of fuzzy 20 years ago, it’s more defined now. There’s a line drawn right down the middle for our children and they are either trying to live for the world or trying to live for God. I believe this is the time where they begin to question which side of the line they want to be on.  And however you choose to raise your children, they will eventually have to choose a side.

It becomes vital that we stand with our children and help them build Christian community around them, inside of school and outside. This is often hard, prayerful work. We have literally prayed Christian friends into our kids lives, attended campus Bible clubs, driven to age-appropriate Bible studies, chased down mentors, stood around the flag pole with them, emailed teachers, fought this battle with them every step of the way.

Because my kids feel different. And that’s exactly how I’ve raised them to feel.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t live in beautiful, amazing, fulfilling community. They can by finding other kids who are standing up for what they believe is right. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. One by one..

Raising our children to be different is Biblical. It’s also refining for them and us when they stand apart or struggle to do so. But it’s crucial we stand with them when they succeed or fail, providing alternatives and support in their journey.

“It’s happening, honey,” I said to my daughter the other day who has longed for deeper friendships at her new school. “God is answering your prayer. He’s sending good friends into your life.”

Her face lit up. And it was almost like I could see her faith deepen right in front of me.

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Kristen, this is beautiful. As a public school teacher, thank you for helping your kiddos with this. Thank you for being their parent and not a friend. Wow, wow, wow.

  2. 2

    says

    You are not alone in the culture you raise your child in. We do the same for ours. We have friends from our very same church that even say we are too strict, but they are dealing with a host of problems that we don’t even dream about as a result of their not being as strict. Our kids have never even asked for a social media page. They will when they are ready. I am certainly not going to encourage it. Yes, I absolutely agree that we need to raise our kids according to our values not the Worlds. So glad we are not alone in that.

  3. 3

    says

    One of the reasons I first found your blog was because I was only finding homeschool bloggers and I bravely e-mailed one of them and said, “Um, do you know of any Christian bloggers who send their kids to public school.” I wasn’t sure how she would respond but she was gracious and directed me your way! We are SO on the same page, I love reading everything you have to say! My boys are 8th, 6th and 2nd. With my middle schoolers I am definitely seeing the fruit of raising them right and sending them to public school. My 8th grader has started carrying his Bible to school everyday and takes it to lunch. He says he wants kids to ask him so he can share his faith! I LOVE that!!

  4. 4

    says

    When I was young, and would tell my parents “Well, so and so’s parents are letting her go to the party/get the new dress/go out with a boy,” they would tell me, “Well, we’re not her parents. We’re your parents.” And I am so so thankful that they set those limits for me. Your daughter will be even more grateful in a few years!

  5. 6

    says

    LOVE it! We are walking this walk right with you, and have parented this way for many, many years. We have 12 children (7 of which are in their 20s). My youngest 4 are 11, 12, 13, 14. Social Media? No way! PG13? Not yet. Dating? They are not even thinking about it (as they watched all of their older siblings wait until AFTER high school).

    And, just to encourage you a bit more . . . several of our young adults have THANKED us for raising them DIFFERENTLY. Yes.They.Have.

    Keep up the good work!

    Laurel
    mama of 12

  6. 7

    says

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I absolutely LOVE this! My oldest is only in 1st grade and just turned 7 last month so we’re years away from what you’re describing, but like you, for now we’re choosing public school for a variety of reasons. We’ve already had to have a lot of talks about how different families have different rules. We’ve also talked about how other families don’t believe Jesus is God and don’t live by what the Bible says, but we do.

    Awhile back at Christmas a friend asked on Facebook how other families were handling Christmas—keeping it focused on Jesus “while still being cultrually relevant”. The thing is I’m really not that worried about being culturally relevant.

    One of my favorite quotes is a bumper sticker of a former acquaintance that read “The truth isn’t always popular, but it is always right”. When that line in the sand gets drawn I don’t want my kids making compromises saying they’re just trying to be relevant to keep friends so they can lead them to Jesus. I want my kids to take a stand for right and wrong. A stand for good in a world where evil is gaining a stronger foothold by the day.

    My guess is that there will be a day, in the not too distant future when you’re 13 and 11 year olds are going to look back and say “Wow. Mom and Dad laid a firm foundation. I’m GLAD they protected me from __________” You’ve already heard the first glimmers of that conversation with your 13yo. Good job, Mama (and thanks for giving those of us who are coming up behind you food for thought so we can try to have some plan and be as proactive as possible when it IS our turn)

  7. 9

    says

    Such an encouraging post, Kristen! We have three kids who are all in public school this year. I love that precious time right after they come home from school and before the homework rush, when they are eating their snack and chatting about their days. We are transitioning to public school from homeschooling (and we just moved across the country…and we adopted a newborn…life is a bit crazy ’round these parts!) and as I was pondering the school questions, I remembered some of your posts about the difficult year your son had a while back. I loved how you supported him and loved him through that; and I also loved hearing that this year is different! My son is in 7th grade, so starting a new school and making friends has been a bit rough. Your words are an encouragement to me to remember that God is doing work in the lives of my children through these experiences, and you give great inspiration about how to support and love our kids in the midst of it all. Thank you so much!

  8. 10

    says

    I love this! I want to raise my kids to be different. Do you have any suggestions for how to start that? They’re only 1.5 and 3 months. They’re sort of blank slates right now, and I’d love to start raising them to be different now!

  9. 11

    Robyn says

    Bless you, Kristen.

    I am weeping because I am right there…right down to the tween boy (boys in my case) with the many snacks! We’ve also had a great public school experience, for the most part, but this junior high thing has really knocked the wind out of me.

    We’ve had a few conversations that mostly go like this…”but mom…I’m the ONLY ONE!!” And they’re right. They are the only ones in their peer group not allowed to do certain things. Like, go to sleepovers where there is minimal supervision and kids are on their iPods / ios devices all night long surfing the internet.

    Yikes.

    We recently hosted the gang at our house, and I collected the ios devices. We had food and games and a movie…but one of the boys just couldn’t stop saying “You HAVE to give me my phone. I can’t live without it.” He chose to go home rather than live without the phone for four hours of hanging out with his friends.

    I struggle with wanted them all to like me. The irony is I don’t see myself as super strict. My kids have a lot of freedoms and flexibility…but there are a few ground rules that don’t budge.

    Hard, hard stuff.

  10. 12

    says

    So glad for these moments of affirmation! I don’t have a child quite that old yet (it’s nice when your 18 month old can’t ask about Instagram or Vine or whatever), but we have already begun to plan for her future. It’s going to be hard to be different, but we have a God who is faithful to provide especially when we are faithful in obedience!

  11. 13

    says

    My husband just took our reluctant 6th grader to school this morning, rather than him riding the bus like he usually does, so he could attend See You at the Pole. You are right to say that middle school is tough – because all they want to do is fit in, not be different as God calls them to be. Thankfully, my two high schoolers were up at the crack of dawn to make sure they got to the flagpole on time. :) Keep on doing the hard work.

  12. 14

    Robin says

    My boys are the “only ones” too (14 & 11). But they are fine with that. Our school district just adopted a bring your own device policy that allows kids to bring smart phones, iPads, etc, to school. Teachers are planning to let kids use them for research and such. So we had the discussion, do we get them tablets so they won’t we the only ones without. We decided it’s not worth it. There are computers at school and home. We don’t need to go there. And the boys are fine with it, for now. They don’t have Facebook, or cell phones, or texting, or an xbox. They also don’t have the problems and attitudes that sometimes come with those things. As for the boy/girl thing, we’re walking through figuring all that out with our 14 yr old. But it so much easier because there is no texting or Facebooking! My advice to young parents, decide now what you will/won’t allow and be discussing these issues all along. It would be much harder to have allowed something and then decide to take it away. Kristen, you and T are great parents! Keep up the good/hard work!

  13. 15

    says

    Thank you, this is excellent! My daughter is only a toddler now, but this is how we are raising her, and intend to continue. You are so right – it’s imperative that parents stand WITH their kids. It’s hard to be counter-cultural in general, but when you do it alone, it’s next to impossible, and extremely lonely.

  14. 17

    MarcyB says

    Wow. Powerful piece. But I have to admit, I don’t understand you statement “they are either trying to live for the world or trying to live for God.” I just don’t understand this dichotomy. God wants us IN the world, helping the world, being WITH the world. At least that is the approach I take to living my faith. Unless you’re Amish…

    My niece writes a blog for Christian teenagers. She is using modern social media tools to reach teens in a way that the hands-off-technology approach never could.

    I respect your decision but the whole concept of “have to take a side” seems alien to me, my husband, and my 13-year-old son who very much want to live our principles within the world. I don’t see “sides.” I just see humanity. I just see love. I just see God.

    • 17.1

      Karyl says

      Hi, Marcy. A good book I’m just about finished with may be able to help you flesh out this issue a bit. “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman has been an inspirational, thought-provoking, and sometimes uncomfortable book that helps hash through scripture to determine what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I think that point more than anything helps you decide how to live in community, love people, and serve them without compromising your duty to follow and obey Jesus.

  15. 18

    says

    Kristen,
    As always I love what you have written. I am a homeschool mom myself {at least until the Lord leads otherwise}, BUT I am married to a Public School teacher. I hear every. day. the stories of the kids he deals with. And, oh, my the stories. How grateful and so thankful I am {and he is} that there are beautiful, wonderful Christian parents raising their chidren to know and UNDERSTAND the love and beauty of Our Lord. Your child, Kristen, she is a gift to those teachers. Bless you and your husband a thousand times over,

  16. 20

    says

    So much of what you write is exactly what we’ve done with our girls . . . only a few years ahead of you. Right now my youngest (15), who, by the way, did not get her first cell phone until last year, is in the throes of not being asked to Homecoming when all of her friends are going. She doesn’t get it, and she’s feeling left out and sad. (It’s not that we’ve said she CAN’T go to Homecoming, that’s just the way it’s worked out.) But every day I’m watching her faith grow as she stands up straight and tall for Jesus. And this morning I dropped her off early so she could pray and worship at “Meet Me at the Pole.” I pray she keeps feeling more and more “different” every day.

  17. 21

    Joy Kaye says

    Thank you for this post…I want to just hug your neck right now!

    We are THAT family too…and we’ve been thrilled, and at times, devastated as our girls (ages 15, 13, 12 and 10) have grown to be different. The vast majority of our days are beautiful reminders of how great “different” really is, but every once in a while we encounter those challenging “why can’t I have/do/go” days too. None of our girls have phones…or Facebook…or Twitter…or Instagram…or whatever else is out there. And, so far, none have turned into pumpkins…nor have they cried themselves to sleep (more than possibly once!). But they have discovered other really FANTASTIC, godly friends with like minds and common goals for their lives. They have discovered the other kids–and teachers–who are living a different life and we couldn’t be happier!

    Thanks again for your post…and for your blog in general. This is one I read regularly…and often feel like you may be looking in our living room window taking notes… :o)

  18. 22

    Lynn b says

    Thank you for being a guiding light. While I know what values I want my children to have as they Re growing I am seeing it is harder and harder to feel like I can “protect” them, my oldest is just starting school this year and your thoughts today have really helped me to see “yes!” We can continue this journey on being “different” :0) thank you! ( just I was feeling wounded bc unfortunately even as early as kindegarten it begins with all the haves and have nots , etc.)

  19. 26

    Rachel M. says

    Thank you Kristen! This is such a powerful reminder that the ‘straight and narrow’ path does in fact pay off. While it’s hard to stick to our guns sometimes, the benefits for our children are more than we can count. I struggle with this though as one of the kids under my house is my nearly 7-year old step-son. My husband and I share joint custody with his mom who is NOT as apt to put restrictions on age-appropriate movies, etc. I’d love to know if there is help out there for those of us in the unfortunate situation of two homes where one family is doing everything within our power to shield young minds from some of the things of this world. It’s a really tough situation.

  20. 28

    says

    Thanks for posting. It is a hard road to travel, the counter culture road. I read your post to my 6th grade daughter as we were just having a similar conversation. It allowed her to see that there are others that are walking this path too. My daughter feels so different and I am praying for Christian friends for her so they can be “different” together.

  21. 30

    Tamra says

    Yes. Thank you. Our kids are 12, 9, and6, and my husband and I have been having this conversation weekly. Not only do our children feel so different, but so do WE. It is not fun being the one to say no to so many issues. I must remember that our children are strong, and they are growing. Each stand we take refines us all to be more like Jesus and less like everyone else, but it’s hard. I hate to see them feeling left out, and it is not easy to make friendships that are real and pure. Thank you for this encouragement! It was perfectly timed and much needed.

  22. 32

    alison says

    Thank you for writing this blog post & for all who have added their comments. My kids are still babies but I am soaking up all the wisdom of you brave moms who go before me.

  23. 33

    Leslie says

    Thanks so much for sharing this! We have chosed to opt out of a lot of things for our 6th and 8th grader. Things that society says is ok! I am just not worried about society! The Maker and Greater Of all things have me HIS children to raise for a small time and I have to try to raise them like HE wants us too! Not how society wants us to raise them!!

  24. 34

    says

    Thank you. I am not a parent yet, but a teacher and a future parent, and it is good to be reminded that it’s OK to allow our kids to stand apart. To TEACH them how to stand apart and still stand strong. This was a big inspiration.

  25. 35

    says

    Love, love, love this. No matter where your kids go to school, they MUST learn to be counter-cultural. Christian school isn’t heaven and the kids next door to your homeschool may be watching things you don’t want your kids to see–and bringing them into the front yard on their phones. You’re so right — these experiences deepen your relationship with them and draw them closer to the One who has the power to help them stand up.

    I’ll be sharing this, for sure! Thanks.

  26. 36

    Amy says

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I often struggle with this topic and you have reinforced so many points for me! Being the only mom to say no can sometimes make ME feel different and alone, so to hear your story and the stories of those posting comments make me feel so much better. BTW, we are a public school family too!

  27. 37

    says

    This is so right on, Kristen! I have so much to say about it, but I’ll say just this:

    When we were Children’s Pastors, I could spot the homeschoolers a mile away. They were awkward and just DIFFERENT. I never wanted to homeschool my kids based on my interaction w/those kids.

    Then, after I had my own kids and let parenting change my worldview (along w/lots of crazy happening in the world in the past few years…side note: don’t you think craziness has sped up?!!), I suddenly realized, I WANT MY KIDS TO BE DIFFERENT. I don’t want them to fit in with the normal, media-saturated, annoyed-at-their-siblings, lame-is-cool kids that made up the majority of our church.

    We partial-homeschool now not b/c I believe it’s the only way to raise “different” kids but b/c it just fits us best. This post is just a reminder that DIFFERENT is what we want! Christian parents should be raising DIFFERENT kids. Period.

    THANK YOU (as usual!)

    a

  28. 39

    Mrs. R. says

    Thank you SO MUCH for saying all this—and giving such fabulous validation and hope to all of us who are choosing to do things the way the Scriptures teach!! We’re gonna keep this for future injections of positive feedback!!

  29. 40

    Meredith says

    Amazing. I’m in awe. I pray I will have the wisdom, discernment, and gumption to be able to shepherd my children as you are so boldly doing. Quit setting the bar so high, golly jeez!

  30. 41

    says

    Super great article. I don’t always comment, but I just love reading your stuff and feel so on the same page. You’ve been a role model as I navigate this blogging world, so thank you.

  31. 42

    says

    Thank you for this great post. My husband and I joke that “we’re so behind that we’re ahead!” We applaud what you are doing with the kids. Normal is overrated and isn’t working for many kids. It’s OK to be different :)

  32. 44

    says

    Thank you so much for the reminder!With three grown kids …. and three more to go sometimes I get weak. But I know what I know…. our 16 yr old (4th born) JUST got a cell phone…. a dumb phone not a smart phone. We just allowed fb and instagram. I am so very thankful I did not do it till now….

    We just don’t…..

    Thanks, Kristen…. not just with the social media/culture thing but for this whole post.

    Hugs

  33. 45

    Glenda says

    Amazing post! My first comment EVER on a blog, so that is pretty important to note. You said it well without judging others choices. You put into words what I have felt for so long and my boys are in their 20′s and married. God bless you!

  34. 46

    Anita says

    “Mainly because it makes them question their decision to go with the flow.”

    I’m the mom of a 1st grader, a Kindergartner and a 4 year old. I’ve recently been criticized by my SIL because of our stance against them having electronic devices at this age. Each discussion we have makes me feel like she is telling me that I am wrong because she has justify her actions with her own children.

    Thank you so much for the encouragement.

  35. 48

    Tom from WA says

    It is not the easy road to think for oneself, to draw one’s own conclusions. This is what we teach in our home. Don’t just blindly believe what “studies say”, or what the government, the mainstream media, or pop culture says. Most people who are counter-culture are that way FOR A REASON, meaning they have researched something enough to form their own conclusions! Teach your kids to research, think, and reason for themselves, and they will be equipped for life!

  36. 49

    Stacey says

    Kristen,

    The only thing I don’t utterly LOVE about this post is all of the inclusion and justification within. It’s OK to make the choices you’ve made (no social media, no short shorts, public school). I wish you didn’t feel the need for SO MANY inclusionary statements.

    Keep up the good work, doing what works for your family UNAPOLOGETICALLY.

  37. 50

    says

    Again, awesome post on faith. With my oldest in middle school this year, the social demands are becoming more obvious. But, it’s important to stick to your beliefs and try to instill those beliefs in your kids. And don’t apologize for it! All you have to do is look around and talk about how that is working for someone else. It’s not hard to find that just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t mean you should do it.

  38. 51

    Tonja says

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! As 2 public school teachers, raising a public-schooled 10 y/o, this hits home. She is definitely feeling the “but everyone else can” pinch. We, like you, remind her that we use the Bible as our go to advice book, we do not use other parents as our guide. For now, that’s usually enough. It’s always nice hearing other stories and finding comfort in knowing that she, someday, will hopefully thank us for her being raised differently.

    Regarding the homeschool vs. public school issue. I, also, agree that each family must choose for themselves what works in their world. I do wonder this, though…if most Christian families are homeschooling their Christian kids, how will the non-Christian kids in public school ever see any Christ-like peer examples? Our daughter is a light unto so many dark paths daily at school and we are so proud of her strong walk with Christ. I love that she is ministering in her little world, even without knowing it.

    Thank you for being willing to allow us to look into your world and seek refuge and strength and comfort with you.

  39. 52

    says

    Thank you for this. Even though we homeschool, our children face the same issues. Our remote location has resulted in there not being any friends, other than their family, to stand with them. Wherever they go to school, it is hard to be different. The funny thing is, I, the mama, am the one struggling with being “the only one” right now. My children have each other as peers. I have. my beloved and God. Every one wants a flesh and blood friend. The struggle continues…by Grace and faith in the One who keeps me I will stay the course as I did when a public schooled teenager myself. Thank you for the encouragement.

  40. 53

    pam says

    WE need more parents like this – boy do we ever, glad to know there is still someone out there with strong standards. I have high school kids who still do not do facebook, etc…..(& yes even college age one who have not) And my high school kids do not watch pg-13 movies, those movies are not allowed in our home. My daughter went on her first date (don’t date till 16) wtih a group and you think they would have the same standards (coming from the same church) wanted to go see a pg-13 movie and my daughter had to stand up to them and said she would not be going, but they could and she will wait for them out here when its over. Well I have to say I was proud of her and them, for they all decided she was right and they went and did something else instead. But my daughter does tell me she is the only one who has never seen a pg-13 movie (even my younger ones say the same) and she is the only one who doesn’t do facebook, etc…. and I’m so glad she is not involved in those things. Keep up the good work; I know its hard for them, they do stand out even with those who know better.

  41. 54

    says

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