4 Ways to Help Your Daughter Break the Silence About Bullying

 

“When your friends cut you out…it’s the worst. It’s like you’re totally alone. So when they let you back in, you take it, even if you know they’re not that nice and are really mean to other girls.”

-A sixth grade girl

 

There’s a culture of silence in modern day girlhood, and this silence can be devastating for many young girls. Girls tell me that they avoid speaking up about their experiences with bullying for a variety of reasons:

 

  • It’s humiliating
  • They feel alone
  • They fear they will be teased for talking about it
  • They fear the bullying will get worse if they tell
  • They still hope they can get back into the group
  • They don’t think anyone will believe them or understand

 

That’s a short list. Every girl is different, and every girl has her own reasons for participating in the culture of silence. But one thing is for certain: Silence isn’t helping anyone. In fact, silence contributes to the anxiety, depression, isolation, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and suicidal thoughts that can occur when girls are on the receiving end of bullying and/or cyberbullying.

 

Speaking up helps. But speaking up doesn’t have to mean going public. Speaking up can mean talking to a small group or trusted friends, or even just one. Every little bit helps.

 

When girls share their stories, not for the sole purpose of getting the other girl in trouble but to help another girl or to vent her own emotions, they take steps toward healing. They also open the door to difficult conversations that just might help another girl in similar circumstances.

 

 

Breaking the silence inspires hope and healing. When I work with groups of girls, we talk about a lot of the everyday stressors of modern girlhood. Without fail, “mean girl” behavior comes up. It’s not necessarily that each girl in the room has experienced bullying, but each girl knows that it’s something to worry about. They’ve heard the stories. They know it’s out there.

 

But an interesting thing happens when the first girl dares to share her story. The other girls move just a little bit closer. They ask questions. They rally around her. They empathize. And then they begin to share their stories and their worries. They break the culture of silence, if only for that session, and they work together to find solutions.

 

4 Ways to help girls talk it out

 

Bring it to the surface

The best way to end the stigma and break through the culture of silence is to normalize talking about bullying and cyberbullying. Girls know it’s happening. Parents know it’s happening. Don’t wait for an incident to occur to break ground on these tough topics, make them part of your regular conversations.

 

I can’t tell you how many parents ask me to avoid these topics in my groups because they don’t want their girls to worry. Girls are already worrying about it. When we silence it, we contribute to the culture of silence. Bring it to the surface by engaging in regular discussions about bullying and cyberbullying at the dinner table, when you’re taking a family walk, or when you’re just hanging out doing nothing.

 

Share little bits

It can be overwhelming, and triggering, to share your whole story. Some girls avoid talking about their experiences because it’s just too painful. I find that when girls know that they can share “little bits” at a time and start and stop as needed, the cloud of hopelessness that overwhelms them dissipates somewhat. It can take years to heal from the psychological impact of bullying. Trying to get it all out at once is difficult at best.

 

One thing that I find works well with girls is to give them the “time out” option. If they become overwhelmed with emotion, they make the hand signal for time out. That’s my cue to lead a deep breathing or mindfulness exercise to help her work through the emotions.

 

Guided conversations

Parenting myths lead us to believe that tween and teen girls are constantly pushing their parents away, but research shows that girls actually want help from their parents. They just don’t want every problem solved, and they don’t want to discuss everything the minute they get in the car.

 

Both literature and movies provide ample opportunity to discuss the many stressors girls currently face, including bullying and cyberbullying. Read together (or, at the very least, read the same book side-by-side) and initiate regular movie dates. Talk about the peer issues that arise and listen to how your daughter processes these issues. Resist the urge to come up with quick fixes. Instead, ask questions and listen as she works through the answers.

 

Encourage connection

In some of my groups, I give girls little signs that say, “been there.” When one girl shares a story about something hard, the other girls can choose to raise their “been there” signs. They are then given the opportunity to share their stories or make a comment. These little connections, even if the “been there” girls don’t actually share their own stories, help girls feel less alone in the world.

#beenthere

Imagine what would happen if girls used the hashtag #beenthere on social media to connect with other girls? It can be very difficult to stand up to bullying in the moment, but by connecting with other girls and simply being there, upstanders can stand just a little bit taller. Encourage your girl to share her “been there” moments with other girls in need. Together, they can start a revolution in girlhood.

 

Looking for more help with navigating modern girlhood? Pre-order your copy of NO MORE MEAN GIRLS today!

 

 

On Mean Girls and Raising Kindness

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By now you know that I’m big on things like happiness, kindness, and empathy.  You know that I believe in following your dreams and raising thoughtful, caring children who aren’t afraid to go their own way, but who also understand the importance of celebrating differences and learning from others.

If you’ve followed me for a while now, you definitely know how I feel about bullying – all forms of bullying.  Covert relational aggression, commonly referred to as “mean girls”, is certainly nothing new…but it is beginning earlier than it once did.  The best way to put an end to this kind of behavior?  Empower girls.  Teach them how to relate.  Show them a better way.

Head over to the Huffington Post and check out “Want to Stop Mean Girls?  Raise Nice Girls, Instead”.  Let’s do this together.  It takes a village to raise a village of kind and caring kids, after all.

When Your Child Bullies…

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Nobody wants to get that phone call…

As parents, we talk a lot about bully prevention and helping kids cope with bullying, but we can’t leave out the other part.  Every bully has parents, and it’s important for parents to know what to do if that phone call does come home from school.

Kids bully for a variety of reasons, and the best first step is to identify the trigger.  There always a reason behind a behavior, even if it takes time, counseling, and a lot of patience to find it.

Teaching empathy is crucial.  Ideally, all parents teach empathy from the beginning.  But it’s never too late to start.

Modeling kindness and appropriate conflict resolution skills is essential.  Kids learn from us.  They see and hear what we do and they internalize it.  That might feel like a lot of pressure, but it’s true.  So we have to be aware of our actions, voice tone, body language, and words.

Books are always useful for young children.  Check these out:

How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath & Mary Reckmeyer

One and Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Help!  A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller

That should get you started…

And please stop by Everyday Family to read more about what to do when your child is the bully.

Parents – Wake Up!

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I don’t know how many children have to take their lives before parents wake up and get angry…really, really angry…about bullying. But I, for one, can’t take it for one more second.

Head over to The Huffington Post.  Read it.  Get angry.  Share it (please, for the love of children everywhere, share it.  Use your voice.  Be the change that we need to see.)

And then go back to your family and raise better kids.

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When Parents Bully Back…

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Let me just state for the record what you already know about me – I am a BIG believer in the fact that every family is different, and there is no one perfect way to parent.  In fact, I truly believe that if we all focused on parenting kids as individuals, the world be a better place.  When I provide information here there and everywhere, it’s not to judge.  It’s simply to share my expertise and perhaps alleviate some of the stress that naturally occurs when parenting kids of all ages.

That said, I have very little tolerance for shame and humiliation as a parenting tactic.  Like none at all, really.

When the Utah stepmom who turned to shame and humiliation to put an end to a bullying issue starting making headlines, I cringed.  Some are calling it “creative parenting”.  Virtual high fives are coming in from around the world.  This stepmom, who knowingly attempted to humiliate her ten-year-old stepdaughter, is being praised for her actions by many.

I do believe in giving credit where credit is due – I believe that this woman was upset that her stepdaughter was bullying a classmate and wanted to take meaningful action.  I just don’t think that she sent the right message.

It’s time to send you over to HuffPost Parents to read more about the cycle of bullying.

The big picture

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We live in a culture of violence.  You can sugarcoat all you want, but the truth is that violence prevails in this country.

It starts with teasing.  It escalates to bullying.  And it ends with assault weapons and lost lives.

As parents, we try to protect out little ones.  We do our best to keep them safe from the dark side.  Sadly, we can’t control what goes on around us.  And we never know what might happen.

It’s time for a revolution.  At home.  In the schools.  And, for the love of life, within the walls of our government.  It’s time to break the cycle of violence, and we need to work together to do it.

Please stop by The Huffington Post to read more about why I think acceptance is a bad word and why we need to raise better kids.

It’s Big Picture Parenting on HuffPost Parents.

On being kind

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My husband is one of the good ones.  I could gush about him for hours and label absolutely everything that I love about him, but the thing that I love the most is that he’s kind.

He knows when to listen.  He knows when to hug.  He knows when to challenge.  He knows all of this because he is kind.  He takes the time to think of those around him before he speaks.

He holds the door.  He helps me with my coat.  He even throws a hat at me when I’m running out the door on a chilly morning – not at all dressed for the weather.  He does all of that because he’s kind.

People often ask me how to talk to their kids about bullying.  How should they explain it?  Should they actually use the word “bully”? Should they tell their kids to defend themselves or to yell for help?

There are advocacy groups all over the place working hard to put an end to bullying.  They raise awareness.  They share statistics.  Some of them even have “tool boxes” available.  I love that people are working around the clock to stop the cycle of bullying that takes the lives of our children.

But I despise that such a task exists.

The truth is that it shouldn’t be this hard.  By no means should bullying be an epidemic.  If parents would simply choose to teach kindness, the violence and hatred would cease to exist.  It’s simple, isn’t it?

I’m over at moonfrye today with my thoughts on kindness.  Please join me over there – and then sit down with your kids and talk about kindness…because kindness counts.

Parenting articles of the week…

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It was a busy week around here – around everywhere, really.  As much as I try to introduce each article individually, some weeks fly by before I even have a chance to let you know what I’ve been writing about.  This was one of those weeks!

So here goes…

Over at allParenting

If you missed this story about Bailey O’Neill, the little boy who recently died after sustaining serious injuries at the hands of his bullies, you need to read it. While the family is still waiting to hear if the direct attack that left him with a a fractured nose and severe concussion is what led to the seizures that ultimately left him on life support, I can tell you this:  The seizures began after the attack on the playground.  Either way, we need a revolution.  Schools need to do better.  Parents and schools need to work together.  Please stop by and read about Bailey and what we can do to put a stop to bullying.

If you worry that child lacks the ability to assert herself, you’ll want to read this article.  As much as we need to teach our kids to be empathic, kind, and respectful, we also need to teach them how to assert their needs.  It took me a very long time to find my voice, and I can only hope that my kids find theirs sooner in life.  While my tendency to advocate for myself doesn’t always sit well with others, I try my best to assert my needs in a calm and respectful way – and I model this to my children every chance I get.  Stop by and check this article on teaching assertiveness skills.

Over at Everyday Family

Little kids have big feelings and coping with frustration is hard work.  Stop by and check out 6 Ways to Help Children Cope with Frustration to learn a few strategies.  Your kids will thank you!

And…from crazy skinny dolls to mixed messages in the media, little girls are struggling with body image at a very young age these days.  Stop by to see how you can help your daughter develop and maintain a healthy body image.

I hope you enjoyed a lovely weekend, and hopefully some of this helps your family in some small way!

Until next time…

End Bullying Now

13 million kids will be bullied this year.

Was that loud enough for you?

13 million.

It could be one of yours…

Sean and I finally found some time to see Bully yesterday.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to.  Right away.

Yes, we (as in both of us) sobbed from the opening credits to the bitter end.  Yes, we felt overwhelmed, a bit lost, and completely exhausted for the rest of the night.  But I am so glad that we saw that movie together…because the only way to make a difference is to be involved.

 

Even if it’s difficult, emotionally exhausting, and terrifying to face.

 

You will see parents mourning the loss of their children to suicide.  You will see children repeatedly targeted and tortured (both physically and emotionally), you will see entire communities of people just standing by, and you will see parents telling their kids to just handle it, to just fight back and put an end to it.  It will break your heart.  But you need to see it.

 

Because looking the other way is no longer an option…

 

What is bullying?

  • Deliberate intent to harm others using physical aggression, verbal abuse, social isolation, and or/technology (cyber-bullying)
  • A clear imbalance of power
  • Often involves repetition (same target)

 

What are the signs of a child being bullied?

(Signs may vary…look for marked changes in demeanor and behavior)

  • Social isolation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • School refusal
  • Nervous behaviors (nail biting, hair pulling, etc.)
  • Withdrawal from family

 

A Facebook friend recently posed the following question:  Do you teach your kids to fight back?

I teach my kids to use their kind words to stand up for themselves, each other, their friends, and their beliefs.  I teach them to seek help from an adult.  I do not teach them to fight back with aggression or angry words…

Because bullying doesn’t beat bullying. 

 

You can make a difference.  Teaching our children the power of kindness, empathy, positive interactions, and helping others starts at home.

Below are some tips to help you do your part to stand up against bullying:

1.    Teach kindness and empathy:  Bullying is a learned behavior.  Just as kindness and consideration start at home, so does bullying.  Teach your children to care about others, to imagine how it must feel to be teased or targeted, to reach out to others, and to meet a smile with a smile.  Teach them that all people are valuable and important.  If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.

2.    Define bullying:  My five year old knows the meaning of bullying.  She knows the difference between a sibling squabble and knowingly hurting another with words and aggression.  She knows how to get help and how to recognize a bully.  She knows the word bully.  Use the word bully.  Define the acts of bully.  Teach them how to get help.  Provide specific examples.  When 13 million kids are at risk of being bullied, it’s never too early to teach our children.

3.    Set clear limits:  It’s time to take a stand against “boys will be boys”, “kids fight”, and “siblings don’t always get along”.  Do not allow teasing of any kind in your home.  When teasing happens, there should be clear consequences and apologies.  Do not allow aggression and harmful comments.  You can set the stage for positive interactions.  Do it.

4.    Model/Get help:  Kids learn the power of the positive and the power of the negative from watching their parents.  Many bullies have been bullied at home.  Rely on clear expectations and consistency.  Stop yelling; avoid sarcasm and emotionally fueled commentary, and DON’T EVER HIT.  Get help so that you can model healthy interactions, acceptance, and empathy.  Make your home a positive place to learn and grow.

5.    Listen and help:  Kids are more likely to report bullying to peers instead of parents.  They might feel humiliated and ashamed or fear that their parents won’t help.  More often than not, victims are not able to fight back or “take care of it”.  They are being targeted for a reason.  Keep an open line of communication with your kids, be involved with the school, and be the voice of your child.  Listen to what they are saying and provide support, empathy, and help.

6.    Teach acceptance:  We are all different.  There is no room for hatred in this world.  Teach your children to accept and learn from others.  Teach them to give others a chance.  Isn’t that what you want other parents to teach their kids?

 

See the movie.  Teach your children to be kind, loyal, and empathic.  Take a stand against bullying.  Let’s all work together to raise a generation of kind and accepting individuals.  Let’s all work together to end bullying now.

Our children deserve better…

 

Other ways to take a stand:

Stand For The Silent

Stop Bullying: Speak Up

The Bully Project

 

How will you take a stand?

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The Making of a Bully

It's never too early to start teaching social skills...

People often wonder what causes children to bully.  Why is it that some children feel the need to hurt and humiliate other children?  What do they really stand to gain from this cruel behavior?

Some studies indicate that some (not all) bullies have naturally aggressive and/or hyperactive personalities from the start. Some.  But that doesn’t mean that all “spirited” kids will bully while all “mellow” kids will be perfectly empathic and kind.  Those are just a couple of traits that have been identified in some bullies.

The truth is that bullies are not born into this world.  Bullies are raised.

Bullying, at its core, is a learned behavior that is used in response to stress.  Bullying is an attempt to gain superiority or control over another.

Bullies do tend to have a few things in common:

  • Immature social skills
  • Lack of compassion and empathy
  • Poor impulse control
  • Watch more aggressive TV shows and play more aggressive video games

Due to immature social skills, bullies tend to view threats where there are none and identify other kids as hostile when they are not.  Accidentally bump into a bully in line at the cafeteria, and a fight might erupt based on a snap judgment. Due to lack of compassion and empathy, bullies have difficulty understanding how others feeland they are unable to accurately decode situations in which other kids are actually attempting to show empathy toward them.

Although it can be difficult to find compassion for a bully, particularly when your child is the target of one, there is generally a reason behind the bullying.  That’s not to say that bullies should not face consequences.  They should.  And zero tolerance is the only way to truly eradicate bullying…

I’m over at Confessions of a Dr. Mom today talking about what makes a bully and how we can raise empathic children.  Stop by to continue reading “The Making of a Bully”.

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