When Your Child Bullies…

bullying

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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Enough is Enough

Every 7 minutes…a child is bullied.

“The following is the best kept secret in parenting:  There is a very big difference between hearing your child talk and actually listening, I mean really listening, to what she has to say.

There is a very big difference between simply answering a question that is asked of us and slowing down to consider why the question was asked in the first place.

It is our job to listen.  It is our job to slow down and consider the information presented.  It is our job to be the safe haven so that our children have someone to count on.  It is our job to listen to their concerns without judgment or repercussions and help them through the difficult times.  It is our job to be there for them…”

Please stop by Mommy Moment today to continue reading Enough is Enough.

Bully Busters (Tips for preventing bullying)

If you haven’t been following the story of Jamey Rodemeyer, you need to start now.

Jamey Rodemeyer was a 14 year old boy from Buffalo, NY who took his life shortly after posting a farewell message on his Facebook page.

Jamey was tormented by an identifiable group of teens for at least a year, but far longer according his parents.  Jamey was tormented by hate comments with gay references on social networking sites.  On one site, where anonymous postings are the norm, bullies made reference to the fact that no one would care if he were to die.  That’s not the case.

The Buffalo police launched a criminal investigation into the case.  It won’t bring Jamey back, but hopefully it will send a clear message.

Lady Gaga is also on the case.  She intends to meet with the President to discuss making bullying a crime, and she recently dedicated a song to Jamey at the IHeartRadioFestival in Las Vegas.  She’s also asking Twitter to trend #MakeALawForJamey

The National Education for Educational Statistics reports that 28% of students ages 12-18 admit to be bullied during the 2008-2009 school year.  The most cited forms of bullying include ridicule and rumors, with cyber bullying on the rise.

Bullying is becoming an epidemic.  Lady Gaga is right:  Bullying should be illegal.

We all have to do our part to take a stand on bullying in our own communities.  And it has to start at home.  Below are some tips to help you bully proof your child:

1.   Teach your child about bullying:  For years parents have been avoiding family discussions about bullying with the hope that it just won’t happen.  It’s happening everywhere.  Explain bullying to your children.  Make sure that they understand that bullying includes teasing and rumor spreading, not just physical aggression.  It’s up to you to make sure that your children truly understand what bullying is and how it affects others.

2.   Allow for open communication:  Create an atmosphere where your kids feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns.  Be open, objective, and honest with your kids when they come to you with concerns about friendship issues, even if you suspect that your child might be bullying another.  If our kids are afraid to talk to us, we can’t help them.  Be there for them.

3.   Set clear rules and be consistent:  Kids need to understand rules and boundaries.  They need to know that limits exist to keep them safe.  Make your house rules clear and apply them no matter where you are.  Be consistent in applying the rules and helping your kids make better choices.  Rules only work if they are used consistently.  This is not a negative.  Rules exist to keep everyone healthy and safe from harm.

4.   Teach empathy:  I cover this topic regularly, so I will keep it brief.  Teach your children to think about how another person might feel when being teased or left out.  Teach your children to reach out to friends who are feeling sad or frustrated.  Teach your children to care about others.

5.   Take a stand on aggression:  If I have to hear “boys will be boys” one more time…I get it.  I have a boy.  He jumps from furniture and literally attempts to climb the walls.  Would you like to know what he’s NOT allowed to do?  Hit.  Punch.  Kick. Push.  Bite.  Stop physical aggression immediately, whether it’s within the family or out in the community.  Kids need to learn healthy alternatives to physical aggression.  It’s up to you to teach them.

6.   Respect differences:  When you really get down to it, we’re all different.  Race, religion, parenting styles, interests, abilities, food preferences…the list goes on.  Teach your children the value of learning from someone else.  Help your children see that different can be very good, and can open their eyes to a new way of doing things.  Teach them to show the same respect to everyone, regardless of differences.  You would think that in 2011 this wouldn’t make the list…sadly, it does.

7.   Model conflict resolution strategies:  If you yell and scream every time you have a conflict with your partner or get frustrated with your kids, your kids will do the same.  If you resort to name calling and teasing when you’re frustrated, your kids will do the same.  Model appropriate ways to cope with frustration.  Teach them to walk away, take a few deep breaths, write it down first, etc.  Teach them how to react without bullying.  If you use physical aggression as a means to discipline your kids…GET HELP NOW.

8.   Know what’s happening:  Whether you are a working parent or not, life can get busy and it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening at school.  Try not to rely on your child’s reports alone.  Know what’s going on at the school.  Forge friendships with other parents and support one another.  Contact the teacher if your child appears withdrawn and/or avoids social contact.  With so many students in each school and a heavy focus on making the grade, social issues can fall through the cracks until it’s too late.  Stay on top of it.

9.   Encourage strengths and interests:  With college becoming more and more expensive, and more and more competitive, parents are always looking for the right track to get their kids on.  Let them do what they love.  When kids engage in activities that they enjoy, their self-confidence soars.  When kids are self-confident, they are less prone to giving in to peer pressure and better able to stand up for themselves or others.  Maybe golf scholarships are a way to get into college, but cultivating that love of art might just save your child from either being a bully or being bullied.

10.                Increase supervision:  At the end of the day, you are responsible for your kids.  It’s a big job.  If you choose to give your child a Smart Phone complete with email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and other forms of social networking, you are responsible for supervising all of those accounts.  Sure, kids need some privacy and boundaries.  But they also use technology to target others.  Be prepared to check the text messages and have the email filtered through your account.  Know the passwords for Twitter and Facebook.  Be honest with your kids.  Tell them that access to these outlets comes with supervision.  Have them check their phones in at night to avoid lost sleep due to tech overload and keep the laptops in family rooms.  Monitor usage.  You are responsible for your children.

Bullying is taking the lives of very young children, but it doesn’t have to.  Let’s all agree to do our part to make sure that our children don’t bully.

How has bullying affected your life?

 

October is LGBT History Month.  Take a moment to focus on teaching respect and acceptance.  Teach your children to empathize with others.