Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GOOD NEWS...Things got better for Tricia...

Remember Tricia? (Click on May Archive to the right for the full story.) Well, I heard from her mom...and guess what? Things are better at school. Both Tricia and her mom are in disbelief. It seems that how she said...or something she said...on the bus on the way home from the school trip clicked with a few of the kids. Shock of all shocks, one of the girls recently invited Tricia to her birthday party and a boy invited her to his party in August.

As life goes, Tricia couldn't go to the girl's party because she was going to be out of town. (Don't you just hate that, parents?! Just when you think you have everything planned and organized, something important comes up for your kids...and you're conflicted!)

Guess what smart thing Tricia's mom did, though? The two of them went out and bought the girl a gift and dropped it off at her house. The girl actually hugged Tricia.

Thought you could use a good ending. And it's true.

The moral of this story is to listen to your child, don't let anger blind you and hang in there!

Feel free to write your story and we'll get the experts to weigh in. No kidding. Vent a little. (Just go to right hand column and click on "Good News...Things got better for Tricia" in the blog archive and a comment box will appear at the bottom. No need to use your real name if you don't want to.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

EXTRA! EXTRA! New York Times and Tangled Ball

It would be time well spent to read this article which touches on a range of pertinent questions about bullying, prevention and response. But the readers' comments on the NYT web health blog are mind blowing. It’s clear by the comments that the effects of bullying last a lifetime. Do they have to?

Here to see it!

Appeared in New York Times Comments on June 9, 2009:

Fantastic article and extremely worthy of discussion. 
Bullying is a “tangled ball.” In some situations, it is easily untangled and in others, it’s knotted and extremely complicated. It will take health professionals, parents, schools, law enforcement, judicial system, and internet providers, to add their voices, their expertise, their interest and their money to come up with real answers.

In the meantime, children are suffering every day. We, as adults, can’t wait for change to help kids who are being affected as we speak. As parents, friends, mentors, teachers and mature adults, we can make a big difference in real time by paying attention, picking up on any signs of sadness and caring enough to ask the right questions, to learn to be patient enough to hear the answers and to help in whatever way possible.

Just knowing someone cares can lift some of the burden. The ” tangled ball” blog was started to dissect one bullying incident at a time by describing actual bullying challenges and get the experts to weigh in with effective advice. http://tangledball.blogspot.com/

We can all help to lift the burden one child, one home, one school at a time while we work on national initiatives.
— Susan Raisch (Tangled Ball)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our Experts and Joshua's Dilemma

SuEllen Fried, founder of Bully Safe USA bullysafeusa, author and respected national and international speaker on the topic of child abuse and bullying, addressed the issue of sibling bullying at the 2008 International Bullying Prevention Association Conference attended by educators, legislators, law enforcement officers and psychologists...and me. Her presentation struck a cord with almost everyone in the room. Although the audience was comprised of professionals attending to expand their professional skills, the topic hit a very personal, and not often discussed, note.

SuEllen generously agreed to weigh in on Joshua’s tough situation at school and at home:

Sibling Bullying:

Research indicates a strong connection between sibling bullying and peer bullying. More than half of victims of bullying by siblings were involved in bullying behavior at school. The sibling relationship is the most long lasting of all relationships and according to studies, the most violent. Fifty-three out of every 100 children abuse siblings. As our society was in denial about peer bullying for centuries, so are we in denial about the devastation of sibling bullying.

Clearly, Joshua's parents need to step in to support and protect him. The abuse of power he is experiencing - from the sins of commission from his brothers and the sins of omission from his parents, plus bullying at school leaves him in great pain. The pain cycle can turn to rage and revenge, or it can turn to depression and suicide. When a family becomes involved in scapegoating, the target becomes a sacrifice for the unresolved aggression issues of the other family members. Everyone pays a long-term price.

The school's decision to transfer the bullying students to another class is a good step, but more is required. The school needs to make sure that the "bullies" are not allowed to find another target in their new class and steps need to be taken to increase Joshua's belief in himself or he will send messages of vulnerability to other students who might be quick to turn on him. The school needs to adopt a strong bullying prevention and intervention program and the parents need to understand how important it is for them to become engaged in building a cohesive, caring, compassionate family system.

In regard to Joshua's low grades, testing might uncover a learning disability of some kind that is holding him back. There are numerous tests that might pinpoint a specific need and an appropriate intervention that could make an enormous difference in Joshua's life. It is extremely important to reach out to Joshua before he enters middle school with all of its challenges.

SuEllen Fried’s books are co-written with her daughter, Paula Fried, Ph.D., Clinical Psychology. Bullies and Victims, Helping Your Child Through the Schoolyard Battlefield and Bullies, Targets and Witnesses: Helping Children Break the Pain Chain” are thoughtful, well researched and worth the read. The sibling abuse chapter (Ch. 7) in Bullies and Victims gives great insight.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sibling Bullying and Joshua's Dilemma

Here’s a tricky situation. What happens when siblings bully each other? Most parents never consider the usual “sibling stuff” as bullying. They chalk it up to sibling rivalry but it can cross the line.

Joshua is eleven and is harassed at school. It’s a hard thing to stop because the particular class he’s in has about 5 boys who put other kids down and encourage each other’s mean spirited behavior. To the school’s credit, they are planning to switch the class up and move a few kids to another class next year but for right now, every day is miserable for Joshua who has tried everything.

Now, feeling deflated, he goes home every day where he gets picked on by his older and younger brother, too. He is constantly told that he’s stupid and a “baby.” (By the way, Joshua is far from stupid but his grades don’t reflect his capabilities.)
The abuse at home is escalating but the parents don’t recognize that it’s gotten worse. They’ve turned it off. Joshua’s parents have stuck up for him at school but at home they turn a blind eye.

Let’s hear from the experts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

School Bullying Expert Weighs In!

Stan Davis, author of Schools Where Everyone Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying stopbullyingnow kindly agreed to give his expert opinion on Tricia’s bullying situation. His book is extremely well researched; he actually works in a school, actually likes kids and has actually lowered the bullying rate at his and other schools.

Stan’s thoughts on Tricia’s mom’s approach:

Be Careful How You Advise
First, he cautions, kids go to adults only because they’ve tried to handle the problem in multiple ways first and couldn’t. Adults have to be very careful on how to advise kids who’ve already tried different approaches, such as “yelling back and not taking any nonsense.” You don’t want to make them feel like they’re failing at the solution.

Don’t Empathize with the Bully
But, he told me, it’s great that Tricia’s mom didn’t empathize with the bullies. So many parents make the mistake of explaining the bully’s behavior in kind ways, such as “they didn’t mean it,” or “they were feeling bad about themselves.” As Stan puts it, “tormentors don’t need that type of support.” Reserve that empathy for the kids being tormented.

Bullying Can Drive Parents Crazy
Stan also understands why Tricia’s mom stood up and confronted the kids on the bus. She was desperate to solve something. Since the school’s actions were ineffective, Tricia’s mom needed something to happen. But, Stan says, “It probably won’t work.”

Schools Should Mirror Workplaces
Schools have to create strict guidelines that mirror the workplace where workers are not allowed to impede the work process and adversely affect the financial bottom line. The bottom line at schools is the learning process.
Just having teachers randomly talk to kids about bullying goes nowhere. As Stan says, “That’s like having Nancy Reagan stand up and tell people not to take drugs.”

They don’t listen.

Tangled Ball’s bottom line: The school needs Stan’s book