Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bullying: Not Good For Grades

Students who are bullied regularly do substantially worse in school, UCLA psychologists report in a special issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence devoted to academic performance and peer relationships.

Who does their best work when they're unhappy? Once again, we shouldn't need a study to validate this fact but happy there is one. Thanks UCLA!

One more reason as parents to step up and step in when it comes to school climate. Just the fact that kids are being mistreated is reason enough...but it's academics, too. Sometimes bullying can set a tone in a classroom and that means that the majority of kids are not working to their potential.

For those that say bullying is part of growing up, I'll grant you that there seems to be a developmental need to get the upper hand. It's not abnormal that kids will try to be the powerful one. What isn't normal is that adults ignore it. It's a teachable moment. Whether you're a teacher, parent, coach or just over 21, it's your job to correct (preferably with kindness but firmness).

It's a question of balance. If more kids feel safe and secure in the classroom, it's a better atmosphere to do the best work. This is not an impossible dream. It's one classroom, home and soccer field at a time. It's teaching every child in the schoolyard or on their cell phones or computers how to be an upstander. Kids don't let other kids bully. It's that simple.

Once that message is sent, as adults we've done our job...and then they can do their job of doing their best in school.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bullying and the Secret Weapon: Parents

Last week, Florida State University (Go, Seminoles!) came out with a study that basically said (drum roll) that "authoritative" parents were the key to kids not being severely impacted by bullying.

The trial involved 426 adolescents, with 15 of them suffering various degrees of bullying. Researchers discovered that the main difference was from styles of parenting. Those who had “authoritative” parents did not suffer from the effects of bullying.

This is really important information. It basically says, when parents set rules and step in, their kids have a better shot at having a better childhood. Think about it, growing up without bullying IS a better childhood.

Are you the only parent on the block who has rules about how your kids treat others? Do you have expectations on how they are to be treated -- online and offline -- in school and out of school? Feeling like you're a weirdo for caring about something so old-fashioned? Feeling very uncool?

Well, CONGRATULATIONS! You're the winner and your kids are the winners when you're the boss. Your kids still might think you're cool and if not now, may be when they become parents themselves. If you don't believe me, just ask the Seminoles.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bullying: Parents Need to Help Their Little Cupcakes

There are great experts doing fantastic work to help prevent bullying in schools.

But from what I see, home is where it's at. Most parents can't control everything that happens in school and not all schools are able to handle the many subtle and not so subtle bullying episodes.

So what can a parent do? I've read many studies and listened to many experts but the one piece of advice that is usually missing is perhaps the most simple.

First and foremost, explain to your child at an early age that he/she should never BE the bully. Most parents assume their child will never try to be mean but, whether we like it or not, there's a bit of human nature at play.

Even nice kids try to flex their muscles. Don't assume that your "little cupcake" will only be the victim.

And that goes for cyber bullying as well. When a child -- no matter what age -- is introduced to the computer, there needs to be firm rules on computer etiquette. If kids were told by parents that being mean online will have consequences and if parents followed through, things would improve. What kind of consequences? You pick it and it's whatever works for you.

The Family Online Safety Institute and Common Sense Media, among other organizations, provide a family media agreement that you and your child can read, sign together and post near the computer. It's brilliant because it's in black and white.

Once rules are in place, go and enjoy your little cupcake.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bullying: Demi Lovato is an UPSTANDER!

Demi Lovato hearts Kelly Clarkson, and Bill O'Reilly hearts Demi Lovato

(Click on link above and scroll to short 2nd video to see Demi's advice to kids about bullying.)

Good girl, Demi. You haven't backed down from your message. A couple of years ago when you were really young, you were public about the bullying you received. That must have been hard as a young teen to be so vocal about something that is so diminishing. But you didn't stop there and now that you're (almost) 18 -- Happy Birthday tomorrow, btw -- you're still getting the message out there. It's a brave and kind and very thoughtful way to use your celebrityhood.

Demi Lovato is an UPSTANDER!

Thanks, Demi, for encouraging adults and kids to step up and say "It's Not O.K." It's also good advice to" Tell someone"...and so for all those "someones" out there, including parents, teachers, peers, coaches, counselors, aunts, uncles, grandparents and any adult with a brain and a heart, Listen Up! Validate! Follow UP! Be Compassionate.

You may never know how much a difference you're making but know that being an upstander can change someone's life. And when you do something cool like helping someone who needs to feel ok about themselves, do something good for yourself. Pat yourself on the back, get a double latte and tell yourself you're a superhero even though no one can see your cape.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bullying Prevention: I Can See Every Single Kind of Possibility

Re: Michael Buble's "I Just Haven't Met You Yet" video: this actually happened to me in a grocery store once. No kidding. The band, the confetti, the whole thing.

Seriously, though, the line in the song "I can see every single kind of possibility" is so great, so happy, so hopeful. Good sentiments for a new school year. This should be true for everyone.

Here's a challenge. See every kind of possibility for every child. Even kids that aren't your own.

Kids should not be laughed at, left out or be on the receiving end of mean text messages. Rumors should not be spread and every one should count.

Speaking of that, a new book by Kathryn Otoshi, brilliant author of the children's book, One, is coming out in September. One is about the power of stepping up. Her new book, Zero is about the basic need to count.

Both of these books should be in every elementary school. And I actually wouldn't stop there. No one should feel like a Zero and it only takes One to make sure that happens.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bullying: 86,400 Seconds In A Day To Do Something About It

In the 86,400 seconds that make up a day, 60 seconds of it could be used to help a child or a co-worker in pain from bullying abuse.

What can be done in 60 seconds?

eye contact

• listening

a few kind sentences

telling the knucklehead that's doing it to stop

stepping up by telling someone in a position to help

reminding them that they don't deserve it

including them

not laughing

not joining in online or offline

when online, advising friends not to hit "send" when the message is clearly unkind

giving a hug

realizing it only takes a minute to be an upstander

That's it. That only took about 60 seconds to type. (OK, 120 seconds but there are 86,280 left.)