Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Real HELP: Facing History's Lessons on the Civil Rights Movement

I just finished The Help and loved it. It brought me back to my childhood and made me think about Nina. Although we lived in the north, we were a white family with a black maid. I understood how Skeeter felt about Constantine. Nina was warm, kind, had a great sense of humor and since she lived with us until I was 11, was a major part of my upbringing.

And by saying I "loved" the book, I mean that it resonated with me and made me think. It also made me want to wake up Nina because I have my own questions. Did she have a family? Children? Sisters? Brothers? Did she ever feel disrespected by us? (I know she must have felt exhausted because I'm one of eight kids.) It made me want to go back in time and although I was young, it made me want to make everything alright for Nina. It made me want to be an upstander.

This summer I was privileged to be invited to sit in on a workshop hosted by Facing History and Ourselves. It was a training session for teachers who are interested in teaching their middle and high school students about the Civil Rights Movement. Facing History creates curriculum that goes well beyond dates, places and names. It skillfully analyzes why, how, and could this happen again?

As a young child, I didn't truly understand that racism was a such a deeply ingrained system of bullying. Why not teach how deep it ran, how helpless it seemed, how hard it was to start somewhere and fight the tide of oppression? Facing History's lessons about that era untangles the collective problem and makes it personal. That's skill. Through news clips and newspaper articles, letters and a host of other sources, you felt the pain, the sting of being black in a generally mean white society.

You also felt the triumph and the bravery of the original leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Charles Hamilton Houston.

If you want to know more about his intellect, leadership qualities and heroism, do a little research. That's what sitting in on this class did for me...and what it probably does for middle and high school kids who need to take history personally so we never forget, not just as citizens but as humans who have choices every day on how to treat others.

Once again, Facing History you hit it out of the park. Both The Help and Facing History made me reflect on all that Nina had done for my family. Although she felt like family, I had a shocking thought sitting in the middle of that workshop. I didn't know Nina's last name.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Tell A Trusted Adult" Is Only Good Advice When Adults Can Be Trusted: Bullying

Something is missing. On almost every list for kids and teens of "What To Do When You're Being Bullied," there's a bullet point that advises:
• Go Tell A Trusted Adult
But who is that trusted adult and do they know what to say or do? Even the most well-intentioned adult might mess things up even more. It's the elephant in the room but like most tangled ball problems, there's a way to untangle one string at a time.

I've been studying bullying and online safety issues for a long time but sometimes when kids confide in me about the hurts they feel from being disrespected and mistreated, I'm at a loss for words. I always start out by telling them that I'm not a counselor. It doesn't seem to matter to them. I guess they know I'm interested and for that moment, that's what they need.

The statistics that scare me the most are the percentages of kids who suffer in silence.

There's a reason for this. Adults tend to overreact or under react. Both are natural responses because either you want to solve the whole problem for the child and take control or we don't understand the subtleties of their relationships and their worlds.

What we need is some type of training or guidance and then "Go Tell A Trusted Adult" will actually be good advice.

Kathryn Otoshi, author of the award-winning children's book, One, and I came up with a game plan. As part of our Be the One© campaign, we would like young kids to identify and honor their Be the One Go-to Adult. In other words, who is the person in their life who is easy to talk to and supportive?

Along with their very own Be the One Go-To Adult certificate, the "honoree" will get a letter that gives basic advice about "How To Be the Best Go-To Adult" possible. Additional information from experts on what to do to help a bullied child will be on Tangled Ball.com beginning Sept. 5th.

Once again, this takes a village. Do you have suggestions for the Go-To Adult? Tell us your stories, give us your recommendations.

If you're a parent, teacher, administrator, public servant, expert, coach, counselor or just your every day special Be the One Go-To Adult and you're interested in the materials, let us know.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why Anti-Bullying Programs Miss the Mark

Couldn't have said it better myself...so I didn't try. Enjoy this great article from Jane and Blair:

(Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com)

As I direct my focus to a new school year about to begin, I reflect back on the past school year and the approaches I’ve seen schools take to address school bullying among their students and their staff. The one that really misses the mark is starting an anti-bullying program.
It is common for us to see something we don’t like and to join an anti-[fill in the blank] campaign. We talk about, write about, and complain about how bad it is. Our focus is on resisting the thing we don’t like, in this case bullying. We push against it. And that’s the problem.

What We Resist Persists

There’s an old saying: What we resist persists. Put another way, when we are negative about an issue, we perpetuate or spread negativity.

When we jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon, our attention, energy and focus are on the negativity of bullying. From this place of negativity, we lack emotional access to positive solutions. The anti name has a persistent negative influence.

As an alternative to a dooms day attitude or an angry approach, a more effective option is to recognize the bullying we see. Name it. Be curious about it. Look at it from several angles. But don’t stay stuck there.

Once we’ve gotten clear on what we are seeing and where it is coming from, work to clarify what we DO want. We want better social skills, social competence, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, healthy friendships, a positive culture, a positive climate, and positive role models.

A Springboard to Create a Replacement of Bullying Behavior

This positive focus gives us a springboard to create what we want.
Once we know what we want in bullying prevention, our job is to provide structures, training, and ongoing support for our students and for our school staff – all based on a focus of creating what we want, not on stopping what we don’t want.

Let’s replace those anti-bullying posters (of kids bullying or being bullied) with posters representing healthy friendships and acts of kindness. Start social skills training early. Put forth positive examples, language and visuals everywhere to influence your students in a positive way!

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Real Housewives or the Real Bullies. You decide!

I was in the television business for many years and loved it. But television is one of those things that as a parent, you have to take seriously. Even if none of the other parents seemed to be disturbed about what their kids saw, I will be eternally grateful that I did care. Of course, my four kids tease me unmercifully about my attitude towards the tube when they were little but I take it like a man because I know that at the very least, it made them think about what they were watching. (Not that they always followed the guidelines. When I would walk in from work, I would hear them nearly killing themselves by leaping over furniture to turn it off before I could get upstairs. Naturally, the remote was always lost.)

Now that I'm completely immersed in the bullying prevention field, my concerns are not just for my own kids, but all kids. No matter what anyone says, I think most reality shows encourage crazy amounts of meanness. Plain and simple.

The other day, I tripped over this blog post written by Sally Berenzweig, one of the co-founders of KidSafe Foundation and asked if I could repost it because I think it's spot on. Here it is:

Ok, I admit it..I watch the Real Housewives and I am a little embarrassed about it. Those that know me may be surprised…my family (well not my sisters because they watch it too) Friends? (Well not my closest because they too watch) But I am sure colleagues might be surprised. But I do watch it and I had to write this blog after watching “The Real Housewives New York Reunion” last night.

Now I may be a little late in the game for just writing this because I tape the show and don’t know when it was first aired(another slight embarrassment) So, last night as my husband is falling asleep and I am up I start watching. Not 10 minutes into the show I feel my blood pressure rising. My husband picks his head up and says “Oh my g-d they are so mean!” and I realized these women are bullies.

So now the importance of the blog…..I start thinking ….What are these women modeling for their children?
· To speak their mind…yet not to care how another will feel about what their saying!
· To be strong…yet always at the expense of others.
· To stand up for what they believe in…and to talk over people until they see things your way.
· To tell the truth…but be mean-spirited as you tell it..
· To not listen to others because they don’t agree? To me, that speaks Bully, and that is what they are modeling for their children…how to be a bully (and boy are they good at it)
If I had the opportunity to ask each and every one of these women what have they taught their children about how to treat other people. I am sure that they would say they want their children to treat others with respect, dignity, empathy and kindness. But if you watch that is not at all what they are modeling for their children. As I am watching I wonder to myself when they look back on this footage are they embarrassed? Do they wish they did things differently? Do they realize they are the “Mean Girls?”

All I know is that I don’t want my child to be a bully or a bystander – I want him to be the kid that helps his friend who is being bullied. I want my child to treat people the way he wants to be treated – with respect, dignity, empathy and kindness and that is why I try to model that behavior for him. Children do what we do. Not what we say, and I guess at the end of the day that is why I wrote this blog. For us as parents to ask ourselves what kind of children are we raising? Act how you want your child to act – Model good behavior.

Now I know the Real Housewives shows have millions of viewers and I am one of them. Why are we watching? This is something I will have to explore further at another time. If for nothing else. It made a good blog!

ps. I promised my business partner that I would share that she has never watched any of these shows.