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What Not To Do if Your Child is Bullied Online

No parent ever wants their child to be bullied online.

Upset teenage girl with smartphone in dark roomBut if it happens, would you know what to do about it?  Better yet, would you know what NOT to do?  Too often, we focus on what we should be doing that we fail to consider what we shouldn’t do at a time like this.

Getting through a child being bullied will take a lot – mostly, it will take time and patience.  Here are six things not to do while you’re helping your child get past it.

1. Don’t Lecture

Best selling author, Stephen Covey, is quoted as having said that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  He’s right about that.  This is the time to listen to your child, not lecture them on what happened to them or what they might have done.

Right now, the child is probably scared, but maybe not for the reason many people would expect.  Being attacked can take a toll on a child, but what can make it even worse is the way that adults respond to it.  Being told that they need to be able to handle it themselves, being labeled as a snitch or having their technology restricted can all make children hesitant to speak out at a time when they need it more than anything.

Isolating a victim only makes it worse.  Instead, listen to what they have to say.  Ask for clarification, but try to avoid asking leading questions.  For example, instead of asking the child if that’s when “they posted the video on Snapchat”, ask them, “what happened next?”  It will provide a clearer picture of what happened and can avoid them taking shortcuts, potentially leaving out important points which need to be heard.

2. Don’t Accuse or Overreact

Next, don’t make it worse than it really is by overreacting.  After listening to the child, make sure that what’s being reported is really what happened.  There are several reasons why it may not be what it appears to be at first.

  1. Typos – We all make typing mistakes and auto-correct isn’t always our friend. One misspelled word or grammar mistake can dramatically alter the meaning of a message, making it come off very differently than intended.
  2. Having a Bad Day – Anyone can have a bad day, including the typist and the reader. Letting emotions cloud our perceptions can cause problems that aren’t really there.
  3. Confusion – Maybe the person who posted it simply wasn’t clear in their meaning. Or maybe the reader misunderstood what was meant.  Either way, no harm might have been intended.
  4. Failed Humor – I tell my students all the time that humor in written form doesn’t come off as it does when heard aloud. It often needs the right context and inflection to be understood.

When discussing the matter with others, especially with the parents of a child being accused of being the bully, keeping a level head can make all the difference.  State the facts of the case, but avoid coming off as inflammatory.  Just as you’re there to protect your child, the other parents are there to protect their child.  Making the case calmly can mean the difference between having an ally and having protective parents close ranks, eliminating the possibility of meaningful dialogue.

3. Don’t Tell Your Child to Ignore It

Being able to take an active stance against bullying can go a long way to helping kids feel that they have some control in their lives.  Studies have shown that the majority of kids being cyberbullied don’t report it to an adult, much less to their parents.  As Rebecca Fraser-Hill indicates in this article, feeling powerless is one reason why kids don’t report it.

Parents often tell their children that if they are ever attacked online, they should just ignore it.  That engaging with the bully is the wrong approach to take and the bully will move on if they don’t get a reaction from their target, so they should simply not engage and the problem will go away.  That made sense to me, until I attended a program by Christa Tinari from Peace Praxis a few years ago.  She advised the exact opposite and I love her reasoning.

Assuming that strategy works and they do “move on”, all you’ve done is set up another child for being bullied.  Instead, the target of the bullying needs to let the aggressor know, in no uncertain terms, that their actions are not wanted.  The idea is that the bully may not realize that their actions are as bad as they really are, making them stop their actions.

This can be as simple as replying back to the person and telling them that their message wasn’t appreciated and they should stop.  But it will vary, depending on the nature of the initial message.  Some messages are clearly a case of bullying, while others may fall under the four scenarios mentioned above in the “Don’t Accuse or Overreact” section of this article.

In some cases, the person’s intention was to bully and no amount of replying back from the target will likely get them to stop.  That’s where Christa’s next idea comes into play.  To reinforce the message to the bully that they’re wrong, Christa’s next recommendation was one that I’ve really taken to heart – the idea of Positive Slamming.  The idea is that when someone see another person being bullied (online or offline), that others should immediately come to that person’s defense. The more people who do it, quickly and publicly, shows the bully that their actions aren’t appreciated and hopefully, makes them realize that they’re in the wrong here.  It may not stop every bully, but those that believe that their behavior is perfectly acceptable and may even believe they have the support of their friends, may do a double-take and stop.  They need to be made to realize that their behavior is NOT ok.

While Michele Borba doesn’t call it Positive Slamming, her article on teaching kids to be active bystanders calls out many of the same reasons why we want to get kids to be active bystanders in bullying situations. The tricky part here is that those who are defending the victim do JUST that – defend the victim.  They should not go an the offensive and make matters worse.

Letting a bullying victim know that they aren’t alone in this and that there are people who care about them can literally mean the difference between life and death.  Just ask anyone who has suffered at the hands of a bully, including those who have been the victim of domestic violence.

“What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor,
but the silence of the bystander.”

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In the event that the situation can’t be resolved through these ways, kids need to know that they need to tell a trusted adult what is happening.  It might be a parent, family member, teacher, religious leader or any other adult who can help with the situation.  Many kids resist telling their parents, but they need to have someone that they can trust in these situations and parents should encourage them to speak to an adult, even if it’s not with them.

4. Don’t Ignore It Either

As parents, we should not ignore what our children are saying to us, even if we think it’s a “little problem” that will likely resolve itself.  Doing nothing can send them the message that their parents don’t care about what’s happening to them.  Also, as Rebecca Fraser-Hill mentioned in her article, they may believe that telling about bullying won’t make a difference and that’s certainly what kids will take away from an experience where their parents tell them to ignore it.

Imagine then, when something even more serious happens, if the child does not come forward, because past experience has shown them that their parents will not do anything about it. Make sure they know – if they say something, you’ll do something.

5. Don’t Let Them Delete Anything…And Neither Should You

After telling a child that if they ever do get bullied online to just ignore it, the next bit of advice they might give is to tell them to delete it.  As much as we’d like to remove all proof of such unacceptable behavior, if there is one good aspect of cyberbullying, it’s that it leaves a trail, otherwise known as EVIDENCE!

Having emails, texts or posts/comments may be the only way to prove the allegations.  Print them out and keep a folder of them later.  If necessary, take screen shots so that if someone else is able to delete it (and does so), there is evidence to present to parents, school officials and the police.

6. Don’t Force Mediation between the Bully and the Victim

In conflict resolution, both parties wish to come to an agreement, but that’s not the case with bullying.  That doesn’t stop many people from forcing the parties involved from using mediation or conflict resolution techniques.

The bully doesn’t want the situation to change.  They like it the way that it is.  Conflict resolution assumes two parties disagree, but both want to come to a resolution.  It can also send the message that both children are partially right and partially wrong and we are here to work this out. But that is not the case. Bullying is one-sided.  The victim wants no part of it.  Not only is the bully unlikely to take the process seriously, it runs the risk of antagonizing them and could make matters worse.

Conclusion

Remember to avoid these mistakes and hopefully, a family with a child who has been bullied online will be able to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Parents need to put their priorities on making their kids feel safe and protected, while doing what they can to prevent it from happening again.

When One Little Boy Said NO to Bullying… a Message for 2019

say no to bullyingHave you noticed…it’s hard to go a week without hearing or reading a story about bullying. There’s the “traditional” bullying we all knew growing up – and perhaps dismiss a bit too easily because of that. The skinny kid being shoved in the hallway…the mean rumors spread about one kid by the “in-crowd”.

And then there’s the new “flavor” of torment –cyber-bullying. Where leaving school no longer brings relief but often just opens the door to a whole new world of abuse. By email, by phone, on social networks, the insults, the hurt just keeps coming.

We read about it…

We read the sad stories – after the fact – when bullying contributes to the death of a child:

  • Rebecca Ann Sedwick – the 7th grader from Florida – who jumped to her death from an abandoned cement silo after enduring a year of online and in-person bullying.
  • Jordan Lewis – a sophomore in high school – who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. In a note, he blamed his suicide on bullying… and more recently
  • Brandy Vela – the 18 year old Texas teenager – who put a gun to her chest and killed herself in front of her family after being relentlessly bullied.

A 2013 Huffington Post article announced that bullying is starting to become recognized as a public health issue. According to Dr. Jorge Srabstein, medical director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), “Bullying is linked to a wide range of health issues, both physical and emotional symptoms.“   It’s four years later, and that same sentiment is echoed in a 2017 article published by CNN:Bullying is a ‘serious public health problem,’ experts say.”

How do we enter 2019 with this hanging over us? Can we change this scary direction we’re heading in??

Email can be a help line

To answer that, I’m going to share with you a story…well actually it’s an email, but the email itself tells the story. It was written by an ELEVEN year old, to his school principal.

Email Subject: I have found out about a serious bully situation – Benjamin E.

Dear Mr. C.

I began writing this e-mail as soon as I got home, I was on my bus and I found an eighth grade boy, I forgot his name already, but he is in eighth grade and is black and rides bus 115. Anyways, he was crying so I talked to him. He looked so depressed and sad and nobody was paying him any heed. The first thing he said to me was “I’m a loser”. I tried to comfort him and all, but nothing worked I told him to tell his parents about his being bullied but he said that his dad was out of the state and he thought his mom might have moved, he has a grannie though. He says that he doesn’t know the bully’s name, but the bully is male, white, an eighth grader, and is not on bus 115. He say he has no friends, he also says his mom did this to him and that his parents are awful people. I tried to get him to make friends with someone else on the bus but he says they don’t follow him at school so they can’t be his friend…or something like that. I have notified the bus driver of bus 115 and he said “oh, yeah, he does that” so I e-mailed you. I am very worried about him since he said this is my life which made me think he really hated himself.

If you want, I would be happy to talk to you about this boy being bullied. if you need to get ahold of me, my classes are….xxxxx

Sincerely, Benjamin E., 6th grade

So, to answer the question I asked before… can we change this scary direction we’re heading in??

I have to believe if an eleven-year old could write this email, we have a chance.

Starting with one child… and parents who care enough to teach that bullying isn’t ok (and neither is just standing by and watching it happen) …and a school system that reinforces that message and teaches kids what to do if they see someone being bulled…

I think we can

…it only takes one Benjamin to jump in and care and make a difference in one child’s life…and a whole bunch of people to share his story…and hopefully before long, there are two kids…and then four.

That is my wish for all of us for 2019

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Note:  For some wonderful anti-bullying resources, please go to the National Bullying Prevention Center

How to Teach Kids to Be Active Bystanders to Reduce Bullying

Studies show that active bystanders can do far more than just watch. In fact, student bystanders may be our last, best hope in reducing bullying. Active student bystanders can:

  • Reduce the audience that a bully craves
  • Mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • Support the victim and reduce the trauma
  • Be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • Encourage other students to support a school climate of caring
  • Report a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses

When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can stop the bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. [Pepler and Craig]

There are parameters to activate student bystanders, so get educated! Here are a few facts to ensure success:

  • To ensure success you must first mobilize students to be active bystanders.
  • You must give students permission to step in.
  • You must also teach specific strategies so they can step in.
  • Each strategy must be rehearsed or role-played, until kids can use it alone. (I’ve had schools have students role-play these in assemblies, make them into chart-reminders that are posted around the school, and even have students create mini-videos of each strategy to share with peers).
  • Not every strategy will work for every student, so you must provide a range of strategies.
  • Ideally you must enlist your peer leaders – those students on the highest popularity tier who other students look up to – to mobilize other peers.
  • Adults must be onboard with the approach and understand what bullying is and how to respond. Adults must listen to student reports on bullying and back students up. The biggest reason kids say they don’t report: “The adult didn’t listen or do anything to help.” Step up adults!

The best news is that child advocates and parents can teach kids these same bystander skills. Doing so empowers children with tools to stop cruelty, help victims feel safer and reduce bullying. Here are the three steps:

 STEP ONE: Teach Students Tattling vs. Reporting

Kids must realize that safety is always the primary goal, so stress to students:

  • “If someone could get hurt, REPORT!
  • “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Teach students the crucial difference between “Tattling” and “Reporting” so they will know when they should step in because a child is bullied or when to step back and let two kids handle things for themselves because it’s just friendly teasing. Also identify specific trusted adults children can go to and report bullying incidents if they do identify bullying. Here is the crucial difference:

  • Tattling is when you trying to get kids IN trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or other.
  • Reporting is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt (or they are). Report bullying to an adult you trust. If the adult doesn’t listen, keep reporting until you find an adult who does listen.

STEP TWO: Teach What Bullying Looks and Sounds Like

The next step is to teach students what bullying behaviors look like so they will know when they should step in and not when the behavior is mere teasing.

1. Explain 3 parts of bullying:

  1. Bullying is a cruel or aggressive act that is done on purpose. The bully has more power (strength, status, or size) than the targeted child who cannot hold his own.
  2. The hurtful bullying behavior is not an accident, but done on purpose.
  3. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress and rarely accepts responsibility and often says the target “deserved” the hurtful treatment.”

2. Teach: “Five Bullying Types”:  Depending on the child’s age, bullying can take on difference forms including and children need to know what those forms. Bullying can be:

  1. Physical: Punching, hitting, slamming, socking, spitting, slapping;
  2. Verbal: Saying put downs, nasty statements, name calling, taunting, racial slurs, or hurtful comments, threatening;
  3. Emotional: Shunning, excluding, spreading rumors or mean gossip, ruining your reputation;
  4. Electronic or cyber-bullying: Using the Internet, cell phone, camera, text messaging, photos to say mean or embarrassing things;
  5. SexualSaying or doingthings that are lewd or disrespectful in a sexual way

3. Mobilize Student Compassion Students could make posters, power-point presentations, skits, or projects about bullying. The key is for students to understand the real definition of bullying. And they must know that the staff is serious about supporting them and will back them up and respond. 

4. Use Literature or Videos: You might also use literature or video clips to help students understand the definition of bullying. Here are a few literature favorites: Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig; Say Something by Peggy Moss Gardiner;  Teammates by Peter Golenbock; The Bully Blockers Club, by Teresa Bateman.

STEP THREE: Teach “Bully BUSTER Bystander” Skills

I teach the acronym BUSTER as a mnemonic to help kids remember the skills more easilyEach letter in the word represents one of the six bystander skills.

Borba’s Six “Be a Bully B.U.S.T.E.R.” Skills 

Not all strategies work for all kids. The trick is to match the techniques with what works best with the child’s temperament and comfort level and the particular situation

Don’t forget to ask students for their input and additional ideas. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me!

1. -Befriend the Victim

Bystanders often don’t intervene because they don’t want to make things worse or assume the victim doesn’t want help. But research shows that if witnesses know a victim feels upset or wants help they are more likely to step in. Also, if a bystander befriends a victim, the act is more likely to get others to join the cause and stand up to the bully. A few ways bystanders can befriend victims:

  • Show comfort: Stand closer to the victim.
  • Wave other peers over“Come help!”
  • Ask if the victim wants support: “Do you need help?”
  • Empathize: “I bet he feels sad.”
  • Clarify feelings: “She looks upset.”

You can also encourage students to befriend a bullied after the episode. “That must have felt so bad.” “I’m with you. Sorry I didn’t speak out.” “That happened to me, too.” “Do you want me to help you find a teacher to talk to?” Though after the episode won’t reduce the bullying at the moment, it will help reduce the pain of both the targeted child and the witness. It may also help other children recognize there are safe ways to defend and support a targeted child.

2. -Use a Distraction

The right diversion can draw peers from the scene, make them focus elsewhere, give the target a chance to get away, and may get the bully to move on. Remember, a bully wants an audience, so bystanders can reduce it with a distraction.

One of the best distractions I’ve ever seen was a teen who saw bullying but did not feel safe stepping in to help (and most children as well as adults do not). So he got crafty. He unzipped his backpack and then walked nearby the scene and threw the backpack to the ground. Of course, he made it appear as though it was an accident, but it was a deliberate and brilliant act. “Oh no,” he said. “All my stuff is on the ground and the bell is going to ring. My grade will get dinged. Can anyone help?” And the teen drew the audience from the bully to help him pick up his papers. The target also had a chance to sneak to safety.

Ploys include:

  • Ask a question: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Use diversion: “There’s a great volleyball game going on! Come on!”
  • Make up false excuse to disperse a crowd: “A teacher is coming!”
  • Feigning interruption: “I can’t find my bus.”

3. S -Speak Out and Stand Up!

Speaking out can get others to lend a hand and join you. You must stay cool, and never boo, clap, laugh, or insult, which could egg the bully on even more. Students also must learn how to assert themselves and say that speaking up to a bully is the hardest of the six Bully Buster Strategies. The students in the photo are learning my “CALM Approach” when speaking up to a bully. Best yet, older students are teaching the skill to younger students. Stress that directly confronting a bully is intimidating and it’s a rare kid who can, but there are ways to still stand up to cruelty. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Show disapproval: Give a cold, silent stare.
  • Name it: “That’s bullying!”
  • Label it: “That’s mean!”
  • State disapproval: “This isn’t cool!” “Don’t do that!” “Cut it out!”
  • Ask for support: “Are you with me?”

4. T -Tell or Text For Help

Bystanders often don’t report bullying for fear of retaliation, so make sure they know which adults will support them, and ensure confidentiality. You must give students the option of anonymous reporting. An active bystander could:

  • Find an adult you trust to tell. Keep going until you find someone who believes you
  • Call for help from your cell.
  • Send a text to someone who can get help. Many schools now have a text service.
  • Call 911 if someone could be injured.

5. E -Exit Alone or With Others

Stress that bullies love audiences. Bystanders can drain a bully’s power by reducing the group size a few ways. Students bystanders could:

  • Encourage: “You coming?”
  • Ask: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Direct: “Let’s go!”
  • Suggest: “Let’s leave.”
  • Exit: If you can’t get others to leave with you, then walk away. If you stay, you’re part of the cruelty. Leaving means you refuse to be part. Just quietly leave the scene.

6. R -Give a Reason or Offer a Remedy

Research finds that bystanders are more likely to help when told why the action is wrong or what to do. Students could:

  • Review why it’s wrong: “This isn’t right!” “This is mean!” “You’ll get suspended.” “You’ll hurt him.”
  • Offer a remedy: “Go get help!” “Let’s work this out with Coach.”

Final Thoughts 

The right comments and behaviors can make peers stop, think, consider the consequences, and even move on. Those seconds are crucial and enough to stop the bullying or mobilize other students to step in and help.

Bystanders can make a difference. They can be mobilized to step in and reduce bullying-that is if they are taught how.

But it’s up to adults to show students safe ways to do so, help them practice those strategies so they are comfortable using them in the real world, and then support and believe them and acknowledge their courageous efforts.

Hundreds of students today skipped school because of peer intimidation and bullying. It’s time to rethink our strategies and teach bystanders how to step in safely and speak out against peer cruelty.

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Bullying-prevention and character expert Michele Borba, Ed.D. has spent the past three decades studying youth violence and bullying and worked with more than a million students, parents, educators, and law enforcement officials worldwide. The result is End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Based on the 6Rs: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace, the book utilizes the strongest pieces of best practices and current research for ways to reduce cruelty and increase positive behavior support. Also included are guidelines for implementing strategies, nurturing empathy and caring relationships, collecting data, training staff, mobilizing students and parents, building social-emotional skills, and sustaining progress. The result is a proven framework that will reduce bullying, create safer more inclusive schools and produce more kind-hearted, empathetic children. End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy was released February 19th and is now available at amazon.com

7 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness That Will Reduce Bullying

For over three decades I’ve studied how to reduce bullying, but some of the best solutions come from students. One ten-year old told me: “I used to bully kids at my “old school,” but stopped when I got here.” “What’s different about this school?” I asked. “The kids,” he said, “they stick up for each other and let me know the very first day that bullying isn’t cool here.”

The students proved the latest data: bullying is far less likely to happen in classrooms and school cultures where kindness is the norm. Empowering students to work together to create a caring environment is one of the most overlooked strategies in bullying prevention. After all, bullying breeds where empathy lies dormant and aggression is tolerated.

Here are seven ideas to help children learn that kindness is the best way to reduce bullying from my new book End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Reducing bullying is not a quick fix, but a systemic, deliberate approach that includes the 6Rs of effective bullying prevention: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace. But the foundation is always respectful relationships and a caring climate.

1. Assign friendly greeters. Every school has friendly, kind students whose skill set can be a powerful model for peers. Identify them to serve as student greeters who welcome entering students (“Hi!” “Glad you’re here!” “Have a good day”) at the school or classroom door. Then watch a positive change in just a short while as students began to look forward to the greeting. Parents can do the same at home by modeling and reinforcing their children’s kind statements and actions and encouraging their friends to do the same.

2. Form welcome wagons. New kids can feel the pain of exclusion and are more likely to be bullied. So, initiate a student “Welcome Wagon Committee” to greet newcomers, give them a school tour, pair them with “veteran” students and feel welcomed. Parents can cultivate empathy by asking children: “How would you feel if you were brand new? What would you want a peer to do for you? How can you do that for others?”

3. Initiate “stop bullying” clubs. Kid groups can be as small as two or as large as the whole school and meet before or after school, over lunchtime, or at home on weekends. Kids can work together to create banners, buttons and even YouTube videos that feature the concept: “Let’s stop bullying and be kind.” Encourage community groups (Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, scouts, youth ministries) to work with interested kids to boost kindness beyond school walls.

4. Set a “no put-downs” rule. I’ve visited many schools and knew instantly they were curbing unkindness: students made signs and displayed them at their front doors: “Unkindness is not allowed.” “This Is a No Put-Downs Zone.” The effect was potent! Establish norm that “our school or home stands for kindness” same in your Scout troops, athletic leagues and neighborhood.

5. Teach kids how to help peers. Over 13,000 of surveyed students said that the most helpful things peers can do for students who are bullied is to include and encourage them. Kids also say they need to know how to help. So, brainstorm ways to help and comfort others such as: Call the person to say you’re sorry. Text a note saying he didn’t deserve to be treated like that. Ask if she wants to have lunch together. Offer to help report the bullying to a teacher or parent. Let the peer know she’s not alone. Say: “Is there anything I can do?” “Are you okay?” If practiced often enough kids will use those prosocial skills at school and at home.

6. Stress kindness: University of British Columbia researchers found that children who perform small acts of kindness may help counteract bullying. The more aware kids are of ways to be kind, the most likely they’ll use kind behaviors. Brainstorm together easy ways to be kind that don’t cost a dime. Post the list, keep adding to it, and acknowledge kids’ heart-hearted efforts.

7. Give opportunities to be kind. Most important: encourage your children to be kind and then reinforce their efforts! Children who are given the opportunity to help others tend to become more helpful-especially if the effective of their kindness on those they helped was pointed out. So, describe the impact: “Kevin was so happy when you asked him to play.” “Did you see Sarah’s smile when you shared your…”

Bullying remains the most serious and underrated public health problem in our schools, often causing students physical and emotional distress and significantly impacting their learning performance. Respectful relationships are the ultimate antidote to bullying, and it’s up to adults to help children realize that kindness wins!

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Bullying-prevention and character expert Michele Borba, Ed.D. has spent the past three decades studying youth violence and bullying and worked with more than a million students, parents, educators, and law enforcement officials worldwide. The result is End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Based on the 6Rs: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace, the book utilizes the strongest pieces of best practices and current research for ways to reduce cruelty and increase positive behavior support. Also included are guidelines for implementing strategies, nurturing empathy and caring relationships, collecting data, training staff, mobilizing students and parents, building social-emotional skills, and sustaining progress. The result is a proven framework that will reduce bullying, create safer more inclusive schools and produce more kind-hearted, empathetic children.  End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy will be available February 12th at amazon.com

How to Raise a Confident, Assertive Child

Let’s face it. It’s a tougher time to be growing up, and the data confirms it. Bullying is fiercer. Peer pressure is tougher. Kids are also more aggressive at younger ages. Girls are meaner. Of course we can’t always be there to pick up the pieces or help our kids stand up for themselves, nor should we. After all, the more our children see us as their rescuers, the more they learn to rely on us to solve their problems.

The secret is help our kids learn how to be more assertive and speak up for themselves. Here are seven ways to help your child learn to be respectfully assertive especially in those more difficult situations when they need to hold their own!

1. Model assertiveness

Be the model you want your child to copy. Don’t be meek. Stand up for your views even if they may not be unpopular. Let your kids know that even though you might feel uncomfortable, you always feel it’s best to stand up for your rights or the rights of others. Your child is watching your behavior and will copy. So ask yourself if you are an example of assertiveness you want your child to copy? For instance, do you speak up to your girlfriend who is pushing you to do something you may not want to do? Or what about holding your own to that relative who wants you to allow your young kids to watch that PG movie you feel is inappropriate?

2. Be a democratic household

Hold debates. Use family meetings. Listen to each child (it doesn’t mean you agree with them). When kids know their opinions count they are more likely to speak out and feel comfortable doing it.

3. Acknowledge your child’s assertiveness

Let your child know you value people who speak their mind. Reinforce your child’s assertiveness. “I like how you spoke up!” Encourage those confident, assertive behaviors in your child. Let her know you honor her opinions.

4. Find less domineering friends

If your child is a bit more timid and always hangs around a bossy playmate, provide him the opportunity to find a less domineering pal so he will be more likely to speak up and gain confidence.

Watch out for domineering siblings as well. Make sure your child has the opportunity to practice his voice and not be squelched by a brother or sister (or even other parent).

5. Provide early leadership opportunities

Research from the Girl Scouts of America says kids say their confidence in speaking up and leading others dwindles by the fifth grade. Kids also tell us they gain that confidence is by entering into activities, clubs, team building, etc. and the earlier the better.

So provide opportunities for your child to be a member of a team, take charge of a project or lead others. You might enroll your child in public speaking or theatre to build confidence in speaking in front of others!

Find a platform that fits your child’s passions, talents, and comfort level!

6. Teach your child C.A.L.M. assertion

Here’s a skill that I’ve shared with hundreds of kids around the world-and I do mean that literally. I’ve taught C.A.L.M. to kids in Taipei, Colombia, Finland, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada as well as hundreds of schools from coast to coast in the US. It is a strategy that boosts assertiveness, but also helps the child learn to defend himself to others and hold his own. It’s the basic skill to stop teasing, negative peer pressure as well as bullying and victimization.

The photo image on the right is high school students who are teaching the skill to elementary students in a near by school as part of their service learning project. The “cross age tutoring” model is also a fabulous way for children to learn a new new skill.

There are four steps to learning the skill. Each part is essential. You may need to help your child practice each of the four steps separately until he or she can comfortably use all four parts on his or her own.

4 Steps to Being Assertive and Staying C.A.L.M.

– Stay  Cool

If you get upset, ticked off, cry, pout you don’t appear as confident.

A – Assert

Teach your child a few comeback lines to say in different situations. “No!” “Not cool.” “Because I said so!” “I don’t want to.”

L – Look Eye to Eye

The best way to appear more confident is by using eye contact. If your child is timid or eye contact is difficult, suggest he look between the persons’ eyes on the spot in the middle of their forehead. I’ve also taught children on the autism spectrum to look behind (or through the person). The trick is to “appear” confident.

M – Mean It!

Teach your child the difference between how a wimpy and a strong voice sound. Then encourage your child to assert himself using a strong and firm tone–but not yelling tone–to get his point across.

7. Role-play “assertive posture and voice tone”

Kids learn best from seeing and practicing skills. So help your child rehearse assertive phrases like: “Stop it!” “No, not this time, thanks!,” “Hey, cut it out!”

Practice using the skill so your child has a firm-sounding tone and until your child has the confidence to hold his own without you. And when he does, congratulate yourself. You will have taught your child a critical skill that he will need to use in every arena of his life but now and forever.

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

How to Stop Cyberbullying: Digital Citizenship for Children

“Cyberbullying” or “electronic aggression” means deliberately using technology such as smartphones, the internet, social media, or gaming environments to harass, humiliate, badmouth, or threaten someone. Like any form of bullying, online bullying can poison someone’s joy in life, reputation, and well being. An antidote is a substance that can counteract a form of poisoning, and teaching digital citizenship can be a powerful antidote to cyberbullying.

A citizen is an inhabitant of a place – and the online world is a place where most young people live a great deal of the time. According to Mike Ribble, author of Digital Citizenship in Schools and Raising a Digital Child, parents and educators are often like immigrants to the online world, while their children are like digital natives.

Many adults are intimidated because technology changes constantly and rapidly, and it can be hard to keep up with it unless you grew up with it. Fortunately, the values and behavior of a good citizen are the same regardless of whether you are online or in the “real” world.

A commitment to act with respect, safety, and kindness towards yourself and others knows no boundaries. The knowledge of how to protect yourself from harmful words, whether you hear them or see them, is the same. The importance of staying mindful is relevant no matter where you are. And bullying is unsafe, disrespectful behavior, whether it happens in person, on paper, or with electrons.

Here are five steps that parents and educators can take to teach their children and teens about what it means to be a good digital citizen in ways that will help to prevent and stop cyberbullying.

1. Set a good example.

Remember that the actions of young people’s close adults have a powerful influence on what they will do. As one teacher told me, “At our small private school, parents were gossiping, online and offline, about the troubles of one family. It is not surprising that their children started posting insults about a boy in that family who was having a hard time.”

Let the children and teens in your life see you choosing to stay respectful even when you are upset. Let them see you reaching out to communicate in person directly and respectfully with someone with whom you have a problem rather than complaining behind this individual’s back. Or, if this doesn’t work, going in person to someone who is in a position to do something about the issue. Let them see you state disagreements objectively and politely, without name-calling or sarcasm. Let them see you choosing NOT to “like” or share a post or photo that is hurtful or disrespectful, even if it seems amusing. If you make a mistake, let them see you saying so – and showing how you are going to make amends.

State your disapproval when people in positions of power and prestige act in harmful or disrespectful ways, even if you appreciate their winning a game, enjoy their music or films, or agree with their politics. Model balance by turning your technology off and doing something together out in nature or with other people without being connected electronically.

2. Stay connected with your children’s worlds online and everywhere else.

Every day, thousands of kids think about ending their lives because of cyberbullying. They endure torment their own parents don’t learn about until an emergency, such as a suicide attempt, calls the problem to their attention. Tragically, this is sometimes too late.

Protect and supervise kids until they are truly prepared to make safe and wise choices themselves. Kids are safest when their adults know who is with them, what they are doing, and where they are going. Remember that with technology, even if you are side by side with a child, you won’t necessarily know what online content they are consuming unless you are looking at the same screen. Discuss the Kidpower Protection Promise with all the young people in your care: “You are very important to me. If you have a safety problem, I want to know – even if I seem too busy, even someone we care about will be upset, even if it is embarrassing, even if you promised not to tell, and even if you made a mistake. Please tell me, and I will do everything in my power to help you.” Point out that cyberbullying is a safety problem.

3. Treat kids’ freedom in the use of communication devices as a privilege, not an automatic right.

As one mother explained, “I was horrified when I learned that my daughter had texted embarrassing photos and attacking remarks about a couple of kids on her swim team. I heavily restricted her use of her devices until she wrote an essay about the harm done by cyberbullying and gave it in person along with an apology to her teammates and coach that she rehearsed with me ahead of time to make sure that it was respectful and clear. Although she was furious with me, I felt that my child needed to understand the seriousness of this kind of behavior and to make amends.”

Make clear agreements so that young people know what their responsibilities are as digital citizens. Kidpower’s free Digital Citizenship and Safety Agreement provides a template you can use and adapt for your specific needs.

4. Teach kids not to do anything online that they wouldn’t want the world to see.

One transgender teen was shocked when they found out that a boy they had trusted had encouraged them to text about their feelings about their gender identity – and then forwarded these very personal messages to a bunch of other kids, along with sneering comments. The boy who did this was shocked to discover that he got into big trouble for cyberbullying that he had thought no adult would ever know about, especially since he had deleted the forwarded messages.

Young people need to understand that even though a communication seems very private and anonymous, and even if the developers claim their platform is private, what they do using technology leaves an electronic footprint that can become public, including to potential employers or college admissions offices. In addition, even if they delete it later, an electronic communication can spread very far and very fast, with much greater consequences than they ever intended. Sending or receiving sexually explicit photos of anyone under 18 years old, even if intended to be privately shared, and even if the photos are “selfies,” can be considered child pornography and trigger serious legal consequences.

5. Teach young people how to take charge of their safety and well being, online and everywhere else.

Part of good citizenship is knowing how to act if you have a problem that harms the well being of you or someone else. If you get or see a threatening or harmful message, don’t answer back and don’t delete. Take a screenshot, and go tell an adult you trust. One boy, “Max”, asked his parents for help after a couple of former friends had put up a Facebook page saying “I hate Max” that was “liked” by hundreds of kids in his high school. As you can imagine, this experience was devastating. Max says, “What helped me was having the support of my parents who got Facebook to take the page down and who kept telling me that what happened was not my fault; going to a counselor; going to a Teenpower class to practice what to do when you have problems with people; and finding some new friends.”

Practice Kidpower ‘People Safety’ skills such as how to: protect your feelings from hurtful words; set boundaries with yourself and others; communicate and connect with people in positive ways; stay in charge of what you say or do no matter how you feel inside; move away from trouble; and be persistent in getting help from busy adults. Practice ways to speak up, say “No” and “Stop”, and use other peer diversion tactics, and practice persisting in the face of negative reactions. Practice putting your hands down and stepping away from the technology when you feel tempted to post, agree with, or share something hurtful or disrespectful. Kidpower International provides educational materials and training in how to teach these skills to people of all ages, abilities, cultures, beliefs, and identities.

Finally, understanding about digital citizenship is useful for much more than stopping cyberbullying. As defined by Mike Ribble, digital citizenship has nine major themes for describing appropriate and inappropriate uses of digital technology (Ribble, Bailey & Ross, 2004; Ribble & Bailey, 2004a). They include: Rights, Safety, Security, Access, Communication, Etiquette, Responsibility, Education, and Commerce. CommonSense Media has a free curriculum with k-12 lessons based on these themes.

 

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