Tuesday, May 31, 2011

caring for your bullied child

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

Saying "I love you" more and really, really meaning it, is course the best foundation. Rebuilding your child's self esteem and self confidence is quitechallenging, but absolutely can be done.  While you are working through the nuts and bolts of stopping the torment at school, remember to concurrently rebuild and repair your child's self confidence and self esteem.

The most important activities to kick off while you are stopping the torment, is to:

1. Find new friends
2. Find new activities

Simultaneously, making sure your child hears compliments from you and others frequently.  When a parent or another child says something kind about your child, make sure he knows about it.

Finally, if your child need additional help with social skills and self-confidence, look into school based groups, YMCAs, local therapists' groups and other community based groups.

see solutionsforbullying.com for free resources

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Take the high road after bullying

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

Interestingly, when you take the high road, it does not feel fulfilling at the time. Over time, however it does.
After we had solved my son's 18 months of daily torment, there was a strong desire to tell everyone in the community about it.  I chose not to.  I shared the facts if asked, but did not talk specifics in any way.

Ruining the reputations of the bullies does not help anyone.  If they have been served clear consequences and all behavior has ceased, be thankful and yes, move on.

About a year ago, after the torment was eliminated by transferring my child to another school, he thrived and was very happy.  While there are many more solutions to bullying than that particular solution, I was grateful that one worked.  At that time, I wanted to "warn" others of the bullies. I had a moment of clarity and realized, these kids have received real consequences from the school and some level of consequence from the parents.  I realized that this horrible episode was now complete. Continuing to stew would make me and my family bitter and unhappy.

So, a bit begrudgingly, I worked on forgiving the bullies and their families. A year later, it worked. I have fully forgiven all. Now, interestingly, the bully families may not appreciate it, because they felt I was harsh at the time. Unfortunately, I got pushed to being very clear and direct on the phone with several parents (always accurate, but very clear), so they may not care about me forgiving them. But, in the end, it is not about them, it is about me and myfamily.

Being free of the anger makes us all happier. Take the high road.

see solutionsforbullying.com for help with solving your bullying issue.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

After a School Year of Being Bullied: Summer Solutions

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

If your child has just endured a school-year filled with torment at the hands of a bully, there is a good chance his reputation has been damaged. As a result, your child may not be getting as many invitations to events, outing, just hanging out, etc.

My co-author and I have been through that with our children. It is heartbreaking to watch your child be alone and sad during the carefree months of summer.  The good news: your child can still have fun and build new relationships.

Parents that have been through this have shared many great ideas to provide a new social scene for bullied children during the summer:

-join a park district group that meets regularly that will introduce them to other children from other schools
- join a regional theatre group
-join a park district or regional swimming team
-join a YMCA sports or arts group
-Sign up for classes at Community centers
-Sign up for a volunteer group that meets regularly
-Join a church group
-Send them to sleep away camp or a day camp in a neighboring town
-Explore offerings from local community colleges for school age kids in summer
-Take musical, arts or sports lesson
-Start an outings group of new children and parents that meet in local spots
-Go to amusement parks, museums, events etc. regularly

Your child can still have social interactions, it is just a matter of finding new outlets for him.

See solutionsforbullying.com for more

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eating Disorders and Bullied Children

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com http://www.solutionsforbullying.com/

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!  So not true.  Name calling can be just as painful sometimes even worse than physical harm.  Often times we see children that are bullied have issues with their weight either eating too much or not eating at all. 
Children often turn to food as a comfort when they are being bullied.  Sugar and carbohydrates give a temporary (and I must stress temporary) euphoric feeling.  Children are trying to fill the pain that they feel with food.  Sneaking food, eating when they are not hungry, stuffing themselves with junk food are all signs that something is bothering them emotionally.
On the flip side children often stop eating and lose weight because they physically do not feel like eating due to the stress of being bullied.  They often don’t eat if someone has made fun of their physical appearance – being overweight, having a fat rump….  They somehow feel that if they were thinner they would not be bullied.  To make the situation worse they often exercise for hours at a time becoming very weak and frail. 
Obsessive compulsive overeaters, binge eaters, bulimics, anorexics and exercise anorexics are all very serious issues.  In all cases something needs to be done before they have a life long struggle with their weight.  There are many programs such as Weight Watchers that can help kids that are overweight.  For children that refuse to eat it is best to see a social worker or physician that deals with eating disorders. 
The problem really is not the food but what is eating them. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bystanders hold all the power

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

They really do!  Bystanders have the opportunity to look like leaders and change opinions.  A bystander is a bullied child's best friend.

Encourage your child to either speak up in the crowd when a bully is bullying a victim. It does not have to be a reprimand in nature. Bystanders can use humor, they can distract or they can pull the bully off to the side and let them know "it is not cool and they should stop."

Encourage your child and their friends to make a pact to defend other children, not just their friends, but everyone. Bullies will back down if someone defends a bullied child. It simply takes good parents to remind children that this is part of being a day-to-day human and it takes a little courage.

Bystanders are leaders, tell your child everyday.

For more information, see solutionsforbullying.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to work with schools to stop bullying

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

The key here is to find an internal champion for your child. Frequently, an assistant
principal can be your best bet. Work the system with them. Build your plan including the champion,
all of this teachers, the nurse and guidance counselor.

A quick meeting appealing to their nurturing side will help. Lay out the problem, let them know
how concerned you are. Make suggestions. Make a list of ways to protect him, e.g.,

-change his seat away from troubling kids
-change the bully's schedule
-have supervision in hallways and locker rooms
-ask teachers to assign buddies to watch out for them

The way to garner success with schools is to boost their confidence ( compliment them
on what they and what they will do), empathize with their workload, be positive and LET THEM
KNOW THIS TEAM WILL WIN.  Also give them a task list to track their duties.

At first call daily in a positive way to check in.  If it get better, weekly will be fine.

If it gets worse, meet again, ask for additional recommendations.

Require the bullies' parents be called and told their child will receive consequences. Require the bullies parents sign a letter itemizes the issues, action  and pending consequences.

And always, keep the superintendent informed. Use the school board.

Most importantly, thank all involved frequently, but hold them all accountable as well.

see solutionsforbullying.com for more

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alpha Moms Unwittingly Build Alpha Mean Girls

SolutionsforBullying@gmail.com www.SolutionsforBullying.com

It is not always a conscious thing, sometimes producing a bully starts with good intentions. Many moms want to be perfect. Look perfect. Be seen with the perfect group of perfect moms. They want their daughters to be viewed as beautiful, polite, well-behaved, compassionate, smart, athletic and more.

This takes an ugly left turn when Alpha moms (not all but some) start over-orchestrating who their child plays with regularly and get overly involved in her image.  When mothers begin to evaluate various social options/events/invitations and help their child assess which one is the best "fit" for Susie, it becomes a problem.  Similarly, if Susie's mom strategically befriends the "cool girls' " moms , she could be on her way to demonstrating to her daughter, that popularity is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. This is a stepping stone to bullying.  You may say "huh?"

Let me explain.  Our children model us in every way, particularly girls.When young girls see Mom, opportunistically looking for the best invitation, making sure she always has the best outfit and talking about acquaintances and friends with clear criticism and judgment in order to improve her status socially, it rubs off.

Similarly, it sends a message that popularity is really the most important thing. From there, Susie starts to determine how to be popular. Susie finds out judging other girls and gossiping is a way to popularity.

It is starting earlier and earlier.  If you know someone like Susie's mom, share my favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt with her, she might actually think about it:

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

For more information on stopping bullying, visit: solutionsforbullying.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bullying Learnings and Happy Endings From My Son

Up until this point, I have not been specific as to why my co-author and I began this journey.  Both of our families experienced bullying up close and personally over the last few years.

The good news is both of our sons who suffered at the hands of bullies are thriving, happy and well beyond it.

Two years ago that was not the case however.

My son was the victim of strategic bullying that became viral in his middle school.  He learned a lot about
the types of bullies, how they react, who they are and how to manage them.

Here are his recommendations:

1. Never, ever let the bully think the bullying upsets you.

2. Always let the bully know either away from the crowd or in front of them, that what they are doing is clearly not acceptable. He had success with the following comebacks:

      a. "Wow you are really mature - impressive for a second-grader,  Oh, that's right -you are in 6th grade"

      b. "Are you okay, the way you are talking makes you look like you are having a seizure?"

      c. "Oh I heard about you -- I know about your issues."

3.  Find really big friends to hang out with

4. Make certain you always have a go-to person in every class, lunch and gym

5. Do not let it go on for more than 2 weeks or it will go viral in your school

6. Do not be afraid of retaliation, kids typically then ignore and exclude you, it subsides over time and is worth telling adults to get the peace and quiet.

7.  Find new friends and new things to do

8.Don't believe a word the bullies say -- they all have problems and are angry. It is not YOU, it is them!!

more to come, visit solutionsforbullying.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Handling the parents of bullies

Always a tricky proposition!  Just as there are several different types of bullies, there are indeed several types of parents of bullies.

There are a some (less than a 15%) parents of bullies who simply did not know their child was bullying at all.  Although, many experts will tell you that all parents have some inkling of their behavior.

Still others are aware of their child's tormenting behavior and put their head in the sand.  Another type of parent actually consciously cultivates this type of antisocial behavior.  And, of course,  there is a wide mix of everything in between.

Our rule of thumb, is stay calm and give every parent the benefit of the doubt until they give you reason to think otherwise.

Before the conversation with the parent of the bully, make sure you have all of the facts.  Be aware of any culpability your child may have at all. 90% there is not any wrongdoing on the bullied child's side, but occasionally there is = own it when you make the call.

If the bullying is in the early stages and you want to have a conversation with the parent ( hopefully the school has called first), present the facts in a pleasant but clear voice. Stay calm. Describe the incident. Pause. Ask for their help in stopping it.  Most parents will be defensive, a few will be objective and fewer still will be accountable.

That said, go in positively.  Document the call.  Before the call ends, ask for next steps. Next steps should include:

-The bully needs to cease tormenting immediately
-The bully needs to understand the next set of consequences if they continue bullying
-The bully needs to commit to absolutely no discussion of the bullying, the victim, the victim's family or friends or anything regarding the victim in any way
-The bully needs to be clear that there will be no recruiting of others to bully or disingenuous (over-friendliness) with the victim

You might say: "Where is the apology."  If this is offered, graciously take it.  Don't expect this however. Only about 20% of the time will this be included.

Please visit solutionsforbullying.com for free resources and tools.

Monday, May 16, 2011

4 Types of Bullies: 4 Types of Solutions

As you can imagine, when your child is being bullied, there is not one singular solution for all situations.

That said, you can tailor your child's solution more effectively if you know the bully type your child's tormenter happens to be.

As with every type of bully and bullying situation, the more insulated your child is with friends around or key people to go to, the easier it is to stop bullies. Similarly, stopping bullying early and comprehensively is critical, sot that it does not go viral.

There are 4 general types of bullies:

First, there is the Experimenter. The Experimenter is new to bullying  and is "trying it on for size" to determine if bullying might help them climb the social ladder.  In this situation, the first line of defense should always be to reason with the bully. Taking the the new bully off to the side and saying something like "hey that was not cool or it really bothered me -please don't," often assuages the situation. As always, if it persists, tell an adult. Stop it early and comprehensively.

The second type, the Old-Fasioned Bully is typically quite seasoned by 5th grade and started in second grade as a means to "fit in".  The best way to address this bully is come back with a clear, but not completely threatening retort, , e.g., "Wow, who slapped you across the face when you woke up this morning, you are really not cool today."  On the second occasion, tell the bully "You are really boring me (yawn with emphasis) and walk away." If it happens again, tell an adult. Stop it early and comprehensively.

The third type, the Elite Bully, is the most strategic bully and is probably poses the largest threat to a child's reputation.  Elite Bullies can be the most popular child and ostensibly appear to be polite, get along well with others and genuinely liked by adults.  Sadly, they are the most conniving. Elite bullies are capable of networking, recruiting and developing bully plans to execute on their victims. If this is your bully, it is trickier, because they usually have a large fan base and are extremely good actors ( and well-practiced liars).  In this situation, it is ideal for another bystander or friend of a friend, to tell the Elite Bully to knock it off. Finding an older and more popular child to talk to the Elite Bully is something that should be done immediately.  Further, letting the bully know you are not a pushover is critical. Looking him in the eye in a steely way is a good start. If the bullying persists, getting an adult involved early, before the Elite Bully starts to recruit or spread gossip (online, offline or both) is critical.  Again, stop it early and comprehensively.

The fourth type, the Victim-turned-Bully, the most fragile emotionally and perhaps more erratic.Sadly, these children lack real friendships and only bully to fit in. Therefore, taking them off to the side and asking to make "a pact" ( "I will lay off you, if you lay off me") can be effective. However, if it persists, tell an adult. Stop it early and comprehensively.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TOP FAQs from parents of bullied children

·      Why do bullies bully?
o   The answer can be any number of motivating factors. In the end, bullies crave power and social currency. Bullies frequently take advantage of children who are more timid/less confident, but just as frequently target other children out of jealousy, vendettas, compulsiveness or simply capriciously.
o   For the record, there is never a “reason” for bullying. Bullies choose to bully and typically have unhealthy motivations in their own life for doing so.

·      How do I know it is bullying?
o   Glad you asked: While many folks want bullying to be difficult to define, so that they can delay solutions due to the challenge in defining it, it really is simple:
§  Whenever one child has demonstrated that a behavior from another child is making them uncomfortable or has asked that child to stop a behavior for the same reason, and the child does not, on the second occasion it is bullying. Period.

·      What are the signs a child is being bullied?
o   Really, it can be overall anxiousness or any/all of the following:
§  Frequent stomachaches or headaches
§  More somber moods
§  Avoiding social occasions
§  School work declining
§  Looking down frequently
§  Eating habits changing: less or more
§  Agitated; negative; jumpy
§  Sleeping issues
§  Increased moodiness
§  Nightmares

·      Once I know it’s bullying, whom do I contact first?
o   First, be sure you have all the facts
o   Contact the top administrator at school
o   Make sure the administrator speaks to the bully as well as to the bully’s parents clearly about the issue and next steps

·      If all common sense solutions don’t work at the school level, what should I do?
o   There are many more invasive options beyond working with the school. Briefly, here are a few examples:
§  Call the superintendent and all of the school board members (if you request a meeting, they must honor it).
§  Visit your local law enforcement for ideas (sometimes a calm objective, yet unofficial visit from an officer will get a bully’s attention and they will stop).
§  Inquire about protection at the local/county civil rights office. They will call your school quickly and begin a thorough investigation.
§  Talk to an attorney who specializes in children’s issues or bullying. Google is your friend here.
§  Consider switching schools. Most states have laws that dictate, if the public school cannot provide a safe learning environment, they must pay for another school out of district including your child’s transportation.

·      Are there any “never-do’s” parents should know about?
o   Never, ever allow the school to perform “peer to peer resolution, ” it simply re-victimizes the bullied child by forcing him to face his attacker and get bullied again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

As a parent, TAKE THE LEAD in solving your child's bullying issue

Sadly, nobody will stick with it, unless you do.  When your child needs bullying to be stopped, parents are not only the best advocate, they also need to be  the leader of the solution.

Most schools are well intended, but have a million fires to put out short term and long term everyday.  Most will collaborate and help, but parents of bullied children must make noise and must be very clear about expectations.  As a leader, parents must write out the plan and hold all parties accountable.

The school should be accountable for contacting the bully and his parents. They should also implement a learning consequence for the bully.  FYI; detentions and suspensions don;t work unless there is a learning exercise that goes along with it.

The parent should via email  or other communication write out the short list of to-dos, assign tasks to each party, check on progress frequently and be the most pleasant nuisance you possibly can be until you have resolution.

Note: schools are busy, so compromise on some things, but never let them forget ( in a very diplomatic way), you as the parent/taxpayer or tuition payer are the boss.  Collaborate, be respectful, stay calm, stay determined!

To learn more : visit solutionsforbullying.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Overweight children and Bullying

How dull would it be if we all looked and acted like Barbie and Ken?  For the bully, any difference is a good reason to bully.  Most bullies are motivated by a need to be powerful and in control.  They lack empathy and like to be the class clown.
Overweight children are bullied at equally high rates as lesbian and gay children.  The bully often thinks of these children as an “easy target”.  It is a visual difference, and seemingly easier for the bully to make disrespectful and hurtful jokes about the victim.  This bully is motivated by the need to be funny, and the center of attention, in a cruel and demeaning way.
Bullying of overweight children usually makes the weight situation for the bullied child worse.  They may try to fill the emply space they feel caused by the pain that they feel from the humiliation of bullying with food.  If your child is in this situation you might want to consider talking with your doctor about emotional eating and its effects.  They might have some good tips on alternative solutions to eating when feeling stress, pain and other emotions. 

Bullying is not a normal part of childhood

To be clear: bullying is not a "rite of passage" or a "part of every child's life."  In fact, it is anti-social unhealthy behavior/ Period.

Children should know this and understand this. Understanding bullying is both hurtful and no healthy will help them when they are defending themselves.  Letting a bully know- off to the side "hey, you may not understand this, but this is uncomfortable/rude and it is not normal", will actually make bullies think twice.

Many bullies won't care what you say and will continue their compulsive behavior.  This is where parents really need to understand that bullying is not normal. If a school administrator or parent says the following to you, "hey this happens to many kids", your answer should be:  "Then, unfortunately, you have a large problem. Just because it is happening does not make it normal. Bullying is anti-social unhealthy behavior and it needs to be stopped."

Please see our website for free resources for parents and educators: solutionsforbullying.com.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Key issues facing families of bullied children

We tell all of the parents who come to us needing help and support with bullying issues that first and foremost, do not be ashamed or embarrassed! It is the bully and his family who should be embarrassed and ashamed. The bully is exhibiting unhealthy and abnormal behavior.

Secondly, don't let anyone tell you to ignore it, "its kids being kids" or minimize it.  If bullying is left unchecked, the whole family starts to feel the effects.  Families of bullied children, tend to feel like outsiders in their own community. This is wrong. Do not allow yourselves to be isolated. Get out there and be seen, happy, healthy and confident. The key is to let the bully's family know that you are a positive team and the bully's negativity will not get you down.

Another key challenge for the family, it that bullying takes over the conversation in the house.  While it is key to let your child vent, talk and work through it as well as letting it be clearly known that you as parents are "on it" protecting them and solving the issue, there has to be other conversation.

Make those other conversations happen all the time. Don't let bullying swallow up your family.

Learn more at solutionsforbullying.com or see our book, "When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What happens to the bullied child as an adult?

Kids will be kids.  We hear it over and over.  But what happens when kids that were bullied as children become adults?  The sad thing about children that are severely bullied is that they do not always live up to their full potential as adults.  Frequently, they have trouble trusting people, and they certainly do not stick their neck out for anything, for fear of being hurt or ridiculed by others.

Some Lasting Effects of Being Bullied

Anger, shame
Fear, low self-esteem
Poor grades
Isolation, loneliness, sadness, and social anxiety
Eating Disorders
Ability to trust diminished
Difficulty making and keeping meaningful relationships
Difficulties advancing in the work place
Becomes totally risk-adverse

If your child is severely bullied, consider getting professional help if possible.  Even for milder bullying the school nurse and social worker may be able to help as well.  Do not let your child hinder his full potential in this world because of the bully.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why schools have a such a tough time reigning in bullies

On one hand, bullying is a complex issue. It covers a wide degree of severity and frequency. While we maintain the definition is simple (refresh: anytime a child has been asked at least once to stop a specific behavior that makes another child uncomfortable and they do not, it is bullying- simple), the complexity comes in with protocol and consequences.

Parents and educators sometime disagree on types of procedures. Sometime parents disagree.  Typically the parents of bullies and the parents of victims disagree.

The school is in the middle. Therefore, procedures and protocols are typically watered down and not effective.

Parents and educators need to come together and agree the strongest protocol involves introspection and learning. Once that happens, it really is not very tough at all.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why Bullies Don't Learn

Huge Issue.  In fact, there is reason to believe there is a strong correlation between being a bully and growing into a criminal. Startling statistic: 60% of seasoned middle school bullies are indicted or charged with a crime by the time they are 24 years old.


Because they never receive real consequences that force them to introspect and reflect. Typically school bullies receive detentions and suspensions. This protocol simply does not work. It does not force a bully to understand how their behavior negatively affects the victim or themselves. What most don't understand is that bullies are negatively affected by their own behavior.

Lets start forcing bullies to understand and reform via forced research, volunteer service, active engagement and clear laid out escalating consequences, if they do not stop.

Read more in "When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions." See solutionsforbullying.com

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why bullying is really easy to define, but many do not want it to be

It is really interesting how many school administrators and parents alike become very frustrated when attempting to solve bullying issues.  There are several sides to the argument. The victim claims the bully is humiliating/violating them. The school is not sure because they may not have a "clear definition" and therefore "need to investigate further" or do not have a "protocol". The bully claims he "is only joking."

The bully's parents might say the victim is over-sensitive about teasing.

At the end of the day, the definition need not be challenging.  It really is simple.

If one child has asked another to stop a behavior, language or conversation and lets them know it is not acceptable by either getting upset or asking them to cease and they do not, on the second occasion, it becomes bullying. Period. Simple.

Every case is different and obviously, some are considerably less serious than others, but at the end of day,
the definition is solid. The consequences/punishment may change, but the definition does not.

The best way to stop a bully is to let him know, it is not acceptable to bully. Further, every child should let an adult know and that adult should use the above definition. From there, a bully should receive a learning consequence. Period. Simple.