Bullycide Takes Another Child

Posted by Edie Raether on October 2, 2011 with 0 Comments

“Bullycide” is a term that Neil Marr and Tim Field coined in referring to those children who chose the shadows of death rather than one more day of being bullied. Bullying is not new, but it has become more vicious and insidious with technology allowing 24/7 harassment that with one simple click can rapidly spread rumors with no way to stop them. Once the word is out there, you can’t take it back. You can’t recover what you regret.

Jamey (Jamie) Rodemeyer, 14 years old, took his life last week in Buffalo, New York, after relentlessly inspiring others with the words, “It gets better.” Words and mantras can only provide hope for just so long. Unless the environment and culture changes, the pain speaks louder than words that provide no solace and no solutions.

Jamey was bullied continuously for his sexual orientation. The fact is that it has not gotten better and it won’t until we accept the fact that the problem is not isolated, but rather systemic. Until compassion is learned and caring cultures are created, we will continue to lose our greatest resources…our children. Jamie follows many before him as I have sited below.  Nothing changes until “you” do. Please take action now.

Brian Head, a quiet, caring and talented fifteen year old, walked into his economics class with a gun to his head and announced, “I can’t take this anymore,” and pulled the trigger. He wrote poetry and in his last poem he revealed his experiences of being bullied. Brian said he was seen by his peers “as an insignificant ‘thing,’ something to be traded, mangled, and mocked.” Brian found comfort in the darkness of death to end the pain.

He continued to write, “In the shadows, their evil eyes cannot stare my soul into oblivion…I am free to move without their judgmental eyes on me…I can sleep without dreams of despair and deception. In the shadows I am home.”

I was taught many years ago that suicide was anger turned inward. While suicide is violence inflicted upon oneself, with those choosing bullycide, I believe it is more of a desperate attempt to end the pain. Unfortunately, they see no other option in their darkest moments. It is our responsibility to make sure resources are there for them and they know how to access them.

Compared to students not bullied, those who continue to endure the trauma of being bullied show a higher rate of depression, anxiety, drugs, alcohol abuse, and school failure. Unfortunately, people bullied often internalize the putdowns and turn on themselves by kicking themselves for not being good enough. While the bully may eventually go away, the low self-esteem and internalized emotions of powerlessness and hopelessness do not. They often haunt the victim forever unless their therapy has been successful. This is why we must take action now!

The LGBT Community Requests Respect

Bullycide is most prevalent among those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender where harassment is considerably more frequent. Nine out of ten gay students report being bullied, giving them little escape from assaults.  Until there is greater awareness and understanding, respecting differences will continue to be our greatest challenge in bringing dignity and equality to all people.a basic human.

A resource I highly recommend is supported by Dan Savage and other celebrities. Check out www.itgetsbetter.org.

Corey Bernstein, a sixteen year old activist in the anti-bullying movement, shared a quote from Dr. Seuss that gives a positive perceptive: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Those people who truly care and support us don’t even see differences. Love brings us together and unites humanity to make each of us stronger.

Corey decided to take action and emphasizes that we all need to be who we are for authenticity has its own reward.  His concern was that although TV shows like Glee show gay people in a positive light, they often reinforce stereotypes of how gay people act.  He stressed the dangers of labeling and stereotyping because both limit our perceptions and acceptance of others.

We must teach a tolerance and respect for differences from an early age on. Corey emphasized that it is crucial for a child to be exposed to different people and varying lifestyles at an early age. Since it is human nature to be wary of or reject the unfamiliar or what we don’t understand, children must be exposed to social and cultural differences in their homes and schools as well. Corey mentioned that children’s books with same-sex parents are being written, but many school districts will not allow them in their libraries.

Tragedy Motivates Action

Corey knew he was different or gay in about 6th grade. He was constantly bullied and harassed and thus in the 7th grade he left the public school and received the dignity he deserved in a private school. He no longer was harassed and he could now focus on academics rather than his safety. He strongly felt that the difference was the attitudes and actions of the school’s leadership that had anti-bullying polices in place. The principal and teachers were proactive whenever a bullying incident occurred and did not conveniently look the other way.

Safe environments can and must be created in all schools for a student’s only choice may be a public school. Although Corey did switch to a private school, it was socioeconomically diverse.  Children without financial resources were given a scholarship if they were academically qualified. Rich or poor, bullies come from families that are judgmental, rigid and extreme in their beliefs.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to not take action until there is a tragedy. I previously mentioned Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after being a victim of cyberbullying.  Only after this tragedy and a series of bullycides was action finally taken.  My question is how many more children will have to take their lives before we take the necessary actions to create and sustain safe environments and caring communities?

Gay Activists: Strongest Anti-Bullying Force

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is one of the strongest forces to support social change and eliminate bullying. Corey’s home state, New Jersey, is a leader in mandating anti-bullying programs. Each school’s performance is then posted on the internet to

improve accountability.  Bully Police is an organization that also  grades all states on their anti-bullying programs and makes their performance known on the internet. In an article written in Out In New Jersey by journalist Chip Alfred, Corey was cited as the driving force behind the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at his school. Corey also coordinated the school’s Ally Week and Day of Silence, both organized by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) in a nationwide effort to identify and support Allies against anti-LGBT language and harassment. It received the support of almost the entire student body.

Corey has also been recognized by the Equality Forum and by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Garden State Equality. The list of Corey’s initiatives is endless and at age sixteen he demonstrates greater organizational and managerial skills than many CEO’s. He demonstrates the power of one!

 

Edie Raether, known as the bully buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now.

A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or (704) 658-8997.

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To Stop a Bully Chill Out and Stay Calm

Posted by Edie Raether on October 1, 2011 with 0 Comments

It is essential for children to feel in control of their thoughts and feelings so that thinking is clear. If children tend to react rather than act in a positive way, they need to slow things down and slow themselves down, including their brainwave activity. When children slow down their breathing, they slow down their brainwave activity creating a relaxed body-mind state which triggers a more positive mind state.  Hyperventilation creates a frenzied state and produces anxiety, fear and negative emotions that shift us into a survival mode.

It is important to recognize and accept angry feelings, but is not okay to hurt someone. Consider having a trigger for calmness.  For example, you could carry a small object such as a smooth stone in your pocket and then program your mind to feel calm every time you rub your hands across the smooth stone.  You can also give make an auditory self-suggestion that whenever you say the word “yes” or “calm” or any chosen word, you let go of all anger and feel centered and calm.  You may prefer a kinesthetic trigger such as clenching your fist with the suggestion that as you unclench it you slowly feel yourself releasing the tension and anger.  It is simply the power of suggestion in action and it works like magic.

How to Keep Your Cool

  • Stay the word “stop.” We are so conditioned to pause when we hear that word that even when we say it to ourselves, we will pause and think and often times choose a better course of action than to loose our cool.
  • Distraction is another way to slow things down and not react, but rather be proactive. For example, you can count the tiles in the ceiling or count the change in your wallet. Sing a happy song, take a walk and enjoy the splendors of nature. You could also read one of my many inspiring books. (How is that for a novel idea?)
  • Express your anger in creative ways.  You could write a poem, story or song that says it all and expresses how you feel. This is in addition to keeping a journal, of course. Many successful people have produced word renown works by transforming their pain into their passion to serve others well.
  • Walk away.  If we go to a calm, relaxed environment, we feel calm and relaxed.
  • Play music that slows down both your brainwave activity and your heartbeat. One effects the other. Baroque music prompts a relaxed heartbeat as our heart synchronizes and harmonizes with the repetitious rhythmical pattern of the music which is about 60 beats per minute. Music with nature sounds is always a good choice as well. It brings the soothing sounds of the ocean to you.
  • Count to ten before responding so there are no regrets as you can never take back the words or the hurt they cause once they are said. When you pause and think twice your mind shifts from the instinctual brain to the cerebral cortex or creative, problem solving part of the brain where our thinking is clear and free of emotion.

 

Questions on Anger:

Questions increase awareness and promote reflection and introspection.  To follow are a few questions you might ask children:

1.  What makes you angry?  What do you do when you get angry?  How do you express your feelings?

2.   As Dr. Phil would say, “How is it working for you?”  Do you need to change your response?

3.   What might be a more effective response?

4.  What do you need to stop doing and start doing to make the change?

5. Do you express your anger with respect and not revenge?

The Blame Game Doesn’t Work

Getting even never works as it simply perpetuates the conflict.  Much anger is due to blaming others for our problem.  It is only when we own our problems and take responsibility for solving them that we claim control.  When we blame others we only feel more powerless and helpless as we are deeming others as being in control of our misery.  Why would you ever make such a choice and give away your power?

Expectations for immediate gratification of needs has created a somewhat narcissistic society.  With the unrealistic expectations we have been conditioned to believe in a world that says, “feel good fast,” we demand instant love and push button success. Frustration and anger is thus so frequently the immediate response to not getting what we want. Teaching delayed gratification is essential to maintaining inner harmony, personal success and a sane society.

No conflict is ever solved when people are playing the blame game as it only creates a “push leads to shove” scenario.  If just one person begins to accept some responsibility for the conflict, things do get resolved. Taking responsibility is a sign of strength, not weakness. It doesn’t make you look bad, it makes you honorable and the “bigger” person.  It is an act of courage. It allows you to truly listen.  Often times people just want to be heard and acknowledged for how they feel.  When someone does not feel heard, they escalate and get louder in an attempt to get through and be heard.

Be Bigger than the Problem

People do mimic and mirror each other.  By listening, taking responsibility and showing kindness, the other person unconsciously may respond in kind.  Most people smile when you smile and greet you when you greet them. The Law of Reciprocity kicks in. Most people instinctively return what they are given.

This also gives you the power to lead and give a positive direction to the encounter.  To resolve a conflict you must be willing to listen, be assertive rather than passive or aggressive, and make compromises. Know that hearing the word, “no” is not resistance or opposition, but rather an opinion that differs from yours.  Learn to respect and honor such differences and always be patient. If we both think alike, one of us is unnecessary. Embrace diversity of thought.

To change a behavior or respond differently than you have in the past, here are a few things you can do to help make the transition.  It is always good to try out the new behavior by role playing or by doing a mental rehearsal where you picture the confrontation in your mind.  Rather than responding with anger or a temper tantrum, you now picture yourself responding with a calm, understanding and mature response. You see yourself taking the “high road.” The important thing is that you know you have a choice and that you can change. Commit to being bigger than the problem.

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now.  A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC.  Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or (704) 658-8997.

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Is Your Child Hardwired to Bully

Posted by Edie Raether on September 28, 2011 with 0 Comments

Kids who are mean grow up to be mean adults.  Being mean becomes one’s identity.  Once we define ourselves as such, it dominates and directs who we are and what we do or how we act.  The roles we play hardwire our brain cells and determine future behaviors.  Once an act or behavior is a habit, we are fighting some very powerful forces of nature which is why I insist on programs of prevention such as I Believe I Can Fly!  It is the only way we are going to stop the cycles of violence.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971 gives credence to the importance of role-playing as a powerful tool for prevention and correction. A mock correctional facility was created in the basement of one of the campus buildings where 24 mainly white middle class males became guards and prisoners. To follow is a report that reveals why good people are capable of doing bad things. The study shows a degeneration and breakdown of the established rules and morals dictating exactly how people should behave toward each. It also illustrates the darkness that inhabits the human psyche.

Emotionally healthy college students selected for the study were put into predefined roles as prison guards or convicts and thus acted as they thought that role required them to be, rather than using their own judgment and morals. When one puts on a “uniform” and assumes a role, I believe it allows them to be detached from who they are and thus relieves them of all responsibility and accountability for their social behaviors.

Also learned in the experiment was how one behaves when one’s dignity and individuality are totally controlled by others. The guards were outfitted in military-style intimidating uniforms and were equipped with wooden batons and mirrored shades to prevent eye-contact, making the guards less human. The only rule was that there could be no physical punishment, but otherwise they could run the prison as they saw fit.     The prisoners were instructed to wait at their homes. Their homes were raided without warning and they were then arrested by real police officers who took them into custody. They were read their rights, had mug shots and fingerprints taken, and then were given cheap smocks, an ankle chain, allowed no underwear, and given an assigned number as their only identity. Conditions were tough, with only basic sleeping mattresses and plain food provided.

Your Moral Compass: Doing the Right Thing

Suffering from a wide array of humiliations and punishments imposed by the guards, prisoners began to show signs of mental and emotional distress. On the second day of the experiment, the prisoners organized a mass revolt and riot that was squelched with fire-extinguishers and increased humiliation such as stripping the prisoners, forcing them to sleep on the cold, hard floors, intimidating them during roll calls and denying bathroom privileges. They were forced to clean the toilets with their bare hands, and forced exercise and physical punishments became more common. One-third of the guards became extremely sadistic causing high levels of emotional distress such that two of the prisoners had to be removed.

The fact that the prisoners quickly became institutionalized and adapted to their roles brings up a serious concern of our correctional system. Even when told they would be denied their participation payment if they did not quit, none of the prisoners wanted to quit their roles. As an attempt for early release, the replacement prisoner was instructed to go on a hunger strike as a protest of the treatment to his fellow inmates. Surprisingly, his fellow inmates viewed him as a troublemaker rather than a fellow victim trying to help them. The two-week experiment was aborted after six days when on outsider was brought in to interview guards and prisoners and was shocked by the scenes she witnessed. Out of fifty external visitors, the woman was the only one to raise concerns about what was happening.  The visitors truly were passive bystanders.  When we upgrade the bystanders to upstanders, we will see a social shift.

We all admire the heroic actions of the crew and passengers on United Flight 93 who took charge of their destiny and protected the lives of hundreds of others by doing the right thing and what was necessary.  May we live by those famous last words, “Are you ready?  Let’s Roll!”

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now. A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or (704) 658-8997.

 

 

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Why Girls Bully Differently than Boys

Posted by Edie Raether on September 27, 2011 with 0 Comments

The root cause of bullying among girls seems to reflect low self-esteem and an attempt to elevate oneself and be included in a social group by pushing another out of that social circle. It is a corrupted expression of competitiveness that would be better expressed on the basketball court or academic and musical accomplishments.  If we have a good feeling about ourselves and who we are, we then show that same respect to others and honor them as well “Girls will be girls” is not an excuse. Girls can be very mean or “catty.”  Most experts have expressed how bullying among girls is rapidly on the increase especially with the onset of cyberbullying where one can easily hide and remain anonymous, at least until caught.

While boys are more likely to “have it out” in the parking lot and yet be on the same baseball team the next day, girls tend to dig in deep and not let go of their prey.  Girls tend to sustain an ongoing battle and continue their harassment relentlessly.

Playing Sports Create Team Spirit

Some of the contributing factors are that boys are often taught team sports at a young age, while girls play with dolls or do more one-on-one activities and single themselves off with just one friend or two and then begin to exclude who they perceive as intruders to their small inside circle. Fortunately, girls are currently more active in sports where the lessons of team cooperation are learned.  However, coaches who promote ruthless competition defeat the character building possibilities of playing sports.

The effects of the media on a girl’s self-esteem and positive identity can be devastating. If you listen to the lyrics in much of the rap music, not all, but much of it, you will cringe. My curiosity pushed me to tune in and listen to some rap, but to save my sanity and faith in humankind, I had to turn it off. The lyrics were quite explicit in depicting girls as nothing more than sex objects put on earth for male pleasure. Heck, you can’t even watch a hamburger commercial for one of the fast food joints without clearly depicted messages of seduction.  Why can’t a hamburger just be a hamburger!

Girls Lack Identity and Crave Image

It is difficult for girls to choose the path of Gabrielle Giffords, the Tuscon congresswoman who survived a bullet to her brain, or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they don’t fit the media’s mold of what is cool or sexy.  Most teen girls are more tuned into the escapades of Lindsay Lohan, which have much more frequency on the airwaves.

When a teenage girls lacks identity, she craves image and the media and teen music offer a plethora of images that put girls into a competitive spirit with each other for the attention of the almighty male.  Even smart, savvy women such as Maria Shriver, betrayed by her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, can fall victim to the delusional images of power we relinquish to men.

When we don’t experience power in a positive, constructive way such as academic achievement or mastery of a talent or activity, destructive channels of expression are chosen. We all want to feel a sense of control and when we are not in control of ourselves, we are compelled to control others.

A New Social Norm

Then too, there is a collective momentum that groups and gangs generate and it unfortunately dispels all rational thought and replaces it with delusions of grandeur. When several people violate established rules and mores, it establishes a “new norm” where what was once wrong is now right. In other words, our brain decides that if everyone is violating a rule, the rule no longer exists and there is no violation.  It is best explained by theories of the “herd” mentality where the masses simply follow what a few may do whether right or wrong. A group conscience can be quite fickle.

Our tolerance of bullying over the years has created a serious social problem that can no longer be ignored.  To follow are a few suggestions for you to help prevent another child or teen becoming a victim of bullying and other acts of intimidation or violence.

 

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC.  Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com.  Contact her at edie@raether.com or (7040 658-8997.

 

Edie Raether, MS, CSP

CEO

Edie Raether Enterprises and Wings for Wishes Institute

Charlotte, NC

(704)658-8997

 

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Bullies Harass the Family Dog

Posted by Edie Raether on September 25, 2011 with 0 Comments

Of course, doing the right thing is always recommended as a practical tool for values training. Bullying is learned by how you treat the family dog. A New York City dog trainer and pet expert Lisa Hartman believes it boils down to compassion, communications and leading by example.  Lisa commented, “Using choke chains and forcing dogs on their back until they ‘submit’ are forms of bullying. Your children are learning by your example.” I agree with Lisa that ego driven dog training often resembles ego driven parenting styles. Bullying does start in the home. How parents treat each other and their children, and how siblings interact creates a child’s understanding of relationships. If you talk ethical behavior and morals but your own behavior is a clear violation of your words, children will not only follow what they see, but will become very confused and you will lose all credibility as a parent.  You must walk your talk always. If you use a heavy hand and a swift kick to your dog, what message are you giving your child?  There are positive alternatives and they are quite simple.  If you want your dog to stop jumping, ask him to sit and reward your dog with a doggie treat.  It works!  If you want your child to listen, first learn to listen to your child.  If you want your child to respect you, respect the feelings and needs of your child.  It’s that simple. To follow are prevalent parenting problems seen in the homes of bullies.

Family Risk Factors:

1. There is a lack of affection, attachment and bonding.

2. Parenting is unfettered with a lack of setting limits and boundaries.

3. A lack of guidance and supervision by parents is often reported.

4. Ruthless and severe physical discipline and verbal abuse is common.

5. Bullying is prevalent as is violent and other disruptive behaviors

Make Your Home a Safe Haven

Eliminating bullying behavior starts with educating the family. Parents who make themselves available to their children and listen patiently and empathetically to their concerns instill in them a feeling that they are wanted, supported and loved. Many professionals in the field of parenting and peer problems urge parents to provide their children with a positive view of themselves. Such a healthy outlook reduces their appeal as targets in the eyes of bullies

Talking and training is not enough. Each member of the family needs to treat the others with respect and dignity to cultivate empathy. Do not tolerate any bullying behavior in your household. Make your home a safe haven where respect and love prevail.

 

 

Edie Raether, know as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now. A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or (704) 658-8997.

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Stop a Bully – Assert Yourself

Posted by Edie Raether on September 24, 2011 with 0 Comments

Assertiveness training encourages techniques such as “the broken record” where you repeat one simple phrase over and over as a way of not being distracted from the real issue and maintaining a position of power and strength.  It may be as simple as saying, “Stop it” or “I refuse to waste my time and get into this with you.”  Janet suggests that you rehearse your statements of strength in the mirror until they become second nature.

You might also learn a few diffusion statements where you change the direction of the dialogue with distraction. In the middle of an attack, handing someone a compliment can easily disrupt the harassment and turn adversity into an alliance with the offender.

Your body doesn’t lie so check your body languages such as your posture and eye contact. Do you appear confident (even if you are shaking in your boots)? If your volume and tone of voice is wimpy and weak, you are not portraying the confidence necessary to ward off mean-spirited folks. Again, the martial arts is not only a method of self-defense, but confidence building as well. It is easier to feel confident when we feel safe.

 

Be Who You Are: Everyone Else Is Taken

Walking with friends and having a strong support system provides another line of defense. If it is difficult for you to meet other and make friends, join clubs where you can explore similar interests. If you’re a “brain,” don’t try to be a jock.  Win the chess tournament instead. It is difficult to be confident without competence. We all have a special gift, a unique talent.  It is your responsibility to identify it, develop it and embrace it with joy. Be who you are. Everybody else has been taken.

Unless there is a serious risk of being harmed, it is best not to fight back but to report the incident and solicit help. Unfortunately, most kids who are bullied fear that by reporting the incident they will face greater retaliation.

Janet encourages awareness and understanding knowing that most bullies were first bullied themselves and are troubled and struggling as well. She raises the awareness of the bully to better understand how he may be sabotaging his own dreams and then suggests more positive alternatives to meet the need for power and respect.

By creating fun, competitive group activities, the students are engaged and involved with lively interactive discussions. An important question to increase compassion is asking, “how would you feel if….” That sentence is then complete with various scenarios such as, “how would you feel if your brother committed suicide because of being bullied.”

 

Forgiveness Is Freedom

Forgiveness is encouraged so one’s energies are freed up for more creative learning.  Hanging onto anger never releases you from the problem.   Janet has been severely abused by her angry partner, a Vietnam Veteran who had unfortunately become a victim of wars’ violent ways. Her understanding and forgiveness helped her heal. Understanding increases awareness.  Acceptance is condoning the aggression which is not a healthy choice.

As on Occupational Therapist, we would have to spend days getting around campus in a wheelchair to better understand our patients with physical disabilities.  I would highly recommend such activities in our schools as a way of increasing an awareness of the struggles of others.  You must get kids out of their own ego and the “me syndrome” to better understand and respect others. Our society more recently has fallen short in teaching this lesson. With many exceptions such as your grandchildren and mine, we have tolerated and thus supported a narcissistic society that is obsessed with taking care of “me” and the SELF. We must transform the attitude of arrogance to acceptance, and entitlement to empowerment. ( This may be my next book!)

 

Self Defense and the Martial Arts

Although I am not a black belt or any belt, I am a strong believer in the Martial Arts as it is a great method of prevention. It not only offers personal self-defense, but the philosophy and psychology of the various schools offer lessons that can positively channel the energies of a potential bully into a powerful leader. The learned discipline and confidence creates a sense of mastery that prevents being targeted as a victim. As you may recall, Courtney mentioned that her life began to change when she enrolled in an Aikido class. Judo and Karate are also Martial Arts programs I would highly recommend.

 

Home Court Advantage: How Parents Can Help

Bobbi DePorter, the president of QLN (Quantum Learning Network), shared a few insights on how parents can grow a closer connection to their teens by developing a “home court advantage.”

We hear of a home court advantage in sports, where the home team enjoys an edge as it feeds off the support of its fans. In families, the home court advantage helps teens reduce stress, cope with challenges and actually feel good about their life. In addition, it strengthens the parent-teen relationship to the point where the teen will confide in his parents during times of trouble.

Building a home court advantage is a long-term process; it’s not a quick fix. The trust and the connection must grow over time. Here are four key steps in how to do it.

1.  Listen More/Talk Less

If there is a lack of communication in your home, the situation won’t improve by trying to force it. In general, be ready with your ears when your teen does decide to open up, even if it’s to share simple news.

One great place to engage your teen is when you’re driving in the car together. When you are sitting beside each other in the front seat of the car, you’re facing forward. With both of you looking straight ahead, you’ve created a non-confrontational setting, in which a conversation can start and flow more easily.

Also, whether it’s in the car or somewhere else, when your teen is sharing some news, it helps to encourage more dialogue by saying, “Tell me more.” This simple request gives your teen an indication that you’re interested in what they’re saying. At the same time, it’s completely non-judgmental; you’re not offering an opinion on what way just said.

2.  Ask…Don’t Tell

Do you like to talk with people who don’t understand you? Of course you don’t. Teens are the same way. Often when parents attempt to provide heartfelt advice, even with the best of intentions, teens will perceive it as a “lecture” and automatically shut down the communication process.

Asking a question, on the other hand, will generate a response and lead to a dialogue. A question, particularly one that requires more than a yes or no answer, engages the brain. It’s a classic technique in sales that is used to learn more about the prospective buyer and to build rapport. And it’s something that works well in families with teens, as well.

Asking more and telling less also gives parents a better opportunity to learn what pressures their teens may be under. Whether it’s bullying, relationships, grades, or something else, the information more likely will come to light by asking simple, non probing questions.

3.  Share Your Values; Discover Your Teen’s

It’s easy for parents to think that their kids know what values the family stands for. After all, they’re part of the family. But it’s best not to assume that they’re either focused or clear on your family’s values.

So have a casual conversation, perhaps at the dinner table, where you discuss what values your family stands for. Ask your teens what their values are. If they need time to think about it, suggest revisiting the topic at dinner in a day or two.

Once you’ve had this conversation, encourage your teen to seek out others in school with like values. By being part of a group, a teen is less susceptible to being bullied. And by being part of a group of like-minded teens who share common values and interests, an individual is less likely to be ostracized.

4. Build Authentic Bridges to Your Teen

The prime directive in our summer enrichment programs is “Theirs to Ours, Ours to Theirs.” What this means is in order for our staff to teach the students who attend SuperCamp, first they must enter the kids’ world. In other words, our staff must connect with the kids, which gives them permission to teach.

This strategy applies to building a home court advantage as well. Parents can begin to build a bridge by showing a sincere interest in a hobby or passion of their teen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sport, in the arts, or creating video game software; if there is interest on the parents’ part, the teen feels good.

Parents can further strengthen this bridge by participating in the hobby/activity with the teen, as appropriate. Finally, a third level in building the bridge using this strategy is to let the teen become the “teacher” by showing the parent how to do something that the teen is good at.

Creating a meaningful connection with your teen takes time. But it’s an excellent investment on your part. It will ensure that a sufficient level of trust is present, so that if your teen faces a personal crisis, such as being bullied, he or she will want to come to you for advice and support.

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster is an international speaker, parenting coach and author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now.  A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC.  Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or call her at (704) 658-8997.

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Emotional Toughness Wards Off Bullies

Posted by Edie Raether on September 23, 2011 with 0 Comments

This theory of emotions will help you develop the mental toughness and resilience necessary to become more objective and reclaim your power. Dr. Albert Ellis introduced a program called Rational Emotive Therapy and Dr. Maxie Maultsby referred to his similar model as Rational Behavior Therapy. They are cognitive therapies that challenge irrational beliefs to change how you think and feel. They will free you from emotional bondage and help you recover from any lost self-esteem due to bullying.

The model includes a process known as the ABC’s of Rational Living. The A stands for the “Activating event” such as someone being verbally abusive or harassing you. The B is your “Belief” about the event, and the C is the “emotional Consequence” that you experience as a result of your chosen perceptions and beliefs about that event.

For example, if a bully yelled out, “You’re a loser,” that Activating event could leave you feeling excluded, depressed, incompetent, angry and hurt if your Beliefs about that insult were not challenged. By putting a rational perspective on that ridiculous comment, you no longer feel the emotional pain of a comment that is a lie and totally outrageous. Without the cognitive confrontation, your first reaction is usually emotional and without reason or truth. Although you may not be able to control the environment and actions of others, you do choose how you might respond to outside events and thus the emotional Consequences that follow.  The ABC’s of Rational Living could be your ticket to emotional emancipation.

 

Rewriting Your Script

Rewriting your script is another suggestion that may help you. When you repeatedly have been told that you are fat, ugly or a loser and you buy in, unintentionally you write self-sabotaging scripts in your subconscious mind that override your conscious desires and wants. You thus must rewrite your script and read it daily with conviction. You might also record it and listen to it as often as possible. Make it a written commitment.  Share it with friends and ask them to help hold you accountable to your promise.

There are many energy healing methods that will also help in your recovery. One of the most well known ones is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which had helped Courtney Ragonesi whose story was previously presented.  You may want to do some research on some of the methods referred to as Tapping. All of these body-mind and mind-body methods such as hypnosis will help release the negative emotions associated with being bullied. What you must not do is harbor the hurt or negative emotions in your heart. It keeps you captive and continues to give the bully power over you years after the harassment ends. Courtney’s anxiety attack caused from writing about her assaults twenty years ago is an indication that even after therapy, the pain of the past still has a tight grip. Although easier said than done, you must release it and let it go. Holding on is not an option.

Overcoming Our Circumstances and Rising Above

Melissa Curk is the president and founder of Kids Have Hope which is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. She has successful rewritten her life’s script by first releases and letting go of the pain and anger. Melissa now teaches kids how to protect themselves against abusers both online and offline.  Once a social worker in the Chicago school system, since 2009 Melissa has been teaching how to prevent, detect and report child abuse to teachers. Her curriculum Good Touch – Bad Touch gives guidance to parents on how to handle situations when their child reports abuse.

Melissa was motivated to make a difference because she had been bullied, neglected and sexually abused by her own family. She grew up in an socioeconomically deprived town on the gulf of Florida where schools had much to be desired. Even though Melissa is now only 34, she recalls the Ku Klux Klan intimidating the African American neighborhoods even into the early 1990’s. The KKK is certainly an example of social acceptance of bullying beyond belief.

Melissa recalls what I refer to as psychic sexual abuse.  Her mother’s alcoholic boyfriend was always nude and chose to display himself and private activities while watching pornography. Although she would lock the bedroom door, this perverted man would continually peek at her through the bedroom windows.  There was no escape.

Although there were orgies in the living room, pot was smoked by day and bars were frequented at night, both Melissa and her sister would stay home to protect their mother who never offered them any protection. If school had been a respite, it would have provided Melissa with some reprieve.  However, she was bullied there as well. Senior boys were giving her attention when age 15, but that soon turned to undesirable attention with name calling not appropriate to mention here.  Melissa was laughed at and jeered with phrases “give her a six pack and she’s on her back.”  Girls would threaten her as well.

“Everyone hated me,” Melissa recalls. Teachers don’t like kids who are not good students. Parents didn’t like me and I became the laughing stock of the class. At parties her face would be smashed into the cake and she was the one always thrown into the swimming pool. If everyone is doing something wrong, it somehow becomes validated as being okay to do and a new social norm is established.

Melissa reports becoming a sexual object that was used and abused but never loved. While nasty things would be written on her locker, she could at least take it down. If the internet had existed then, she believes she never would have survived.  Because the internet and cyberbullying are now prevalent, many have taken their lives to end the pain.

What got Melissa through these challenging times was having one good friend who was also bullied, but was tougher than Melissa and thus not targeted as often. It left Melissa with the scar of mistrust. Until she was 25 and met the man who is now her husband, she had isolated herself from the social world around her. She admits it is still hard to make friends and she often thinks people are talking about her in spite of medication and being in therapy for over ten years.

Therapy was initiated due to being harassed at work and like Pandora’s Box, much more started coming out.  With no help from home or from school personnel, the burden was all on one young child’s shoulders. Although no one was there to carry her, Melissa now cares for her psychotic father who has PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of fighting in Vietnam.

In spite of no family support, both Melissa and her sister completed college and created good lives for themselves. This gives hope to all those who must overcome adverse circumstances where no parental nurturance is offered. Know that you CAN rise above your circumstances if you are clear on what you want and have a goal, a vision, and a dream.

However, there are many people like Melissa who may have accomplished great things, but when continually bullied or harassed, the memories can linger forever.  Even when we have incompetent parents, we still tend to seek their approval.  Melissa confesses that she struggled with an eating disorder for four years because her mother adored cute, thin girls. Then too, when we are focused on calories and our body weight, we at least feel some control over one area of our life. It distracts us from the misery and the many areas where things are out of control.

The point in sharing Melissa’s story is that although we can rise above and create a better life, the emotional scars continue to haunt us and memories do not fade easily.

The lessons for all of us is that when you see a child in need, don’t turn your back and walk away, give them your hand and help them walk with you.

 

Emotions Are Your Friend

All feelings are real, all feelings are genuine and authentic. They are yours!  What you feel is what you feel. If you are not in touch with your feelings, they program you. What you don’t know can hurt you. Repressed emotions still function deep inside you and tend to sneak out in ways that are difficult for you to identify and control, and also difficult for others to understand and handle.

When you are not in touch with your feelings, life becomes a drag, is routine, lacks luster and you become nothing more than a machine. Daily routines become an obligation, a responsibility to discharge and a duty to just get through. We slowly adapt to our own dullness, for when we are out of touch, we are numb to life and simply tune out the joys of living. We are often anesthetized and totally clueless of our mundane existence.

Being out of touch with our emotions, makes decision making nearly impossible as we are not clear on what we really want.  We can’t distinguish our wishes from our worries and often end up doing things we don’t want to be doing.  We are simply not authentic.

When we are out of touch with our feelings, we are not centered or grounded and thus are vulnerable to getting pushed around by others. We may defer to others to such an extent that we can’t decipher their good intentions from our own ideas, wishes and desires.

We find ourselves in an other-directed world with our antennae out seeking signals from family, friends, charismatic gurus, experts and authorities who for a fee offer “their” guidance. I strongly recommend that we tune into our own gut guidance and learn to hear those soft intuitive whispers for direction on our path. My first book, Why Cats Don’t Bark, reveals how we can tune into and sharpen our intuition for direction on our paths.

Most importantly, when you are out of touch with your own feelings, it is nearly impossible to be in touch with the feelings of others and thus you have no close relationships. Physical contact may become a desperate attempt or substitute for emotional closeness and affiliation. It also may be a way of avoiding true intimacy for we may find a safe haven by hiding behind walls of pseudo-intimacy.

True intimacy requires taking the risk of being open, honest and transparent when you share both positive and negative feelings.  I challenge you to get in touch, be in charge,  and experience a greater joy in life by being fully authentic.

 

How to Discover Your Feelings

Listen to them, sit with them awhile and own them

Listen to your body, for your body doesn’t lie

Acknowledge them, admit them, accept them and work with them

Decide on how to hand them

Use them constructively and share them with others

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now. A behavioral psychology expert and family counselor, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com.  Contact edie@raether.com or call (704) 658-8997.

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To Stop a Bully Create a Caring Community

Posted by Edie Raether on September 19, 2011 with 1 Comments

Laurie Frank, an ingenious change agent,  offers steps for creating conditions that support a community. She reflects on lessons learned from a not so inspiring bus driver.

Recently I was on a Greyhound bus from Key West, Florida, to Miami and had an interesting experience.  Every time the bus stopped for a break the driver would admonish us about being responsible.  He said things like, “You’re all adults and I won’t come looking for you,” or “Stay in the area or we’ll leave without you.  I will not wait for anybody!”

I do agree that it’s important to remind people about how things work.  For that I was appreciative.  What I did not appreciate was his tone and assumption that we were all going to run off the bus in various directions with the intent of being late.  I had to work hard to keep myself from yelling at him.  Others were not so restrained, and the bus ride became stressful and tiring.  Even the beautiful scenery lost its luster.

The lesson I was reminded of was that the person in authority and power (the bus driver) had set a negative tone that affected everyone.  We all reacted differently – some checked out, others became combative, still others like myself gritted our teeth and rode it out.

Our environments are no different.  Whether working in educational, business, or therapeutic settings, the person in authority (e.g. teacher, boss, counselor, principal) has a vast amount of influence on the climate.  It is up to that person to set the tone, and it can be one of caring and sharing, or one of doom and gloom.  There really is not much in between.

Invitational Education

Purkey and Novak describe a theory of practice known as Invitational Education that can be summed up with their quote: “People and environments are never neutral; they are either summoning or shunning the development of human potential.”  Basically, everything matters — from what we say, how we say it, the policies we have in place, to the signage on the doors and walls.  The question is, are we inviting in what we say and do, or are we disinviting?  How intentional are we when working and interacting with others?  What are the messages we send?

Creating community has to be done intentionally.  Without intention we run the risk of doing things randomly.  This generally guarantees random results.  Intentionality raises the likelihood that we will truly create community in our settings.  Concentrating on some conditions that support community can focus our efforts and sustain intentionality.

To create a healthy community there must be a balance between the “Me” and “We.”  Individuals need to be empowered with a choice within the boundaries of the social commitment.  It allows people to be themselves and not get caught into the web of “group think.”

To have a safe environment, there must be a social commitment from each individual to the established ground rules. Basic values such as caring, honesty, respect and responsibility must be honored.

Relationships take time as trust is essential, but not instant. Building a community must be a high priority and integrated into the lesson of the day rather than being an add-on to the curriculum. Time for sharing stories, small group discussions, conflict resolution issues and programs such as TRIBES must be included.

Principles of Prevention and Intervention

Programs that foster protection and prevention have proven to reduce bullying by 50% according to the Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus. I have summarized his school-wide interventions based on a value system of caring, respect and personal responsibility as follows:

1.    Positive discipline and supports.

2.    Clear behavioral expectations, consequences and skill development.

3.    Increased adult supervision and parental involvement.

4.    Early interventions that target specific risk factors and teach positive behaviors.

5.    Critical-thinking skills should be included in classroom lessons and discussions, as well as having meetings with the parents.

6.    Intensive interventions that provide bullies and those targeted with individual and family

support through counseling.

A Team Approach

The goal is to create a culture in which adults stop all bullying immediately and students learn positive behaviors to become a part of the anti-bullying solution. It must be a team approach that includes school counselors and psychologists as well as the entire community. Ted Feinberg, Ed.D made suggestions in an article published in Principal Leadership Magazine which I have summarized here:

1.    Coordinate with other schools in your district to be consistent in your bullying prevention training programs.

2.    Assess the extent of the problem with school-wide surveys taken by students and staff to identify    prevalence, attitudes and specific locations and times of bullying episodes. A better definition of the problem is half the solution.

3.    Establish a team to develop and implement school-wide activities. The team should include students, parents and mental health professionals. Be prepared for resistance from all sectors. Your information and communications must be convincing to gain the support of all involved. Increase adult supervision and awareness of unacceptable behaviors.

4.    Build a foundation including the entire school community and parents. Develop a code of conduct that reinforces such values as empathy, caring, respect, fairness and personal responsibility. It should be placed throughout the school and clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.  The consequences for any violations must be clearly defined. It should apply to adults as well as students and reflect age-appropriate language.

5.    Rather than punish, you must establish and consistently enforce consequences for bullying that include supportive interventions that build self-management skills and introduce alternative behaviors.

6.    Build personal responsibility and a sense of ownership for the school community. Students need to contribute to developing the code of conduct and other bully awareness activities. They should also participate in peer mediation and conflict resolution.

7.    Develop systems that are accessible and safe for students to report bullying incidents they had witnessed. Educate students that reporting is not “ratting.”

8.    Have mandatory training for all school personnel and ancillary staff such as bus drivers and custodians. Everyone must know how to identify and respond to bullying, recognize the symptoms of victimization, and facilitate positive problem solving. Interventions and communications must also reflect varying cultural needs that may require language translations.

9.    Conduct school wide bullying prevention activities such as starting a campaign as I suggested in Chapter Seven. Other activities might be a school assembly where the students present skits, a communications campaign and a creative arts contest highlighting the values of a caring community. Again, let your imagination go wild on this one, but student participation is essential for such activities to be successful.

10.    In the classroom, teach specific skills and values that encourage impulse control, assertive training and empathy. Discussion and role playing are great tools for increasing emotional awareness, alternative thinking strategies and problem solving. Integrate social skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution and peer mediation into the curriculum.

11.    The teacher-parent connection is essential to building a supportive school environment. Hold parent meetings and group discussions. The schools need the parents’ support and the parents need guidance for appropriate follow up at home. You may need to refer some families to your school counselor or psychologist to learn new methods of discipline and communications, as most bullying is taught and learned at home.

12.    Establish a protocol for intervening in or investigating a bullying incident. Separate all to then meet with the bullied, the bully, and the bystanders individually. Assess the pattern of bullying and the underlying causes to determine the appropriate consequences. Observe to see if there might be more serious problems such as depression, anxiety or abuse in the home environment of both the bully and the victim. Your actions should reveal causes and not just cover up symptoms.

Inspired DisciplineA Program for Action and Change

In my bullying intervention program, Inspired Discipline, I previously mentioned the 5 R’s as essential to supporting a corrective emotional experience and changing behaviors. These core elements include the following:

1.   Responsibility is mental accountability.  Until there is ownership of a problem, there is no “will” to change it. When you mess up, you must “fess” up.

2.   Repentance is remorse that must involve change. It requires asking for forgiveness and taking on a whole new point of view – the view of those who have been bullied.

3.   Resolution is the determination to do something. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

4.  Restitution is to fix it.  The bully must correct the harm done to another and restore what was damaged to make things good.

5.   Reconciliation is to heal and restore friendship and harmony. It is where the bully and the bullied come together to respect differences and perhaps even become buddies.

Note that the 5 R’s emphasize action and change. For programs of prevention and intervention to be effective, they cannot be approached as a project for change is an ever evolving and dynamic process. (My workbook presents details on the transformation process of the 5 R’s.) It also includes the Action Intelligence model by Dr. Keith Kennett.

An Ounce of Prevention Is an Investment

With staff shortages, budget restraints, limited class time and overwhelmed teachers, anti-bullying efforts may seem like one request too many. However, ignoring the long term effects of bullying is far more costly and taxing on resources than dealing with them. Effective prevention by fostering a caring culture is a wise investment. Without a safe learning environment, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn.

It is obvious that bullying is a complex and multi-determined phenomenon requiring comprehensive, integrated approaches to address the problem. The process involves enhancing a caring and socially supportive climate throughout the school and in every classroom. Being a hot topic, my concern is that bullying intervention not be another project-of-the-year. A “project mentality” will jeopardize a golden opportunity to improve student support systems that are an ongoing process. Together we can make that happen.

I am personally committed to provide you with a system that promotes change from the “insight” out and has been scientifically proven to change how people think, feel and behave. Inspired Discipline for teachers and Conscious Choice for teens are programs that help students and teachers alike access and accelerate the genius part of their brains and release all negative, self-defeating scripts. You will learn why your good intentions and goals are often not manifested and why will power is so often short-lived. Bullies will learn how to change their mental software to become hardwired for success.

The program offers hope and healing so those bullied  can change their belief system and create a more powerful self-image to become less vulnerable to attacks. We don’t see with our eyes, for they only allow the light in. Our perceptions and what we see is determined by the brain.  It filters and deciphers all information and experiences and when one has a negative self-image, the comments of others are twisted to match their negative internal dialogue. This explains why bullies will often see those they attack as the perpetrator or cause of a conflict. By addressing the roots and causes of the problem behaviors, we will create a safe community.

Since the decision-making part of the brain has only short term memory, old behavioral patterns and habits of the past often regain control since they are firmly rooted in the implicit memory system. You may have experienced this with once losing weight only to gain it back, or kicking the habit only to find yourself lighting up those nasty cigarettes again. I will  help you create a caring environment by changing the hearts and minds of all people in our culture, not just temporarily, but with a vision sustained by changing habits and a change of heart.

Between Good and Evil: Love Is a Choice

Idele Stapholtz, an 85 year old woman who escaped the Holocaust, shares insights on bullying at its worse. She grew up in an orphanage until she was able to escape to Belgium where she lived in hiding to survive the brutality and slaughter of the Nazis. Idele’s life could be an inspiring book, but in regard to bullying, Idele shared that kids who were friends playing with her in the sandbox and later jumping rope, suddenly were throwing rocks and shouting profanities my pen won’t write. She remembers feeling the hurt and confusion, and for safety reasons could no longer go outside to play. Her life was being threatened by kids who for years had been her buddies.

Hitler’s Youth Movement had so quickly brainwashed the minds of her previous friends with hateful beliefs, promises, identity and inclusion into an elite gang that met their basic needs. Although that war is over, hate, division and violence are still promoted with ease and the explosive influence of the internet. Young minds are easily molded. As concerned parents and citizens, we are responsible for providing a safe environment and a promising future.

While Idele experienced the terror of Hitler’s mission, at the same time she experienced the care and compassion of the family in Belgium that hid her from the fate her father and six million other Jews had suffered. That family had put their lives on the line to protect her, for had they been caught, none would have been spared. While there will always be good and evil, I do believe that as we teach the lessons of love and compassion, caring communities will be created.

In his revolutionary book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton reports that most human violence is neither necessary nor is it an inherent, genetic “animal” survival skill.  We have the ability, and I believe an evolutionary mandate, to stop violence. The best way to stop it is to realize that we are spiritual beings who need love as much as we need food. We can’t make the changes necessary to create caring environments by just thinking or talking about it.  We must unite and form communities of like-minded people who together encourage compassion and love as the only ethic that will sustain us personally and improve our civilization.

One of the greatest change agents of all time, Margaret Mead, so eloquently conveyed her thoughts on education and society:

Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful. Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. Never doubht that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now.  A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com.  Contact her at edie@raether.com or call (704) 658-8997.

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Tips to Become a Bully Buster

Posted by Edie Raether on September 18, 2011 with 0 Comments

As a family therapist I integrated some of the principles of Transactional Analysis into my practice. Many of you will remember TA from the books I’m Okay You’re Okay and Games People Play.  The Drama Triangle was used to illustrate the roles people play, why they play them and the dysfunctional dynamics they create in our relationships. For example, the person who plays the rescuer can then become the victim; for when one role shifts, they all do. This model has relevance to the dysfunction seen in the cycles of bullying.

The Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional social interaction, created by psychotherapist Stephen Karpman. Each point on the triangle represents a common and ineffective response to conflict, one more likely to prolong disharmony than to end it. Participants in a drama triangle create misery for themselves and others.

By applying the physical principles of the martial arts to the psychological realm, you can transform this lose-lose situation and create a more positive outcome for everyone. Each player in this particular mind game begins by assuming one of three archetypical roles:

Victims are helpless and hopeless. They deny responsibility for their negative circumstances, and they deny possession of the power to change them.

Rescuers are constantly applying short-term repairs to a Victim’s problems, while neglecting their own needs.

Persecutors blame the Victims and criticize the enabling behavior of Rescuers without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the underlying problem.

Players sometimes alternate roles during the course of a game. For example, a Rescuer pushed too far by a Persecutor will switch to the role of Victim or counter-Persecutor. As  a bully buster, you do need to intervene and take action, but you must be careful not to get hooked into any of these roles that perpetuate the dysfunctional dynamics of the bully, the bullied and the bystander. You must be proactive, but not reactive. You must be assertive, but not passive nor aggressive.

 

Breaking the Cycles of Bullying

Once your school has policies in place, there are things you can do directly to break the cycle of violence and bullying. Here are a few practical tips and action steps parents and educators must take.

1.    Accept no excuses. Reasons, yes, but not excuses. Too frequently, even the parents of the bully will find solace in their own denial and defend the unacceptable behavior with cliches like “boys will be boys.”  Now what does that mean? If you are born with testosterone, you have the right to be violent and aggressive? The boys who are rough and tough are the ones who were given permission and often encouragement to reach their manhood with aggression. How outrageous is that!

2.    No, it’s not a joke and it’s not funny if the person who is the brunt of the joke isn’t laughing. Good humor reflects extraordinary creativity and a higher level of intelligence. Putdowns and making fun of others is insensitive and demonstrates a serious lack of emotional intelligence.  Do not tolerate it.

3.    No justification. Just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. That is why our social norms seem to be on a constant decline.  At some point, right is right and wrong is wrong. Hitler created a new social norm that led to the execution of over six million Jews. It is an insanity that each of us must confront immediately. By lowering the bar we are inviting the problems we seek to solve.

4.    Context must be considered. Yes, this country honors freedom of speech, but when our country’s fathers declared free speech it was not with the intent to support cyberbullying and harassment.

5.    Get a moral code of ethics in place. While you may have the “right,” it may not necessarily be the right thing to do.  People do, however, have a right to dignity and respect.

6.    Stomp out egocentricity. Narcissism and self-centered-ness never serve society well. Giving your child love and support does not mean you give them the delusion that they are entitled to have their needs met at the expense of others. Too many parents are practicing what I refer to as “overindulgent negligence.”  They are committed to “giving” their children all of what they were deprived.  Two wrongs never make a right. You got where you are because you had fire in your belly and were motivated to “earn” that which you desired. Don’t deprive your children of the joy of overcoming and “earning” the fruits of their labor (not yours). Obviously, I am a proponent of tough love. By the way, tough love is not about physical punishment, but being firm for the benefit and well being of the child.

7.    Natural consequences are essential in all effective child rearing. We live in a world with rules that, when not obeyed, result in certain consequences. This is a lesson that all children need to learn when being weaned from the baby bottle. Obviously, the choices and consequences we give our children must be appropriate to their level of awareness and understanding. My mother’s favorite fairy tale was The Little Red Hen. We need to bring it back and claim it a classic for that little red hen proudly proclaimed, “There is no free lunch.”

Setting boundaries and establishing limits is the starting point.  Yes, children will test limits. It is a natural part of development, but you must set boundaries that cannot be bent by manipulation. The worst thing you can do is to set boundaries and not follow through. It makes you a liar and it confuses the child and creates anxiety. Consistency is crucial for children to feel safe and secure. That is the reason why they test limits. They want to define their world and know where the boundaries lie so they can then feel safe.  Give them not what they ask for, but what they need when it comes to setting boundaries.

Too often both parents and teachers can be manipulated by a charismatic, charming student, or intimidated by their prowess. Both teachers and parents often make excuses as it is often easier to be tolerant than it is to enforce the rules. Then too, schools may have ulterior motives for excusing certain students who bring fortune and fame to the school, not by academics, but athletic ability.  In sharing the following story, you will understand how even principals can be easily dazzled by the school’s athletic hero.

 

Bullies Who Are Athletes Get Pardoned

This book is being written not to point fingers or to blame, but to enlighten all who care about kids. In my interview with a mother of a 16 year old boy who has been repeatedly targeted, there are lessons to be learned. While Ronnie had always been a preppy type kid, he slowly gravitated to becoming EMO which translates to being emotional.  Their attire is distinguished by tighter pants and beanie caps. They often have longer hair and are seen with a skateboard under their arm. Drugs and drinking may or may not be present. They often have many girls as just friends and when bullied are often called a “fag.”

This mother’s concerns are that the class bully also happens to be a top athlete in a school that takes great pride in winning championships. The school authorities seem to find excuses to pardon the bully’s behavior for expulsion as it could mean giving up the trophy. This superstar bully picked up a pipe at play rehearsal and stabbed Ronnie in his upper thigh, but the target refused to report it for fear he would be attached again. His fears were endorsed by the bully who texted threats that he would kill Ronnie with a tire iron in the parking lot.

I truly am not sure how a child can focus on math and science when threats to one’s life are being made.  Survival instinct will consume all energies and grades will suffer. What were the consequences for stabbing another student and threatening to kill him with a tire iron in the parking lot?  Two days of suspension from the lunch room. (Really harsh!)

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now. A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC.  Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact her at edie@raether.com or call (704) 658-897.

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Tips to Protect Your Child from Being Bullied

Posted by Edie Raether on September 15, 2011 with 0 Comments

To give your children immunity from being bullied, they must develop a strong sense of self and have at least one good friend as well as a circle of friends. While it is never too late to build self-esteem and establish personal rights, children ideally should experience their value and self-worth starting before conception. If you don’t value them, they will never value themselves.  I said before conception because if you are smoking and drinking while pregnant, knowing the harmful effects it has on your child, you are making a statement that your bad habits and needs are more important than the health and well being of your child.

It is a silent statement, but children are influenced not just by what is said, but what is not said or done. Actions do speak louder than words.  I am asking you to do some self examination as a parent.  My intention is not to shame you, but rather to make you more aware and motivate you to take responsibility for what you can do to make a difference in your child’s life.  Here are a few tips to help your child build her emotional resilience necessary to avoid being victimized.

Tips to Build Emotional Resilience

1. Giving your child whatever she wants is not the answer. In fact, other than appropriate gifts, continually giving a child whatever he or she wants, without having to earn it, teaches her entitlement and arrogance rather than self-discipline and a strong work ethic. Teach them, train them and love them, but don’t spoil them.

2. “Children should be seen and not heard.”  How many of you remember that old myth that should be put to rest and buried?  Do you think all of a sudden out of nowhere your child will begin to speak up when for years you made it clear they did not deserve to have a voice?  Heck, I have seen patients who were 88 years old who still had no voice because it was so ingrained that their thoughts and words were not important.  We might get older, but we hang onto all those messages we were taught as a child.  Children do learn what they live.  If you give respect to your child, your child now has a positive role model and will know how to respect others. You can’t give what you don’t have.

3. Self-respect will help prevent your child from being bullied and will also reduce the possibility of your child becoming a bully.  The news recently reported that a Mississippi kids’ basketball coach has been whipping his team for months because he thought it was good for them. You tell me how whipping a child, for no reason other than that he missed making the basket, will improve his eye-hand coordination or improve his athletic abilities.  If I were whipped, especially when I had done nothing wrong, I would be really angry and might be tempted to take it out on someone else.  It’s called “passing it on.”  The guy obviously needs a course in human motivation 101. I am also making a point that some teachers and parents are the abusers. These whippings went on for months before anyone reported it. With self-respect and self-esteem, a child is more likely to take the risk and report the abuse. It is a child’s best line of self-defense.

4. Accountability is a good teacher. Allow your child to make choices appropriate for her age to learn natural consequences. Consequences that you impose must be rational, reasonable and fair. There must be equity. You don’t ground a child for a month because he forgot his book at school whether it was intentional or an accident. That’s overkill.

Parent Must Teach Survival Skills

While parents need to be protectors, they also need to teach their children social survival skills. Whether your child is a target or a bully, as a parent you must keep your own emotions in check. Too often parents project their own experiences and childhood issues and anxieties onto their children which only exacerbates the problem.

As parents, do a self-assessment of your style of parenting and what is happening in the home environment. Children often transfer repressed anger and other feelings triggered by situations at home to the school environment. They often find someone younger and smaller at school to unload their frustrations.  Likewise, being bullied and harassed at school may spark some stress that is released on other siblings at home.

Training children early in life to be empathetic can help to prevent them from turning into bullies. The objective of empathy training is to teach students as young as five years old to understand the feelings of others and to treat people with kindness. While there is little statistical data on the long term impact, early results suggest that those who have gone through the training are less aggressive than those who have not. Age five is too late to start. It starts at birth or before. Prenatal experiences do influence us as well.

As a parent, you should not depend on school programs for such training. To prevent your child from becoming a bully, teach and demonstrate compassion by treating others with respect and dignity. Here are a few suggestions to build your child’s inner strength, resilience and character:

  1. Teach moral independence by making your child accountable and responsible for the consequences of her actions.
  2. Provide your child with opportunities to exercise good decision making so that she will think and act independently, be confident of her judgments and not be manipulated by others.
  3. Develop your child’s ability to reason, evaluate situations and ask questions to better assess what actions are appropriate and the right thing to do.

Prevention is the most economical and effective way to reverse any problem and thus I encourage you to check out my empowering character building program for children at www.wingsforwishes.com. Next to a parent’s love, it is the best investment you can make in a child. Why would you leave your child’s health, happiness and success to chance?

If Your Child Is a Target:

Children will not open up to you unless it feels safe for them to do so.  If you overreact and go stomping into your child’s school, that may be the first and last time your child will have ever confided in you. Think through the repercussions your child will experience due to your rash behavior. Don’t take over.  Jointly move forward into a problem solving mode which is a great learning experience for your child. Make sure you get the facts on who, what, why and when events are happening and what actions were taken by your child and by teachers or others present.

Be prepared.  When questioned, many children will deny or minimize the attacks. They may tell you that they can take it or that it is no big deal if they are the target. Often times they simply don’t want to upset their parents so they hide their pain which can be manifested by physical symptoms.

Be a social coach. Teach your child to be assertive and give specific options to help them deal with challenging encounters. Do some role playing with them so they become well rehearsed with new behavioral responses. Encourage friendships for a strong, social support system which at that age is a lifeboat to a tired swimmer.

 

Edie Raether, known as the Bully Buster, is an international speaker, parenting coach and bestselling author of seven books including Stop Bullying Now.  A behavioral psychology expert and family therapist, Edie has also been a college professor and talk show host with ABC. Visit stopbullyingwithedie.com. Contact Edie at edie@raether.com or call her at (704) 658-8997.

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