Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Know Your Anti-Bullying ABCs

By Dr. Dan and Bli Dugi, authors of The Principle Gang, books on anti-bullying for 4-11 year olds

What can parents do if they suspect their child is taking part in bullying behavior?  First, take a deep cleansing breath and remain calm.  Parents that are actively engaged in their children’s lives from the earliest days of childhood are very comfortable with receiving “praise” from other adults who observe their child’s good behaviors.  Unfortunately, there may come a time that the opposite occurs and parents need to have a coping mechanism in place for when that same child gets called out for behavior that is unbecoming of a nice girl or boy.  Don’t be the parent that immediately ruffles their feathers in preparation for an all out personal attack.  Children can and will make mistakes, your child can and will make a mistake, and all children can learn from that mistake.  So parents, let’s go back to school and learn your ABCs.

        Assess the situation.  Has your child been exhibiting angry or hurtful behavior at home to a younger or older sibling?  Does your child seem to be upset, sad, or withdrawn on more days than he/she is happy or engaging?  What is the source of their anger?  Is there family strife in the home?  Could dad or mom be modeling negative forms of behavior?  Does your child gravitate in their free time to games, movies, online media that promotes negativity and violence?  Be honest with yourself when answering these questions and do not assess your environment through rose-colored glasses. The notion that “boys will be boys” and that “girls go through stages” is an excuse to not act. 

        Be calm in the storm.  If the school administration, teacher, or another parent contacts you to report your child’s negative behavior, remain calm and gather the facts thoughtfully regarding the situation.  Most parents will initially feel a gut-wrenching emotional response to this type of report about their child.  Don’t immediately project blame onto yourself or your spouse, as this type of call is not a “personal attack.”  Sit down and evaluate the family dynamics and how your child’s behavior at home has played into those dynamics.  After your fact gathering and personal assessment has been completed, it will be time to meet with the school counselor, teacher, or administration and calmly discuss the issues at hand.  Realize you each have a common goal to fix the problem and this is not a finger-pointing, placing-blame session. 
        Correct any and all inappropriate behavior or potential bullying behavior that your child may be exhibiting.  Discuss school and home activities and behavior on a daily basis.  Remember that behaviors and attitudes can change, and careful observation and guidance will help your child develop long-term successful appropriate behavior with his/her peers.  Realize that children model the behavior of their parents and/or other significant adults in their lives.  Be careful what you are “feeding” your child in terms of your own behavior.  Correcting poor behavior takes effort that may cause frustration on both parties, but nonetheless will yield positive results.

Life is often called a journey.  Parents and children will navigate this journey together, which includes roads through hills and valleys with both highs and the dreaded lows.  When parents hold the map and point out the way to go, the valleys will become less frequent and children will have a firm foundation or plateau to always come back to when future conflicts arise.  Don’t take for granted the hills of success either.  Make sure you are celebrating and rewarding good behavior as well, because often times a child misbehaves to seek attention.  Remember your ABCs if you find your child has detoured into one of those valleys as you assess the situation, be calm, and correct poor behavior.  May you and your child have an excellent school year and navigate with success!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Back to School Bullies

“Back to school” can be a hectic time for families as they juggle schedules, readjust to a sleep/wake routine, and have everything in perfect order for that first day.  The last thing that either a parent or child should have to worry about is the dreaded mean kid.  Unfortunately, the anticipation of the first day back brings with it a level of anxiety and stress for those that have encountered problems with a mean kid in the past.  Will the mean kid still be mean?  Will the mean kid still be in my school?  Will the mean kid still pick me to be mean to?  All of these questions play on the minds of those who have been bullied. 
 160,000 students stay home from school everyday due to bullying according to the National Education Agency.  It is paramount for parents to take an active role in their child’s education.   Take part in regular conversations pertaining to school at home and interact as much as possible on school campuses.  This active role is the first step parents can take to bully proof their children. 
                       A parental presence is the number one deterrent for childhood bullies.  Bullies prefer to be sneaky most of the time.   It is very easy for parents and teachers to identify the kid that is mean to everyone, but it is very difficult to identify the kid that is quietly mean to just one person.  This “quietly mean” child can be the one who causes the most damage.  Psychological abuse in the form of damaging words can leave life-long scars that far surpass any physical abuse that one may encounter.  If your child has a “best friend” but still seems to be withdrawn or unhappy, evaluate this friendship immediately.  Ask what games are being played at school.  Ask your child whom they are sitting with at lunch.  Ask more than “how was your day?”  When you ask more, you decrease the chances of having the “it was fine” or the one answer “good” become another day that a potential problem was ignored.
                Mean parents raise mean children.  As parents, you need to be aware of those “mean parents” that you may encounter.  It is a no-brainer that behavior is modeled, so the unfortunate result is the development of mean kids.  Don’t spend every day of the school year in the pick-up or drop-off line.  Walk your child into school once a week to reinforce a parental presence.  Make it a priority to attend a school-sponsored field trip, and attend at least 2 class parties throughout the year.  By engaging in conversation with other parents and teachers, parents make themselves “available” to discuss any problems that may be occurring.  During this interaction, be on the look out for those mean parents that seem to have a bad attitude every time you encounter them and guide your child’s choice of friends accordingly.
                 Don’t be afraid to shake up your social circle.  Parents have to be able to openly discuss the difficult issues that arise with each other without taking offense.  Children are not emotionally mature enough to always act appropriately, but parents should be.  Undoubtedly, problems can and will arise between children of the same social circle that need to be addressed by parents.  The key is to deal with these problems directly with the parent whose child is involved and leave out the uninvolved families.  Often times, parents are quick to complain to a third party, as they are worried about upsetting their “social circle”.  Parents must stand together or a greater degree of division will occur between the children.
         As the start of the new school year begins, there are very important tips to share with children to keep them from either becoming a bully or becoming the victim of a bully.  These critical messages are very simple and should be reinforced throughout the school year.

Kids need to be able to RECOGNIZE what “mean” is:  hurtful words, pushing/shoving/kicking, alienation, exclusion, facial reactions, etc…

Once a child recognizes this type of behavior, he/she needs to be given the okay to REPORT this behavior to a parent/teacher/counselor/principal, etc…  Stop labeling children as “tattle-tales”.  Tattle –tales save lives.

            3.  BE A FRIEND
After an incident has been reported, it is now time to REACT.  A child needs to know that the nicer they are to all children, the less chance they have of being bullied.  Encourage your child to be the one that reaches out to the child who has no friends.

Bli Marston Dugi, M-PAC
The Principle Gang, “No Bullies Allowed”

twitter: @principlegang