One of the most common reasons parents approach me is to ask for my advice on how to help their child handle a bullying situation at school. Fear for their child’s well-being combined with a sense of powerlessness at changing peer dynamics often leaves moms, dads, and other caregivers feeling helpless. The bad news is that conflict and bullying are pervasive among school-aged kids and most students will be impacted by physical or social aggression either directly or indirectly. The good news is that there are many, many ways that parents can help safeguard their children and positively impact kids’ relationships. Here are five of the simplest—yet most powerful—do’s and don’ts parents can use to help their kids handle conflict and bullying:
1. Words Matter
Do help kids understand the difference between unintentionally rude behavior (such as butting ahead in the lunch line), mean comments said in a moment of anger between friends (e.g. “You’re not my best friend anymore”), and bullying behavior that is characteristically marked by purposeful cruelty that is repeated over time and involves an abuse of power (whether that power be size and strength or social rank at school.)
Don’t allow kids to over-label rude and mean behaviors as ‘bullying.’ In recent years, gratuitous references to bullying in schools and communities have created a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena, resulting in jaded adults failing to take action when needed and vulnerable children missing out on the adult support they desperately need.
2. Conflict is OK
Do teach your child that it is perfectly normal to disagree with a friend. Differences of opinion are perfectly acceptable and learning how to communicate them respectfully is a critical social skill.
Don’t worry that you’re too much of a helicopter parent if you intervene in your child’s friendship conflict. Kids are not born knowing how to resolve conflict (goodness knows too many people make it to adulthood without this knowledge!). Young people need supportive adults to coach them in how to disagree without arguing and how to apologize after they’ve behaved badly.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Signe’s blog on Psychology Today.
During the elementary school years, most kids are very aware of technology but still quite naïve about all of the hurtful ways in which it can be used. Well into their adolescence even, many kids remain oblivious to the legal consequences of their online actions. This real-life example of innocence-gone-awry by way of technology underscores that one of the most important things adults can do to bring an end to cyberbullying is to teach young kids about the risks of their online behavior and to give them skills to protect themselves from lasting harm.
For the full article, please click here or paste this link into your browser: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/what-happens-when-kids-ma_b_5953026.html
A middle school Special Education teacher from Wisconsin recently reviewed my book, How to Be Angry, on her blog, Half-Past Kissin’ Time and on Amazon. She has some great insights about using the book with tweens and teens. Please check her review out here:
Through the wonders of social media, I have met up with some fascinating people doing great work with kids. Recently, I connected with Heather Thomas at The Helpful Counselor, who was nice enough to share my post about 4 Things Your Tween Needs to Know to Stay Strong in the Face of Bullying. I hate to bounce you from one site to the next, but please check out my post over on her site, then check out all of the other great things she has to offer!
As an author and educator on bullying, I have a keen sense about the urgency of my message but also a healthy awareness that as people sit down to attend one of my trainings, they may begin as “prisoners.” In other words, some boss or supervisor somewhere assigned the person to attend, though what they’d really rather be doing is preparing their classroom, working on lesson plans, collaborating with other teachers, or, well, anything but listening to another talking head droning on and on about an educator’s obligation to stop bullying. Yes, the bullying that was once never talked about has now have become so pervasive (and too often finger-wagging) that us anti-bullying messengers have run the risk of sounding like the teachers in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
My goal is always to turn the prisoners into opportunity-seekers: to help educator’s understand that they are in the rare position to “be that one person” in a child’s life who makes the child feel heard, understood, valued, defended, and strong. Likewise, teachers can reach out to kids who bully, understand the pain behind their aggressive behavior, and teach those students better way to behave, more constructive ways to exert power and control in their lives. As Haim Ginnot once said, teachers really are THE decisive element in the classroom.
This article, featured online in Science Daily, is a great tool for helping teachers, parents, and all adults understand the long term impact of bullying and realize that stopping bullying is not just one more item on the To Do list, but rather a critical opportunity to make all of the difference in a child’s long term well-being:
Great article in Education Week about the moral obligation of educators–and all adults–to remain connected with kids and take decisive action to prioritize the dignity and safety of young people.
“…schools have a responsibility not only to help students learn, but also to keep them safe, physically and emotionally, while they are in our care. If we are not addressing the culture of bullying and public shaming, if we are not doing everything we can to teach young people how to treat each other kindly and civilly, if we are ignoring social and emotional crises unfolding before our eyes, we are failing Rehtaeh and thousands like her.”
Classroom teachers have everything to do with stopping bullying. There. I said it. I often hesitate to make this assertion so plainly when speaking to educators, fearing my next move will have to be fending off rotten tomatoes lobbed at my head by teachers who won’t stand for having yet another responsibility heaped onto their already-overflowing plates.
If the spoiled fruit ever were to be thrown my way, I would understand the sentiment, but the fact that they never are is a true testament to the tremendous job that most classroom teachers willingly take on every day of the school year. The teachers who are making a difference in the movement to stop bullying are engaged role models of kindness and expert masters of diplomacy. They are true champions of the underdog and astute shapers of peer culture. They are not afraid to be direct and to confront bullying behavior whenever they see it. These teachers are improving the lives of young people each and every day and demonstrating that time spent on bullying prevention is time saved on conflict, alienation, academic struggles, and victimization. What follows are four strategies for stopping bullying that effective teachers share in common:
Click here to read my article on the HuffingtonPost that explains four strategies effective teachers use to stop bullying in their classrooms and schools:
I’m super-excited to share with you the cover of my new book, due out in the Spring of 2014, via Norton Publishers. The best part (aside from hoping to help lots of teachers, counselors, and kids, of course) is no more waking up at 5am to sneak in some quiet writing hours! Cheers to sleeping in for the rest of the Summer!!
Six students from the Freetown Elementary School in Maryland recently completed the How to Be Angry curriculum. They were kind enough to share with me their feedback on the activities, lessons, and games and gave me permission, in turn, to share it with you! Special thanks to Aimee Meyer, their teacher who led the lessons, and all of the kids who are such gracious and enthusiastic learners!
Most important thing I’ve learned so far …
- “Bullies are not cool.”
- “I learned how to use I messages instead of you messages all the time.”
- “I learned about passive-aggressive behavior. That’s what I do.”
- When prompted for more information, the student said “You know, like when I mope around, shuffle real slow down the hall, soft-talk and work real slow or not at all. Now I know how to calm down better.”
- “I learned that you don’t have to take things out on someone else all the time. I only knew how to do that.”
What I have enjoyed the most about these lessons …
- “I liked when we did the activity with putting magnets underneath the types of anger. The magnets told us what the types of anger looked like and what we could do when we feel these.”
- “I’m moving to different parts of the room when we gained our opinions to something. We learned how to respect others’ opinions and that it’s okay to have different opinions.”
- “I really liked the game where we lined up by our birthday but we couldn’t talk. It was hard and we had to use our hands, fingers and faces to do it. We learned about nonverbal communication. It’s important.”
- “I liked how there were a lot of games. There was one at the beginning of each lesson and they were pretty fun.”
If I could improve on this book in one way I would …
- “Add more games. They are a lot of fun and active.”
- “Give the kids a workbook so they each have their own.”
- “Add pictures and colors to the worksheets or a Kid’s Workbook.”
Note for Educators: Handouts for kids in How to Be Angry are reproducible! You may feel free to make kids their own workbook to use as you are conducting each session. The kids recommend it and so do I!
Thanks again, kids!
All the best– Signe