Now Available: The All-New Angry Smile Book! Learn to Understand & Change Passive Aggression


It’s here! The all-new Angry Smile book, featuring brand new chapters on passive aggressive behavior online and via social media, clear steps on how to confront and change passive aggressive behavior, and dozens of new, real-life examples directly from YOU, our training participants.

Order your copy TODAY at www.lsci.org or through the link below.


A Simple Hello Can Transform a Student’s School Experience


In 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools, I tell a real-life story of a 9-year old student who came to me on her second day of school and told me, in a voice that I can only describe as gleeful, that her teacher really liked her.  When I asked her how she could tell, she explained:

She smiles at me every day when I walk into her room. It’s so different from my teacher last year.  She was always doing work and never even looked up before the second bell, except to remind us of anything we were doing wrong. I think the teacher this year really likes me!

A series of twirls and joyful shrieks later, it was plain to see how something as simple and brief as a warm acknowledgement from a teacher meant the world to that student.  To quote Jerry Maguire, the teacher “had her at hello.”

Connections heal and more times that I can count, it is the “little things” like the personal greeting at the door or the smile across the lunch room that go the longest way in making kids feel valued in a school setting.

That’s why this story, featured yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America, really caught my eye.  Please watch and enjoy!


New Reviews are In for the 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book



“A needed topic in a great format. It is an Activity Book and more! The author uses a variety of methods to communicate her key points. Drawing for the artist, writing for the wordsmith, up and at ’em for the active learner. Each key has a checkpoint (post test) to determine comprehension. The stories use culturally relevant names and situations which I find helpful working with the population I do. I especially like Key 6,Be Known For Being Kind, which give 10 things to say and do to stop bullying. New ideas allow for independent thinking and actions and it doesn’t even list “tell an adult” which most kids say doesn’t work. Thanks, Ms. Whitson for a great resource.”


The activities are fun to do and I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next. After I completed the 8 Keys I really wanted to get rid of bullying at my school. I learned what bullying is and things I can do to stop it.” (Ashlyn, age 11)


“Signe Whitson continues to be one of the most dynamic leaders in bullying education and crisis intervention among youth. These interactive guides for students, parents, and educators provide the hands-on tools to help kids and tweens cope wisely with real-life situations, both offline and online. These workbooks are full of engaging and collaborative games, worksheets, and thought-provoking activities that will stay with your child longer than simply reading a book. Whitson’s activity program allows you to get involved with your child on both an emotional level and an educational one―these are definitely two books you must reach out and buy.” (Sue Scheff, Parent Advocate, Internet Safety Expert and author of Shame Nation)

“Well-organized and easily relatable, this workbook and companion guide will help kids understand categories of aggressive behaviors―such as how rude, mean, and bullying behaviors differ―and teach them to treat others with respect and kindness. Bravo for a fun, accessible anti-bullying activity program!” (Carrie Goldman, award-winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear)

“Signe Whitson continues to provide value that very few do: a detailed approach that offers tools and skill-building for young people in an action-based training format. This is the only way to impact one of our toughest issues that all people face: bullying. An amazing resource for educators and parents, with proven strategies to fight bullying situations.” (Jason Spector, Veteran Physical Educator and Coach, Co-Founder of Sweethearts and Heroes Anti-Bullying Program, father of two)


Thanks, all, for your kind words and great feedback!  If you have not uploaded our review yet, please do so at https://www.amazon.com/Keys-Bullying-Activity-Book-Tweens/dp/0393711803/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0393711803&pd_rd_r=ZNTF9NXEC95WBS47H7CM&pd_rd_w=x1GW6&pd_rd_wg=jFlBe&psc=1&refRID=ZNTF9NXEC95WBS47H7CM

Activity Book Provides 40+ Hands-On Skills to Stop Bullying


I was just at a Barnes & Noble fundraiser for my kids’ school and found my new book featured on this shelf! Just as exciting to my fan-girl self is that my book is right next to Rachel Simmons’ groundbreaking, Odd Girl Out, and the books of my favorite children’s author, Trudy Ludwig.

All make for great holiday gifts, in case you still have teachers, counselors, parents, or kiddos on your list!!  Order on amazon now at https://www.amazon.com/Keys-Bullying-Activity-Book-Tweens/dp/0393711803/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482326002&sr=8-1&keywords=8+keys+to+end+bullying+activity+book


The Angry Smile featured in Real Simple


Check out the December 2016 issue of Real Simple Magazine to read a great feature story (“Ugh–She’s Being So Passive-Aggressive”) with many comments and references to The Angry Smile.

Download here: rsim_20161201_143_1290272_article1the-angry-smile-front-only

For live and online training opportunities on how to understand and manage passive aggressive behavior, visit www.lsci.org

Be sure to keep your eyes out for the new edition of The Angry Smile, coming January 2017!  Here’s a sneak peek at our new cover!






4 Reasons Passive Aggressive Behavior Thrives Online


Many of the adults reading this post likely grew up in a world where at the end of the day, they were able to return to a home and “unplug” from the activities, pressures, and communication of school and work life.  It’s a fact of the 21st century, however, that most adults and kids remain connected to each other all day, every day.  Today, smartphones, e-mails, texts, apps and social media sites dictate that people are always plugged in and ever-attached to each other.

For as much as modern technology has made possible round-the-clock communication, however, it has also lessened the amount of time that human beings look each other in the eye and say what they are thinking or feeling.  There can be no doubt that for most people—and especially for those who prefer to avoid direct confrontation—it is far easier to be cruel from a behind a keyboard.   Today’s technology affords anyone who wants to mask their anger or aggression a perfect front.  For the passive aggressive person, the relative anonymity of screens and apps has become an ideal Get-Out-of-Guilt-Free card.   In this post on Psychology Today’s website, I examine four reasons why passive aggression thrives online.  Please check it out and share it with anyone to whom it can be helpful.





SUNDAY STRATEGY: Listening & Building Self-Regulation in Kids


Last week, I had the joy of bringing LSCI Certification training to the staff at my “home” school–Circle of Seasons Charter School in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.  We spent four days learning about, talking about, watching videos about, and role playing various situations about how to effectively reach and teach challenging children and youth.

One of the things that makes LSCI so powerful of a strategy with students is that it gives adults very specific skills with which they can learn to LOOK BEYOND SURFACE BEHAVIOR and understand the unique beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that drive disruptive or disrespectful behavior.  LSCI teaches that effective listening is the path to self-regulation in students and show adults the importance of how to listen in order to:

  1. de-escalate
  2. understand a child’s perspective
  3. build insight and understanding
  4. cultivate trusting relationships
  5. teach new skills
  6. create long-term changes in behavior
  7. and so much more!

If you’d like to learn more about this powerful training experience, I invite you to visit www.lsci.org, contact someone who has recently attended an LSCI training, or email me at swhitson@lsci.org.



How to Listen so that Kids Will Talk About Bullying


In the last several years of working as a School Counselor and speaking with professionals, parents and students across the United States on the topic of Bullying Prevention, one of the observations that stands out to me the most is that parents, in general, are very eager to talk about bullying while their kids, on the other hand, seem to want to do anything but talk to their parents about this topic. The more parents pry, the more kids withdraw. The more parents push, the harder kids pushback—with excuses, minimizations, abrupt subject changes, stonewalling, silence, and sometimes even complete denial that a peer problem exists.

Why is it that so many young people are so loathe to talk to their caregivers about bullying? The more I ask students this question, the more often they tell me some version of this frustrated rationale:

If I tell my parents, they are going to make a big deal out of it and tell everyone what’s happening to me.”


“If I tell my parents, they’ll rush into school to try to meet with the Principal, which will definitely make things way worse for me.”

What can parents, caregivers, educators, and other trustworthy adults do to help a young person feel safe enough to confide in them about a bullying situation? How can you make your child feel supported—instead of embarrassed or endangered—enough to tell you when they really need your help?

When I ask school-aged kids how they would like their parents to respond when they tell them about a bullying situation, again the responses are nearly universal. Most commonly, kids tell me, “I just wish they’d listen.” This is frequently followed by, “I wish they’d give me some advice but let me try to handle it on my own first.”

What follows are five guidelines for parents and professionals on how to listen well and respond in helpful ways when a young person reports an incident of bullying:

1. Stay Calm
First and foremost, when a young person takes the leap of faith to talk to you about a bullying situation, stay calm. Avoid freaking out. The dynamics they describe may be very run-of-the-mill or they may be entirely appalling, but either way, your role as a helpful adult is to listen well and respond as if the situation is completely manageable. The steadfastness of your response will go a long way in shaping the child’s attitude as the two of you begin to move forward toward solutions.


To read the remaining five guidelines about how to listen well to young people so that they will talk honestly about bullying, please visit the original posting at Psychology Today.

Why Mental Health Training is Essential for Classroom Teachers


“The Failing First Line of Defense” is a fantastic, important, insightful article by Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic that shines a light on the gap in mental health training traditionally offered to classroom teachers–who are so often a student’s first line of defense when it comes to revealing mental health issues.

Certification in the skills of LSCI is an excellent way to bridge the gap and help educators gain understanding of and competence in brain-based, trauma-informed, mental-health intervention strategies. Find out more at www.lsci.org or email swhitson@lsci.org to plan training for your staff.




Look beyond behavior

How to Recognize & Respond to Passive-Aggressive Behavior


Through my work as a child and adolescent therapist and a school counselor, I have seen how destructive of a force anger can be—both when it is expressed in uncontrolled, aggressive ways, but also when it is acted out in highly controlled but hidden behaviors, such as passive-aggression.  Passive aggressive behavior as a deliberate but covert way of expressing feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2009) and is most often motivated by a person’s fear of expressing anger directly. The pa coffeepassive-aggressive person believes life will only get worse if other people know of his anger, so he expresses his feelings indirectly, using a variety of behaviors to subtly “get back” at another person.  While anger itself is generally experienced as an uncomfortable emotion, the passive-aggressive person derives genuine pleasure out of frustrating others, hence our label of the behavior as “the angry smile.”

If your interactions with a child, a parent, a teacher, a student, a spouse, a co-worker, a boss, or even an online acquaintance leave you feeling like you have been on an emotional roller coaster, chances are good you may be dealing with a passive aggressive person.  Some of the most common red flags of this behavior include things like:

  • Withdrawing and sulking, rather than stating opinions or needs.
  • Using words like “Fine” and “Whatever” to shut down a discussion.
  • Procrastinating or carrying out tasks inefficiently
  • Giving lip service to doing things differently in the future, while knowing they don’t plan to change their behavior.

The ultimate red flag is that passive-aggressive people cause others to eventually blow up and in a very real sense, act out the anger that the passive-aggressive person had been silently harboring.

There are many reasons why people choose to sugarcoat their anger but what most passive-aggressive people have in common is that they grew up with developmental conditions that made hidden expression of anger feel like their only tenable choice.  For the purposes of this post, let me lay out two distinctions:

  1. First, we know that some young people are raised in families where they know they will be met with harsh physical punishment or retribution if they express dissatisfaction or unhappiness.  Kids walk on eggshells around angry, aggressive, authoritarian adults, and learn quickly that their only safe option is to hide their true feelings.
  2. At a different extreme, there are kids who grow up in families in which appearances means everything. The normal, human emotion of anger must be subordinated to family facades.  In this type of outwardly perfect family, kids are socialized to believe that anger = bad and that good kids never show anger.

In both type of upbringings, kids learn that open, honest, direct expression of anger would be unacceptable.  And yet these feelings don’t just disappear.  Rather, they tend to re-surface through patterned, but covert misbehaviors such as carrying out chores incorrectly or pretending not to hear their name when they are called—things that create minor but chronic frustration for the authority figures in their lives.

There are five distinct and increasingly pathological levels of passive aggressive behavior, ranging from the everyday to the truly troublesome.  Learning to readily recognize the behavior at any level is your first step toward avoiding being drawn into a passive-aggressive conflict cycle—a power struggle with no winners.

To learn more about the 5 levels of passive aggressive behavior, please read the remainder of this post on its original site on Psychology Today:




PA Facebook

Go to Top