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ASCA Webinar: Group Activities to End Bullying

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Presenting to ASCA professionals is always one of my favorite things to do!  I love the energy and the generous spirit  of collaboration among professional School Counselors!

 

Here’s a link to my most recent ASCA webinar, Group Activities to End Bullying (which includes ideas for engaging at home learners!), along with feedback from an attendee:

 

I just watched the ASCA webinar that you led and I just wanted to say THANK YOU! It was such a helpful training with tons of resources that I will be using immediately. A lot of webinars tend to take the first twenty minutes to go over credentials and books they have written so thank you so much for an organized, well-rounded webinar for school counselors.  –Kelsey Brand, School Counselor, Allen Jay Elementary

 

Elaboration on ideas + full lesson plans can be found in my 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book 🙂

How to Listen So that Your Child Will Talk About Bullying

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

How to Listen So that Your Child 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.”

Or

“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.

2. Express Sympathy
Next, it is helpful to express sympathy to the child. Something as simple as, “I am sorry this is happening to you” goes a long way in signaling to the young person that the dynamics they have described are not just a “normal” part of growing up and that you feel badly that they have been on the receiving end of cruelty.

 

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201610/how-listen-so-kids-will-talk-about-bullying

How to Listen So that Your Child Will Talk About Bullying

7 Skills for Teaching Your Child to Stand Up to Bullies

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

7 Skills for Teaching Your Child to Stand Up to Bullies

Media attention on youth bullying in the United States brings to public awareness what most parents and school professionals know and live on a daily basis: kids can be brutal. Celebrities and professionals have boldly weighed in, in front of the cameras, saying, “This has to end!” And they are right. The question is, how will we end it?

While school policies focus on zero tolerance and criminal penalties are wielded for some of the most egregious bullies, others know what coaches have been saying for years: the best offense is a good defense.

Am I advocating revenge? Do I think the world is going to be changed by bullied kids uniting in retaliation against their tormenters? By no means! Rather, I take that old sports-ism to encourage parents to fortify their kids with specific skills that help young people stand up for themselves and stop bullies in their tracks. In other words, I sadly don’t hold out hope that the world is going to change for our kids. I optimistically do believe, however, that our kids can change their own world by developing a set of skills that makes bullying unrewarding.

Skill 1: Stay Connected

Bullies operate by making their victims feel alone and powerless. Children reclaim their power when they make and maintain connections with faithful friends and supportive adults.

Skill 2: Create Awareness

Sometimes kids feel like adults never do anything—so why even bother to tell them about incidents of bullying? While there are cases when adults fail to acknowledge the seriousness of a situation, it is more often the case that grown-ups are not aware of what is going on. Bullies use relational aggression to inflict their violence in subtle, socially acceptable ways that tend not to register on an adult’s radar. Teach your child that it is her job to create awareness. Be clear in teaching kids that telling an adult about bullying is not a mark of cowardice, but rather a bold, powerful move.

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201110/7-skills-teaching-your-child-stand-bullies

7 Skills for Teaching Your Child to Stand Up to Bullies

Parenting the Challenging Child

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Learn how to parent the challenging child! Register today for our online course & text, bundle priced for just $44.99  Click here to order.

 

What to Do When Your Child’s Friend is a Bully

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

What to Do When Your Daughter’s Friend Is a Bully

In our kids’ early school years, we spend hours arranging playdates and planning parties. We become the architects (some call it “cruise directors”) of their positive social development. With nothing but the best of intentions, we strive to help our little ones develop the skills to make and maintain friendships. Until the day they make—and tenaciously maintain—a friendship with a mean girl. Then what?

Your once uber-confident, joyful gal is now anxiously and obsessively trying to please a friend who wields her power by being un-pleasable. When that inevitable day comes when your child’s “bestie” starts acting like a “frenemy,” what should you do? Should you do anything? Parents often struggle with the question of, “Should I intervene in my daughter’s friendship problems?”

The bottom line is this; no child should have to find her way through the friendship challenges of the school years alone. Kids need adult support and insights when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of friendship, disguised as a weapon. Here are some fundamental ways parents can help:

Teach Her to Know it When She Experiences It
One of the things that makes girl bullying so insidious is its under-the-radar nature. It is things left unsaid and invitations not given. It is unexplained cut-offs in friendship. It is silence. Girl bullying is marked by crimes of omission that make it very hard for girls to put their finger on what they are experiencing in their friendships—yet the pain, humiliation, and isolation are unmistakable.

Parents play a critical role in talking to their kids about girl bullying and making them aware of the typical behaviors that mark this cruel form of social aggression. Knowledge is power; when girls know what relational aggression looks and feels like, they are better able to make a conscious choice to move away from friends who use these behaviors.

Some of the most common girl bullying behaviors that parents can make their kids aware of include:

1. Excluding girls from parties and play dates
2. Talking about parties and play dates in front of girls who are not invited
3. Mocking, teasing, and calling girls names
4. Giving girls the “silent treatment”
5. Threatening to take away friendship (“I won’t be your friend anymore if…”)
6. Encouraging others to “gang up” on a girl you are angry with
7. Spreading rumors and starting gossip about a girl
8. “Forgetting” to save a seat for a friend or leaving a girl out by “saving a seat” for someone else
9. Saying something mean and then following it with “just joking” to try to avoid blame
10. Using cell phones and/or social media to gossip, start rumors, or say mean things to a girl

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201202/what-do-when-your-daughters-friend-is-bully

What to Do When Your Daughter’s Friend Is a Bully

Bullying Prevention & Friendship Building “Virtual” Activities (ASCA)

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One of the “silver linings” of a world impacted by COVID is the tremendous collaboration and pooling of resources that has happened among School Counselors.  Several weeks ago, a version of this collection of ideas (see below) to use with students in a virtual learning environment was shared in a Facebook group.  I adapted it for my needs and have been using it successfully with my Middle School students.  It provides 25+ fun ways to cultivate connections between those learning through in-person and virtual settings.

 

I would like nothing more than to share the credit–although I can’t locate the original post or author(s).  I hope my good fortune in receiving several of these ideas becomes your good fortune in using them with students–and perhaps passing it on to some of your colleagues as well, as we try to build connections and enrich SEL in this unique time in history.

 

Here’s a link so that you can copy and customize a version for yourself.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1019EH3zOXXAzbMP0Tji_ZfAHgb8gVcOyf8v8vBuN4wc/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

What Parents Can Do When Bullying is Downplayed by School

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

What Parents Can Do When Bullying is Downplayed by School

Your child is being bullied at school. He or she has mustered the courage to tell you about it—no small feat, considering how humiliating it can be for kids to tell their parents about maltreatment by their peers—and together, you have tried everything you can think of to manage the problem on your own.

Your child has practiced ignoring the bully, avoiding his tormentors, standing up to mean kids in assertive ways, trying to enlist his teacher’s support, and using humor to deflect the bully’s taunting. He has shut down his Facebook page and stopped texting entirely, hoping that taking himself out of the technology loop might give him some respite from the cruelty. Yet, the bullying persists … and is getting worse.

You make a decision to call your child’s teacher and report what has been going on—the name-calling, the cruel texts, the exclusion at lunch, the snickering in the halls, the shoves on the bus, and the threats of physical harm (yesterday’s warning: “I am going to f’ing end you if you come to school tomorrow”). Reaching out and asking for help was hard for you; as a parent, you desperately hoped to be able to protect your child on your own. Confident, however, that you have taken all of the right steps to manage the problem independently and knowing that the bullying (and your child’s desperation) are only getting worse, you reluctantly place a call to school. A part of you is relieved that your burden can now be shared and professionals can help with the job of keeping your child safe at school.

Your relief is short-lived.

Despite the “Bully-Free Zone” posters that line the school cafeteria walls and the Zero-Tolerance Policy that was boasted about during last September’s back-to-school night, your experience is that the school would rather not address the problem at all. The responses you get from your child’s teacher include bland lip service such as:

• I didn’t see it happening and I can’t just take your child’s word that it did.
• Kids will be kids, you know.
• This stuff just happens. It’ll all blow over soon.
• Your child just needs to have a thicker skin.
• The child you are accusing of bullying is an honor student and vice president of the student council. I just can’t believe he would do such a thing. Are you sure your child isn’t exaggerating?

More and more, as I talk with parents whose children have experienced bullying, they share this common experience of having their concerns downplayed by the very adults who are charged with keeping schoolchildren safe.

Now, before I go any further, I want to state my unequivocal support for most educators and school personnel. I have had the distinct honor and pleasure of working with hundreds of them in a professional capacity, and dozens of them through my own children’s schooling, and I recognize their role as monumental. It is my belief that most adults who dedicate their professional lives to education are heroes and I thank them endlessly for their service.

With that said, there are also adults who fail children and I don’t know any more eloquent or sophisticated way to describe my feelings about it other than to tell you that it burns me. While I understand that kids are often mean to each other—and sometimes unspeakably cruel—what I cannot wrap my mind around is when adults knowingly allow it to happen. Parents ask me: What should I do when I report bullying to school and the school downplays my concerns? This is the conversation we usually have.

First, we usually talk a bit about why some school personnel downplay reports of bullying from concerned parents.

 

Lack of Awareness
One recent study reports that in school settings, bullying is missed by adults 96% of the time. “How can this be?” many parents ask. Easier than it seems, I am afraid. While most teachers are very focused on what goes on in their classrooms, the majority of bullying occurs in locations like the lunchroom, the locker room, the playground, the bathroom, the hallways, the bus, and perhaps most infamously, online. When classroom teachers tell concerned parents that they are not aware of bullying incidents taking place in their classroom, they are usually quite accurate. (Why more cafeteria aides and bus drivers aren’t trained and made responsible for recognizing and responding to bullying is a whole different article.)

The flip side of adult awareness is that the thrice-failed-third-grade neighborhood meanie named Spike who jumps out in the schoolyard and demands little kids’ lunch money is a bully of yesteryear. Today’s bullies—particularly those who use relational aggression to hurt and humiliate—are often brilliant social diagnosticians who know how to manipulate their teachers just as effectively as they know how to torture their peers. Yes, the straight-“A” student council president may well be the bully that “rules the school” safely below the radar of his unsuspecting teachers.

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201203/what-parents-can-do-when-bullying-is-downplayed-school

What Parents Can Do when Bullying is Downplayed at School

Teaching Assertive Anger Expression Skills to Kids

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This past week, I had the sincere joy of Zooming with a Girl Scout troop from Orange County, CA.  For just under an hour, we chatted and played games from my book, How to Be Angry, with the goal of helping the girls learn important concepts about anger such as:

  1.  Anger is a normal emotion–a natural way of feeling in response to frustrating life events
  2. There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry at times.  It’s how we express our anger that counts!
  3. Three Anger Expression Styles: Passive, Aggressive & Assertive…made MUCH more fun and relatable by teaching kids to identify styles according to their Spirit Animals, the turtle, the tiger, and the giraffe.
  4. How facial expressions and tone of voice impact the words we choose
  5. How to use I-Messages to express anger in honest, direct, straight-up ways without hurting or harming anyone else–just like a giraffe!

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The workshop encouraged parents and kids to work together to learn and practice assertive expression styles.  Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:

 

PARENT:
Signe led a workshop for our Brownie troop of 3rd graders and their parents.  She delivered the material in an engaging, fun and age-appropriate way for the kids, including activities for the kids to practice individually and with their parents.  My daughter was very excited to tell my husband all about what she learned after the workshop and we were able to use the language Signe taught us already today in our communication with each other.  Last night during our drive to dance class, my daughter and another one of the participants sat in the backseat practicing and talking through their experiences using each of the animal expressions in real life as well as being on the receiving end of the animal expressions.   At her suggestion, we’ve put the “I message” script on the fridge as a reference so we can all practice and improve.
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GIRL SCOUT:
Signe’s class was really fun.  I liked learning about the tiger, turtle and giraffe voice.  I want to be a giraffe and I think I’m usually a tiger or a turtle.  It was fun to practice the animal expressions with my friends. 
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Click here for more information on How to Be Angry workshops.
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Click here to buy the book for your child, student, troop or group.

 

 

Is it Rude, is it Mean, or is it Bullying?

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

Is it Rude, is it Mean, or is it Bullying?

A few weeks ago, I had the terrific fortune of getting to present some of the bullying prevention work that I do to a group of children at a local bookstore. As if interacting with smiling, exuberant young people was not gift enough, a reporter also attended the event a wrote a lovely article about my book and the work I do with kids, parents, educators, and youth care professionals. All in all, it was dream publicity and since then, has sparked many conversations with people in my town who saw my photo in the newspaper and immediately related to the examples of bullying that were discussed.

I have been brought to tears more than once since the article ran, while listening to parents share their feelings of outrage and helplessness over their kids’ experiences with bullying in school. One gifted but socially awkward middle school student blew me away with his articulate, poised, yet searingly painful accounts of relentless physical and verbal bullying on his school bus. An elementary school-aged girl described how she had to learn to shed her Australian accent within a month of entering U.S. schools because of how she was shunned by her classmates. The commonness of it all routinely astounds me with every new account; the pervasive cruelty makes my jaw drop every time.

It is important for me to begin this article by establishing that without doubt, many of the stories of bullying that are shared with me are horrifying and some are unspeakably cruel. But now, I also want to be honest and share that some of the stories are…well…really not so bad.

Take this story recently shared with me by an acquaintance who read about my professional work:

“Signe, I saw your picture in the paper last week. Congratulations! I didn’t know you worked with bullied students. It’s so important that you dothings have gotten so bad! Last week, my daughter was bullied really badly after school! She was getting off of her bus when this kid from our neighborhood threw a fist-full of leaves right in her face! When she got home, she still had leaves in the hood of her coat. It’s just awful! I don’t know what to do about these bullies.”

“Was she very upset when she got home?” I empathized.

“No. She just brushed the leaves off and told me they were having fun together,” she said.

“Oh,” I answered knowingly, aware that oftentimes kids try to downplay victimization by bullies from their parents, due to the embarrassment and shame they feel. “Did you get the sense she was covering for the boy?”

“No, no. She really seemed to think it was fun. She said that she threw leaves back at him, which I told her never to do again! The nerve of those kids.”

“Those ‘kids,’” I clarified. “Was it just the one boy throwing leaves or were there a bunch of kids all ganging up on her?”

“No, it was just this one boy that lives about a block from us,” she assured me.

“Is he usually mean to her? Has he bothered her after school before?” I asked, eager at this point to figure out what the bullying issue was.

“No. I don’t think so at least. That was the first time she ever said anything about him. It was definitely the first time that I noticed the leaves all over her coat. But it better be the last time! I won’t stand for her being bullied by that kid. Next time, I am going to make sure the Principal knows what is going on after school lets out!”

While I always want to be careful not to minimize anyone’s experience (it’s the social worker in me!) and a part of me suspects that the sharing of this particular story may have been simply this parent’s spontaneous way of making conversation with me in a store aisle, I hear these “alarming” (read: benign) stories often enough to conclude that there is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean, and behavior that is characteristic of bullying. I first heard bestselling children’s author, Trudy Ludwig, talk about these distinguishing terms and, finding them so helpful, have gone on to use them as follows.

Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.

A particular relative of mine (whose name it would be rude of me to mention) often looks my curly red hair up and down before inquiring in a sweet tone, “Have you ever thought about coloring your hair?” or, “I think you look so much more sophisticated when you straighten your hair, Signe.” This doting family member thinks she is helping me. The rest of the people in the room cringe at her boldness and I am left to wonder if being a brunette would suit me. Her comments can sting, but remembering that they come from a place of love—in her mind—helps me to remember what to do with the advice.

From kids, rudeness might look more like burping in someone’s face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade, or even throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone’s face. On their own, any of these behaviors could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners, or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201211/is-it-rude-is-it-mean-or-is-it-bullying

Is it Rude, Is it Mean or Is it Bullying?

Help Your Daughter Cope with Bullying

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In hopes for more civility and decency nationwide, among people of ALL ages, I’ll be sharing some key articles, strategies and insights. Please read and share with those who work and live with school-aged kids!

 

Helping Girls Cope with Bullying & Frenemies

The world of little girls begins as such a lovely place. Heart and rainbow doodles adorn notebook covers, best friendships are formed within seconds, and bold, exuberant voices carry squeals of carefree laughter and brazen delight. Happiness is worn on a sleeve, and anger is voiced with authentic candor.

Length-of-stay in this accepting, kindly world is time-limited for many girls, however. Seemingly overnight, sweet sentiments like, “I love your dress,” turn into thinly-veiled criticisms such as, “Why are you wearing that dress?” Yesterday’s celebratory birthday party becomes today’s tool of exclusion, as guest lists are used to enforce social hierarchies. Long before most school programs begin anti-bullying campaigns, young girls get a full education in social aggression.

What can adults do to help kids cope with inevitable experiences of friendship conflict and bullying?

To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

Adults often struggle with the question of, “Should I intervene in a child’s friendship problems?” The line between helicopter and hands-off can get confusing, as adults waver between wanting to protect young people from the pain of broken friendships and believing that bullying is an inevitable rite of passage. The bottom line is this; no child should have to find her way through painful conflict alone. Kids need adult support and insights when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of friendship, disguised as a weapon. Here are some fundamental ways parents can help:

Teach Her to Know It When She Experiences It

One of the things that makes relational bullying so insidious is its under-the-radar nature. It is things left unsaid and invitations not given. It is unexplained cut-offs in friendship. It is silence. This type of bullying is marked by crimes of omission that make it very hard for girls to put their finger on what they are experiencing in their friendships—yet the pain, humiliation, and isolation are unmistakable.

Adults play a critical role in keeping an open dialogue with young people and making them aware of the typical behaviors that mark this cruel form of social aggression. Knowledge is power; when girls know what relational bullying looks and feels like, they are better able to make a conscious choice to move away from friends who use these behaviors.

The remainder of this post is available on Psychology Today.  Click below for the direct link or cut and paste the following one in your browser: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201501/helping-girls-cope-bullying-and-frenemies

Helping Girls Cope with Bullying & Frenemies
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