Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't Know if Your Child is Harassed by Bullies? Here Are Some Revealing Questions.

All the time, I ask parents if their child has to deal with bullies at school. Their answer usually goes like this:

“Well... I don’t think so.”
Then Mom looks at Dad...
Mom and Dad look back to me.
“Actually, we don’t know.”

The truth is, as parents, we usually don’t know. It’s awkward for our kids to tell us and it’s awkward for us to ask about it. When we do ask our kids about their school day most parents tend to ask the wrong kinds of questions. Here is some help:

Don’t ask: How was your day today? What did you do today? Was everything okay? How was school?

Because all you’ll get is: “Fine.” “Okay.” “Nothing.” “Yeah.” One word answers.

What kind of questions are better? (From author Barbara Coloroso)
  • Who do you talk to on the bus?
  • Do you sit with the same kids every day?
  • Has this child ever sat with someone else?
  • Who did you sit with that day?
  • Have you ever sat alone?
  • What would you do if that child were out sick, or who would you sit with if you had to find another child?
  • Does anyone ever get picked on, called names or teased during the bus ride?
  • Does this ever happen to you?
  • Do you ever do this to someone else?
  • Does anyone ever get knocked out of his seat on the bus?
  • Has this ever happened to you?
  • Do kids act like there are assigned seats and has anyone ever challenged that?
  • Who do you eat lunch with every day?
  • Does it ever happen that your group isn’t there, and if so, who would you join for lunch?
  • Do you have someone to play with during recess?
  • Who did you play with at recess today?
  • Do you notice if anyone is being teased, picked on or left out at lunch and recess?
  • Does anyone ever get left out of a game at recess? Or not have the ball passed to him on purpose?
  • Does this ever happen to you?
  • Who would you tell if it did happen to you?
If they reveal incidents like this have happened to them:
  • Do your friends know?
  • Have you ever asked them to help you?
  • Have you spoken to anyone at school about this?
  • What adults do you feel safe with in school?
  • What kids do you feel safe with in school?
  • Has anyone who has seen reported this to an adult?
  • Does your school have any way that you can report this with out feeling like it will make things worse?
Have questions? I’m always available to help. As a former bullied kid myself I am passionate about stopping the bullying in your child’s life.

Just call 248-349-6900. Ask for Master Vigil.

(Please share this with your friends. It could change everything for their children.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Whatever happened to Toughness?

Last night I watched a great movie with my wife. It was the Cohen Brothers adaptation of "True Grit". It got me thinking.

The story is about a resolute 14 year old girl who sets out with a grizzled U.S Marshal and a flashy Texas Ranger to bring her father's murderer to justice. The trio braves the elements, classic western-style marauders and the ill company of each other to see the job done.

It was dramatized to be sure, but the rough and tumble lifestyle of the film wasn't altogether different from the one lived by our pioneering forebears. No one seems to remember it now, but there was a time (not so long ago) when "grit" was an admirable trait.

Now it seems like a couple decades of Oprah and her descendants Doctors Phil and Oz have us valuing sensitivity and tolerance. Which is fine, because these are important traits... but they need to be tempered with discipline, firmness, resolute morality and courage.

We have forgotten, it seems, that there is a time to stand your ground. A time to hit back. A time to forget triple A and change our own darn tire. A time to narrow our eyes dangerously and say, "I think you're trying to screw me, buddy," or maybe "You can't talk to me like that." There are situations in life where a bit of grit goes a long way.

Also, let us not forget that it was grit and toughness coupled with a resolute idea of what is right and what is wrong that founded this country.

A very wise man once told me that life was all about finding the balance between being nice and being tough. "People are born with one and need to learn the other," he said. "Most of the time, be nice. Occasionally, you need to know when to get tough." He was right.

Our society does a great job of teaching us to be nice at all costs. We need to do our jobs and teach our children the yin to that yang. For what it's worth - I'm proud to be in an industry that offers people the rare opportunity to grow a little backbone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to stop bullying... forever.

New Jersey is passing some pretty aggressive anti-bullying laws in an attempt to make schools more accountable for bullying.

My opinion? It's yet another attempt on the part of government to get schools to do a job that parents should be doing.

Job #1: We need to do everything we can to bully-proof our kids. Build their self esteem and their confidence. Teach them to communicate effectively with bullies, teachers and friends.

Job #2: We need to identify our own children as bullies. Teach them compassion, respect - and most importantly empathy.

But what will stop bullying forever?

Most kids don't fit in Job #1 or Job #2 - but this doesn't mean parents are off the hook. Job #3 seldom gets any attention at all - and yet it's probably the most important.

Job #3: Teach kids who are not bullied or bullies not to tolerate other kids being bullied. Teach them that they can (and should) stick up for the weaker kids. Teach them to identify bullying and how to report it to teachers and parents.

If everyone does their part we can make life much easier and more enjoyable for bullied kids... and for bullies.