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The Truth About Bullying

Joe Van Deuren

Joe Van Deuren

First I have to say that I, like many of you, probably do not like the use of the words BULLY or VICTIM.   I prefer the terms – Aggressor and Target.  There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is, that it is very easy for a child or even an adult to be labeled and have it stick for a very long time, and even learn to be that person.

The other part of the whole bullying discussion that always gets to me is that the word has been used so many times that it has lost some of its impact – in fact it is misused and applied to situations that should either be labeled ‘bad behavior’ or ‘assault’.    I have seen both.

There are times when parents are over reacting due to the emotional connection with their child, which is understandable.  There are others times that I have seen a parent or teacher believe that the situation should just be overlooked and the target just needs to “toughen up”.

The definition of bullying revolves around 3 basic rules:

  1. The acts must be deliberate with the intention to hurt someone
  2. Acts of aggression must be repeated targeting the same person over and over again
  3. There is a imbalance of power between the parties involved

These are fairly common, well accepted rules that most school systems and the public have agreed upon as the definition for bullying.  When the act or acts do not meet all 3 of these rules, it is likely that bullying may not be the correct word for the situation, even though the acts of aggression are still rather uncomfortable or even dangerous for those targeted.

parenting-talking-to-childThis does not mean that aggression should be ignored when the acts do not meet the rules listed.  Any behavior that is aggressive either in a physical, emotional or social manner needs to be addressed.  Addressing those behaviors help us to create a culture in the society that says, “this kind of behavior will not be tolerated by the social group.”

How we address the ‘culture we are trying to build’, either in a proactive or reactive manner, says a lot about the our own beliefs of what is important to us as parents and teachers.  One of my goals is to help our community become aware of and build a culture of kindness, peace and compassion in our families, schools and communities.

On September 27 at 10 AM I will be addressing the issue of bullying in a class titled, The Truth About Bullying.  This one hour class for parents will discuss the definition and effects of bullying on children, and why children wait so long to tell authorities including their parents along with the six skills every child needs in our efforts to build a culture of kindness in our schools and community.  These skills are meant to help a child from becoming the target of bullying and to help those inclined to be aggressive.

This link below will give further details on this class as well as the follow up classes aimed at helping every parent.

The Truth About Bullying


Don’t believe everything you think!

Don't BelieveEverythingYOUTHINK(2)Of all of our discussion about compassion the last week of discussions were the most telling for me.  We talked about compassion for ourselves.  More directly we talked about how negative self talk damages us, prevents us from moving forward and how it lasts a lifetime.

In a survey done of thousands of women only 4% thought they looked good or beautiful.  Why?  Most had something that they did not like about themselves.   Their nose, ears, hips, weight, height, eyes, hair and on and on.   Really?  Is this just limited to women?  I don’t think so.

While men may not have the courage to speak the words, their actions show that they have negative thoughts about themselves also.  Why do you think we have all of those commercials in the media asking men about their strength, drive, energy?  Why is it that young men and athletes are willing to risk long term harm of themselves to be stronger or heal faster with steroids.  Is it not due to a lack of compassion for themselves – a fear of what others might think of them?  A fear of being perceived as weak or of being replaced by someone else?  They most likely have heard the criticism from others or at the very least witnessed another male being criticized for not “manning up”.

These fears of not being enough come from the messages all of us have been hearing since we were very young from parents, teachers, friends and soon from ourselves.  Here is what we need to do – replace those negative messages with positive ones.  Not false flattery – but rather praise for effort, for learning something new, for perseverance.

As a parent or teacher, before we speak  words of criticism to our child or any child ask yourself – Is this something I would like to be said to me?  Before you say those critical words to yourself, ask yourself – Would I say this to a 5 year old?  All of that criticism we took in as a 5 year old and beyond, is haunting us as adults today.  Replace it with positive affirmations and statements to each other and ourselves.


Life Skills: Confidence – The Definition

Word of monthEach month we will discuss a life skill with all of our students. This month the word is Confidence.  This word will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: Compassion means: “I believe in me and you!”

Older students: Compassion means:  Complete trust in ourselves and others.

Each age group has a worksheet that parents can use to continue the discussion at home with their children, and one for adults to allow them to think more deeply about the skill and how it applies to them. Would you like to receive the worksheet? Stop by our studio at 133 Gibralter Avenue in Annapolis, MD and tell us the age of your child. We will give you a worksheet and invite you to watch Mr. Joe discuss the word with the students in class.  You can also follow our discussions here on this website.

If you would like to become a member of Balanced Life Skills, come TRY CLASSES FOR FREE.   We are not your typical after school activity, in fact we are an education center, working with our students on physical skills along with empowering families with compassion, awareness and respect – creating a culture of peace – through the arts.  We believe in every child and build their self – confidence.  Balanced Life Skills takes part in community service and encourages each student to do the same.


Three Arts… One Dojo

The mission of Balanced Life Skills is to cultivate awareness, compassion and respect in all of our students.  We do this by helping them be aware of the negative messages that they hear and then be compassionate with themselves by replacing them with positive messages.  Replacing the negative thoughts we have with positive ones will help them to be willing to put forth greater effort in studying for school, trying new things, even standing up for themselves.  When this happens they can respect themselves.

never-good-enoughDid you ever have these challenges as a young person?  Most of us have.  In fact most adults still struggle with the negative movies running in their heads.  I certainly have had the struggle with messages that I still remember from a very young age, that I was not “smart enough”.  In fact I still hear the words in my ears of being called “stupid”.

As I looked for a solution I first realized that the number one fear of all people is the fear of not being “enough”.  Enough of many different things – mine was not smart enough.  What I learned through practice is that the practice of the martial arts was very helpful in growing my confidence.  After training in the martial arts I soon realized that this could be a great tool in building confidence in students.  But not all students are open to the physical approach, they prefer to do something in the visual arts or performing arts.

That is why our – Three Arts…One Dojo – approach is so effective for students of all ages.  The first thing you can do is come and try a class with Balanced Life Skills.  Try it for free, stick with it for a while and you will see the results for yourself.


Compassion in Action: Humane Education Model

Promoting human and animal bond

Promoting human and animal bond

Compassion is not just action taken to help our fellow humans.  Teaching compassion might be more easily accomplished by teaching our children about the care of and compassion for, first the animals in their life and then for other animals that may not be a part of their daily life.  There are some who say that anyone that is cruel to an animal – cannot be good to fellow humans.

How can we impress on the young people in our lives the importance of taking care of and looking out for every living thing?  The three big areas of mission for Balanced Life Skills does this with first:
Awareness:  helping our young people to be aware of the needs of living things, how to demonstrate kindness to their own pets and developing relationships/connection with the animals around them.  Even going to the zoo and learning about the animals and the problems that might be facing them, will help to make them aware of the need for action.

Compassion:  Taking action.  With their own pet, they can be responsible for their care, playing, feeding etc.. But action may also be on a larger scale with support for groups who are protecting animals in the wild from poachers.

Respect:  By demonstrating respect for our own environment, reducing, re-using, recycling, planting trees, refraining from littering and cleaning up areas that are the homes for wildlife.  This kind of example of respect for our youth, sets the tone they can live by.

One of the best models of this kind of education I saw in action in Vieques, PR and then learned more about as I researched the model they were using.  It is called Humane Education.  If you want to learn more check out the website:   Institute for Humane Education    To see the application in Vieques, PR check out their website:

I have personally supported this program after seeing it in action.  They have been able to reduce aggression in schools and the thought is that in the long run this kind of education will also reduce even domestic violence.  Truly a worthy ACTION.