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Bully prevention: First step for – What if my child is the bully?

One of the hardest phone calls or face to face conversations a parent can have is the one from a teacher or a friend that accuses a child of being the aggressor (bully).  Just for the record, it is never a good idea for a parent of the targeted child to try to have that conversation with the parent of the aggressor.  One reason is that as soon as it begins, in the majority of cases, the defenses go up, the denials begin and the disbelief sets in.  Once those things happen, it is not likely that anything will happen besides hurt feelings at best.

At times though as a parent we recognize that our child is aggressive and may even have certain friends that have decided not to establish play dates for a while.  We may have recognized that they seem to pick another child out – even a sibling – and you may see the fear in the targets actions.  What should you do?

There is actually a lot that you can do, but the first step is take a deep breath.  You are not a bad parent and social skills come at different rates.  Some children take a little longer to develop appropriate behaviors. With careful consideration though, your child can develop the social and friendship skills required to overcome any past actions.

parenting confidenceHere is just one of many steps we can take as a parent.  No matter the age, have honest and serious conversations with your child.  If they are very young 6 and under the conversations will be about friendship. If they are 7 and above help them to understand just what bullying is and that it is not OK.   Many children may not fully understand that what they are doing is bullying.  

They have watched different sources of media that displays behavior that are aggressive.  They most likely have even seen us as their parents displaying aggressive, bullying behaviors and have learned that this is the way you react to situations.  They may be the target of bullying by others in the classroom or at home.  So many times we see children who are the target of sibling bullying or abuse – who become the aggressor (bully) at school or in other areas of their life.

If the child is older we may even be able to discuss with them that those who repeatedly are aggressive towards others grow up to having increased depression, anger and conflict with other adults including being far more likely to be convicted of crimes on one or more occasions.

Having this firm conversation with them is one of the first steps.  Included in the first steps though is not just this conversation – but must also include our love and caring for them to get them back on track.  Remember it is the behavior that we dislike – not the child.  As you talk and listen to them, listen for what needs they have that are not being filled and how they might be suffering also.  When a child or anyone demonstrates anger or aggression, generally we are reacting to our own fear of being hurt or not getting something that we desire or need.

Finding the answer to that question is part of helping our child grow into a peaceful person, both with themselves and others.

Mr. Joe Van Deuren is a recognized bully prevention expert that offers classes and private help for students, parents, teachers and schools who would like to create a culture of peace in their family, school or community.

Six Skills every child needs to protect themselves

There are six skills that I believe are necessary for every child to learn in a progressive manner, depending on their age that will both protect them from bullying and from being a bully.  In that all of us have the capability to be both – these 6 skills will be a protection to ourselves if we are targeted or if we have become aggressive.  Adult or child, it is likely that having a coach to work on these skills will be helpful.

What are the six skills?

  • Empathy
  • Assertiveness
  • Identifying social cues
  • How to be a friend
  • Self defense
  • Online safety skills

These six skills – and they are skills because they can be taught and we are not be able to turn it on / off at will – take time to develop and are best learned by seeing them modeled by our coach.  Parents – You are the Coach.  

None of these skills are going to be learned by a single sit down conversation where we tell our children what is expected from them or what they have to do.  All of the skills take time, and I suggest our 3 minutes a day concept.  Here is an example, using the very first skill listed, Empathy.

Respect, Empathy, Self-Control

Respect, Empathy, Self-Control

Empathy cannot be taught in passing.  Parent’s are concerned about a child when they have hurt the feelings of another person.  It is easy to say, “think about their feelings”, but for a child they are most likely thinking about their own feelings, so these words mean very little to them.

Empathy comes from the inside of a person – not from the words of others from the outside.  So we must begin by giving our child the words they need to describe their own feelings.   Those ‘emotion’ words must be taught and then used by parents and child in describing how they are feeling.  Doing this when our children are young and continuing will give them the start to a vocabulary to describe their feeling.  Then those feeling words can be applied to what we see is happening to others.  As they get older we can do more reflection with them.
In our class,  “The Truth About Bullying”   we will discuss each of the six skills and how to teach them to our children in more detail.  You will be really surprised at our definition and practice of Self Defense.  Come to our class on Saturday, September 27 at 10 AM or schedule Joe Van Deuren to present this information to your own parent group.


5 Reminders in dealing with diminishing confidence in children

Bullying at school pic

A child’s confidence can be diminished very quickly when they become the target of mean behavior or words.  One of the worst things that can happen to a child is being made feel “less than” by others.  This is many times the results of others talking about them, making sly comments, or being made to feel unwelcome or not a part of the group.

As this kind of behavior can be directed to anyone, especially a young person, we want to encourage them to be sure to speak up to adults and ask for the help that they need.  Along with that,  choosing friends that are not taking part in that kind of behavior is a good idea too.  Many times though, this is not enough.

As an adult, if a child comes to us with these kinds of situations, we can be confused about what the right thing to do might be.  There is no one answer to that question, as every situation and child needs to be worked with individually.  However, there are a few things for us to remember and not all of them are easy.   Control of ourselves and our emotions is key to do what is best for our children.

First, we must remember this is our child’s situation and our place is to protect them, but not take the problem over as if it is ours.
Second, what the target of this kind of behavior needs more than anything from us is to know that we understand their feelings.  So before you start getting all the details, be sure that you give your child as much time as they need to express themselves. (this is the hard part, because parents will want to jump right in and fix it)
Third, find out what your child would like to see happen and what they want to do or what they think might help the situation.
Fourth, help them weigh out their options, choose one and then practice it with them.
Fifth, follow up with how they are feeling, how it is working and what they want to do next.

Nobody has the right to make anyone feel less than or unworthy.  We have to understand though that bullying behavior is going to take place until we are able to create a culture of kindness and peace in our families, schools, and communities.  Having a ‘zero tolerance’ policy does not work in any community situation.  Changing culture of the community, where those in the community stand up and say – in our class, in our school, in our community – we do not treat each other in that manner, is what does work to eliminate confidence reducing behavior.  Are the teachers in your school making this the norm for the classroom?  The confidence level of your son or daughter may be at stake.

Anyone in our community that is dealing with a situation like this may consider working with a bully prevention expert like Joe Van Deuren at Balanced Life Skills.


What your teen is really worried about


Recently I asked a group of teen students about what they thought they would like to learn to protect themselves from the most.  It was not an attack on the streets or hallways at school.  They did not talk of being abducted or physically hurt.  They did not speak of international issues such as war or attacks on the homeland.  The things that they wanted the most protection from or learn how to deal with:


put-downs, cliques at school, teasing, insults, words, exclusion

Bullying behaviors are the biggest things on these students minds.  There were other subjects that came up too, like anger, education, close mindedness, jealousy, cutting, emotional abuse, not being heard, health issues… but far away it was the social / emotional issues that were the of the highest concern.  

Teens are concerned with finding their place in society and especially among their peers.  Being able to do so and feeling safe is key to how they operate in society as adults.  The adults in their life have a responsibility to set the example for them, to guide them through the waters of the social world and to find that secure place.

The six skills that every child needs to start learning at a young age and how to teach those skills will be part of our discussion on September 27 at 10 AM.  The subject title is “The Truth About Bullying”   You are invited to this FREE class to be followed in the weeks to come dealing with What to do if your child is being bullied and more.  Register today or just show up – but be sure to get this information for your family.


Imbalance of Power Leads To Bullying In These 5 Ways

workplace-bullyingOne of the signs that an aggressive act is bullying and not just bad behavior is if there is an imbalance of power – the aggressive party has either the perception or reality of being ‘greater than’ in some manner.  This sense of power can come in many forms.

  • Power can be demonstrated economically.  In an adult relationships if one person makes and controls all of the money, that may be an imbalance of power.  In and of itself that is not a problem, unless they use the threat of that power to control the other person.
  • Power might be demonstrated physically.  If one person is larger, stronger, more aggressive – this imbalance might be shown if the weaker person is afraid of them.  They might be afraid of being hit or pushed around.
  • Power might be demonstrated mentally.  There are many ways this may work out, but many times we will see one person who perceives themselves as smarter or more capable and will be very pushy about getting things done their way.  This is true in kids or adults.
  • Power might be demonstrated emotionally.  Many times manipulation of feelings and actions will be done, based on one persons perception of themselves or the other person.
  • Power might be demonstrated even online.  If one person is showing up anonymously and is saying mean things about another – they have an illegitment power over the target.

While this list is not exhaustive – it is easy to see how one child might be able to bully another, or a spouse may bully their partner or even their child.  Even teachers can sometimes use their ‘power’ in a way that is damaging to a child or fellow teacher.

When we have power in some manner, empathy for others will help us to be thoughtful and careful about how we use it or even how it is perceived.  Check out more information on bullying at the class on September 27 @ 10 AM at Balanced Life Skills.

You are invited to come to the first of a series on “The Truth About Bullying”