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Finding the strengths of children to ward off bullying

solutionWhen children do not feel safe, it makes it almost impossible for them to learn in the classroom.  While creating a culture of peace is our goal, the day to day situations in the interim must be dealt with by each individual teacher and parent.

With so many children targeted by bullying, we many times have focused on the vulnerabily of certain children.  Are they quiet or reserved, is there a difference with them (glasses, physical, learning etc..) do they have a need to be popular, are they overweight or not good at sports, speech impediment, or may be aggressive toward others?  All of these children are vulnerable to being the target of bullying.

Those same children though have strengths that can be built on that would enable them to be resilient and cope with bullying situations, while the teacher and parents are working on building a culture in the home and classroom that creates a kind and peaceful atmosphere.  When you consider a child who is vulnerable, also ask yourself what their strengths are.  How might they use those strengths, how can we build the child’s resilience?  Then most important is who can be a part of the support network for each of those kids?

It may be certain positive peers who can be there for them.  A guidance counselor or other teacher in the school may be a part of the network.  How can parents be helped to learn how to help their child grow their resilience?  This network around any vulnerable child is the key to reducing the chance that they will become targets or victims of bullying.

While we are doing this with individual children – every classroom and home should consider the 3 step process for changing culture in their community.

  1. Step one is to set the expectations for the behavior and attitude for all in the community.
  2. Step two is to role model what those expectations look like for all others in the community.
  3. Step three is to teach – talk about the expectations on a daily basis.  This is always done when there are no emotions involved.  It should be mirrored by all in the community, every teacher, every parent, every coach on a daily basis.  

These 3 steps will help everyone involve to get a clear picture and develop the peace we all want in our family, schools and community.

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How do we change the culture in our schools?

culturechange2As we look at the question of bullying in our schools and how to deal with this issue, it may be that we should stop looking at the kids and wondering what is wrong with them and ask ourselves what are we doing that sets a better example for them.  If our goal to change the culture of schools to a culture of kindness and a culture of peace is to come to fruition, we must include everyone – including ourselves as parents, teachers and administrators.

How do we go about changing culture?

Step one:  Set Expectations – Ask ourselves what do we want our culture in the schools to look like?  What are the core values that we want to live by in the classroom to be?  Does everyone from administration to the student understand what those values look like in real action?  Do they agree that these are good goals?

Step two:  Role model – This step after agreeing to what it looks like is the personal practice.  As the teacher in the classroom am I demonstrating the core values, am I living them?  As the administrator in the school, do I treat the teachers and custodian with the same level of respect when asking them to do something that I expect from the students when they make a request of a teacher.  Every school may have different core values or we could call it personality traits.  Each school though would agree that respect is at the top of the list.

Step three: Teach your students – As we are adjusting ourselves as parents and teachers, there is something very helpful about teaching the values and social skills that we want to see in our students and children.  This should be done on a daily basis, just the same as the way we teach any subject.  While the role modeling is our biggest teacher, helping student in just 3 minutes a day to understand how the skills can be seen in real world will also be a great aid to the teacher.  ETED is the acronym for Every Teacher Every Day – shall I add in every class.  Teaching the values and skills of a peaceful society in every class by every teacher tells the student - this is not a program – this is what our school does. 
Three steps, none of them are particularly easy.  All of them require that we think about what we stand for and believe in and force us to work on ourselves.  Most if not all of our teachers and administrators have Masters and Doctorates.  Our goal is to live Mastery – not willing to have a mediocre classroom – but to have a peaceful, kind classroom that kids are enjoying learning in.  As a group of dedicated educators we can change the culture of our schools and classrooms.  If you want to learn more, please contact me to start the process in your home or in your school.

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How to help a child with aggressive behavior

FightingChildrenWhether our child has been identified as a bully or we are simply worried that their behavior is aggressive and we would like them to find other ways of expressing themselves we should be aware that there may be a number of reasons for aggressive behavior to start happening when we have not seen it before.

  • Are they looking for social status or power in their group
  • A natural temperament that needs some adult regulation
  • Are they going along with others or copying what others are doing
  • Are they being bullied by others and trying to be pro-active to stop the attacks

Once we have determined how they are feeling, we can help them come up with other strategies that do not include either physical, social or verbal bullying.  How else can they show leadership or social status?  Can we give them our own experience or get the schools counselor to help with the process?
Our commitment as parents to helping them find healthy ways to resolve conflict and to stop bullying others will be a boost to their own confidence.  Share the plan with teachers and administrators so everyone in the students life can be a part of implementing the plan you and your child have come up with.

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Create healthy anti-bullying habits early

photo+(17)Helping your child be “bully – proof” goes in two directions.  Of course we do not want our child to be the target of bullying nor do we want them to be the one who is aggressive toward others.  Our own habits as parents have an impact on our children as to whether they will become aggressive or if they will shrink back and become a target.  Consider the following;

Imagine seeing one child chiding another with saying, “na-na-na-na-”, teasing or just being mean.  I can imagine that they learned to do that from other children, or even their parents teasing them – pushing them beyond good natured teasing into a taunt.  Being aware of how far we go as a parent or seeing this happen and not letting it go is a good start – asking ourselves or them to focus on how such actions might feel to the child on the receiving end of such teasing.  Now they may become obstinate about how the child might feel, but our job is to help them to learn that this does not feel good when it continues for too long of a time.

Just as important as it is to stop negative behavior, it is even more important to encourage positive behavior.  Teaching them to be kind, to show empathy and be fair are all critical skills for good relationships with others.  Teaching empathy may begin by observing others and asking them how do they think the person feels.  They will learn to read the emotions of others by the facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and other signs.  Using real people and television characters are all ways of teaching without it being about them – or personal to them.  You may always refer back to the third party person later when you are talking about a behavior you would like to change in them.

On the other side of the issue is teaching our children to be assertive – learning to use their voice – saying “no” firmly.  I call it using their “bad dog” voice when asking someone to stop doing something that is hurtful, physically or verbally.  Role playing and letting them practice using their voice is key to their ability to do so.  It does not come natural and many children have grown so used to being asked to be quiet – that when asked to be assertive it is very hard for them to do so.
Creating these habits in children should begin at an early age – kindergarten at the least, if they are to avoid being the victim of or become the aggressor.  Giving them these skills, will grow their confidence and feeling good about themselves as they face different situations as they are growing older.

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Solving anxiety and bullying for our students

anxious childIt makes sense that if our child is experiencing aggressive behavior at school that they would also experience more anxiety than others might be experiencing.  If our child starts behaving anxiously, we will want to determine if there is bullying taking place somewhere in there life.  Bullying is not the only reason for anxiety, but certainly it can affect our children.  In fact some say that that if a child is dealing with anxiety they are at greater risk of becoming a target of bullying.

There have been studies that have shown that those who have been bullied, both overtly and relationally, have shown higher levels of anxiety.  This would be those who are threatened with or experienced physical harm or those that have experienced threats regarding peer relationships.  In both male and female students – both have heightened anxiety levels.

Of all of the different ways that students victimize or target others the one behavior – name calling – that has the strongest affect on young men (teens) is being called “gay”.  The use of this term – continually, with intent to harm, and with a difference in power – has the most dramatic affect on young men in creating anxiety for them in life.

On the other side of this, those that receive moderate support from their peers also seem to fair better when it comes to anxiety and dealing with aggression.  My take on this is the need we have as a society – a culture – is to make it not acceptable to call names, not acceptable to act aggressively towards others, to be KIND.   What if when someone in a school called a classmate a name, others stood up for them saying, “in our school – we do not treat others like that”.

Balanced Life Skills is working at creating a culture of peace for our students, families, schools and community.  Join us if you believe in the practice of respect for each other.

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