Will you know if your child is being picked on?

How would you know if your child is the target of bullying?  Most of the time your child will not announce it to you, out of fear of embarrassment, belief that they can or must take of the situation or out of fear of retaliation.  Parents and teachers  need to be aware of changes in the attitude or conduct of a child so we can take action.

DistressIf we see a pattern develop with a child of being more anxious, especially about particular situations, there may be something happening that is not comfortable for them.  If they become anxious about going to school, scouts, a sport activity or any place where there are others around – they may be experiencing some aggression.  Please remember it need not be from just other young people.  There may be an adult that makes them uncomfortable.  I have seen this happen with adults (teachers / coaches) where a child was being treated with sarcasm that caused anxiety and academic issues.

Other ways of telling a child may be a target of aggression, include depression, sadness, or safety concerns.  Anytime there is a change in the personality, just be aware and take extra time with your child to talk.  What should you ask?  How do you approach this conversation?

Most of the time asking if they are getting picked on in school is not going to get a response that helps you understand what is happening.  Neither is asking how it is going in school today.  You most likely will get the “fine” answer or the “good” comment.  Our conversation must be ongoing, general  giving them the opportunity to feel safe telling us / without telling us.  Here is what I mean.

Children are not going to be in a rush to embarrass themselves by telling us that they are having relationship issues in school.  On a daily basis – know your child and who their friends are.  Do not interrogate, but ask questions that you can put the pieces together.  If you know that a child typically plays with Sally and then all of a sudden Sally is no longer in the picture – then that is a warning sign that there may be some relationship issues.
jw4Without becoming Jack Webb (do you remember that show?)  we can learn what is on their mind.  What to do at that point is the subject of a seminar I do for parents titled “What to do if your child is being bullied?”  This includes how to deal with your child, the school system (public or private) and with the parents of the aggressor.

If you have a specific issue I am available as an advocate or consultant in this subject.

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.

Is Yelling Safe?

If more than half of all parents are yelling at their kids, what are the results?  Is yelling any different than physical abuse?  Here is an interesting interview that is based on research done at University of Michigan and Pittsburg.


Your Child is Feeling Anxious, Now What?

separation-anxiety-in-children-300x300In helping our child with any kind of anxiety that they may be feeling, first the child wants to know that we understand what they are feeling. The most important step as a parent is to listen to our child and ask questions about their feelings. Using our active listening skills by repeating back to them what we heard them say, determining their feelings and putting words to those feelings will be very helpful for the child to feeling understood.

The next step is to assure the child that they are not alone, others have similar feelings and you may even tell your child about a time in your childhood. Be careful though not to draw too many comparisons. Your experience and their experience are different and right now it is not about you. Assure your child that  the feeling is very bad and it is temporary – even if it does not feel that way now. The telling of your experience may end with an upbeat ending and how you were able to overcome your fear or anxiety.

Give them the support, encouragement and your own example. If we present ourselves as being very perfect to them, it may make them feel like they cannot live up to the bar you have set. This may be a cause of anxiety for them. As you model facing fears and coach your child, allow them to work at their pace. Pushing too hard can increase anxiety of trying to please while trying to suppress the fears.

Now the hard one.  Avoid giving too much reassurance.  The more reassurance you give by saying things like, “It is going to be OK.” When we are constantly reassuring, we are not giving them the opportunity to learn or gain the strength to cope with their own issues. Of course this is about balance, but reassuring them that they can use their coping skills to relieve the pressure they are feeling is a better way of helping them. will give them even more courage to be bold in overcoming anxiety.

3 Steps To a Positive Relationship With Our Children

Disciplining children is a very personal thing with parents.

how-to-be-positive-with-childrenThere is no one way, right way or only way for any family or child. Much like with teachers, the key to success is authenticity. Being true to yourself and demonstrating your love for your children with kindness and firmness is part of that key to success. In our last post on this subject we noted 3 steps to avoiding a power struggle.

  1. Know what you want
  2. Know what you will do
  3. Follow through

The very first step is about knowing what you would like to see in your children as they grow up. What does it look like, sound like and what are the morals, values and ethics that they will display? This will then break down into actual physical application. What does the going to bed routine look like? What are your expectations of the children when you are at the dinner table? All of these will evolve as they get older and more responsible – but knowing and agreeing with your partner is the first step in eliminating power struggles.

Part two is what will you do if your expectations of the child are not met? How will you handle it? Knowing ahead of time that you will pull the car over if the kids are fighting in the back seat eliminates the threats of doing so and threats of punishment. Knowing what you will do also allows you to act versus react. Sometimes our reaction is looked back on and we wished we had done something very differently.

The third part is following through. Consistency and following through even when our heart is wishing we did not need to do so is the discipline and structure needed by the child as they are growing up. When the follow through is sporadic it allows the child to believe that they can control the situation by …. (you fill in the blank) they know what pushes your buttons.

More on actual techniques for disciplining (read teaching) in later posts, but for now these 3 steps combined with smiles and hugs will go a long way in creating a positive relationship with our children.