How to handle bullies at Christmas? Give them gifts

Was the Grinch a bully? You know – that hairy green guy who snuck into people’s houses and tried to steal Christmas? The guest post below argues that indeed he was – and like the Grinch, other bullies can be won over in much the same way.

By reaching their hearts.

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Some bullying prevention tips may be counterintuitive

If there’s any good to come out of all the recent news and commentary concerning alleged bullying and hazing within the NFL, it’s that it is providing parents with yet another opportunity to talk to their kids about bullying.

The latest story concerns allegations made by Jonathan Martin, an offensive tackle with the Miami Dolphins, against teammate Rickie Incognito.

Incognito was suspended from the team after Martin shared a voicemail message in which Incognito, who is white, used a racial slur and made threats against Martin, who is biracial.

So today I got an email passing along a bullying prevention expert’s note that we’ve reached the part of the school year in which bullying starts to become really apparent.

“By now, friendships have been established and the same groups of kids can be seen hanging out day-after-day with each other,” and according to Brooks Gibbs, “it’s about this time in the school year when we typically start to hear more about bullying. That’s because, he says, the power structure within the student body is becoming more pronounced  and the bullies have had time to, in a sense, mark their prey.”

Yikes. Gibbs is the national spokesman for this program called “Be The Difference. Speak Up Against Bullying!” The program is sponsored by the Office Depot Foundation and – get this – One Direction. You know, the band?

Gibbs also has seven tips for those targeted by bullies. I admit, most of them did not strike me as the best way to respond to bullies – but then, I’m most definitely not an expert on bullying prevention.

Here they are, and here’s hoping your kiddos never need to use them:

1. Refuse to get mad – Disable the anger button in your brain and show the bully he can try all he wants, but he won’t get you mad. The natural response is to get angry, but you can decide not to.

2. Treat everything as the words of your best friends – This sounds crazy but it works. No matter how nasty or angry people can be, tell yourself the only reason they are talking this way is because they love you, care about you and want to help you. It doesn’t mean you have to treat them as if they are right or do whatever they tell you.

3. Don’t be afraid of bullies – Our bullies will never stop bullying us if we continue to be afraid of them. Even if they are bigger and stronger than you, most of them are not the evil villains you have been imagining them to be. (if they have a history of violent behavior, they are criminals or have other issues and stay away from them).

4. Don’t attack bullies – If we attack bullies, even if they attacked us first, we are letting them know we consider them enemies. So we can expect them to treat us like enemies.

5. Don’t defend yourself – The harder we defend ourselves, the bigger we lose, and the bully will continue attacking to force us into the losing defensive position.

6. Don’t tell on bullies – Despite what most people say, telling on bullies, except under rare circumstances, is the worst thing you can do. It’s the best way to make the bullies despise you. The bully will respect you more if you can work out the problem with him or her on your own.

7. Show you are hurt, not angry – If you show the bully anger, he or she will respond with anger. Show the bully you are hurt and he or she is more likely to apologize and avoid hurting you again.

 

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Bullies and breast-feeding

I love when local moms write to the newspaper to talk about topics of direct interest to us. Today’s Opinion pages have a letter from a Missoula grandparent concerned about bullying in schools.

We always think this kind of thing happens to someone else’s kid. Maybe we even have personal prejudices about the “type” of kid this happens to be or the kind of family he or the bully came from. I am telling you, it could happen to your beloved child.

The letter encourages parents to research laws and policies regarding bullying.

And yesterday’s Opinion page brought us a letter from a Missoula mom who decried the common practice of including formula in hospital’s take-home bags for newborns.

Hospitals giving away free formula definitely undermines a new mom’s determination to breast-feed. It’s hard enough to nurse your baby, it’s even harder when it’s 2 a.m. and the formula is so close by. I wish I had never had formula in my house.

Playground

Were I to write my own letter today, it would would be one advocating a playground on every block – a swing for every child! Case in point is today’s Hall Passages in which the folks at Lewis and Clark Elementary talk about the marked decrease in students’ behavior problems, thanks to the schools’ new playground.

Plus, as this photo demonstrates, play structures can pull double duty as public art.

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