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.

Read on:

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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.


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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Legislature talks school bullies, education funding and more

A Monday hearing before a Montana Legislative committee brought out school officials from across the state to talk about bullying at school and the need for uniform policies to deal with bullies.

But SB 141 is not the only proposed bill that addresses bullying. SB 196, introduced by Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, takes up bullying beyond the classroom “by providing remedies to address hostile work environments; providing processes for schools to maintain healthy work environments by providing remedies for bullying or abusive conduct” and so on.

So here we have, in effect, two bills that address bullying in Montana’s schools – one bill that focuses on child victims, and another that focuses on adult victims.

Also today, Montanans were told to expect another bill to be introduced into the Legislature next week that would propose an alternative to the governor’s  suggested method of funding schools and education. It has tentative support from the Montana Rural Education Association and the Montana School Boards Association.

The crux of both proposals is oil and gas revenues generated from certain natural resource-rich counties in eastern Montana. Gov. Brian Schweitzer would like to see more of that money – 90 percent of the revenues – more evenly distributed to school districts throughout the state, instead of just the 30 percent that benefit now.

Sen. Llew Jones, on the other hand, would like to see those oil- and gas-producing counties keeping more of the money, and instead will propose that school districts with “high-value property” pay more taxes to the state, so that statewide property tax mills would foot a larger share of the funding bill for every school district.

Follow that? Me neither. Hopefully the actual bill language will lay out the funding process  more clearly than I was able to explain it here.

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Bill in drafting process would tackle bullying

In keeping with my promise to wade through the sea of proposed legislation in the Montana House and Senate and return with pearls of information about items of particular interest to parents:

Here’s LC1828, a bill that is still in the drafting process at the Montana Legislature, which aims to provide “processes” and “remedies” for bullying in the workplace and in schools.

Here’s the part that specifically addresses bullying in Montana’s public schools:

NEW SECTION. Section 2.  Procedures to address bullying or abusive conduct in schools. (1) A student or an employee of a school may file a complaint of bullying or abusive conduct, as defined in [section 5], with the county superintendent of schools or ask the county superintendent of schools to appoint an outside mediator or a mediator to which all parties agree. A school district’s Title IX coordinator may serve as a mediator for any aggrieved party not otherwise served by the coordinator. The county superintendent of schools shall seek to resolve the complaint using remedies developed at the local level. If there are no remedies at the local level, the aggrieved party may pursue the remedies in [section 6].

(2) For the purposes of this section, “bullying” means repeated verbal or physical conduct or written communication or electronic communication, as defined in 45-8-213, in public or in private against a student or an employee of a school if the student or employee targeted by the activity has requested the activity to stop and if a reasonable person would find the activity hostile, intimidating, offensive, humiliating, or an abuse of authority. Repeated incidences of certain behaviors are evidence of bullying, including provocative or dehumanizing name calling, use of belittling language, exclusion from requisite training, physical isolation, and the obscuring of information or materials necessary to complete a task or achieve productive work.

So far the bill appears to lack a sponsor, which does not bode well for its immediate future. But we are only midway through week three of the 90-day legislature, so there’s still time to get this rolling toward a committee.

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Thompson Falls School Board may regulate students’ Facebook posts

News from Thompson Falls this morning is that the school board there recently took up a new policy that bans certain electronic devices – cell phones, mostly – in the schools, and that the policy may extend to cover most other forms of “cyber communication.”

The guidelines tighten the restrictions on the use of cell phones and other gizmos in “classrooms, locker rooms and bathrooms, where they can be used to cheat on tests or take objectionable pictures.” The policy also hints that the district has the right to discipline students who post “a disrespectful, threatening or disparaging comment on a Facebook page about another student, teacher or coach,” saying that the board may view this as “cyber bullying” and react “as if the student had made the comment face-to-face in a school hallway or within the practice facility.”

Superintendent Jerry Pauli explains that this policy may become a test case for other districts, and says that the district’s attorney has found the new policy guidelines legally appropriate. According to the article, “He said the policy must be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year because of the effects repeated cyber-bullying could have on a student’s ability to perform up to their potential in the classroom.”

Furthermore, “Principal Don Jensen said he would not become an Internet or Facebook policeman looking for violations, but that if a complaint was registered he would be obligated to look into it.”

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