Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: bullying

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    Hazing, Bullying or Abuse?

    Have you heard about the Sayreville, New Jersey high school football team? The school superintendent suspended their entire season after learning of hazing incidents in the team locker room. Seven teens were arrested and charged with participating in hazing rituals that allegedly included raping freshman players.

    What is at stake here? 

    Considering each teen's future, what's the potential lasting impact of this type of behavior? Some will say, “Boys will be boys, what’s the big deal?” Others will say this isn’t just hazing, but outright abuse.

    After the season’s cancellation, many parents complained that this was hurting their child’s potential scholarship opportunities, that it was unfair to punish the entire team for the actions of a few, and that perhaps the superintendent’s reaction was too harsh.

    What About Accountability?

    The alleged assault took place in the locker room with the entire team present. If this is the case, who should we hold accountable - actual participants, silent witnesses, or both?

    You might remember a 2012 incident in Steubenville, Ohio involving two stellar athletes on the high school football team. Both were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and sentenced to time behind bars. As in the Sayreville incident, witnesses did nothing to stop the rape.

    When the victim’s parents pressed charges, her family received threats and statements were made such as, “She was asking for it.” One of the boys pleaded with the victim not to press charges because it would ruin his football career.

    People literally spend millions of dollars on anti-bullying and abuse prevention campaigns targeting teens. They even tell young people this behavior is unacceptable and if you see something, say something.

    Unfortunately, Sayreville and Steubenville are not the only two places in the country where incidents like this have taken place, and the parents’ response to these situations is troubling. They seemed more concerned about the football season than the potential lifelong impact of this situation for everyone involved. Some might argue that there has been a cultural departure from having an ethical sense of right and wrong.

    Choices Have Consequences

    One could understand teens complaining about the punishment being too harsh because the judgment/decision-making part of their brain doesn't fully develop until the mid-20s. It's more difficult to understand, however, parents who don’t see the need to hold their children accountable. If your teen had held down and raped someone as part of a football team initiation, what would you want to happen?

    Kudos to the teens brave enough to say something! Clearly, we can talk with and help teens understand that stopping someone from taking advantage of another person is not “ratting them out.” It is the right thing to do.

    Teaching teens about sexual assault and what to do if they witness someone taking advantage of another person is absolutely vital. Lives are much different as a result of the Sayreville and Steubenville situations, and others. Parents cannot sit back and believe that this is all just part of growing up. There's just too much at stake for our young people.

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    Helping Kids Handle Mean Behavior

    Popular artist Taylor Swift is aware of her critics and the harshness of their comments, especially after the time she sang off key with Stevie Nicks. One critic said it was the beginning of the end of her career.

    These comments definitely affected Swift. So, what was her response? She wrote a song: Mean. 

    You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me,

    You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I'm nothing...

    While there have always been mean people, many would agree that there seems to be more mean behavior than even a decade ago.

    “I believe as a society we are seeing more meanness and we have become more tolerant of it,” says Dr. Gary J. Oliver, emotional intelligence expert. “While bullying has always been around, we have seen an escalation of inhospitable, hurtful and demeaning behavior - and not just in adults who have lived a rough life. We are seeing this behavior in children as well.”

    So, as Swift asks in her lyrics, why do people have to be so mean?

    “I think there are a number of reasons,” Oliver says. “People seem to be more accepting of mean behavior instead of stopping it. And we have a lot of hurting people out there. When a wounded person feels threatened, they lash out in an effort to protect themselves. These people are almost always unhappy, insecure and frustrated. Their effort to make themselves feel better and safer comes at a great cost to those who become the target of their anger.”

    Oliver also believes mean behavior has increased because of humans' natural instinct to fight, run away or freeze when they feel threatened. People who don't how to handle a mean situation often resort to fighting back or attacking someone out of anger.

    “Most people do not realize that when they feel threatened, the emotion portion of their brain gets hijacked. If they have never learned emotional self-awareness, they resort to instinctive responses,” Oliver says. “Parents can teach their children how to handle their emotions in a way that is assertive yet not mean and disrespectful.”

    Dr. Oliver shares these tips to teach children emotional intelligence:

    • Love your children.

    • Keep expectations realistic. No child can be number one at everything.

    • Help your child to recognize his/her strengths.

    • Teach them healthy boundaries.

    • Model how to treat others with kindness and compassion even when treated disrespectfully.

    • When someone makes a mean statement to your child, teach them to ask themselves if it is true. If not, they can dismiss it. If it is, they can do something about it.

    “Nobody likes being treated mean – not even the bully,” Oliver says. “Teaching your children that they don’t have to react to every stimulus and that they can remain calm will serve them well on into adulthood. How far your child goes in life depends more on emotional intelligence than having a degree from an Ivy League school.”

    Who would you prefer your child to hang around, someone who is mean, disrespectful and rude or someone who is compassionate, kind and respectful?

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    The Truth About Cyberbullying

    True or False?

    • Cyberbullying victims are at increased risk for traditional bullying victimization, substance use and school problems.

    • Victims of cyberbullying suffer from anger, frustration and sadness.

    • Most victims of cyberbullying tell an adult about their experience.

    • Victims report that they are primarily cyberbullied by strangers.

    If you answered “true” for the first two statements and “false” for the last two, you are correct.

    News stories abound about young people and bullying. One of the most widely-known incidents is about Megan Meier, a then 13-year-old from Missouri. She became online friends with a person she thought was a new boy in town. The “friend” was actually a group of young people and adults who plotted to humiliate Megan because of a broken friendship with another girl. When Megan discovered the truth, she became distraught and later committed suicide.

    Cyberbullying is defined as using the computer or other electronic devices to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It most commonly takes place on the Internet among students from a given school or neighborhood.

    Researchers and co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, collected data from more than 15,000 youth regarding their personal cyberbullying experiences. They found that:

    • Five percent of the youth they interviewed claimed to be scared for their own safety.

    • On average, 25 percent of youth have been a victim of cyberbullying.

    • Among this percentage, mean or hurtful comments, and spreading rumors were the most common forms of cyberbullying.

    • More than half of study participants feel that cyberbullying is as bad as, or worse than bullying in real life.

    • 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent told an online friend.

    • 16 percent admitted to bullying another individual online.

    • Most of the bullying offenders said they consider bullying to be fun or instructive; such as a way to strengthen their victims.

    Your child uses cell phones, emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, text messages and other methods to communicate electronically. All of them present a potential cyberbullying risk to your child.

    What Do Parents Need to Know?

    The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating. Cyber victimization can cause poor grades, emotional spirals, poor self-esteem, repeated school absences, depression and in some cases, suicide. These outcomes are similar to those of real-life bullying, except with cyberbullying there is often no escape.

    Young people used to be able to avoid the “bully” once school was out. Today's technology now makes it almost impossible to escape. Since few parents closely monitor their child’s digital use, it is far easier for bullies to get away with bullying online than in person. And as the quiz pointed out, kids rarely tell their parents about the bullying.

    What Can Parents Do?

    • Establish that all rules for interacting appropriately with people in real life apply online.

    • Explain what cyberbullying is and why it is unacceptable to bully or to allow bullying to continue.

    • Talk with your teen about the nature of REAL friendships.

    • Encourage your child to talk with you any time they believe they or someone they know is dealing with a bully.

    • Model appropriate technology use.

    • Write a technology contract that includes any form of technology used in your home.

    Cyberbullying can be a serious threat to the well-being of your child, but the best plan of attack is to be proactive. Being ignorant about technology in this day and age won’t cut it, so you'll want to educate yourself as well as your children. As the saying goes, information is power.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    What You Need to Know About Bullying

    In 2012, social media erupted over the email sent to news anchor Jennifer Livingston about being overweight. The email's sender contended that he was trying to bring to her attention that she was not a good role model for young girls in their community because she was overweight. Her on-air response to his email created quite a buzz.

    Someone also bullied a young girl named Kaelynn. She tells of physical and sexual abuse and about the death of her mother. Suffering from PTSD, she began stuttering. Classmates called her meth-head, orphan, worthless, a mistake, faker, retard.

    “I was hated for being myself and I began to hate myself,” she said. None of Kaelynn’s classmates had any idea what she had experienced. She attempted suicide in fifth grade. Fortunately, her attempt failed and today, she speaks out against bullies.

    While October is Bully Prevention Month, this topic is worthy of ongoing discussion. Bullying is nothing new, but it seems to exist at a whole new level.

    Has our culture become a place where anything goes? The mean acts aren't only happening with young people; adults participate as well. What became of human decency and treating each other with respect, even when we disagree?

    Webster’s Dictionary defines a bully as someone who is quarrelsome and overbearing; one who habitually badgers and intimidates.

    Could your child be the bully? Is your child a victim? And, how would you know?

    If you don't talk with your children about bullying, now is a good time to start. Here are some questions to get things going.

    • Is conflict different than bullying? All relationships have conflict. Just because someone doesn’t share your opinion about something or agree with your perspective does not mean they are a bully. Bullying is when a person treats you disrespectfully, is mean to you over and over again, or intentionally seeks to embarrass or harass you because you have a different viewpoint.

    • What do you do if you see someone being bullied? Don’t assume that your child will automatically stand up for the victim. Talk with them about how they would handle this situation. The research shows that if just one person stands up for the person being bullied it can change the entire situation, BUT it is hard even for adults to step out and go against the crowd. If it doesn’t feel safe to say something, go get help.

    • If someone bullies you, what will you do? Parents assume that their child will say something, but studies show that is not the case. Most bullying victims do not tell their parents because they are afraid the situation will worsen. Talk through the steps your child can take if they believe they are being bullied. Assure them that they can come to you for help in working through the situation.

    A parent’s job is to pay attention. So, keep the lines of communication open by talking often and honestly about this topic. That way, your child is ready if something happens.

    Here's a guide to help you understand, prevent and counteract bullying: Guide to Bullying and Cyberbullying *provided by OnlineSchools.org

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    How to Prevent Bullying

    Paul Coughlin’s passion to prevent bullying comes from his own bullying experience while in elementary school. He understands how a campaign of cruelty can damage a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, not just in childhood, but often for life.

    This knowledge, along with his passion, led him to start an anti-bullying effort called The Protectors, whose primary focus is on the potential strength, heroic desire and rescuing capacity of bystanders. Studies show that bystanders possess the most potential to transform an environment of bullying into one of character, freedom and justice. One study revealed that if only one bystander, whether popular or not, uses his or her assertive but nonviolent words in defense of a target, the incident of bullying can end 58 percent of the time within six to eight seconds.

    How prevalent is bullying in schools?

    • One out of every four students report being victims of bullying during the school year. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015)

    • Of children who are bullied, 64 percent did not report it. (Petrosino, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010)

    • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. (McCallion and Feder, 2013)

    • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent) and race (16 percent). (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

    According to Coughlin, an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, bullying is not about conflict and miscommunication. It is about standing in contempt of another human being.

    "It is a myth that the bully has anger management problems,” says Coughlin. “Bullies are highly predatory people. Bullies tend to come from homes with coercive parenting styles where parents express disdain and contempt of people who are different from them. Young people learn through modeling, this is how you treat people.”

    What can you do?

    • Speak Up. If someone is bullying you, tell them to stop.

    • Bystanders are the best front line of defense. Stand up for the victim when you see bullying happen. Phrases such as, “Stop it, that’s wrong,” “Let’s do something else,” “I am going to report you” are powerful and can stop the bullying.

    • Schools can adopt anonymous reporting. One of the top five apps changing the world for good, as reported by CNN, is an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

    • Take the incident seriously. Act sooner rather than later.

    • Don’t look the other way. When you know something is happening, report it.

    “What’s really going to change bullying is when we change parenting,” Coughlin says. “As parents, we need to expect our kids to help someone in need. It needs to be part of your family mission and purpose. I have actually had this conversation with all three of my kids. I expect you to do something life-affirming. We don’t stand by and watch someone’s psychological flesh get seared from their body and do nothing.

    “Research actually shows that when we see someone being targeted and you have the power to act yet you do nothing, our capacity for courage, sympathy and empathy decrease. We become small-souled. If we want strong kids, this is a pivotal moment. This is a tremendous opportunity for character development.”

    Although it is not possible to prevent bullying altogether, there is no excuse for allowing it to continue if you know it is going on. Speaking up for yourself or another victim can make a huge difference both now and in the future.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    13 Reasons Why (You Should Talk About Teen Suicide)

    While driving her teen daughters home from school, Mom asked them what they knew about 13 Reasons Why, a popular Netflix series about a teen who commits suicide. The youngest was clueless. The older daughter, however, definitely knew what her mom was talking about.

    When Mom told the girls she didn’t want them watching the show on Netflix, the cat-that-ate-the-canary look on her oldest daughter’s face said she was too late. Mom quickly learned that her eldest had already watched not just one episode - but the entire first season. At this point, she felt like a serious mom failure had taken place right under her nose.

    Apparently her daughter, along with millions of U.S. teens, found 13 Reasons Why to be very intriguing. Some say they can relate to Hannah’s problems. Others find it entertaining.

    However, parents, counselors, teachers and school administrators across the country have extreme concerns about the show. They feel that it may glorify teen suicide, bullying, rape and other behaviors.

    On “The Today Show,” Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, psychiatrist and president of the Child Mind Institute, called for the show’s immediate removal, saying teenage suicide is contagious. Koplewicz cited more than three decades of research that shows when kids watch suicide depictions on television, they’re more likely to try it themselves. Sadly, they’re also more likely to succeed in their attempt.

    Not surprisingly, Netflix just announced a second season of the show, albeit with a warning card at the beginning. 13 Reasons Why was the most tweeted-about show in 2017. And, the viewership is exactly the audience Netflix is after.

    While there are definitely some caution lights surrounding the show, perhaps it's not all bad. For example, it provides some opportunities for parents to discuss the tumultuous teen years, suicide, bullying, drug abuse and dating violence. 

    In her post, An Instruction Manual for Watching 13 Reasons Why with Your Teen, therapist Jenny Spitzer includes these recommendations to parents:

    • Validate feelings, whether or not you agree. Actions are up for discussion and you have the last word. But feelings are never up for negotiation.

    • Avoid telling your children their feelings aren’t real. They are, in fact, more intense than the average adult’s. Teens typically lack the ability to see that their problems are temporary, so everything feels like it’s going to last forever. You can tell them that this is not the case until you’re blue in the face—they won’t get it. Often, their brains aren’t wired to understand this yet.

    • Don’t assume they aren’t communicating if they’re not communicating with words. There are lots of ways that people communicate without words—through art, dance, music. People can also communicate with their behavior.

    • Help them effectively use communication tools.

    • Don’t assume they know everything they say they know. Try to stay away from yes or no questions.

    • Ask them to explain things to you. For example, what does bullying mean to you?

    • Discuss similarities and differences between your child’s experience and the experiences depicted in the show.

    • Familiarize yourself with your child’s school policies surrounding these issues. What policies are in place to respond to these issues? Ask about the policy regarding what school counselors can and cannot divulge to parents. Find out exactly what your school counselor would do if Hannah confided in them. Ask what they can and cannot do when they suspect a child is suffering from depression—you might be surprised.

    Although it may be uncomfortable, these recommendations are great starting points for open and honest conversations. Your teen needs to hear the truth from you. You also need to hear what is on your teen’s mind. Additionally, consider inviting other adults into your teen’s life who share your values. Then, give them chances to speak into the life of your child.