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Posts Tagged ‘bullying prevention’

We have spent quite a bit of time this month researching and blogging about bullying. We have come to the conclusion that as a culture if we all dig a little deeper into our own lives, we could lessen the problem of bullying greatly.

Children live what they are taught.  What is it about our culture that is creating an atmosphere of bullying and emotional and physical abuse in our schools?  There are many complicated answers to this question.  As adults, if we start doing what we tell our children to do, and stop doing what we tell our children not to do we will be a kinder nation.  Think about it:

  • Where do you put your free-time energy?  Do you support through your viewership the sitcoms that zing the one-line insults back and forth like candy?  Why is it ok and sanctioned to hear other people insulted as entertainment with a laugh track?  Do you support violent dramas and movies?  Do you listen to music that is disrespectful and violent?
  • How do you handle yourself in your personal life?  Do you gossip about other people?  Do you talk about people behind their backs instead of productive mediation and problem-solving?  If you do, you’re not alone.  Most of us do, to one extent or another.
  • When you have a disagreement with your friends, collegues, partner, or children, do you fight fair?  Do you say hurtful and mean things to get the upper hand on the situation?   Again, you’re not alone, we have all done it at some point in our lives.
  • When your adult friends are engaging in what we would define as bullying behavior for children, how do you react?  Do you ignore it, or do you stand up and try to do something about it.   It is ok to create a No Bullying Zone in your own life.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, are you a bully to yourself?  How we treat ourselves is often times how we treat other people.  Learn to be kind, and gentle, and loving with yourself, and let that spill out to all you meet.

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree
www.thetalltrees.com

“Teach us love, compassion and honor…that we may heal the Earth, and heal each other.”   – Ojibwe prayer

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When we’re conducting staff development programs or parent programs at schools, one point that we stress is:

Bullying is not a rite of passage, and should not be blown off as a “boys will be boys” or “kids will be kids” situation.  Bullying is not ok, and chronic bullying can have serious short-term and long-term physical and emotional affects including: 

  • Skin disorders, such as acne in high school students
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Panic Attacks
  • Loss of sleep or sleeping too much
  • Stomach aches
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • More colds and viruses
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Aggression
  • Long-term Social Isolation

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In our Native culture, we teach our children that diversity is to be honored and revered.  Just as there are no two stars exactly alike in the universe, there are no two children exactly alike on Earth.  It is so important to honor and respect each others’ differences.

We have found in our public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that diversity is something that is not typically honored by the school children.  Any child who displays a perceived difference from the norm is a likely target of bullying.  Parents and teachers, your child or student is especially vulnerable to bullying if they display any of the following characteristics:

  • Obesity
  • Speech impediments, or irregular speech patterns
  • Racial difference from the norm at the school
  • Developmental, emotional, or behavioral disability- please be aware that autistic children are especially vulnerable
  • Physical disability – particularly when involving crutches, braces, or a wheelchair
  • Low – or lower than the norm – socio-economic status
  • Elementary school and middle school girls who physically mature earlier than most of their peers
  • Elementary school and middle school boys who physically mature later than most of their peers

Parents and teachers, tell your children consistently that they are gifts to the world,  Tell them they are bright and shining stars.  If you have a child in your life with one or more of the characteristics above, please take special care in fostering the child’s self-esteem, and making sure that they are safe at school and at home.

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Several times a year we return to Robert’s homeland in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  Besides Mom, we still have many aunts, uncles, and cousins living on the rez.  We also travel to many other nations throughout Indian Country, and we would be remise to talk about bullying without taking the time to recognize the special issues faced by Native children who live on reservations across this great nation.  

On some reservations in the United States, the conditions are equivalant to the quality of life in a 3rd world country.  If you are like most middle-class Americans, you probably were not aware of this. Risk factors that trigger bullying are often higher on the reservation.  These children may face:

  • Stereotypes and misconceptions of what it means to be Native American, and inherent bullying by the predominant culture
  • Generational poverty
  • Generational alcoholism and drug addiction
  • Poor nutrition and diet
  • Substandard and Inadequate housing
  • Family structures that are not intact

And the list goes on… As human beings, we need to recognize the differences that we all have, and respect each others’ cultures and beliefs. It is only through this respect that people will find their inherent dignity.

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When confronted with evidence of being a bully, your child or student may respond “I wasn’t being a bully, we were having a fight.”  When faced with this justification, here are some questions you may ask your child to elicit a discussion of what it means to be a bully.  We believe that in this situation yelling at your child or punishing them in some other manner is not helpful.  Children are inherently kind.  Help your child see what it means to be unkind. 

  1.  What were you fighting over?
  2. Was it a fair fight?  If it was a physical fight, do you out-weigh, or are you older than the other child?  If it was a verbal fight, was it fair?  Were you saying mean things just to be mean?
  3. What did you want the outcome to be?  What did you expect to happen? What actually happened instead?
  4. Looking back on it, was it really a fight, or were you being a bully?
  5. What can you do differently next time to change the outcome of the situation?
  6. If you were being a bully, how can you make amends to the child you bullied?  Can you offer an apology?  Can you sit next to them at lunch tomorrow?  Can you smile and say hi?  Can you walk with them to school?  For younger children, can you arrange a play date?  What can you do to make up for being a bully?

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If your child is being bullied, your first instinct may be to make light of it, in order to help your child or student feel better.  Do not do this.  The most important thing you can do is listen, until you have the whole story – or as much of the story as you are going to get.  After listening, you and your child can decide together on an appropriate course of action. 

Parents make common miss-steps when they say:

  • Don’t be so sensitive
  • You take things way to personally
  • Be a man
  • Be a big girl
  • Big boys don’t cry
  • Stand up for yourself
  • Hit him (or her) back
  • You’re blowing this out of proportion
  • Don’t be such a baby

As good as your intentions are, these phrases discount your child’s story, and may prevent your child from coming to you in the future.  Listen.  If your child believes he or she is being bullied, it is important.  Attempting to make light of it is not going to lighten their load, and will often have the opposite affect.

Gakina-awiiya (We Are All Related),

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree
www.thetalltrees.com

“Teach us love, compassion and honor…that we may heal the Earth, and heal each other.”   – Ojibwe prayer

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Adults, please be aware that children are not the only bullying predators and victims – not by half. As we’ve stated previously in our blogs, bullying is a learned behavior. Children are learning to be bullies from somebody.

Click here for an extremely informative document from the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries about workplace bullying, the differences between harassment and bullying, and various methods of dealing with it when it arises.

We were consulting with a business associate last spring who believed he was the victim of workplace bullying.  He said “Well, I’m just going to go tell my boss that she’s a big bully and I’ve had it.”  We advised him against that.  Remember:

  1. Adults or children displaying bullying behavior generally don’t know they are being bullies, or they wouldn’t be bullies.  Blaming, shaming, or confronting them is not going to help solve the problem.  (Although, as we told our friend, it could solve the problem by helping him to get terminated – no more problem!)
  2. If your workplace is a school or other organization that services children, and your workplace is rampant with adults bullying other adults, it is likely that it is rampant among the children too.  Again, bullying is a learned behavior.  If we want our children to change, we need to change first.

Gakina-awiiya (We Are All Related),

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree
www.thetalltrees.com

“Teach us love, compassion and honor…that we may heal the Earth, and heal each other.”   – Ojibwe prayer

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