Posts Tagged ‘no bullying’

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

“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

“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

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

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Last night we did a parent program for Holy Trinity Catholic School in Lenexa, Kansas. The school asked us ahead of time to specifically focus on bullying. Throughout the evening we felt the heartfelt concern of the gathered parents, teachers, and community. From a personal standpoint, our children are grown, but as grandparents of seven, how can we help them stop bullying? 

The most important thing we can do, is to always speak from our hearts and say take care. Take care of each other.  Take care of how you speak to yourself and to others. We are all in this together, and we are all related.

Steps for Taking Care of Bullying

1. Take care of your child’s behavior and reaction.  Ask your child directly if he or she is being bullied – or if he or she is bullying another child. Be careful how you speak to them. Don’t accuse them or use a confrontational tone. Be open and come from your heart.

school program

2. Take care of communication.  Be in constant communication with your child’s school.  Tell them your concern, and your child’s perception of what is happening.  Don’t blame anybody for what is happening, but be very clear that your child being bullied, or bullying another child, will not be tolerated.

3. Take care of your child’s self-esteem.  Hold them, nurture them, and tell them you love them every day. Tell your child that he or she is a gift to the world.  Help your child feel special.  Help your child make friends.

4. Take care of your own behavior.  In what ways in your own life are you a bully  – to yourself, to others, or to your child?  In what ways are you being bullied – by yourself, by others, by your child? How can you transform that situation in your own life?  One of the world’s greatest peacekeepers, Ghandi, once said, “Be the change in the world you wish to see.”

Gakina-awiiya (We Are All Related),

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree

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

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When in doubt, go back to the basics when teaching your children about bullying.  Remember this poem from a book that was popular about 20 years ago? We think it will put a smile on your child’s face – even if your child is an adult.

All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum www.robertfulghum.com

– an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put things back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

Gakina-awiiya (We Are All Related),

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree

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

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Listen to your child.

Offer your help.

Validate your child by acknowledging their feelings.

Embrace your child with your help, and with your arms.

Gakina-awiiya (We Are All Related),

Chief Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree

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

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