Archive for the ‘zero tolerance’ Category

Bullies Leave Lasting Scars

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Kids who were picked on while growing up become adults with health problems. A new study finds that former targets of school bullying experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, fatigue, muscle pain, and even increased likelihood of catching colds in far greater numbers than their non-bullied peers. Doctors have known for years that chronic stress is debilitating to one’s health. The results of this study lead them to conclude that, over time, the daily strain of enduring threats and taunts causes permanent damage to bullying victims’ bodies.

There have been many tragic stories in the news of children and teens who have ended their lives to escape the ongoing personal destruction inflicted on them by bullies. This has led to a realization on the part of parents, teachers, and school officials that bullying is not just part of growing up, and not something kids should simply “learn to deal with.” As radKIDS Executive Director Steve Daley explains, “Bullying is not ‘kids being kids.’ Bullies are predators; therefore, bullying must not be allowed to continue.”

So, what can we, as concerned parents, teachers, and child advocates, do to protect kids now–and for the rest of their lives? Well, we need to stop doing what has never worked, which is telling victims to stand up to the bullies, to fight back. If it were possible for them to do this, they wouldn’t be getting picked on in the first place.

Bullies choose their targets through a complex process, winnowing out those who would readily defend themselves verbally and/or physically. They zero in on kids who, by their very nature, will not stand up for themselves. Bullies determine who they can hurt, and when and where they can get away with it. Therefore, advising victims to fight for themselves is as ineffective as telling them to ignore a slap in the face; it’s useless because they simply cannot do it.

What can they do? The most effective way to stop bullying seems to be to increase the targets’ self-confidence. That’s where we, the caring adults in their lives, come in. Child behavior experts have found that the fastest way to improve kids’ belief in themselves is for them to get good at something they’re interested in, be it running track, acting in the school play, joining the math club, or exploring some other area that excites them. Joining these activities not only helps them develop a new facet of themselves, but it brings them into the company of other, like-minded kids. Thus, a support network is formed.

Also, in our efforts to rebuild what bullies have broken down, we must attend to kids’ damaged self-esteem. We need to tell them, over and over again if necessary, that they are not to blame for the bullying; they have done nothing wrong. As kids become more self-assured and understand that they did nothing to invite abuse, they become less-satisfying targets. Eventually, bullies must seek a new target or modify their own behavior.

No Ostriches, Please

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

As a Children’s Safety and Self-Defense Instructor, I was asked to speak at a lunch-n-learn program at one of the most family-friendly business organizations in the United States. I welcomed the chance to speak to an audience of pro-active, forward-thinking parents.

As the date drew close, the meeting planner requested a copy of the materials I would present. I sent a Power Point presentation, discussing the need for kids to be made aware that bad people co-exist in the world with good people, and the importance of teaching them good decision-making skills and strengthening their self-confidence so they will be unappealing targets for predators. These points were corroborated by statistics on drug use, molestation, bullying, and other issues that affect children daily.

The next email I received from the meeting planner informed me that she had no idea the subject matter would be so frightening, and that she and her manager agreed that the entire program would have to be scrapped.

I was surprised and disturbed. Year after year, this organization has been voted one of the most “family-supportive” companies in the United States. I believe that there’s more to supporting parents and their children these days than simply offering a week of summer camp when school’s out, or a few extra sick days during the year. Yet, when it came to kids’ safety, they preferred to put their heads in the sand.

I understand that the topics I mentioned above are not pleasant ones, and might lead to brief reactions of fear, anger, or sadness in some people. But the information I’ve learned as part of the radKIDS organization, the skills I share with my radKIDS students, are so vital and so helpful, I think it’s worth a few minutes’ uneasiness. This knowledge can be life-saving. And, to me, that’s worth anything!