Is Your Child Being Bullied? 10 Steps for Parents

Please note: On January 9, 2011, I was contacted by the publisher of Legacy Books, who informed me that this article is actually the work of Janet Lehman, MSW, who published her article on “Empowering Parents.” The link to the original article is here.

excellent post by Lori Clark. I wanted to post it here for anyone whose child is being bullied.

Here are 10 practical things you can do to stop (or prevent) your child from being bullied!

1. Listen to what your child has to say. Being a good liI wanted to bring the omission to my readers’ attention, and repost the article with the correct authorship noted. Please visit the “Empowering Parents” website if you would like additional information on helping your child.

The other day AnnArbor.com ran an article about a Lincoln School student who suffered a concussion after being bullied several times by a six-year-old. Among the outraged responses was thisstener is an important piece of your role when your child is being bullied. One of the best questions you can ask your child is, “What can I do to be helpful?” When your child tells you what’s going on at school, as much as it hurts to listen, be open and able to hear what he has to say. Try to be supportive but neutral when he’s talking. When you react too strongly to what your child is saying, he might stop talking because he’s afraid he’s going to upset you.

2. Don’t blame your child. Don’t put the responsibility for the bullying on him or try to find a reason for it; there is no good reason or excuse for what’s happening. If your child is being bullied, he is the victim, so trying to find a reason for why he’s “bringing it on himself” really isn’t helpful. Never blame your child because it makes him anxious and reduces what he’s going to tell you. Your goal is that he continues to communicate what’s going on.

3. If you were bullied as a child, try not to personalize what is happening. If you were bullied when you were younger, the same situation with your child will most likely bring up painful memories. It’s okay to connect with your child about how it feels to be bullied, but don’t take the problem on as if it’s yours alone. I think the most important thing to do when your child is bullied is to remember the responses you received from others that were—or weren’t—helpful. Use what worked and avoid doing what was unsupportive or hurtful.

4. Don’t retaliate against the bully or his family. As tempting as it might be to take matters into your own hands and retaliate against the bully or his family, don’t do it. This is where you have to set some examples for your child on how to problem solve. It’s very difficult to hear that your child is being threatened; of course you want to immediately stop the hurt. But remember, retaliating won’t help your child solve the problem or feel better about himself. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what you can do to help your child handle what he’s facing.

5. Coach your child on how to react. Bullies tend to pick on people who they can get a reaction from; they choose kids who get upset and who take the teasing to heart. They also look for kids who won’t stand up for themselves, or who they can overpower. It’s important to teach your child how to react. We coached our son on how to avoid bullies at school and who to go to if he felt unsafe. We also did role plays together where we practiced not reacting to what the bullies said. Another part of what we did was set it up so that our son had some control over what was going on. He couldn’t stop the bullying right away, but he could get himself away from it and he could find someone to talk to about it.

6. Find a teacher or administrator at your child’s school who will help. Remember, it is the school’s responsibility to stop bullying; I think most take that seriously. The saving grace for our son was the guidance counselor at his school. She provided a safe place for our son to go when he was being picked on. The guidance counselor wanted him to feel like he had some control over the situation, so our child was the one taking the initiative to talk with her. (While we didn’t openly discuss this with him, he knew at some level that we were also talking to the guidance counselor.) We felt it was important for our child to have some sense of taking this problem on and solving it by going to the guidance counselor on his own.

After he started talking with her, she let him know that he could just sit in her office, even if she wasn’t there; the school allowed him to basically take a time out or break to get away from the bullying situation. Again, that gave him some control over what was going on. It gave him a source of support and made him feel like he wasn’t powerless. By talking to the guidance counselor and using his pass to go to her office, it showed him that there were some solutions to the situation.

It’s also important to make sure your child keeps talking—whether it’s with you, a guidance counselor or a trusted teacher, it’s important that he keeps communicating about what’s going on.

7. Take your child’s side. When our son was being bullied, we constantly reaffirmed that there were things he could do to handle the situation, and that he was in fact doing them. We let him know that we were going to get him help and that we loved him and we were going to support him. We also said that there was no excuse for what was happening to him. Make sure to let your child know that you’re on his side; he needs to understand that you don’t blame him and that you will support him.

We also let our child know that if he retaliated against the group, by swearing back or even fighting, that we wouldn’t punish him at home. Our son was bullied physically and verbally, and we told him that he could do what he needed to do to protect himself. We told him that he would still have consequences at school for any misbehavior because that would be against the rules, but we didn’t add to them at home.

8. Get support. Be sure to talk to your spouse or to supportive family or friends. Sometimes I would burst out crying after hearing about what had happened to our son. There were definitely times when James and I got angry. I think the bottom line is that this situation can really bring out emotions from parents.

We found that we needed to talk with each other about this as a couple because it was so hurtful, and because we wanted to be clear in how we communicated to our son. I recommend that single parents reach out to somebody—a family member, friend, or someone at the school—anyone who can help you help your child. We reached out to friends and colleagues as well, and asked how they handled it when it happened to their kids. If nothing else, it helped us feel like we weren’t alone and that there wasn’t anything wrong with our child.

9. Teach your child to name what’s happening. For younger kids, it’s important to be able to name what’s happening as “bullying.” For a child who’s feeling picked on, it’s empowering to be able to really name it. They’re teaching a lot about bullying prevention in school these days and “bully” is such a negative word that it’s good for your child to be able to attach it to the behavior. This is truly empowering for many children and can work with older kids, as well.

10. Find something your child is really good at doing. Help your child feel good about himself by finding something he can do well. Choose some activities he’s good at and reinforce it verbally. Our son got involved in swimming and it was very helpful for his self–esteem.

This post has been adapted from “Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent” and has been reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents.

Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. She held various roles during her career as a social worker, including juvenile probation officer, case manager and therapist. Janet also worked as a program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.

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When Choices Spiral out of Control

These past few months I’ve been working with a local family, trying to help them gain some control of their lives. One member, “Dan,” is a 21 year old male, has a daughter and a record. But he is also working toward his GED and had a job interview this week … until he missed a meeting with his PO and got 90 days.

“Dan’s” mom is heartbroken. “Out of my three boys, he’s the one I thought would make it. When the police showed up (years ago) to say my son had been arrested, I thought they were kidding me. Not Dan. I knew he was hanging around with this one guy, a bad guy. But I never thought it would come to this.”  Bad guy (who already had a record) talked Dan into carrying the drugs for him; Dan needed money — and got the time. So missing an appointment with the parol officer has far-reaching, serious consequences.

As a mother, I can appreciate how impulsive choices — wrong choices — early on can have devastating, life-long consequences in the lives of youth whose decision-making faculties are not yet fully formed (or who did not benefit from the positive role models that are essential to good moral formation).

This is not to say young people should not be held responsible for the choices they make. Recently at AnnArbor.com, I wrote this article about how the little rules we allow children to break when they are small can have far-reaching consequences. The comments I received (as you can see) are pretty evenly split. Some thought it was much ado about nothing — but other parents got it.

And so, when my kids came home, I talked with them about our friend Dan. We drive by two prisons on our way to school every day, so the kids understand the concept of “jail.” I told them that Dan would not be working on the yard this week — that he was in prison because he made some bad choices.

“What did he do?” Christopher wanted to know.

“Well … It all started because he made a bad friend, who encouraged him to do something he knew was wrong. And he needed money, so he made a very bad choice.”

“Why did he need money?”

“He stopped going to school and couldn’t get a good job. And he has a daughter whose mommy needs money to take care of her.”  As you might expect, this raised a whole new set of questions, which I fielded as discretely as I could.

“We’re sad for our friend, and we need to ask God to take care of him while he’s in jail. But what I want you to remember is how important it is to make GOOD friends who encourage you to make GOOD choices. And I want you to remember to thank God every day for your school, and for a family who loves you no matter what. Every day that you go to school and do your best, you make us proud.”

Lord, please watch over my friend today. He was just starting to dig his way out of some very bad choices. Help him not to be discouraged, but to be even more determined to turn his life around. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Picking Along Memory Lane

Understated strains of jazz emanated from the softly lit interior as Craig and I were shown to our booth at The Melting Pot in downtown Ann Arbor.  It was so romantic, it made me forget about the quarter-mile I’d just hiked to the restaurant.  In high heels. After two glasses of white wine.

We had just come from an AnnArbor.com Top-of-the-Park contributor party, and so we had decided to savor a little more “together time” before heading home to relieve the baby sitter.  And since both of us had indulged at the party, we hoofed it to the restaurant.

I sank into the cushioned booth, grateful to be off my feet, and admired the handsome man across from me. Craig had on this blue striped shirt that matches his eyes;  I was dolled up in a swishy skirt and high heels.

Now, maybe it was all the cheese and chocolate, or the second glass of wine from the party. But sitting across the double boiler from my DH, I felt a warm rush of memory. There was a time when we hung out at little eateries like this one all the time, in the days before kids. Before parenthood. Before marriage, even.

In that little romantic oasis, we fell back into easy banter, flirtation, and giggling. (Okay, I giggled; he emitted a manly gaffaw at my undeniable cuteness.)  Everything but the samba, rumba, and cha-cha-cha.

Then, out of nowhere, came a memory of a different kind: Earlier that afternoon, when I’d returned home with the kids after a day of helping my friend with her garage sale. We were hungry, grumpy, and all the other ugly dwarfs. And so I was none too pleased to walk into the house and find everything — including the overgrown lawn — EXACTLY as I’d left it that morning.

Memories can be tricky things. The same memory — of a romantic evening in the distant past, for example —  evoke feelings of nostalgia. And yet, those nostalgic feelings can elicit two very different responses: regret for something long-gone, or a reminder of dormant potential.

At the restaurant, I was reminded of a connection that transcends unwashed floors and unmanicured lawns, sleepless nights and financial concerns. And I was reminded of the importance of simple fun in any relationship.  Because we want the kind of love that lasts forever … not the kind of marriage that stretches out interminably, like a forced march in too-tight shoes.

And so, on the way home last night, I made a new resolution … To be more intentional about re-creating opportunities for fun and friendship with my husband. I’m going to spend more time kicking up my heels along memory lane.

Taking Time to … Breathe

This morning when the phone rang, I wished very hardthat I had been able to find my Daytimer yesterday. That way I wouldn’t have been so surprised when my friend Pat Gohn (left) asked me if I was ready to interview for her podcast “Among Women.”

I wasn’t, not exactly. My husband was conducting business in the living room, and when I moved to the bedroom to conduct the interview he started moving around, getting ready for work. If I’d remembered, I have shoveled out my office enough to talk to Pat in peace and quiet. As it was, all I could do was … breathe.

Do you ever get like this? Feel like you’re going through life in auto-pilot mode, one step ahead of the lions? With kids to feed, home to clean, posters to make, meetings to attend, columns to write, e-mails to answer, books to read, and much else to do … Taking a moment to breathe seems like inexcusable luxury.

But that is exactly what we need to do sometimes. Breathe, so we have the resources to keep running.

Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhew!

Today at AnnArbor.com, I’ve posted a little article about another important way to keep perspective, at least at our house. It’s the family rules: 30 minutes of together time every single day. No computers. No agenda. Just … together. Talking. Singing. Even grumping. It’s all good.

In the interview with Pat about “My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories,” I talked about how we can never hope to have a relationship with God if we don’t spend timein His presence. It would be like running into Grandma’s house, shouting at her from the door, “Hi-Grandma-how-are-you-I’m-fine!” and running back to the car. That’s not the way to build a relationship.

So, c’mon. Breathe with me now.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.
Make me aware of your presence, right here and now.
As close and as warm as the air I breathe.
Fill me, calm me, and strengthen me. Amen!

Kudos to “Dear Carolyn” — Advice for Caregivers of Disabled Adults

While I don’t always agree with the advice columnists dish out, I was touched by this letter in the “Dear Carolyn” column in AnnArbor.com.  For those who care for developmentally disabled adults, having a support structure in place that is not dependent on the exclusive efforts of one person is truly a prudent choice.  Here’s the letter….

Dear Carolyn:My wife has five siblings, one of whom has developmental delays. We are in our 50s and 60s. In June 2008, I was asked to assist in obtaining benefits for one of the siblings (paperwork isn’t this family’s forte). In the process, I became friends with my brother-in-law.

We are in contact often regarding his progress, and I have come to realize he has had to traverse too many complicated and confusing things alone. I think the family may have assumed he understood much more than he actually did. My brother-in-law may not have expressed his confusion, wanting to appear “like everyone else.”

After 18 months, I have not had one request from any of the siblings for an update. If I dropped dead tomorrow, not one of them, including my wife, would have a clue where to pick up the fight for multiple benefits. Does this sound odd, rude or ungrateful to you?

— Nebraska

It’s unfortunate, I’ll grant you that. Without knowing anything about the road this family has traveled, though, I’m not going to judge the condition in which they’ve arrived.

Instead, please consider achieving your moral ends through relentlessly practical (if burdensome) means. Document everything you do for their brother, and draw up clear instructions — updated regularly — for someone to pick up wherever you leave off, should you … “leave off” tomorrow. Invite your wife and/or any remotely cooperative siblings to look over your shoulder, too, so you can teach them what you’re doing. Don’t wait for them to show interest; they may never. Just encourage and equip them to care.

What I appreciate most about this response is her intuitive understanding about this DD man’s family, who have doubtless been coping with his disability all his life. And doubtlessly are relieved to have someone who is willing and capable (the combination is a goldmine!) of handling the minutiae. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s very likely that they’re simply worn out.

It’s a thankless job at times … and one that perhaps this brother-in-law might wish he were getting more appreciation for doing. He’d be in good company — much of the work involved in tending to those with special needs is thankless, hidden, unrelenting effort.

It isn’t easy. But it is important.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated today, know that you, too, are doing important work! It might not feel like it at times. And there will be times when you wish you could be doing ANYTHING other than what your hands are doing right at that moment.

It is your task to find the gift in all the unpleasant wrapping. Yours to find the cause of your joy, just for today. Just in this moment.

What is God asking of you right now, at this point in your Lenten journey?

Mommy Torture (The Things We Do For Love)

In today’s AnnArbor.com, Heather Heath Chapman’s “A musical rift between mother and daughter” had me laughing till I cried.  She writes…

Picture it: A summer concert tour. An outdoor amphitheater. I am in excellent voice tonight. When the band gears up for “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You),” James Taylor looks over and gives me a lanky wave, as if to say, “Heather Heath Chapman, you are the best backup singer of all time.”

See what I mean? Cool, right?

My daughter does not think so.

Nor does she appreciate the lyrics I like to ad-lib while I’m putting away dishes or pounding raw chicken. I’m not sure what she’s complaining about, because I cover lots of the popular songs that kids are enjoying these days. For example:

(Written while preparing dinner. Sung to the tune of Hannah Montana’s “Best of Both Worlds.”)

I’ve made the WORST
Lasagna!
Must have used too much cheese,
Hand me a trash bag, please
!

Not long after I crafted that little ditty, my daughter began her Hannah Montana boycott.

This kind of thing goes on at our house all the time (I realize this will come as a shock to most of you.) Just tonight I was subjecting Christopher to this particular kind of Mommy Torture. Until tonight, he’d giggle and ask for another one.

Tonight, he clasped his hands over his ears and wailed. “I can’t CONCENTRATE!!!!”

I think he must be coming down with Sarah’s 24-hour flu bug. Don’t you?

Wee Cook Wednesday: Apple Dumplings and Crock Pot Applesauce

apple dumplingIt’s getting to be that time of year again … apple season!   In honor of National Apple Dumpling Day (Thursday, September 17) I’d like to post my tried-and-true recipe for these tasty seasonal treats.

To make Heidi’s Apple Dumplings, you will need…

8 fresh-picked apples (peeled, cored, and cut in quarters)

3 C flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls baking powder
1C plus 2Tbls shortening
3/4 C milk

2 C sugar
2 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C butter
a dozen little cinnamon candies (optional)

First, make the dumplings. Cut together flour, salt, bp, shortening together to course crumbs; add milk to make dough. Roll thin like pie crust (handling as little as possible to keep it tender). Place hand-sized (fingers spread) circle of dough in one hand, cupped slightly. Put apple quarters on top, then draw up dough around apples, squeezing with both hands so that dough covers entire apple. Place each “doughed” apple in baking dish, making sure there is space (at least an inch) between each apple. Continue with remaining apples.

Next, bring to boil the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Stirring constantly, continue to boil, adding cinnamon candies (if used) in the last minute. Pour hot syrup over apples, making sure some of the juice gets on each one. Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

To make vanilla milk, take a pint of milk and add 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar. Pour over warm dumplings. Yum!

Looking for something a little simpler? Try this recipe I found today at AnnArbor.com, by Teresa Shaw, for her “Slow Cooker Applesauce”!  You will need …

4-5 pounds apples (McIntosh, Winesap)
1/2 C water
2 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 C sugar (I would use brown)
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice.

Wash, core, peel, and chop the apples into large chunks. Dump apples and other ingredients in the slow cooker (crock pot) and set on low heat. Cook 8 hours or until apples are soft and cooked down. Allow to cool slightly, then use a potato masher or immersion blender (yeah, right, got one of those RIGHT HERE) until the applesauce is the desired consistency. Add a little water if it’s too thick.

Editor’s comment: I like mine sprinkled with Lorna Dune crumbles.

For a recipe even simpler than that, try Deacon Tom’s recipe for Crockpot Applesauce. Peel & core ~ 8 sweet apples (e.g. Fiji). Cut into small pcs/segments. Put in crockpot. Add ~ 1/2 cups of water & of sugar + 1 TBSP of cinnamon. Mix & heat low ~ 7 hours. Use a masher to mash the cooked applesauce to a consistency you like. Refrigerate after cooling. Easy and most everyone likes it a lot. Enjoy…. I’ll be awaiting whatever dessert you care to send me 🙂