A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described a new “craze” to teach students not to become bullies.  In “Learning by Cooing: Empathy Lessons From Little Tykes,” the Journal described the method used by a school in a Seattle suburb, among other schools, that puts 6 month old babies in front of children from kindergarten to the eight grade.  The hope is that the students will empathize with the little tykes and not bully their fellow students.


Of course, we hope children don’t grow up to become bullies.  And of course, researchers interested in the craze can provide scientific studies to show that the method works.


But let’s be real.

I’m more interested in teaching parents to help their children deal with the real-world – which will have emotional abuse, verbal intimidation and overt physical bullying by determined bullies.  And your children will see the same when they become adults – at work and in their personal lives.


Teach your children and teens to deal directly and firmly in order to stop bullies at school.  Prepare them for the workplace and for adult relationships like marriage, relatives, friends and neighbors.  I can help with coaching, speaking, books and CDs.  Few things ruin children’s confidence and self-esteem, or stops their emotional development faster that being poorly equipped to deal with controlling, domineering bullies.  That feeling of helplessness can last them all their lives.


It’s nice if principals and teachers don’t tolerate bullies at their schools, but the chances are that your children will have to stop those bullies on their own.  Are you teaching them the attitudes and skills they need?  Or are you indulging in wishful thinking and sticking your head in the sand?


Here in Colorado, the big news today is about a black teen acquitted for punching one of two teens who were taunting, harassing and threatening him.  See below for details from some of the news stories. Good for you Randall Nelson.

For parents of young children and teens, I'm commenting on one aspect that I often hear from well-meaning parents.  They tell their children not to fight; fighting is wrong, it only leads to more fighting.  They tell their children to understand that bullies have suffered and to forgive bullies.  They tell their children that forgiveness, kindness and negotiation will solve every situation peacefully.  As Randall Nelson's case illustrates for every teen, of any color, race, religion, sex, that's nonsense.  So, what do I think Randall should have done?

I think Randall did great; just what he should have done.  Randall Nelson tried not fighting back.  That's a good first approach.  He got the authorities involved.  That's a good second step, but they didn't stop it.  If those two steps don't work, you'd better have an effective back up plan.  Randall had the right back up plan.

Parents, if you coerce your children and prevent them from fighting even as a last resort, you leave them like defenseless sheep in a world that has wolves.  As I said about work bullies in a recent article in the Denver Business Journal (January 11, 2008, page A28),

"Bullies will interpret [your] reasonableness as weakness … They will remain hostile and righteous.  They will escalate their emotional abuse into a feeding frenzy." 

Teach your children and teens to protect themselves.  Don't encourage them to endure verbal abuse or emotional intimidation.  You'd be encouraging them to become insecure victims of bullies and predators. Instead, help increase their self-reliance, confidence and self-esteem.  This theme of teaching children and teens to face the real work also mentioned in the blog entry, "Cyberbullying suicide case."

You can learn more detailed methods through my books, coaching and speaking.

I think it was Kfir who said,

 "Except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism, war has never solved anything!"

Some of the articles describing Randall's case are: "Black teen acquitted in punch," and "Black teen acquitted in punch," and "Teen acquitted of assault in racial case," and "Black teen acquitted in punch," and "Teen who faced racial taunts acquitted after breaking 2nd teen's jaw."

I've been reading the news reports and postings about the cyberbullying suicide case.  For example, "No Charges in Cyberbullying Suicide Case," and "L.A. Grand Jury Investigates Web Suicide Case" and "Prosecutor Will Review Megan Meier Cyberbullying Case," and "Mom: MySpace Hoax Led to Daughter's Suicide," and "Cyberbullying Suicide Stokes the Internet Fury Machine," and "Prosecutor won't bring charges in MySpace suicide." That's the case in which Megan Meier, a teenage girl, was pushed toward committing suicide by Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Megan's.  Lori Drew, pretending to be a 16 year-old boy on MySpace, engaged Megan and exacted her revenge by dumping Megan.

To the parents of children and teens, I'd like to comment about only one aspect of this tragic situation.

We should be aware that this use of social networking sites and the internet will become more prevalent.  Predators and bullies, and hurt, angry, righteous and spiteful adults and teenagers have always used whatever methods they could in order to attack and take revenge on their targets.  Teens and adults will subject other teens to emotional abuse, verbal abuse and now cyberbullying, manipulation and intimidation.  They stimulate the insecurity and low self-esteem of their victims.  The ability to remain anonymous on the internet increases the likelihood that cowards, bullies and predators will use the web to strike at their targets and victims.

The world has been, is and always will be a place with potential danger.  Life is full of risks.  As much as we will discuss, argue and make legislation in order to protect our children and teens, the dangers and risks will remain.  That doesn't excuse Lori Drew.  That's just the way I think the world is and we must take that into account as we raise our children.

Do not teach your children that the world is a safe place.  Good parenting requires you to teach your children how to balance the risks, stakes, benefits and dangers of every activity.  You must teach your children to judge wisely which activities (which dark alleys, parties, friends and events) seem safe and which have huge risks attached.  You must do that in order to help them increased their independence, self-reliance, confidence and self-esteem.  And you must monitor them.  And, if your children and teens are like mine, you must also be prepared for them to do what they please.  But you're planting good seeds.

There have always been and will always be predators and bullies.  Prepare yourself and your children.  Of course, there also have been, are and always will be wonderful people who are worth knowing and who will stand by you in times of tragedy.  Find them and fill your life with them.

As Rabindranath Tagore said, "Create an isle of song in a sea of shouts."

I hope these parenting tips, taken from my coaching and speaking, help.  What do you think?

I read an interesting post, "Responding to Manipulation," on the byparents-forparents blog which highlights the fact that teens will try to manipulate their parents. I see that problem all the time. It's natural for children, especially as they become teenagers to try to get their parents to give them everything they want. But parents must resist teens' boundary pushing, emotional intimidation, emotional abuse and bullying.Independence, self-reliance, confidence and self-esteem are increased when teens don't win every time when they push against the reasonable boundaries set and held by parents. Don't allow endless negotiation. Good parenting requires you to make your "no" be a "no." Don't be swayed by media influences telling you the contrary.My book, "How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks," has a typical example of a mother who frees herself from her own guilt, insecurity and her teenage daughter's manipulation. When the mother stops being a victim, she can finally help increase her daughter's emotional development, confidence and self-esteem. Through expert coaching, speaking and parenting tips, I help parents develop plans customized to their specific situations.

There's power in recognizing and labeling bullies.  If we don't recognize what's going on, if we see hostile aggressive people as normal people, and think that somehow we're the problem because we keep them from getting what they want or deserve, we will let them take advantage of us.  When we recognize and label bullies, we get the courage and strength to stop them in their tracks.  We protect our boundaries; we clean up the trash in our personal ecology. We've all been frustrated waiting in line.  Last week, I was being waited on at the post office during the Christmas rush, when a large, 30-something man carrying a bunch of letters got behind six people waiting their turn.  He called out to the clerk, "I want to go next because I have a quick question and I don't want to wait."  He started to move to the front.

Everyone in the post office froze.  Tension and hostility were so thick you could cut them with a knife.  I could see the frustration and anger on the faces of everyone in line, while they thought of what to do.  They were in a hurry too.

There's a lot we don't know about the situation I watched unfold.  Notice that he didn't ask any of the people in front of him if he could cut in, he asked he harried clerk.  What could she do?

If you were one of the six people ahead of him in line, would you say something or would you let him go ahead of you?  If you think of him as a merely jerk, you'd probably let him push ahead and make you wait.

Why do I label him a bully and what happened?

A tiny, young woman (18-20 years old) said politely, "Wait a minute.  Wait your turn.  I have only one package.  The rest of us have only a few things and we've been waiting also."

Since the boundary pushing bully originally asked the clerk, not the people in line, I had seen one of the early warning signs of a bully.  Now, the bully acted blatantly.  He started walking to the front of the line while saying to the young woman, in a hostile, belligerent tone, "What, are you some kind of smart a--?"  Now, that's a bad attitude on a difficult person.

That's also a moment of truth for everyone on line!  What would you do?

One person in line just looked away angrily, pretending they weren't being abused.  Another victim said sarcastically, while giving way, "Well, if you insist."  But the young woman responded, "You still can't cut in ahead of me.  Get to the end of the line or come back later."  A middle aged woman said, "Yeah.  Who do you think you are?  We're all in a hurry.  Get to the end of the line."  An older man said, "Wait your turn like the rest of us."

Amazingly, the boundary pusher didn't attack with more hostility, nor did he curse and leave.  He stepped back in line to wait his turn.  It was as if the bully was just pushing whatever boundaries he could, until someone stopped him in his tracks.  Suddenly, the line got cheerful.  The three people who stopped the bully, started talking to each other.  The person who looked away, thanked the three for being brave.  The victim who was willing to give way also thanked them saying, "I hate being polite to hostile, rude, obnoxious people, but I never want to make a scene.  I was taught to be nice to everyone."

This is a minor incident.  But these abusive people cause hostility at school, and with families, children, parenting and relationships.  They also create a hostile workplace. The point is clear.  Bullies push boundaries until you stop them.  If you allow bullies to trash your personal ecology, you'll feel belittled, victimized and a little dirty.  If you recognize and label bullies, you'll find the energy to stop them in their tracks.

You can develop the will and improve your skill to stop bullies in their tracks at work and in your personal life.  Use my expert, individually customized coaching, consulting, speaking, books and CDs.

What do you think?

Let's learn to stop schoolyard bullies who have grown up and still try to take control and power: • In the office at work (bosses, co-workers and employees). • At home in the family (children, mothers, fathers, your parents and siblings). • In relationships (friendship, marriage, dating, intimacy).

What's the cost of tolerating bullies? Slow erosion of your spirit.

Bullies come in all sizes and shapes. No two bullies are the same, but their patterns of behavior are the same. They're the same from the schoolyard to adulthood. That's why I've been able to identify countermeasures that can be applied to any bullying situation. These strategies and techniques are not theories. They come from my real-world observations and they work.

We'll look at how to stop bullies in many specific, different situations. You'll recognize the controlling, manipulative, nit-picking perfectionists, intimidators and "professional victims" among your bosses, co-workers and employees; among your parents, teenagers, husbands, wives, partners, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends.

Some resources that can help you are:

  1. Eliminate the High Cost of Low Attitudes - 3 CD set including workbook.
  2. How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks - soft cover.
  3. Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up - soft cover.