Stopping bullies, whether overt, covert or cyberbullying, and especially stopping self-bullying, requires time, effort, courage, determination and perseverance – grit. It’s easy to lose heart along the way, but we must not give into fear, discouragement, despair, defeat, loss of hope or depression.  We must not listen to negative self-talk, or give in to the self-flagellation of shame or guilt, or pay attention to the voices who are convinced we’ll lose.

Instead, we need two crucial things to become effective in stopping bullying.

From deep in our guts, we need to rally our spirits and keep them high.

  1. Our lives and lives in history and fiction give us many examples.  Our task is to build a treasure trove of examples and models who will inspire us when we falter; who will keep us from becoming passive victims.
  2. They may be personal memories of times we’ve surprised ourselves with courage, strength, fortitude and skill.
  3. They may be the examples of family members, teachers, priests, ministers, friends.  I always think of my mother’s mother, who walked across Europe when she was 16 in order to come to America – barefoot.  I’m inspired by her example.  If she could do it – with no cell phone, wireless tablet, social security, health or unemployment insurance – and not a word of English, how can I be less determined?  How can I succumb to fear or despair?
  4. They may be people in history or the news.  Think of Joan of Arc or the women who walked across America along side covered wagons or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who escaped from Somalia.  Think of the men at Valley Forge or the Battle of Britain who kept going even though everyone “knew” they didn’t have a chance.  Think of George Washington and Winston Churchill refusing to admit defeat.
  5. Many movies and books come to a dramatic moment when the heroes can chose to give up or to continue on, whether they win or lose.  For example, in the last “Matrix” movie, Mr. Smith is defeating Neo.  He keeps calling him Mr. Anderson and trying to sap his will and strength by taunting him with, “Why do you keep fighting.  You know you can’t win.”  Finally, in agony and desperation, Neo says, “Because I choose to!”

There it is.  Because we choose to.  That’s the beginning and end of it.  Keep choosing to resist bullies; keep choosing to resist the self-bullying and the perfectionism that would discourage us and sap our will and strengthSimply choose to fight on, whether or not we really think we can win.  Hope or will: choose which ever reason feels better or choose both reasons.  But choose to keep on keeping on.

We need helpers to lift us out of the pit of despair; who will march on together with us.

  1. We usually need help to remind us to keep on when we might otherwise give up.
  2. Family, friends and even strangers can sometimes say the right words or make helpful gestures.  When abusive, bullies seem unstoppable or our self-bullying seems overwhelming, our guardian angels can encourage us to keep our spirits strong and stand with us to keep us fighting.  They can keep us from defeat, depression and suicide.
  3. Sometimes they’re the gestures of famous people who inspire us.  Because I grew up in Brooklyn at just the right time, I remember Peewee Reese, from Louisville, Kentucky, putting his arm around Jackie Robinson’s shoulder to let Jackie and the world know that Peewee was not a bystander.  He was a witness for what was right, standing with him.
  4. Sometimes fictional characters remind us of people being lifted and supported. In “The Lord of the Rings,” all the characters except Gandalf and Aragon have moments when they despair and are ready to give up to seemingly inevitable defeat by the forces of evil.  And someone encourages them to keep fighting, because we must be an example for future generations and, also, we never know what will happen if we keep fighting.  There are thousands of other examples.

We need to build:

  1. An inner world of those models who will inspire us by saying the right words when we need them.
  2. A community of deep and sturdy friends who will inspire us to remain strong and dedicated.

They don’t have to make anything okay.  But what they do in the darkest times is to show that there is light and they throw a life line.

Sometimes we may act immediately and firmly to stop bullies.  At other times we hold back while keeping an intense fire burning in our guts, waiting for the right moment to act.  But that’s our choice of tactics, not the acts of a defeated soul.

As Winston Churchill said, “Never give in, never give in, never give in.”

Then we have a chance to succeed.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Everyone has moments that matter: moments when our life can go in either direction; moments when we can choose the strength to soar to heaven or the weakness to fall into hell.  You know, those moments in which everything gets absolutely quiet and the air seems to pulse and throb with the power and weight of a choice that will change our life.  What will we do?  Which path will we choose?  What will our life become? All bullies, all targets and all witnesses have those moments when the rest of their lives hang in the balance.  Will they stop bullying?  Will they stop being victims of bullies or of their own self-bullying?  Will they give up in defeat and despair or will they forge ahead, no matter the consequences?

These are the moments when, if we have the “Will,” we can will ourselves into wonderful futures.

Charles M. Blow reminded me of the moments of truth that I’ve seen in the lives of all the bullies and also all the targets I’ve known.  He wrote a wonderful, deep, heart-felt column in the New York Times, “The Bleakness of the Bullied.”

He describes his own experience when he was eight, the subject of “relentless teasing and bullying from all directions – classmates as well as extended family.”  In a pit of despair, he contemplated suicide, only to be heartened when a song, often sung by his mother, leapt to his mind, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

He knew he had “to be brave and patient, that this was not to be my last night.”

Notice the “Will.” Charles was not going to be a victim any more.  Somehow he’d resist, he’d grow, he’d survive and thrive.

Every target of bullying I’ve ever coached had a similar moment in their childhood or in our work together: A moment when they faced the bleakness of a future of continuing to be a victim or, alternatively, the brightness of standing up and fighting back in some way.  In that moment, they each responded to that choice with a great surge of Will, power and energy.  They fanned the spark in their heart into a fierce flame that warmed, strengthened and sustained them.

Once their Will took over their actions, despite a little anxiety, the rest was straightforward.

They would not give in to bullies, predators and abusers.  They would not give in to their self-bullying, negative self-talk, anxiety, stress, fear, panic and despair.  They would not succumb to self-doubt.  They would not let their self-confidence and self-esteem be eroded or destroyedThey would not be defeated.

They would keep that flame alive by daring to protect and defend themselves; by taking the risk of creating a brilliant and wonderful future for themselves, no matter the opinions of their oppressors or the cost to the old, destructive patterns they had been mired in or the people they were related to.

In “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site, you can read about the moment I had.

Their action plans were different depending on their circumstances but they had the same Will and they learned the same skills.

I’ve seen the same moment of truth with bullies.

One former bully told me of a moment when he was about nine and was the biggest, toughest angriest kid in his class.  He had thought he was simply doing what he had to do to make his place in the world.  Then, a principal hauled him into his office, sat him down and told him, in so many words, that he was a bully and he had to stop or he’d be thrown out of school.  He was too vicious, nasty and brutal to be allowed to continue harassing and tormenting the kids he was victimizing.

The boy was stunned.  He’d never thought of himself as a bully, as vicious and nasty.  And he certainly didn’t want to be thrown out of school.  In that moment his heart broke open and he vowed never to be a bully again, even if he was the biggest kid in the room.

That principal was great because he confronted the situation and acted firmly and effectively, even though the boy’s response might have been dangerous for his career.  He was not a cowardly, do-nothing principal.

Why was that bully seeing me?  He wanted to learn skills to negotiate his adult life without reverting to bullying in order to get his way.  He didn’t want to be a bullying spouse, co-worker or boss.   He didn’t want to be a bullying parent.

What has been your experience?

In all cases, success requires two things of us:

  1. The Will – determination, strength, courage and perseverance – grit.
  2. The skills to succeed.

Expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

The Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal report that, “Facebook and Time Warner are ganging up on bullies to address a problem that torments millions of children and young adults.  The partnership announced Tuesday calls for Facebook and Time Warner to use their clout to raise awareness about bullying and encourage more people to report the abuses when they see them.” They recognize the need.  Facebook also recognizes the economic problem if they allow massive amounts of bullying to flow through their pages.  Eventually parents will force their kids off Facebook or will start suing Facebook for carrying the content.

Their present effort (“Stop Bullying: Speak Up”) will be focused on educating parents and kids about the problem; on “teaching young people to speak up and stop bullying.”  A pledge not to bully plus Facebook’s effort to make reporting cyberbullying and cyberbullies easier are good steps.

But even the backing by the President Obama’s family won’t stop bullying unless there are laws, policies, programs, and people willing to prosecute bullies for their actions.

That’s why I’d like to see Facebook and Time Warner use their huge influence to pressure legislators to pass strong anti-bullying laws that require district administrators, principals and teachers to stop bullies and protect our kids.  That’s the only way to stop bullying-caused suicides.

The present educational efforts will sway many kids and their parents by sensitizing them to the issue and encouraging them not to be drawn into bullying by the truly relentless bullies.  But these sensitized kids will be encouraged to come forward if, and only if, responsible adults – school district administrators, principals and teachers – respond swiftly and firmly, and protect the kids who speak up.

If the responsible adults don’t step up by passing strong laws and by being willing to confront bullies and their bullying parents, the effort will be “all talk, no walk.”  Legislators must legislate so that principals will be protected in order for them to be proactive in observing bullying and stopping it.  If it’s all talk, the effort won’t survive the first month of school.

Programs that depend only on educating, converting or rehabilitating bullies don’t work.  Strong consequences are necessary deterrents.

As a parent, there’s a lot you can do this summer.  Don’t count on Facebook and Time Warner to do all the work to protect your children.  Don’t count on advertizing/educational campaigns to protect your children

If your children are the targets of bullies and school officials aren’t protecting them, you need to take charge.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome principals and other officials who won’t do what’s right.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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‘Tis the holiday season and kids’ expectations are high.  They want what they want and they want it now! We may want to draw new lines, cutting back because of the economy or because we’re just tired of their whining and complaining or because we think they’re on the path to become spoiled brats.  But if we don’t please them, many kids will throw temper tantrums in public, as well as at home.  They’ll scream that you’re unfair, that all the other kids get what they want, that their lives will be ruined if they don’t get what they want right now, that they won’t have a social life, that they’ll be picked on because they’re poor and that they hate you.  Or if they’re very young, they’ll just scream.

They’ve made a list and they’ve checked it twice.  They’ve kept score and know you’re embarrassed by the fuss and more likely to give in when they meltdown or get out of control or go ballistic in public.

They’re just like we were, if our parents let us be. If we’re distracted now, embarrassed or lack confidence, we’ll make exceptions when other people are around and we’ll give in.  Of course, the kids will smell blood and up the ante.

So what can you do?

  1. The key is not to be embarrassed, distracted or self-judgmental.  Be clear; if they don’t get what they want it really is not the end of the world.  Don’t let their self-confidence and self-esteem depend on external stuff or other people’s opinions of them.  Don’t take personally what they say.  Do not care about or look at other people (including your parents) to see if they’re disturbed or disapproving.  If you care what other people think, your children will know that they’ll eventually win.  If you lose it; kids know that they will win eventually.
  2. The rules don’t change in public, although your actions will be different in each different situation.  Explain in private beforehand what you can afford and can’t afford, and what you think is appropriate and not appropriate.  Be clear about the areas in which they have no choice and where their vote counts and where they have total control.
  3. Normal children are supposed to learn how to manipulate you to get what they want; their job is to see if bullying works on you – where and when.  Their job is to test you by pushing your boundaries to find out where they can get their way.  Your task is to look at them lovingly when they’re throwing a stubborn fit because you can see how that determination, strength and perseverance will help them when they grow up.  That doesn’t mean you give in to them.  Your job is to stay calm and to assert your will to educate and socialize them whether they agree or not.  You can give them your reasons in a way that makes it a statement of fact, not a matter for debate, not a matter they get to vote on.
  4. Children just want to know the rules and boundaries.  You help them feel secure when you’re consistent, calm, smiling, loving and firm.
  5. Have a get-away plan before you go anywhere.  You and your partner-spouse will have to agree beforehand.  That may mean taking the kid for a walk or leaving early.  If they lose it, you will have to get them away and do your best to calm them down.  Don’t put them in situations where they get too hungry, tired or “wired” by too much input, sugar or caffeine.  For some kids, a big lesson is that they’ll be removed while everyone else is having a fabulous time.  Show them that their upset is definitely not contagious.
  6. When the children are very young (pre-schoolers), long before you think they can understand language, you can calmly and firmly state, “If you behave like that, I won’t take you any more.”  And then remove them.  You’d be surprised: they understand your calm firmness long before you think they can.  Often, you can distract them with whatever is around and interesting in the environment.  If you train them now, you might be able to enjoy their polite and civil company when they’re teenagers.
  7. Sometimes, with older kids, you can break them out of a fit by grading their performance.  Just like you see in the Olympics, line everyone else up and give grades for the performance – a 6.9, an 8.7, a 9.2.  With a loving smile and laugh, encourage them to do better, to shoot for a hissy-fit that’s worth a 9.9.  Give them a big round of applause or a wave.  Then go about your previous business.  The more you’re enjoying yourself, the less they’ll push the tactic of throwing hissy-fits; the less they’ll think that negativity, anger, rage and explosions will get them what they want.  By the way, boys will often stop any behavior you call a “hissy-fit.”
  8. If you lose it once in a while, there will be no permanent damage.  Of course there are a small percent of children who make the fight with you a matter of life-or-death for them.  Calmly convince them that’s not a good use of their energy and they won’t win that fight until they’re 18 and leave home.  If they continue that fight, they’re telling you they need serious help.

If you give in when they’re young, you’re training your children to be abusive, bullies, a.k.a. spoiled brats who think they can get what they want through harassment, abuse and bad behavior.  It’s hard enough for them to make their way through life with good behavior; it’s much harder if they’re badly behaved, grown-up brats.

For a great example, see how single-parent Paula stopped being bullied by her teenage daughter in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”  Of course, every situation is different so you’ll need expert coaching to design a plan that fits you and your children.

Principals didn’t stop school bullies and now there are more school bullying-caused suicides.  In all of the cases I’ll describe, there were differences in the bullies’ methods of harassing and abusing their targets.  But what was the same was that the parents complained and the responsible school teachers and principals didn’t protect the children in their care.  Also the same was the principals’ or school district administrators’ defense: “We didn’t know.” To me, especially after the parents of the targets complained, that’s an admission of incompetence, delinquency and neglect.  The other kids at school knew who bullies were and where, when and how it occurred; why don’t the college-educated, supposedly intelligent and responsible adults know?

I know that the first culprits are the bullies themselves and their parents.  But I want to shine two lights: I know that the first culprits are the bullies themselves and their parents.  But I want to shine two lights:

Notice the similarities in all these cases:

  • In Texas, a straight “A” eighth-grader, Asher Brown, took his life 18 months after his parents claim to have reported on-going bullying by four other students.  Despite the evidence of repeated conversations offered by the parents, the school district spokeswomen, Kelli Durham, whose husband, Alan Durham, is assistant principal, claims that they never knew and never had evidence.  Nothing was done to stop the bullies or remove them.

However, numerous comments from other parents and students on the web site of KRIV-TV Channel 26, which also reported a story about Brown's death, stated that the boy had been bullied by classmates for several years and claimed Cy-Fair ISD in Texas does nothing to stop such harassment.

  • An 11-year old Oklahoma boy, Ty Smalley, committed suicide after being bullied repeatedly for about two years.  Despite the parents contact with the school, teachers, counselors and the principal never saw anything and never stopped the bullying.  The parents were told things like, “Boys will be boys” and “It would be looked into.”  According to Ty’s father, Kirk, the school never documented any of these conversations so they can now claim that they never knew.

The event that precipitated Ty’s suicide was when he finally retaliated against the bully he was suspended for three days while the bully, previously identified to the teachers, was suspended for only one day.

  • An eight-year old in a Texas Elementary school tried to commit suicide, but survived his leap off the balcony of a school building.  He had been repeatedly harassed but school officials had done nothing.  His mother said that teachers kept telling her they'd “handle it” when she complained about the bullying over the past seven months.  The last straw for the 8-year-old was when he was told to leave his classroom after two other boys pulled down his pants in front of the class.

The principal, Linda Bellard, said teachers never informed her of the harassment until the boy's suicide attempt, although the child's mother had visited the school seven times since September to complain about the problem.

Each of these cases will wind their way through courts, settlements will be reached in some, some school administrators will get off because there aren’t specific enough laws that require them to act and we’ll probably never know the whole truth because we weren’t there.

As a parent whose responsibility is to ensure the physical safety, and the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of your child, you need to know how to get appropriate action from principals and teachers who will resist acting strongly and swiftly to stop bullies.  Your child’s self-confidence, self-esteem and life depend on your skill.

  • Complain to teachers, counselors and principals.  But it’s never enough to complain or even to keep a record of your visit and conversation.
  • Give the responsible adults one chance.  Do they remove the bully?  Do they continue to monitor the bully and his or her friends for further retaliation?  Or do they remove your child?  Do they excuse the bully’s behavior as, “Kids will be kids?”  Do they say that the bully has a right to be educated in classes of his or her choice?
  • Use “The Lucius Malfoy” test.  Is your child’s principal standing up to the bullying parents of the school bully?  Or will he or she cower in front of bullying parents who say their child does no wrong or who threaten to sue the school if anything happens to their little darling?
  • If your principal fails theses test you must bring pressure to bear - immediately.  Remember that principals fear three things more than anything else: loss of job, publicity and law suits.
  • Get a lawyer and media publicity.  Learn what constitutes evidence and documentation.  Record all communication.  Communicate in writing and have proof that school officials received the letters you write.
  • Bullying is rarely an isolated event.  Unite with other parents whose children are bullied.  Get witnesses who will put their evidence in writing.
  • Have support for the long-haul.  Find people who’ll keep your spirits up through repeated set-backs.  Find experts to help you plan tactics at each step of the way.

Have great appreciation for principals who simply won’t tolerate bullying – who will have strong, proactive programs to train their staff and who will act swiftly and firmly in response to complaints.  Training is never enough: strong and courageous people are required to make these programs effective. Have realistic expectations; don’t assume that principals, teachers, counselors and district administrators will be active in stopping bullies.  Expect bullies’ parents to thwart your efforts.  Expect most uninvolved people to look away.  If nothing bad happens to bullies, expect other kids to pile on.

You’re on your own.  Many children will give up if they’re not protected by adults; make sure that you know how to protect yours.  Be the skillful advocate of your child’s safety and well-being.

The Wall Street Journal had a story on “The rich rolling in armored splendor in Brazil.”  The part I want to emphasize was about a 19 year-old girl who insisted that she have a pink VW Beetle armored.  She wouldn’t settle for another color or another car, like an Audi.  Her father said, that safety wasn't his only concern; "My greatest fear is to see disappointment on my daughter's face."  Now there’s a kid who has abused and trained her father to give her what she wants. Parents are the number one risk factor in raising kids to be bullies.  There are many ways of raising a teenage bully, but one of the sure-fire methods is to give in to temper tantrums; especially if you begin when they’re young.

We’ve all seen parents who give their young children whatever they want when the kids act disappointed or throw tantrums in stores and restaurants.  Those parents are preparing themselves to live with sneering, selfish, demanding teenagers.  They are training their children to be abusive, teenage bullies.

So what should you do instead?  Begin by realizing that your attitudes and perseverance are critical.  Dedicate yourself to doing whatever it takes to give your children a better start in life.

The following approach works for all but the most troubled kids.

  • Temper tantrums are normal.  All children are supposed to try every type of behavior to make their parents give them everything they want -- immediately.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with infants trying temper tantrums.  That’s normal.  When your children become old enough to begin learning other methods to get what they want, your first task as a parent is to show them, lovingly and firmly, that that approach won’t work.  Your second is to teach them patiently what behavior will be more likely to get you to do what they want.
  • Teach them civility – patience and politeness.  They’ll get a lot from you – after all, you are a loving parent.  But they’ll get more, although not everything, when they ask nicely.  Of course, some children resist longer than others.  So what?  Be more persistent than they are.
  • Don’t get angry; don’t throw a fit in response.  If you lose control, they’ll persist in throwing tantrums because they’ll know they’ll eventually win.  Laugh and be calm and persistent.  Have determination and strength.
  • Persevere: Over time, you will train them.  The earlier you start; the better.  Of course, when they’re infants you’ll cater to their demands more.  But as they learn to speak and you can reason and explain more, you’ll shift to teaching them, “That’s not the way you can get me to do what you want.”  Find appropriate and immediate consequences when they throw tantrums in public.
  • Your child’s unhappiness is not the most important thing in the world.  Your greatest fear should not be to see disappointment on your child’s face.  You should be much more afraid of sending a spoiled brat out into the world – armored or not.
  • If you give in to temper tantrums when the children are young, you’re training them to become bullies.  You’ll soon have teenagers who use tantrums to manipulate, abuse and control you.  You can still use the approach I’ve presented here to stop the tantrums, when your kids are teenagers.  But you’ll be in for a fierce fight because you will already have taught them that they bullying will wear you down – eventually you’ll give in.  That kind of conditioning is difficult, but not impossible, to break.

Remember, your children will show you what it takes to stop them from using their disappointment, hurt feelings and temper tantrums as weapons to get what they want.

Some children will give up temper tantrums easily when they’re young.  They’ll try other methods to get what they want, like reasoning with you or bribing you by giving you what you want in return for your giving them what they want. Other children will fight as if their lives depend on getting everything they want immediately.  Don’t give in while you’re convincing them to try a different strategy – and that not getting everything immediately isn’t the end of the world.

Socializing your children will not only make your life much easier, it’ll help them be successful.  It’s difficult enough to be successful when we act civilized with other people.  It’s much harder to be successful when you’re throwing temper tantrums against teachers, bosses or the police.

Teach your children when they’re young so you can enjoy them when they’re teenagers.  If you let them bully you, they’ll usually become bullies at work and bullying husbands, wives and parents.

A recent article by Gina Burgess, "Bullying is torture at school," brought home some extreme examples harassment, hazing, bullying and torture.  But even more, there was a wonderful example of how to stop bullies in their tracks. I agree with the methods used in the school.

I notice that in all the cases cited (and in most others I know about) the adults did not do their jobs.  They knew what was going on, but they allowed lawless individuals and gangs to control the school or the school bus.  Whenever the legitimate authorities leave a vacuum, the most vicious and brutal people will try to take over.  Remember the book by William Golding, "Lord of the Flies," where the children were on the island without adults to help set high standards.

I especially appreciate that the article didn’t end with descriptions of different bullying tactics or with psychoanalysis about why bullies do it.  It ended where it should end: with an example of adults taking charge and stopping the bullying.  And it’s not that hard for administrators who are dedicated to stopping bullying.

The administrators simply separated the freshman from the upper classmen, told upper classmen and freshmen what the acceptable standards of behavior were and what was not allowed, and assigned teachers to watch and work with groups of students.  Then they acted swiftly and firmly if there was an incident.

Bullies have always existed and will always exist.  We must prepare ourselves and our children to act skillfully and effectively.  We can do that as a society (laws, culture) and as individuals.

In my coaching, consulting, books and CDs on how to stop bullies in their tracks at home, in school and at work, I always focus on stopping bullies before trying to help therapeutize them.  Help the victims first.  If the legitimate authorities won’t act, you as a parent must still protect your children, work to replace the failing principals or move to a school district where the authorities act courageously and firmly.