The Full-Time Nanny site has a list of 30 blogs that feature the best advice on how to stop bullying.
I’m grateful that BulliesBeGone.com is mentioned in the section on how to stop bullying in the workplace.
The article points out that, “as many as 70% of children become the victim of bullying at one point in their lives. Despite increased efforts by support groups, charities and schools, the problem persists. However, bullying is not confined to the classroom and playground – bullying exists in the greater community, online and in the workplace.”
Let’s begin talking about how not to raise spoiled brats by listing the top seven methods that do create lazy, selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, entitled, bullying tyrants.
The underlying attitude that creates demanding, abusive bullies is the false idea that if children are never thwarted or forced to do what they don’t want to, they’ll be more creative and happy, and their self-esteem will be higher. This attitude is very prevalent among the helping professions; especially therapists and teachers.
What I say may anger people who think in black-while, all-none terms. Those people think that the only choices are total freedom and praise, or beatings and total repression. How silly to think that way.
My top seven attitudes, approaches, techniques, methods to create willful, domineering brats and teenagers are:
Always give them everything they want and give them control of every decision. Teach them that if they don’t get what they desperately want at the moment, they’ll never be happy. Never force them to do what you want. Always try to get them to understand that you’re right, so they’ll willingly do what you want them to. Don’t act until they give you permission.
Never correct them or say, “No.” Help them think they’re sensitive, weak and fragile. Be afraid that if their feelings are hurt, they’ll never get over it.
Never show displeasure or tell them that they failed to meet your expectations. Always tell them that their efforts are good enough; no matter how pathetic the results.
Always tell them that they should succeed instantly or that what they can’t do easily isn’t important. Tell them that hard work and struggle aren’t important. Blame everything that they don’t like on other people (bad friends, bad teachers, bad schools, bad society), not on their insufficient or mediocre effort. Always tell them that the world is supposed to be fair and to make them happy.
Be afraid that if they’re unhappy or angry, they won’t love you. Always try to be their confidant and best friend. Give in to their fits and temper tantrums in order to get them to stop. Train them that you’ll give them whatever they want if they throw fits in public.
Always excuse their bad behavior because they’re “cute” or “creative.” Always excuse them from chores because it’s no fun for them.
Instead of calmly applying consequences whether they like it or not, always let them misbehave without correction or consequences. Hold your tongue or repeatedly tell them not to do something, but don’t actually do anything effective until you can’t stand it anymore and you throw a fit. Never smack their bottoms or grab them to make your point or to let them know that sometimes they will do what you want, no matter what – even though that’s the only thing that will get them to do what you want.
If you start these approaches when they’re infants, you can create manipulative, demanding teenage bullies who think they’re entitled to everything they want and you’re supposed to provide it. They’re the kind of children who may be living at home when they’re 40. Will you wonder why, deep down, you don’t like them any more than they like you?
Of course, don’t go to the other extreme and beat them into submission.
Don’t give in to guilt when you thwart them with your, hopefully, high expectations. Don’t give in to coddling and wishful thinking when they try to wear you down.
Following reviews of Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” Holly Finn brings in Cowboy Ethics and the Cowboy Code in her review in the Wall Street Journal, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” She contrasts the Cowboy Code with many examples of poor character shown by students and their parents – lying, cheating, stealing and doing anything to get ahead at many of our most prestigious schools.
Of course she’s right about character versus greed and success at any price.
Some of the crucial traits of Cowboy Ethics and different Cowboy Codes are:
Live each day with courage.
Take pride in your work.
Always finish what you start.
Do what has to be done.
Be tough, but fair.
When you make a promise, keep it.
Ride for the brand.
Talk less and say more.
Remember that some things aren't for sale.
Know where to draw the line.
A cowboy never takes unfair advantage - even of an enemy.
A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
A cowboy always tells the truth.
A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
A cowboy is always a good worker.
A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents and his nation's laws.
A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
A cowboy is a Patriot.
The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be truthful at all times.
Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions.
If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.
Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy.
Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show-off.
If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.
Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them.
A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.
Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.
Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.
I will be brave, but never careless.
I will obey my parents. They DO know best.
I will be neat and clean at all times.
I will be polite and courteous.
But the Cowboy Code is not true; few cowboys really followed it.
Yes, that’s right. Many of the exemplars are fictional or fictionalized characters like Hopalong Cassidy and Wild Bill Hickok. We can quibble with many of the sentiments and find situations in which, for example, parents are not always good, right and deserving of respect.
So what? The factual nature doesn’t matter. What matters is what spirit gets stimulated in our children’s hearts and even in us as adults. The history of the greatness of the human spirit and human endeavor is passed on generation after generation through stories that inspire each new individual to be great and to do good. It’s passed on in myth, legend and fiction, as well as through the lives and deeds of great men and women – great humans.
That’s the way human education works. What counts is what gets inspired in the heart of each child and each adult.
Won’t honesty and good character mean that our children will be beaten out by the cheaters?
That’s what many parents are afraid of: the cheaters will get better grades, get into better schools and eventually get better jobs and careers; lying cheating and stealing are necessary for survival or success. But those predictions come from fear and aren’t necessarily true.
If our children become witnesses or defenders, won’t they get into trouble?
Maybe. Children or adults who speak out against harassment, bullying and abuse can get trouble focused on them. Children or adults who speak out against domestic violence, racism, religious persecution, genocide and terrorism can get trouble focused on them. We each decide what to do in specific situations.
What’s crucial is to know the difference between right and wrong. If we don’t know the difference, if we think that all values are the equal because there are so many different ones across the globe, we are making a grave mistake. Different values lead to different places and we choose the direction we will try to go.
The engine and the steering wheel.
Traits and skills like grit, determination, perseverance, fortitude, endurance and resilience are our engine. We need the power of these abilities to get anywhere on the long road of life.
The values, beliefs and attitudes that are embodied in the humans who exemplify the Cowboy Code or Cowboy Ethics, whether as real as Lincoln, as fictionalized as Wild Bill Hickok or as fictional as Hopalong Cassidy, are our steering wheel.
We need both an engine and a steering wheel to get where we want to go.
What engine and steering wheel do we try to teach our children? What engine and steering wheel are we models of for our children? Which values are more important when some of ours conflict or are even mutually exclusive?
When Benni Cinkle was 13, she appeared in a YouTube music video that went viral, receiving over 200 million views. At first, Benni was ridiculed by millions around the world for her awkward dancing, often referred to as “That girl in pink that can’t dance.” They called her names and told her she should kill herself.
A few of the printable names she was called were “lame, terrible, awkward, horrible, stupid, freak, loser, awful, worthless, annoying, fat and ugly, dumb.” Other comments included, “She should probably look into suicide,” “Please just die” and “I’ll bet she wants to kill herself now.”
Did she let the jerks drag her down? Did she lose her self-esteem and get depressed? Did she commit suicide?
Instead of reacting defensively, Benni didn’t take it personally. She kept her spirits up. She met their criticism with humor, honesty and understanding. She was open and didn’t hide. Soon, anonymous cyber bullies became fans and Benni's online reputation as an approachable, down-to-earth teen began to grow. In the months following her unexpected popularity, Benni received tens of thousands of requests for advice from teens around the world.
Realizing she had been gifted with a platform that offered international reach, Benni decided to use her 15 minutes of fame for something positive. So she:
Started “That Girl in Pink Foundation” as a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of teen suicide. TGIP focuses on any issue that may directly or indirectly lead to teen suicide, including: Teen Depression, Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, Teen Self-Mutilation, Teen Gay/Lesbian Support, Child Violence, Sexual Abuse, Teen Dating Violence, Eating Disorders and Teen Pregnancy.
Authored “That Girl in Pink’s Internet Survival Guide,” offering teens strategies for handling life online.
Organized a flashmob dance to raise donations for American Red Cross Japan Earthquake Relief.
Organized a walk for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that included hundreds of kids from 14 countries walking with her, virtually.
Recorded her single, “Can You See Me Now,” and donated profits to TWLOHA and GLSEN.
Visited schools across the U.S. delivering her “Don’t Just Stand There” anti-bullying presentation.
Let their children be tormented for as long as it takes to teach the bully new skills of dealing with his frustration at not getting what he wants and for him to master new skills of communication and negotiation?
One of the typical tactics of sly, sneaky, stealthy, manipulative bullies is to work in the dark; to not be seen to be bullies. Then, when a light is shined on their abusive behavior, they claim that they were just having fun; that they were just kidding around; that they didn’t know their target was offended, hurt or minded their attacks.
This tactic is used at home by bullying, toxic spouses, parents or children, and by bullies and their cliques in schools and at work.
In order to stop these bullies you must protest; you must say “No!”
Often, people decide to ignore the bullying. These targets (on their way to becoming victims):
But what if the bullying doesn’t stop? Usually, determined, relentless bullies are only encouraged by lack of resistance. They see a non-resisting target as holding up a “victim” sign and they escalate. They can’t understand the moral impetus behind such kindness. They’re bullies. They interpret our lack of push-back as fear and weakness, no matter how we interpret it. They’re encouraged to organize cliques to demean, mock, attack and hurt us more.
Other people assume that if we’re not protesting, we must know we’re in the wrong; we must deserve the treatment we’re getting. Our society saw that phenomenon when women didn’t cry “rape!”
But, if we protest, won’t the bullying get worse?
Maybe or maybe not. Remember, what happened we tried the test of not protesting? When we didn’t protest, the harassment, abuse and bullying got worse. So we might as well learn to protest effectively; the first step of which is creating records and documentation.
For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and hesitation, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.
If we protest, will the bullies stop?
Although there’s a guarantee that relentless bullies will escalate if we don’t protest, there’s no guarantee that simply protesting will stop them. Protesting is only the first step in responding effectively. We may need to go up to higher steps to stop a particular bully.
Almost every one of the women who’ve interviewed me on radio or TV admitted that they were raised to be “nice girls.” Their mothers had taught them that the most important value was to be nice, polite and sweet at all times. They should ignore or rise above bullies; feel sorry for how empty and insecure bullies must feel; how horrible bullies’ family lives must be. Nice girls should try to understand those mean girls, to forgive them and to tolerate their nasty, insulting, abusive behavior.
Nice girls should be sweet and kindly in all situations; not be disagreeable, not make scenes, not lower themselves to the level of the mean girls by pushing back verbally or physically. Nice girls were raised to believe that the virtues of loving compassion and sympathy were their own rewards and would also, eventually, stop bullying. Nice girls were to live by the Golden Rule. Being a virtuous martyr was preferable to acting “not-nice.”
As a result, when these nice girls became adults, they had trouble protecting themselves from bullies.
And, in addition to the emotional scars and the feelings of helplessness and impotence in the face of the real world, they bore a measure of anger toward their mothers for not teaching them how to be effective as grown ups.
The start of their change was to openly admit that, in this area, their mothers were wrong.
At first they thought that they needed at least two hierarchies of priorities; one for their home life and one for the outside world. This was abhorrent to many because it sounded like situational ethics. But it wasn’t. They would have the same ethical framework and merely different tactics that fit their different situations.
Determination, will and perseverance were more important qualities than being nice. These qualities gave them the power to take charge of their lives. They didn’t have to be mean, but they did have to be strong, courageous and sometimes firm. They were the ones who decided what they wanted and needed; what was right for them; what their standards were. These decisions were not consensus votes affected by the desires and standards of other people.
The Teachers’ union is clear: since dues are paid by teachers, not by kids or parents, the union’s job is to protect and increase teachers’ salaries and seniority.
I love good teachers. I come from a family of teachers. My life has been crucially enriched by teachers. I teach.
But I won’t support the teachers’ unions focus only on salary and seniority. There’s something simple the union can do to protect its own members and to get my support.
In a series of articles in the New York Times, “Poisoned Web,” Jan Hoffman details a sexting case gone viral in Lacey, Washington. What can you do for your son or daughter so they don’t get sucked into the black hole of a sexting catastrophe that could ruin their whole lives?
In this particular case, a middle-school girl sent a full-frontal nude photo of herself, including her face, to her new middle-school boyfriend. He forwarded the picture to a second middle-school girl he thought was a friend of the first one. The second girl, an ex-friend with a grudge, forwarded the picture to the long list of contacts on her phone with the caption, “Ho Alert! If you think this girl is a whore, then text this to all your friends.” The photo rapidly went viral. A lot of the analysis about the situation is nothing new:
Why do girls send nude photos of themselves to boyfriends they have or hope to have? The same reasons girls always have.
Why do guys prize and show these pictures as evidence of what studs they are? The same reasons guys always have.
Who or what is to blame? The same culprits get vilified: thoughtless, foolish boys and girls, teenagers, school officials, society, double-standards and technology.
Does technology make sexting worse? Yes, of course. Technology makes it seductively easy to forward pictures and comments. Also, technology makes the information global and permanent. Kids can’t move to another school or even another city in order to get away from the consequences of what they and others did.
In the past, many reputations and lives were ruined by foolish moments. Kids and adults have always been able to exercise righteous or mean or vicious inclinations, but it’s so much easier now.
The boy, the second girl and everyone else who forwards the picture have to face their own stupidity or meanness. And they may have to face their role in a suicide. An act of a moment can destroy a life. Also, they may have to face prison. We hope this will help them do better the rest of their lives. Humans have always learned some lessons the hard way.
Do today’s kids face overwhelming pressure? Many people make excuses for the foolish or nasty kids; as if the external pressures are overwhelming. For example, the article quotes, “'You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,’ said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology.” This line of thought focuses on reducing all pressure and temptation.
But pressure was just as great throughout history as it is now – depending on the particular time in each society.
I would require all schools have assemblies and programs in which students and parents are required to participate. Law enforcement must be involved to present examples of what can happen to the kids who send pictures of themselves and to the ones who forward those pictures. This will increase awareness of the dangers of kids succumbing to pressure to do something foolish like sending pictures of themselves and of the penalties for kids who forward pornography.
Parents have the major responsibility to preach, teach and police their children’s use of internet and wireless devices. This is our ounce of prevention. As the father of the girl who sent her nude picture said, “I could say it was everyone else’s fault, but I had a piece of it, too. I learned a big lesson about my lack of involvement in her use of the phone and texting. I trusted her too much.”
These steps will decrease the number of kids involved in sexting. But we’ll never stop 100 percent of kids’ foolish or mean or vicious actions. But that can’t be our intention. Our goal is to educate kids whose awareness of the potential consequences of their actions will awaken in them the ability to do better.
Our goal can’t be to educate or convert psychopaths or people who want to make a living off child pornography. Educational approaches aren’t effective with these people.
Remember, all tactics depend on the situation – the people and the circumstances. So we must design plans that are appropriate to preventing our individual children from sending pictures or forwarding them, and to minimizing the disaster if they act foolishly.
In a new interview and article, Theresa Marchetta, Investigative Reporter for Denver ABC-TV station, KMGH-TV reports on the steps you need to take to protect your children from becoming victims of bullies and of principals and district administrators who won’t stop taunting, teasing, harassment, bullying and abuse.
Of course, if your wonderful principal protects your children, your two tasks are still to:
“Request a meeting with the school principal…I expect that principal to meet with you the next day, the day after -- that fast.”
“To prepare for that meeting, parents must bring any evidence of the bullying including hate notes, e-mails, texts, pictures and any details of the child’s story.”
If you cannot stay calm, bring someone who can. “If you're not calm you'll be targeted as the angry parent throwing a fit.”
“Does the bullying stop? I'll give them a week or a day depending on how bad it is…My tests are, is the bully separated to another part of the room or is the bully allowed access to my child? Is my child the one who is kicked out of class or is my child protected?...If your child, the victim, is the one having to make changes, that is a red flag.”
If the situation is not resolved quickly, take the case directly to the district superintendent and the school board.”
Theresa Marchetta, Investigative Reporter for Denver ABC-TV station, KMGH-TV reports in an article and video on a two more incidents in different Denver area schools in which principals made the bullied girls (aged 7 and 12) do all the changing while nothing happened to the bullies. They were clear cases of, “Blame the victim, avoid the bully.”
This, parents’ say, despite the clear policies the school districts involved already have to protect their kids
Of course, that means that principals must be willing to stop difficult children and often resist their bullying fathers and mothers who threaten to sue the principal and school district administrators. Principals know where bullying kids learned to bully.
Colorado Senate is currently considering a bill to start fighting bullying. According to District 30 House Representative Kevin Priola, “School should be a safe place where kids can go and excel and learn to do reading, writing and math and not have to worry about fear of intimidation.”
Wheat Ridge Rep. Sue Schafer said, “Most importantly, there is research showing that when there is a high level of safety, the CSAP scores go up. Conversely, low safety, CSAP scores go down. This bill is going to raise the awareness of our school boards and our administrators that this has become a serious problem and our bill asks or encourages every school district to do a climate survey.”
The bill doesn’t go far enough or fast enough for the parents of the two girls, who need effective action from their principals right now.
No consequences or legal penalties for school officials who don’t stop bullies or who actively protect bullies or who remove victims from classes and activities while still allowing bullies and their friends complete access to their targets.
If you don’t think that principals and other school officials ignore bullying, then read about the many suicides that have occurred in the past year. In almost every case, the parents say that they talked to principals many times over 6-12 months, but the principals now claim that they didn’t know what was happening. Also, consider why they need a law to “Bar teachers or school administrators from punishing students who report bullying.”
“Jane Urschel, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said the bill would not only be burdensome for schools who will have to form and adopt a new bullying policy, but it also asks them to address an issue they are already acutely aware of. This bill would put mandates on districts that they can’t afford. The school districts are not ignoring this issue and want every child to be safe. Schools already have a handle on this.”
“Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, has already said he is skeptical of the need for it. ‘I have a huge problem with legislating personal behavior. Bullying is something that is already addressed by schools as incidents occur. A state law isn’t going to change anything.’”
I’d point out that:
School officials do not have a handle on this. In answer to Ms. Urschel and Representative Ramirez, the problem is that there are no laws that require principals to stop bullies. That’s why there are so many cases in Colorado in which bullying is tolerated, which means condoned. For example, see the investigative report by Theresa Marchetta of KMGH-TV (ABC affiliate in Colorado). Without laws, principals can do nothing to stop bullies and be safe from personal consequences. In addition, with no additional funding, many schools in Colorado with principals who want to prevent bullying manage to do so. I live in Colorado and have grandchildren in some of those schools.
When there are no laws or there are no penalties for breaking laws, people do what they want with impunity. Can you imagine how effective laws against robbery and murder would be if there were no penalties? How effective would child labor laws or laws to prevent unsafe working conditions be with no penalties?
We know what will change the whole system. It’s not suicides. It’s when principals, teachers, counselors and school district administrators are fired for not protecting our children. It’s when law suits are successful against officials who are being paid to be responsible for protecting children but fail in that primary duty. Suddenly, all the excuses and foot dragging will be gone. A few principals will quit and I’ll applaud. The rest will magically discover reasons why and how they can make programs that stop bullying. In other contexts it’s called “skin in the game.” Right now, school officials don’t have any skin in the game.
I’d think that Ms. Urschel and Representative Ramirez were actually interested in stopping bullying if they came forward with strong, realistic, effective proposals of their own, complete with penalties, instead of merely being critics.
If your children are the targets of bullies and school officials who 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. We can plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.
We all remember: Colorado was home to the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. But as Jessica Fender reports in the Denver Post, “More Consistent Anti-Bullying Program Urged for Colorado,” after 11 years “good intentions have devolved into an uncoordinated approach that ignores best practices in some instances and leaves state authorities with no clear picture of how well the myriad policies work.”
As, “Susan Payne, [who] directs the state's Safe2Tell effort, [says,] ‘One of our issues is there is no consistency. While each school has to have a bullying policy, their policy is unique to their school.’”
Instead of thinking about which component is the most important, let’s look at what’s necessary in a different way. Think of what we need to stop school bullying as if you were imagining a target with a bull’s eye in the center. Everything in the bull’s eye is necessary. If you leave out one of the elements in the bull’s eye, you won’t be successful.
Effective, well-written laws to specify what’s illegal; that is, what’s bullying. Without these laws, people like Lori Drew, the mother who set-up the Facebook page and led the attack that caused teenager Megan Meier to commit suicide, can get away with that behavior. Or the kids who tormented Phoebe Prince, Asher Brown, Jon Carmichael, Ty Smalley, Jaheem Herrera, Brandon Bitner, Samantha Kelly, Billy Lucas, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and so many others in 2010 until they committed suicide, will also get away with it. Don’t limit the laws to include only protected categories of victims based on race, sex, religion, sexual preference, etc. Be inclusive about the abuse, no matter who it’s directed against. Maybe the phrase about protected categories should be, “…including but not limited to…” Laws should contain provisions against verbal bullying and cyberbullying, as well as physical violence and abuse.
Require all schools to have programs designed to stop bullies. These programs should contain a sequence of swift and firm steps to remove bullies from schools and school activities like sports. The steps should focus on protecting targets first, and rehabilitating bullies only after they’re removed. Effective anti-bullying programs also educate bystanders to become witnesses. That requires spelling out what witnesses should say and do, who they should report to and how principals and teachers will keep them anonymous and protect them. Effective programs also include close contact with police, especially in cases of cyberbullying and physical abuse.
Require training for everyone involved with school children, including bus drivers and cafeteria monitors. Increase recognition of the more subtle but very pernicious forms of verbal and emotional bullying. Increase awareness of the difference between episodic arguments and even fights between kids versus destructive patterns of taunting, harassment and physical bullying. Give all staff specific steps to follow in documenting and reporting bullying.
Colorado’s Safe2Tell program is a wonderful effort to help kids come forward anonymously and to bring legal pressure to bear on bullies, their parents and school officials who need to act.
Of course, laws, policies, programs and training are merely the necessary guidelines on paper. What makes them effective are dedicated people who are concerned and courageous enough to stop bullying.
Consulting and coaching within individual districts and schools does produce effective programs, stimulates the leadership of strong principals and energizes the support of good teachers and staff. In addition, there is a natural weeding out of people who choose not to act effectively and shouldn’t be put in positions of responsibility for children’s welfare and education. Effective programs develop and highlight models of great adults acting on behalf of children.
We don’t need to wait until there are more studies about why bullies bully. We don’t need to wait until we have more studies to define all the consequences of bullying that turns targets into victims. We don’t need to wait until we can write perfect laws, policies and programs.
We know enough about the stress, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, negativity, and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, to know that the effects of being a victim can be life-long. Just as successful school bullies tend to become bullies as spouses and parents, and bullies at work, so victims of school bullies tend to become victims as spouses and parents, and at work.
We know enough to act now to stop bullies. We do need to act before more lives are ruined while we analyze, debate and vacillate. I’d rather err on the side of protecting targets at the risk of being to harsh on a kid that wasn’t really a relentless bully, than the present situation that errs on the side of protecting bullies and leaves targeted children isolated, unprotected, helpless and thinking that suicide is the only way to end the abuse and pain.
In his New York Times Op-Ed column, Charles M. Blow reported on the experience of his three children and the results of a study conducted by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, which interviewed more than 43,000 high school students. He reports that the study showed:
“Boys who went to private religious schools were most likely to say that they had used racial slurs and insults in the past year as well as mistreated someone because he or she belonged to a different group.
Boys at religious private schools were the most likely to say that they had bullied, teased or taunted someone in the past year.
While boys at public schools were the most likely to say that it was O.K. to hit or threaten a person who makes them very angry, boys at private religious schools were just as likely to say that they had actually done it.”
In addition, he says that, “While some public schools have issues with academic attainment, it appears that some private schools have issues with tolerance. No person is truly better when they lack this basic bit of civility.”
Most of the discussion and argument will focus on whether or not his general conclusions are correct about most private versus public schools. And many people will base their conclusions on their personal experience in each type of school.
But the important point is not about the generalizations. Don’t get distracted by academic speculation about the generalizations. The important point is about the schools your children are going to.
If your children are going to a school that tolerates or encourages other children to think that they’re special and, therefore, that they can tease, taunt, mistreat, bully or abuse people who are different, that’s the situation you need to focus on.
Children need to feel that they’re special and that high standards of behavior are expected of them. The problem is caused by the idea that, therefore, they can scorn or torment other people who aren’t in their group or who are different.
Bullies will target any difference they can find. It’s not the difference that causes bullying; it’s the bullies who find the difference. Of course bullies will focus on race, religion, color, gender, sexual preference, etc. But we all also know examples of mean girls and mean boys who bully people they decide are too tall or short, too skinny or fat, or who have different hair color or hair style, or different clothes, or who aren’t as fashionable or faddish.
I’ve consulted with principals, teachers and staff of both public and private schools, who won’t ignore, tolerate or support bullying. And we have developed effective programs to stop bullying. In addition, I’ve seen both public and private schools in which principals, teachers and staff look the other way or condone or even applaud harassment, bullying and abuse. Some even think that building school spirit this way is worth sacrificing a few weaklings or sinners.
More than generalization to be discussed and disputed intellectually at a party, we’re hit home emotionally by what happens to our children. If one school, whether public or private, doesn’t stop bullies and it’s your children’s school, that’s the one that counts in your life.
But there is one generalization that cuts across all lines; we can stop bullies before we’ve analyzed in detail the reasons why a particular kid or group of kids selects its target(s) and long before we can teach them to have increased empathy and tolerance. The first step is always having clear, firm and immediate consequences for the perpetrators.
In her article in the New York Times, “The Playground Gets Even Tougher,” Pamela Paul points out that Mean Girls begin their nasty, vicious harassment, bullying and abuse on the playground and in pre-school. They don’t wait until fifth grade or junior high school.
In my experience, mean girls put down targeted kids for whatever reasons they can find – from poor, discounted, unfashionable clothes or the lack of the latest cell phones and bling, to race, religion, physical differences and hair color. Mean girls also form cliques that ostracize, exclude and cut-out their targets or scapegoats. Mean girl behavior cuts across all socio-economic categories – inner-city, rural, suburban and expensive, private schools. The movies, “Mean Girls” and “Camp Rock,” give some graphic examples.
Mean moms who ignore mean girl behavior at home, on the playground and in preschool. These moms have many opportunities to step in and teach their daughters how to do better in age-appropriate ways, but they don’t. I think of these as absentee moms, whatever their reasons – whether they’re simply uncaring or not paying attention or don’t want to deal with it or not physically present. Nannies can be even less responsible, especially if their employers don’t want to hear about it.
Mean moms who set a bad example by acting mean to their extended families, to their children and to helpless servers in all forms – waiters, checkout clerks, nannies, maids, etc. Mean girls imitate what they see and hear from their mean moms, not pious platitudes or empty commands thrown at them.
Mean moms who encourage mean girl behavior. They enjoy watching their daughters be popular, superior and controlling. They may think it’s cute and a sign of leadership potential, but whatever they think, they train their daughters to be mean.
Mean moms who protect and defend their mean daughters when they get feedback about mean behavior. Of course, one-in-a-million children will be sneaky enough to be mean only when their parents aren’t looking. Sneaky, mean girls can bully targets by acting as if the target did something to hurt their feelings and get their protective moms to get the target in trouble. Or mean girls will simply threaten a target by saying they’ll get their moms to get the target in trouble. Mean moms collude and often encourage this behavior. Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series is an example of a mean boy protected by his mean father.
Suppose you’re the parent of a child who’s bullied by a mean girl, what can you do? If you’re convinced that your daughter was not a provocateur who tried to get the other girl to react and get in trouble, should you talk to the mean girls, their moms, teachers and principals?
Know your daughter; will she assert and defend herself? Since she might not talk about the meanness, you have to watch carefully on the playground and look for signs after school. Mean girls are bullies who try to assert themselves over less assertive and less aggressive children. Don’t ask your daughter to suffer or “rise above” because a mean girl and mean mom don’t know any better or have difficulties in their lives.
You might encourage your pre-school or kindergarten daughter to stand up for herself, but you should give plenty of encouragement and specific direction. Even though your daughter is young, champion her inner strength, courage and perseverance. She might be a target but she doesn’t have to become a victim. Never believe mean girls’ opinions and don’t give in to their demands.
Intervene rapidly when your daughter seems unable to defend herself. Don’t let the behavior continue. Say something strongly and firmly to the mean girl. Girls who were merely experimenting with a mean behavioral tactic will stop and not repeat it. That’s a test of the girl – nice girls stop when you set a behavioral standard but mean girls don’t. Mean girls think they’re smarter than you and that they have their own mothers’ protection.
If the mean girl doesn’t stop, test the mean girl’s mom one time. Calmly detail the behavior and listen carefully for the response. Is the mom appalled at her daughter’s behavior or does the mom blow it off or explain it away? Just as in sports and childhood, your daughter might have been provocateur and then looked innocent when another girl retaliated. So it’s natural for the other girl’s mother to try to discover the whole context and behavior before the incident. But does the other mom immediately get defensive and angry, and twist the facts in order to blame your daughter? Does she insist that her daughter is never wrong? Is the mean girl’s mom too busy with her own life to educate her daughter or has she turned her child over to a nanny who won’t correct the child?
If these attempts change the girl’s behavior, you weren’t dealing with a hard-core mean girl and a mean mom. But mean girls and mean moms aren’t stopped by the easy tactics. Now you have to cut off after school activities including parties, despite the ramifications. Also, get the pre-school teachers and principals involved. Some will be helpful; they’ll keep it confidential, they’ll monitor to get their own evidence and then they’ll intervene. They’ll get the mean girl out of your daughter’s class, they’ll break-up the clique, they’ll stop the behavior at school and they’ll have proactive programs to talk about mean girl behavior. Depending on the age of the girls, they’ll teach witnesses what to do. Unfortunately, unhelpful, uncaring, lazy, cowardly teachers and principals will look the other way or condone or even encourage mean girl behavior. They’ll put you off with excuses. Don’t let this happen. Remember, principals fear publicity and law suits.
Teach your children what’s right and also how to defend themselves. Don’t convert your daughter into a victim. Don’t sacrifice your child on the altar of your ignorance, fear or sympathetic heart. Protect and defend your child even though there may be a high cost socially.
Which professions, in their teaching schools and in their on-the-job practices, foster or tolerate the worst and most flagrant forms of bullying? I don’t know, but teaching is right up there with doctors and lawyers and others I may be overlooking.
I see two kinds of principals running two very different kinds of public schools.
By the way, not only public schools, but also colleges, universities and professional, post-graduate training schools (teacher training, medical schools, and law schools) are hotbeds of faculty harassing and bullying students, and faculty bullying other faculty. Don’t believe me? Check out the law suits and blogs. Ask the teachers, doctors and lawyers you know personally. Ask about arrogant, narcissistic, abusive control-freaks.
How do teachers bully other teachers?
Senior individuals, including principals, have power and control over junior teachers and will misuse that power for personal reasons, including sex. One variant is, “Suck up to me or I’ll sabotage your career.” Another is, “I’m powerful and I enjoy making you squirm.” Or, “They did it to me and now I’ll do it to you.” And, “It’s for your own good. It’ll make you stronger.”
Often, cliques of senior or even junior teachers try to run the show. One variant is, “Join our clique and suck up to us or else.” Another is, “Don’t change my perks or the status quo, and don’t threaten my job. Don’t expose our failures or dirty laundry even though we’re not changing. If you do, we’ll get you.” Their favorite tactics are to ostracize the offender and to blame all the problems on him or her. These vicious gangs will try to silence or remove offenders for nitpicky, trumped up reasons.
What can you do if you’re managing such an environment?
In my experience, successful change starts from the top down.
At a college, university or professional school, it takes a very powerful and very politically astute new administrator or new department head to change the environment. The new person will have to weed through his staff slowly and carefully, replacing the worst bullies and narcissists for legal reasons and in legal ways. He’ll have to have support because there will be widespread personal attacks and law suits.
At a public school, change requires a new principal supported by the district administrators and school boards. The new principal will have to be a master at enrolling a core group of supportive teachers and the media, and maneuvering around the union. Entrenched people, like infected splinters, are hard to reach and remove. But persevering and savvy principals can set a new tone in their schools.
What can you do if you’re a target?
Notice the signs. If you’re ignored, blamed or attacked in public, especially in front of students, you’re being set-up to be the target of a public media campaign as a troublemaker who needs fired for the well-being of the school. There’s no negotiating with these righteous predators and flying low won’t get them to back off. You won’t get the union to back you.
Hire a good lawyer who knows how to get the right publicity – not the school lawyer. Being right won’t prevent a smear campaign, full of innuendos and lies, against you. Learn what to document on your home computer.
You’ll probably end up looking for a job in another state with one of the few district administrators who can see the truth and are willing to take a chance on a “potential troublemaker.”
“Fighting for Girls: New Perspectives on Gender and Violence,” edited by Meda Chesney-Lind and Nikki Jones, cites recent studies to show that violence by girls has decreased. In a New York Times article, “The Myth of Mean Girls,” Mike Males and Meda Chesney-Lind also state that our common perception that there are mean girls and that girls can be violent, “is a hoax.”
Well, that just gives new research studies a bad name, or at least those conclusions. As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
In the real world, not the world inhabited by academics and researchers, mean girls thrive and their violence toward other girls is no only verbal and physical, it’s now also done in cyberspace. If you track only physical violence on police blotters, you miss the other damage done by stealth bullying mean girls.
Every woman who’s interviewed me on radio and television describes the mean girls they encountered when they were young … and also some they see in their adult personal lives as well as at work. A lot of my coaching is to teach women how to defend themselves against mean girls who now masquerade as adult friends or who are still mean in parent groups at schools, boards of housing associations, book clubs, neighborhood associations, church groups and as mothers protecting their mean daughters.
Get active as a citizen. Organize a core group of active parents to pressure legislators to pass laws requiring schools to have policies and programs to stop bullying. Media pressure will help.
Get active in your school and school district. Form a core group of active parents to make sure your district administrators and school principal actively enforce policies and a school-wide program to stop bullies. Involve all teachers, staff and students in recognizing and stopping the first signs of bullying. Immediate and firm action is necessary. If principals and teachers turn a blind eye, saying “that’s just the way some girls are,” they’re colluding by creating a safe space for mean girls and boundary pushers. The end of school and summer are great times to get these programs started so you’re ready at the start of school in September.
Prepare your daughters. Well-meaning parents are the number one risk factor for creating helpless girls whose confidence and self-esteem will be destroyed by mean girls. Don’t tell your daughters to feel sorry for their abusers and to “rise above” whatever these vicious predators say or do. Don’t expect pious sentiments to prevent stress, anxiety, negative self-talk or depression. Don’t let your daughters be whipping girls or scapegoats. Teach your daughters how to stop the mean girls. If you don’t know how, you need coaching.
Prepare your sons. Tell them about the real-world. Remind them that 10 years from now they probably won’t see any of the kids from high school. Teach them not to take the mean, nasty, vicious comments personally or as a prediction of the future. Their job is to grow up and find a woman who values and appreciates them. Mean girls don’t represent everyone.
Don’t believe studies that supposedly prove that mean girls are an insignificant factor. Don’t believe that if your daughter ignores their meanness or treats them with caring and friendship, they’ll stop being abusive. Real bullies, mean girls and mean women, take offerings of sweetness and friendship as weakness and an invitation to prey on you more.
As Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and “Things I’ve Been Silent About” said, “My parents did not bring me happiness. They armed me for the battle of life.”
Maybe the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince will finally wake us up. Maybe the articles in the New York Times, Huffington Post, People magazine and dozens of others will wake us up. Maybe the long list of charges against the bullies and tormentors will finally goad the public to demand strong action. Maybe charges of statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment and stalking will get a stronger response from the district attorney than, “The inactions of some of the adults at the school are troublesome.”
Phoebe’s suicide is another red alert. But we know that hundreds of other children in our schools are being bullied, harassed, tormented and abused every day. And parents and school officials are not protecting these targets of bullying. Some of these kids will gain strength by fighting back effectively against these predators.
Others will be overwhelmed and destroyed by the bullying, but even more, by the lack of protection by the very adults who have taken on the responsibility to protect them. These kids will grow up concluding that they are helpless and their situations are hopeless. They will grow up with debilitating, negative self-talk, with anxiety, stress and depression, with little confidence and low self-esteem.
We don’t need more suicides to remind us of what we saw at our own schools, what we see in our adult personal relationships and the interactions we observe at work. We know the depths to which humans can sink. We know how alert and courageous we must be to prevent the worst consequences.
A huge number of people failed in Massachusetts. Start with the two boys and four girls between the ages of 16 to 18 who have been charged as adults. Continue with the three minors who have been charged as juveniles. Continue with their parents. Their parents failed to teach and control their children. Of course it’s difficult to teach and control teenagers. But will those parents now defend their venomous children or will they stand with Phoebe Prince?
I think the greatest failure is that of the school authorities, especially the principal and the district administrators who set the tone for the teachers and staff. They pretend to be education experts. They pretend to be worthy to teach children. Yet none would stand up for Phoebe or for the other girl in school who was bullied by one of the accused teenagers.
We know that there are difficulties and that they will hide behind the lie that “we didn’t know how bad it was.” So what? Personally as a parent and grandparent, professionally as a coach, consultant and expert on how to stop bullies I say that these people represent failure and should be forced to go into jobs in which their tasks don’t matter.
Would you want someone who pleads “difficulties” as an excuse for their failures when your life is on the line – for example, a school bus driver, a doctor, a pilot, a cop, a fire fighter, a repairman of train tracks, a quality control worker on an assembly line for your medication, pacemaker or your car’s brakes or accelerator? I wouldn’t give them the responsibility. All that education has been wasted on them. And maybe the type of education currently in how-to-be-a-teacher courses is a waste.
Whether the abuse is cyber-bullying, physical violence, sexual attacks or the many varieties of mean and vicious verbal and emotional abuse – the spite, gossip, rumor-mongering, ostracism, targeting or mocking – there will always be “experts” who say “it’s not so bad,” lawyers who say that it’s too difficult to write enforceable laws, and there will always be difficulties in stopping harassment, bullying and abuse. So what if there are difficulties? If we can’t overcome those difficulties, we don’t deserve the responsibility and trust, and we will reap the bitter fruits that will await us in our hours of need.
State laws and school policies are necessary, but they’re not enough to stop school bullies. The third necessary ingredient is the responsible people who are paid to make schools safe. If teachers, psychologists and counselors, assistant principals, principals, district administrators and school board members don’t create effective school programs and don’t enforce the laws and policies, perpetrators will be freed and their targets will be victimized.
According to the ABC News and investigative reporter Theresa Marchetta, Caitlin Smith was sexually assaulted in the final days of a summer program for incoming freshman at Englewood High School in a Denver, Colorado suburb. The evidence seemed clear-cut and, indeed, a court recently found the boy guilty of unlawful sexual contact with no consent.
The school had suspended him for the last three days of the summer program but what happened when school started in the fall?
The story is titled, “District Policies Fail Teen Victim: Guilty Attacker Remains in School.”
In order for Caitlin to be allowed to enter school, the vice principal had the Smiths sign a “No-Contact Notice” which reads, "You have been involved in an incident that may be criminal in nature," and suspects can not "harass, threaten, annoy, disturb, follow or have verbal/physical contact with any victim or witness in this incident.”
The perpetrator was immediately allowed back in school with Caitlin in the fall. He did not sign a No-Contact Notice and was still allowed back in school. This is despite a statement by Englewood Superintendent Sean McDaniel that, "I think that [the No-Contact Notice] would be a piece on the perpetrators side not on the victim’s side."
On Caitlin’s first day back in school, she was taken right back to the scene of the attack. "They guaranteed they wouldn’t take me down that hallway. I was freaking out, crying, upset. I didn’t want to go through, was closing my eyes,” she said. School authorities asked Caitlin’s mother to keep her daughter out of school. She reports that, "They're asking me to hold my daughter out of school and giving an education to a child [the bully] who shouldn't even be there."
To deal with such incidents, the Englewood School District has policies “which clearly states, multiple times, what happened to Caitlin was a ‘level one’ offense, ‘those which will result automatically in a request for expulsion to the superintendent.’”
When Marchetta asked Superintendent McDaniel, “Should a student be expelled or consider being expelled for having unwanted sexual contact with a student?" he replied, "Absolutely, no question. Sexual contact? I would expect an administrator to suspend with a recommendation for expulsion. Then, that would land in my office.” But he then admitted that the perpetrator was allowed to remain in school without even signing the No-Contact Notice and that now, over six months after the incident, he didn’t know what the principal was doing about the situation.
When Superintendent McDaniel was asked, “theoretically speaking, if it would ever be acceptable for a student accused of committing such an offense to remain in the population during the proceedings, he answered, ‘That’s a great question. No,’ [he added], ‘In that scenario to just to turn the kid loose back in to the student population with no requirements, parameters? No, I can not foresee a situation like that.’" But he then admitted that the perpetrator was allowed to remain in school without even signing the No-Contact Notice.
Parents and students need to know what to do after such an incident:
Don’t hide; make a fuss. Immediately go to the appropriate school authorities and the police. That’s like we encourage victims to report rape immediately.
Find and rally other students and parentswho have been harassed, bullied or abused – emotionally, sexually or physically. If any other kids excuse the perpetrator’s behavior and tell you that you’re being too harsh or if any other kids hassle, threaten or bully you, report them. Record evidence; that’s what cell phones are for. Travel with your friends.
If the authorities won’t act, immediately get a lawyer skilled in both the pertinent laws and in how to bring media pressure to bear. Plan an overall strategy and tactics.
Get an expert coach or therapist to keep your spirits up and to rally your strength and determination.
Don’t accept bullying; don’t take the blame. In most cases the girl is not a “slut” or “whore” that others will call you. It’s usually not your fault. You should know that if the school authorities won’t act, they’re the problem, not you. You don’t have to be perfect according to their standards in order for them to actively help you. Don’t indulge in self-bullying. Negative self-talk, blame, shame and guilt never help. They only increase anxiety, stress and depression, and destroy confidence and self-esteem. Don’t believe negative predictions; your life isn’t ruined and in 10 years you won’t want to be friends with your high school classmates – certainly not the hyenas who pile on.
As you can see, state laws and school policies are necessary to give principals and administrators the leverage to act safely without fear of law suits by bullying parents of school bullies. But the responsible authorities must be willing to act courageously, energetically, skillfully and effectively. When they don’t, laws and policies become scraps of paper, blowing in the wind of their excuses.
Since the principal and district administrator didn’t protect a target of such bullying and abuse, I predict that there have already been other incidents at Englewood High School and there will be in the future. Bullies are predators. They look for easy prey and they push the boundaries. Once one hyena gets away with boundary pushing – darting in, ripping off some flesh and darting back safely – the rest of the pack will pile on.
In addition to the perpetrator and his family, the principal and district administrator have a lot to answer for. I hope a public outcry focuses on them.
According to the article, 13 year-old Hope sent a photo of her breasts to a boy she liked. Bad choice. A rival girl saw the photo on the boy’s phone and forwarded it to other students. The photo went viral. Like piranhas, mean girls and vicious boys at the schools joined the general feeding frenzy. Hope was accosted as a “whore” and harassed for more nude photos at her school and also at a Future Farmers of America Conference.
Let’s focus on only three aspects of this terrible situation:
The middle school has a policy against sexting and disciplined Hope: Suspension and loss of honors and privileges. But, even though the principal and teachers were aware of the taunting, harassment and bullying, there is no report that they did anything to the predators – No all-school meetings about how wrong the behavior is; no follow-up with the police to see who was illegally forwarding the nude photos; no action in the cafeteria when Hope was being harassed by other students. Even though they knew what was happening, there was no extra vigilance to protect Hope from the attacks.
They did follow up with Hope’s parents to explain their punishment of her, but they took no action to stop the mean girls and vicious boys. Also, they never called Hope’s parents when they found out that she was cutting herself.
There’s no much you can do once a feeding frenzy has started, but the legitimate authorities at school and the police can be talking to the kids and their parents. You must make an attempt to rally parents and students to stop the attacks, even though you think Hope was a dope.
Hope’s diary and conversations with her friends were full of self-bullying. This negative, critical self talk destroys self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-bullying makes any kind of setback or embarrassment into a humiliating catastrophe that seems to destroy the child’s life forever. Looked at through self-bullying eyes, the future will seem hopeless, the person helpless to redeem herself. As Hope wrote, “Secretly TONS of people hate me.” That’s the wrong conclusion to draw.