bullying

Video: Mom’s Heartwarming Birthday Surprise to Son Goes Viral

Written on February 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm , by


A Michigan boy is in for a very big birthday surprise, all thanks to his mom.

When Jennifer Cunningham asked her 10-year-old son, Colin, if he wanted a birthday party, the response she got back was heartbreaking. He said no, because he had no friends to invite.

Colin has a hard time connecting with kids because of a condition similar to Asperger’s syndrome.

Jennifer decided to make a Facebook page, “Happy Birthday Colin,” with the hope that friends and family would wish Colin well on his special day. To her surprise, the page went viral and now has over a million likes and counting. Strangers from across the world are sending messages for Colin’s big day. And the best part is Colin doesn’t know about the page at all. The plan is to reveal it on his birthday, March 9.

His little sister (who is keeping the secret as well) thinks that when Colin sees the messages he will “scream his pants off.”

The web can lead to wonderful things, don’t you think?

 

VIDEO: Social Media Eases Fear of Bullying for Boy with Glasses

Written on December 4, 2013 at 9:30 am , by

 

We all know that bullying hurts. But sometimes the fear of being bullied can be just as painful.

Four-year-old Noah Fisher burst into tears when his mother, Lindsey, told him to put on his glasses. Noah was afraid that everyone was going to laugh at him because he had to wear them. So with the help of her friends, Lindsey used Facebook to show Noah that glasses were pretty cool.

She started the page “Glasses for Noah,“ and to her surprise around 40,000 people from all around the country expressed their support for him. They posted various pictures of themselves in glasses, and even some famous faces made an appearance. Noah’s favorite was The Hulk. According to his parents, Noah is getting more comfortable in his glasses every day.

We think Noah looks pretty cute and happy in his glasses. Don’t you?

Breaking the Silence on Adult Bullies

Written on November 13, 2013 at 11:00 am , by

Bullying is not just child’s play. Jonathan Martin, a 300-pound tackle for the Miami Dolphins, recently took a break from playing professional football due to alleged bullying from a teammate. His complaints of harassment from, intimidation by and physical altercations with his colleague Richie Incognito typify the very definition of bullying.

Aside from their ages, the fact that their differences couldn’t be handled on their own highlights the destructiveness of bullying at any stage of life. Bullies make people change their attitudes, moods and behavior. They force others to quit, cry, get angry or depressed, withdraw or stay silent because being the victim of a bully is both painful and embarrassing. It’s hard for kids to speak up and even more difficult for adults. As we get older, there’s pressure to “suck it up” or “just deal with it.”

The perception that bullying stops in the schoolyard isn’t just challenged by what happens on the sports field. It’s also countered by the hordes of adults who report that they are bullied on the job by coworkers or bosses, older siblings who continue to harass younger siblings into adulthood and teens bullied by parents and coaches. Whether you are 12 or 42, bullying can be psychologically detrimental and physically painful.

Adult bullies use emotional tactics, verbal abuse and technology to provide consistent harassment and hurt feelings meant to create fear, powerlessness and helplessness in individuals. These are not out-of-body experiences. Adult bullies are aware of their behavior. Their tactics are detrimental not only to the victim but also to bystanders, who may feel uneasy, be forced to pick sides or end up feeling unsafe.

We need to break the silence on adult bullies. Bullying in not acceptable at any age or size. If you are dealing with an adult bully, follow Jonathan Martin’s example.

* Document incidents and speak out. If this is happening at your job, know that most companies have a policy on workplace behavior. Familiarize yourself with the employee handbook outlining those rules.

* Identify your support network and engage them as a sounding board for assistance.

* Avoid self-blame by focusing on doing your best job at work and not getting distracted by negative behaviors.

* Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and avoid engaging in the same behavior.

Bullying needs to stop. I applaud Jonathan Martin for highlighting his experiences. Perhaps he’s meant to make a difference not just on the field, but off it as well.

Has an adult bully ever harassed you? Post a comment, share what happened and help break the silence.

 

Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H., is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

Author Jay Asher on Bullying

Written on October 28, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Jay Asher, author of the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, on how to respond when someone who’s been bullied reaches out to you.

I speak at high schools and libraries across the country. It can be so inspiring to hear directly from my readers, both teens and adults, about what they liked and got out of my books. It can also be heartbreaking to hear how many of them have been through similar situations, or experienced similar emotions, as the main characters in my novel Thirteen Reasons Why. The male character is trying to understand and deal with a classmate’s suicide. The female character is the one who felt she couldn’t hold on any longer. The majority of the book is her character explaining the things she went through that brought her to the point of wanting her life to end.

Many times after visiting with my readers, I’ve returned to my hotel room and sat on the edge of my bed (without even turning on the TV!) to let everything I’d heard that day sink in. Readers come up to me after my presentations to get autographs, take photos, ask questions or share why they connected with the book. Sometimes it helped them understand a friend better. Sometimes it made them reconsider how they had been treating someone without knowing what else that person may have been dealing with. Too often, they tell me that my story was the first time they felt someone understood them. That’s always such a beautiful thing to hear, because the hope that there are people in the world who will understand is the first thing someone needs to have before they’ll reach out for help.

The thing that saddens me is that I know those readers are surrounded by people who will understand. So why don’t they realize it? It’s often because of the way we talk about bullying and all its accompanying issues. If they approach a parent, teacher or other adult for help or support after something another person has said or done and they’re told “Just ignore it,” or “That’s an unfortunate part of growing up,” or “I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you make it seem,” or “Did you do anything to encourage it?” they’ll feel like no one understands. And sometimes they’ll feel like no one cares. Because the first person they turned to, the person they thought was most likely to understand or care, didn’t understand or care. At least, that’s how it appeared.

Yes, sometimes ignoring it is all that can be done. And bullying can be a horrible part of growing up. And many of us can be melodramatic. Sometimes we do things that even encourage bullying. But every situation is unique. Every person has a different threshold for what they can handle. Most people are also dealing with more than just one incident. If someone opens up about a painful experience and the first thing they hear is a cliché that doesn’t address their very real emotions, then the next time something happens, they’ll be less likely to trust that their thoughts will be understood or appreciated.

Those people they turned to probably did want to help, they just didn’t know how. We’ve become so used to falling back on clichéd responses that they’re the first words to come out of our mouths. They are conversation stoppers for conversations that need to be nurtured. The next time someone tells you that they’ve been bullied, stop what you’re doing. Stop the cliché that raced to the tip of your tongue from coming out of your mouth. And listen. Think about what they’re saying. Consider what else might be going on in their life. Realize that this could be the only time they’re going to reach out to someone.

Listening matters.

So does how we speak.

Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel.

 

Actor Bob Balaban on the Importance of Bully Movie

Written on October 27, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Bob Balaban on the documentary Bully and bullying prevention.

In my new children’s book series, The Creature from the Seventh Grade, protagonist Charlie Drinkwater is mercilessly taunted by his oversize nemesis, Craig Dieterly. Although much of the book is inspired by my own childhood experiences, I am happy to say I was never bullied. Even though as a kid growing up in Chicago I fit the definition of underdog to a T—short, skinny, big-eared, awkward and brainy—I was never bullied. I had the good fortune to attend a tiny private school where I was in the mainstream and the kids on the football team were, ironically, far more likely to be considered outsiders than I was.

Until I saw Lee Hirsch’s deeply affecting documentary Bully last year (now available on Netflix), I was convinced that there were two types of bullying: the time-honored innocuous kind in which stupid overbearing lugs with names like Moose and Biff made a harmless nuisance of themselves as they tried to assert their authority over the weaker, smarter members of the class, and the much rarer, more destructive kind, in which sadistic pain-loving monsters destroyed the childhoods, and occasionally the very lives, of their anointed victims.

Bully obliterates the line between the two and makes it perfectly clear that zero tolerance is the only way to go. It tracks the cases of five abused kids, including two who committed suicide. Bullying is bad. It is never justified. And it isn’t a matter of “kids will be kids.” Its effects range from damaging to fatal. And it’s on the increase. See the movie. Show it to your teenage kids and their teachers. Tell your friends. You’ll be moved. You’ll be shocked. You won’t forget it.

Bullying often goes unreported and frequently survives the scrutiny of even the most well-meaning parents, teachers and guidance counselors. It is impossible to legislate against. It is considered by many to be a bogus issue invented by wimpy parents and their cry-baby offspring. Much like sexual harassment, it thrives on ignorance and apathy, and the commonly held notion that it’s a natural part of life and its victims are as much to blame for their horrific treatment as the perpetrators themselves. Throughout the documentary well-meaning parents advise their bullied children to “toughen up.” They tell them that they are encouraging the situation by not fighting back, that they have a valuable life lesson to learn by standing up for themselves.

The parents of one particularly abused child, cruelly nicknamed “Fish Face,” are brought to tears when finally shown documentary footage of their child being brutally assaulted on the school bus. They had no idea how serious his problem was. He had complained frequently, but he stopped reporting the incidents after his guidance counselor called him and his parents in to her office. She explained that she had ridden the bus specifically to look for signs of bullying and reported that the other students were polite and well-behaved, and that the victim was obviously confused. Or lying. Kids everywhere are facing the same reluctance on the part of their teachers and parents to take the problem seriously. And yet it is of epidemic proportions.

Bullies don’t exist in a vacuum. They echo the attitudes and prejudices of their parents, friends and teachers. The kids who are witness to their cruel behavior are generally too afraid or too complacent to say anything about it. Their silence is tacit approval and encourages bullies to keep on bullying. But like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” one lone protesting voice in the crowd really can stop a bully in his or her tracks.

We’ve got to encourage our kids to be that voice, to speak up if they’re witnesses to an incident. We must let them know that when we don’t say something, we become de facto bullies. That, as well as making our school and elected officials and public opinion makers aware of the seriousness and the urgency of the problem, are our best and only lines of defense.

Here is the trailer for Bully. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it. If it moves you, watch it on Netflix, you’ll be glad you did. It’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.

Bob Balaban is an actor/producer/director/writer who has appeared in over a hundred movies, including the recent Moonrise Kingdom. He produced and co-starred in the Academy Award–winning movie Gosford Park, directed the award-winning off-Broadway play The Exonerated and is currently writing the Creature from the Seventh Grade series for Viking Children’s Books.

Important New Book “Bully: An Action Plan”

Written on October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A year ago AC360’s town hall special Bullying: It Stops Here premiered. Several experts (myself included) and wonderful, brave children participated that day, and we showed clips of Bully, an extraordinary documentary profiling five young people who had been bullied. Working on that special and supporting the movie have been heartfelt projects for me, and I’ve watched with real pride how both have done an outstanding job of bringing attention to this problem.

I remember when I first saw the movie. I was so surprised, saddened and in some ways relieved that Lee Hirsch had captured on film what I unfortunately see too often: desperate kids, well-meaning adults who don’t know what to do, and parents who are torn between frustration—sometimes at their own children for being silent targets—and helpless fury at school administrators who do nothing, at best.

It’s a painful movie with no happy ending. There are no talking heads offering helpful strategies. For these understandable reasons, many people who saw the movie and would have liked to show it to their kids wanted more resources to pick up where the movie leaves off. That need has been answered: The creators of Bully recently published Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis.

The book takes over where the movie ends. Interwoven with the stories of the children in the movie is advice from experts on how to recognize when your child is being bullied and what we can say as parents and educators. Particularly moving to me are the words of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “Bully probably has been something of a reality check for many classroom teachers. Some teachers who see the film find themselves wondering if they’ve missed bullying in their classrooms and hallways: Have kids suffered because they didn’t notice? Is this behavior happening in their school? The fact that those questions are being asked and that educators are having ongoing conversations about the answers is another example of how the power of this documentary extends far beyond the individual stories it tells.”

In addition, experts such as Dr. Robyn Silverman, Peter Sharas and Michele Borba (as well as yours truly) offer commonsense ways for parents and educators to reach out to kids who are targets, bystanders and aggressors.

Our efforts are making a difference. Just watch this local news anchor passionately articulate her experience of being bullied by a viewer for being overweight. She’s a great example of how each one of us can transform a painful personal experience into a powerful opportunity for leadership. She and others like her are the kind of adults kids need to see more of.

Read our other posts about “Bully.”

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Best Ways To Avoid a Trash Talking Teen

Written on August 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A girl I’m trying my best to avoid does nothing but talk trash to me and brings up my bad past to get on my nerves. I have an anger problem and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and be a better person. How can I move on if I’m reminded everyday of mistakes I’ve made in the past. Please help me, Haley

Haley, it’s always annoying to have people in your life that are determined to bring you down. And it’s easy to say, “I’m not going to let them get to me,” but way, way harder to actually do that in real life.

Think about it like this:
1. You’re smart enough to realize how this girl is trying to manipulate you. This is critical because a lot of people in your situation would be so angry and reactive that they wouldn’t be able to see these dynamics. If you can’t see it than you can’t manage yourself effectively.

2. Whatever you did or happened to you that gave you a bad reputation, you need to remember that you found the strength to want something better for yourself.

3. The trash-talking girl wants you back in that bad place. It doesn’t matter why. So yes, she could be insecure and have a bad home life but that fact doesn’t take away from what she’s doing to you.

Deal with it like this:
This may sound weird but when I’m in your situation (and it’s happened to me, too) I have a playlist that I listen to or sing in my head. On my phone I call it my “Strength and Inspiration” playlist. I want you to choose five songs that make you feel strong in a positive way (don’t choose songs that make you feel like you want revenge). As soon as you see her or when she says some snarky comment to you or about you, play one of your songs or sing it in your head.

In the spirit of full disclosure I’ll share with you some of my songs.

Work That Mary J. Blige
Something Beautiful Trombone Shorty
I am not my Hair India Arie and Akon
What it’s Like Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
It Don’t Come Easy Bettye Levette

Also, pay attention to any messengers, the people who tell you that the girl talks behind your back. Always ask yourself what their motivation is: Are they telling you because they care about you or because they want to increase the drama?

Here’s a sample script that may help you based on my SEAL strategy (Stop, Explain, Affirm, Lock). The “push back” is what the other person would probably say to get you mad or distracted. The situation is when someone just came up to you and said, “Did you hear what’ horrible girl’ is saying about you now?”

STOP: Play your song in your head and breathe so your heart slows down. Ask yourself what the messenger’s motivation is. If you think she’s a drama starter answer her with: Thanks for telling me. Please don’t talk about this with others. You’re doing this because you don’t want to feed the fire.

Then, to ‘horrible girl,’ EXPLAIN: I’m hearing that you’re talking X about me. I’m not asking to tell me if the gossip is true. I’m asking that if any part of it’s true that you stop.

Push back: She laughs. “There’s nothing going on. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Affirm (your right to be treated with dignity): Then I’d expect the things I’m hearing to end.

Push back: Well even if I’m not saying anything I can’t stop what other people say.

Lock: Look, I’m coming to you and asking you to lay off. That’s not an easy thing to do. Obviously, I can’t control what you do but that’s what I’m asking. What I can control is myself. You can try to make me feel bad but I’m not going to let you.

Then you walk away with your song in your head.

One last thing: as tempting as it is, don’t complain about her to other kids. If you need to vent (and I’d totally understand if you did) talk to a sibling or a person in your family that you’re close to. Pick someone who’s good at listening and helps you think through things.

Remember, if you do any part of this, that’s success. This is an extremely difficult situation but if you can face this you can pretty much face anything.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

How To Respond To Your Kid Being Sexually Harassed At School

Written on June 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Many readers of my June 7th blog asked what happened with Olivia, the girl who had written to me about how to tell her mom she was being sexually harassed at school. I checked in with Olivia a few days ago, and here is her response.

Hi Rosalind,

I ended up telling my mom the specifics, she was really understanding. I didn’t show her the article but I followed your advice in it. I realized that this boy who was so mean was truly not worth my time. He is just a learning experience and next time I will know how to handle things if this ever happens again. So grateful for all your advice.

-Olivia

 

Reading her reply, I was struck by how a terrible experience can be turned around. When Olivia was able to tell her mother what was specifically happening to her at school, her mom responded by being “really understanding.” That means she listened to Olivia without freaking out and letting her anger and anxiety get the best of her. But she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show her daughter what a great mom she is if Olivia had kept quiet. And all Olivia would have been left with was what her mom had said when Olivia first tried to tell her about the situation: “That’s just the way boys are at this age.”

Instead, what Olivia took away from this experience is that if she tells her mom the complete truth about a problem she’s having, her mom can give her the support she needs and help her learn how to handle difficult situations. These are the moments that forever strengthen the relationship between parent and child.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

What Your Kids Aren’t Telling You About Being Bullied

Written on June 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

One of the scariest realities of parenting is this: If your kids experience bullying or any kind of abuse, the worse it is, the less likely they are going to tell you about it. Even if they do, they’ll describe their experiences in such general terms that it can be hard for any well-meaning parent to read between the lines and respond effectively. This email I received from a 13-year-old girl illustrates the point.

At my school, I encountered many mean boys in my class but one, named Derek, was the worst (and not coincidentally, the most popular). He sexually harassed me every day and even though I told him to stop, he never did. He made coming to school so miserable that I hated going. I have talked to my mom but I never really said how awful he was, just that he teased me. She told me he wasn’t worth my time and that boys are just like this at this age. Should I just forget about it? Tell other people? I feel like what he did has hurt my self-esteem and made me have all this built-up anger inside.

Like many parents, Olivia’s mom responded in generalities when she heard that a boy was teasing her daughter. As I’ve said before, telling a child “He’s not worth your time” or “Ignore it” is ineffective because she’s already been trying to ignore it. And telling your daughter “That’s just the way boys are at this age” is basically another way of saying boys will be boys and you just have to accept it. But if Olivia’s mom had had a clearer picture of what was actually going on, her reaction probably would have been different.

This is what Olivia wrote when I asked her to tell me specifically what Derek was doing to her.

Dear Rosalind, I came up with a list of things that he did during the semester:

Blocked my path and wouldn’t let me leave

Blew in my ear

Pushed me over or into other male students

Snapped my bra

Said stuff like “How did that feel?” and “Betcha liked that, huh?” and “What would you do if I grabbed your butt?”

Tripped me

Made explicit gestures to me in class

If I was bending over to pick something up, he would get right up against me

Dared another boy to feel me up but he didn’t do it

Laughed about the things he did on Facebook

Kept telling people that I “made out with 5 guys,” which isn’t true

Said that I was a slut for “dressing inappropriately” (which is also not true—I have strict parents who would never let that happen)

Slapped my butt in the hallway and then said, “It was someone else! You’re just blaming me because you wish I would do that to you. Pervert.”

Made comments that my chest was too small to his friends and then when I said, “Excuse me?” he would accuse me of eavesdropping

Rub up against me

Wrote notes like “suck my nuts” on my binder or on a piece of paper at my desk

If I ever complained about it, I was a “whiny complainer” who was easily offended.

Are you wondering where Olivia’s teachers were? Here’s an example of how complicated “catching” the bully can be.

When the teachers saw him talking to me they would ask why we were talking but I would lie for him because 9/10 of my teachers are 50-year-old males and that’s embarrassing.

I asked Olivia to tell you how she thinks a parent should respond.

Take the time to listen to your daughter without interrupting with your comments right away. Then, after your daughter is done talking, ask her what she thinks is the best way to handle the situation.

I have an additional suggestion. Remember that what you initially hear is only the beginning. Your child could easily be embarrassed or ashamed to tell you the specifics. She also may keep things general to gauge your reaction. (Are you going to freak out? Listen to her? Ask a million questions?) So the first thing to say is “I’m so sorry. Do you feel comfortable telling me a few specifics of what he’s saying or doing? If you don’t feel comfortable telling me, you can write it down and give it to me later.”

Once you get a better picture of what’s occurring, you can respond to your child in a way that fits the situation and help her when she so desperately needs you.

If your child, or someone you know is in a situation similar to Olivia’s read more about how to deal with bullying here.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Bullying and Parenting Advice from Rosalind Wiseman

Written on April 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm , by

Bullying is a hot topic right now. And for good reason. Lots of kids are suffering from bullying both at school and online from their peers. As a result, parents are trying to figure out how to best handle the situation. In an effort to create a dialogue on bullying, we hosted a live Facebook chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman last week and invited you to ask her questions. During the chat, Rosalind, who specializes in bullying prevention, shared her tips and advice for parents who are faced with bullying issues. Here’s what happened during the chat:

Family Circle: Welcome to our live Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. She’s here to offer advice and answer all of your bullying and parenting questions. Our digital director, Lisa Mandel, will be moderating the conversation. Please feel free to post your questions below for Rosalind.
Lisa Mandel: I’m Lisa Mandel, the Digital Director for FC. Welcome to our chat with parenting and bullying expert Rosalind Wiseman. Given that almost all kids are exposed to bullying— either because they’re bullied, they bully someone or have seen it happen –all of us parents need help dealing with this issue. Post your questions for Rosalind here.
Rosalind, I’ll ask the first question. What should a parent do if her child is targeted by bullies?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, it’s a really important question. If your child tells you about being bullied I suggest you say, “I’m so sorry that’s happening to you, thanks for telling me, and together we’re going to work on figuring this out.” What I don’t want parents to say are things like “Just walk away, ignore it, don’t let them see it bothers you, you’re better than they are, they’re just jealous. We want to give guidance to our children for skill building and comfort.

Lisa Mandel: What do you do if you’re worried that your child is being bullied, but your child says nothing?
Rosalind Wiseman: If your child says nothing but you think they’re being bullied, privately go up to them and say: “Hey, Unfortunately it’s common for people to be mean to each other. But that doesn’t make it right. If it ever happens to you, you know you can talk to me about it right? Now don’t expect a conversation right away. Sometimes the child needs some time to think about what you said and get back to you.

Lorrie: I was just watching the news and was disgusted at the Bruins’ fans that used racial slurs on Twitter after last night game. How can we expect our children to not bully when adults are doing?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lorrie, I use those experiences when my children see someone be mean, or rude to say exactly what I am seeing that I don’t like and how their behavior goes against what our family stands for. I use it when I am driving and someone is flipping someone off or shouts cuss words out the window too.

Lisa: I’m concerned about cyber-bullying. I don’t want to spy on my kids online, but how do I know that they’re okay?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, I really want you to think about applying the rules you teach your children in real life are the same as online. Of course, you should monitor what they’re getting and sending through their computers and mobile phones and Verizon and ATT both have parental control centers where you can see exactly what’s happening. And tell your kids you are doing that.

Tina: What is a true definition and a true meaning of bullying? My children, ages 15 and 10, attend a small school (126 peers k-12). We have 2 separate schools in our district, what I have a problem with is a child going home to parent and saying, so and so said I had bad breath today or said my hair looks funny and following day child is removed and put into other school. Shouldn’t the parent address the small issue with faculty and student and work it out first? To me, bullying falls under a very different circumstance.
Rosalind Wiseman: Tina, bullying is using power or strength of make someone feel worthless. It’s usually over a period of time. So in order for people to take bullying seriously we need to be clear about the definition.

Faith: My 5-year-old seems to be targeted by the same kid in his class, pushing, kicking, harsh words. The teachers response is to walk away. I contacted the principal when the child got a phone call home for 3 incidents against my son in the same day. The principal hasn’t let me know the situation details, and that was last week. If the school phones the parents of the child who got in trouble, why didn’t I, the parent of the child receiving the negative actions, get informed?? And how young does the bullying start??
Rosalind Wiseman: Faith, bullying happens when it happens regardless of age. As the parent of the target you have the right to be informed about what happened, what they did in the immediate time after and what their plan is for the future. You don’t have the right to ask what disciplinary procedures are happening with the child because they have to protect the confidentiality of the child—just as you’d want if you were on the other side of this.
Faith: Frankly, I don’t care what the disciplinary actions are; just that the school knew my child was the target and never informed me. It is a weekly thing that this particular child is kicking my son, or hitting him, or pushing him down….and this is the 2nd time I’ve voiced concerns and asked to be notified of any incidents. The teacher is retiring this year and seems to have a lackadaisical view of most everything. But when my child comes home with bruises and a black eye, don’t I have the right to know what’s going on??

Julie: What do you do when you tell your child to tattle to a grown up when they are bullied, but the school staff has been told by the principal not to do anything unless they themselves (staff) witness the incident?
Lisa Mandel: It seems like many schools are adopting the policy that a child’s word is not believable unless an adult corroborates it.
Rosalilnd Wiseman: For everyone who is battling schools with this issue. The laws don’t ever specify that an adult has to witness the abuse. So if the administrator says this then you need to remind them of the laws. You can also point them to what the US Department of ED says about this. They don’t say an adult has to be present.
Lisa Mandel: Here’s a link to an analysis of state bullying laws.
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks Lisa!
Julie: I live in Canada. Our laws are different, I guess. Here in Canada, the schools bring the bully and victim together for a “chat” which, in my opinion, just re-victimizes the victims since al the bully does is lie.
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Julie, I don’t think so. It’s worth checking out. I’ve worked in Canada a lot and it’s never come up in any of the policy conversations I’ve had or heard.
Julie: Because of school staff policy (If you didn’t witness it, you can’t intervene”), I have had to tell my child, “YO cannot draw first blood, but you CAN fight back and defend yourself.” Here in Canada, there is an anti-bullying bill just now working its way through parliament. Until it gets passed, there is nothing. Thus, it’s up to each individual school board to set policy. Ours…suck.
Rosalind Wiseman: Julie, yes in bullying situations or when that is even a possibility schools need to realize that bringing the target and bully together re-victimizes the target. It’s another example of how adults are part of the problem. If this happens to you, as in the school wants to do this, refuse and ask to meet with the counselor separately to prepare your child for a strategy where they can feel safe.
Julie: Too late. The school says it does not have to inform parents when they bring bully and victim together for a chat, so we found out about it after the fact. Now the bully is worse than ever, because he feels he got away with it.

Lisa Mandel: I like the idea of making sure your child feels safe. What can you tell parents who are worried that their child will be socially punished if they say something about the bullying?
Rosalind Wiseman: I know a lot of parents worry about social backlash if their kids come forward but what I tell kids is that that they have to make a decision in a difficult situation. Either they say nothing and the bullies continue or they say something and you have a chance of addressing it. And honestly, most kids aren’t completely ostracized only for coming forward. They are usually socially vulnerable for additional reasons. Obviously that doesn’t make it their fault, it’s just something to know as you think about it.

Julie: Rosalind, have you seen the new movie “Bully”? What were your thoughts?
Family Circle: Hi Julie, here is a blog post written by Rosalind about the movie “Bully.”
Rosalind Wiseman: “Bully” is an important movie that I think is worth watching for parents and teachers. I also think 7th grade and up can see it. It’s a good movie to begin the conversation about what bullying really looks like and how adults often without realizing it contribute to the problem.
Lisa Mandel: I’m planning to take my teenage sons to see it this weekend. I found it almost too disturbing to sit through. Very powerful.

Mary: What do you do when the school does nothing, nor does the school board? Also what do you do if the teacher is your child’s bully?
Angel: I would love to know what to do when a teacher is the one doing the bullying. We have one teacher in particular that loves to humiliate children in front of the class. Of course when I, and other parents have went to the school about it, we get the same response…”I’m sure that there is probably more to the story, and that the kids were causing trouble”…any suggestions?
Angel: I just want to say that I have twin 13-year-old girls, and they have witnessed some serious bullying over their last couple years in junior high. My girls have stood up for the “underdog” many times; even if it meant having others give them a hard time about it. I just wish the school system took it more seriously than they do.
Rosalind Wiseman: Angel, it’s not easy when kids or anyone for that matters stands up for what’s right.

Family Circle: Thank you for joining our Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. We hope you enjoyed the chat and got some useful parenting advice. Thank you to Rosalind Wiseman for sharing your expertise, as well as our digital director Lisa Mandel for moderating the discussion. Thanks everyone!
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks everyone!
Lisa Mandel: Rosalind, it was a pleasure having you. Please come back and chat with us again soon.
Julie: Thanks FC!

Stay tuned for our next chat with Rosalind Wiseman on our Facebook wall!

Check out these links for more parenting advice from Rosalind Wiseman:
“Bully” Movie is Hard to Watch, But Must Be Seen
Q&A: My Daughter Is Being Mean to Her Longtime Friends
Q&A: Should I Contact My Child’s School About a Problematic Teacher?

Jennifer Moncayo is web assistant for FamilyCircle.com.

Q&A: Lee Hirsch, Director of the New Documentary “Bully”

Written on April 5, 2012 at 10:49 am , by

 

In the new documentary Bully, director Lee Hirsch presents an intimate look at how profoundly bullying affects the lives of five children–including two who were driven to commit suicide–and their families. Here, Hirsch talks about making the film, his experience being bullied as a child and what he sees as the solution to bullying.

What inspired you to make the film?
I was bullied as a kid. In elementary and middle school, a group of kids made it their sport to get me every day after school. I had black and blues and my arms were constantly yellow with bruises. It was really, really terrifying. I carried this experience with me and when I became a filmmaker, I knew bullying was a subject I wanted to address—but I didn’t know how to process it and turn it into the right story. Then, around the time when a lot of high profile bullying suicides made national headlines, I knew this film had to be made.

What was your goal?
People often talk about bullying, but there’s a disconnect between the concept and the actual experience of how incredibly violent and terrifying it can be. In part from my own story, I knew how hard it is to communicate how bullying actually happens. We decided to really follow intimately a group of kids and their families to show what they go through–make it live on-screen, and in doing so, be a conversation changer.

How did you select the children you featured?
We found them in different ways. Alex [a 12-year old boy from Sioux City, Iowa] was the heart and soul of the story. The Sioux City district gave us access to film in its schools. On orientation day, we met Alex and saw how other kids would bust past him–we immediately knew he was a kid who was bullied. We learned of other families through the news. With the Smalleys [Ty Smalley, 11, committed suicide in 2010 after being bullied], we reached out to the family and met them the morning of Ty’s funeral. His parents let us know that they wanted us there and wanted people to know what happened. We found Kelby [a 16-year-old lesbian from Tuttle, Oklahoma] through Ellen DeGeneres and her staff. Ellen did a show with the moms of two bullying suicide victims, Carl Joseph Walker and Jaheem Herrera, and Kelby’s mom wrote in to Ellen’s website saying how her family lived in the Bible Belt and was struggling with bullying and how other kids ran over her daughter with a mini van after she came out.

All the kids live in rural areas. Why didn’t you feature any children from urban neighborhoods?
We filmed a family in Minneapolis, but ultimately, the stories were dictated by the access we had to families and schools. It wasn’t a conscious choice to only feature families from small cities, but they were the right choice for the film. Plus, there’s a difference if you’re a family stuck in a town and there’s only one school your kids can attend, no other ballet classes down the street—if you don’t fit into a specific mold, it can feel a lot more suffocating. But we screened the film for a group of black and Latino kids from the South Bronx and they were completely moved and inspired to make a difference. They were absolutely able to connect to the film, even though the settings were so different from their own.

Was it difficult not to step in and intervene while filming?
It was the hardest part of making the film. But ultimately, we did intervene with Alex [once concern for his safety became too great].

One of the most shocking aspects of the film was how clueless many of the school administrators seemed—they appeared unwilling to address bullying or admit it was an issue. Have they seen your film and reacted to it?
It’s been a really amazing journey from our initial conversations with principals, the school board and superintendent. They stuck by us. We screened the film in Sioux City and received a standing ovation. Afterward, Kim Lockwood [an assistant principal featured in the film] said, “I don’t always get it right and I’m trying to do better.” I applaud the entire community for their bravery in airing their dirty laundry in hopes that it’ll change the conversation.

Do you remain in contact with the kids?
I’m in touch with all the kids and their families. They’ve all bonded from being in the film and become their own family. In fact, Alex’s family moved to Oklahoma City to be near the Smalleys and Kelby’s family.

What needs to be done to end bullying?
I think there are many solutions. The one we’re excited about is the opportunity to touch hearts and minds. We want to give kids the encouragement and motivation to see how powerful they can be when they stand up for someone who’s bullied. We’ve had lots of school screenings and seen kids charged up in terms of making the choice. One kid stopped bullying on his school bus and said, “I never would have if I hadn’t seen this film.” We’re also working with school districts and putting together a Facebook tool set that’ll help families know their rights and policies, and talk to schools if their kids are being bullied.

Going back to your experience–when you were bullied as a kid, what’s one thing you wish someone had said or done that might have changed your situation?
There was a group of kids who did stand up for me, which meant the world to me. As I recall, my town was very racially divided—all the white kids ate lunch at one table, all the black kids at another. I was invited to sit at the table with the black kids. They protected me and made me feel safe. That was a game changer. And it goes to show that there’s extraordinary power to stepping up to someone who’s being bullied.

Bully is now in theaters in select cities. Go to bullyproject.com for more information.

Heather Eng is web editor of FamilyCircle.com.

Yes to ‘Bully,’ No to Bullies

Written on March 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm , by

Guest blogger Shawn Marie Edgington on the new documentary Bully.

There’s nothing more urgent in today’s schools than bullying, and there’s a must-see documentary premiering in select theaters on March 30th that powerfully speaks to the growing epidemic titled BullyBully tells the gut-wrenching stories of several children who were victimized by classmates in such a relatable way, that you will find yourself wanting to reach out from your seat to help them. Chances are that the only way your child will get to see Bully is if you or another adult takes them because of the R rating the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) gave the film.  Unfortunately, the rating has handcuffed the film from being seen in schools due to a very small amount of language in the film.

I was asked to screen Bully earlier this month so I could support the cause of reversing the R rating to PG-13. I invited teens, parents and an officer of Formspring to attend the screening with me, so I could get a strong sense for the film’s content from three different perspectives. I must admit, I went into the film thinking I was going to keep track of the number of “F” bombs that were dropped. I was wrong in a very big way. Twenty-five minutes into the film, I found myself searching for the reason for the film’s R rating. When it was over, all we could do was shake our heads as to what a disservice the MPAA did to such an important issue and film. I’m a conservative parent of teens, an anti-bullying advocate, a bestselling author and a mother who’s experienced both bullying and cyberbullying first-hand. I’m also a firm believer that every parent, educator, administrator and teenager needs to see this film, which brings me to the larger problem.

Many parents and educators think that bullying is a tired social problem that won’t go away and is part of growing up. Even worse, many adults don’t take cyberbullying seriously, and have yet to take the time it takes to understand the long-lasting damage it can cause.

This thought process has got to change, and here’s why:

Cyberbullying can be more damaging than face-to-face verbal harassment, because targets have no refuge. They are assaulted even in the privacy of their own homes. Damaging messages come 24/7 and rumors spread quickly. Since harassers don’t see their target’s reactions, they tend to become even crueler than they would be face-to-face.

Consequences have both short-term and long-term impacts, especially for the target. They often feel isolated, scared, helpless, humiliated and have a hard time trusting anyone, which is exactly why a supportive parent or trusted adult who will stand up for the wrong-doing is a must.

What can you do? You can’t stop the bullies or change their minds, but you can control their access to your children and how you handle a bullying situation in your home. Educate yourself about the problem of bullying and cyberbullying, its causes and consequences. Develop strategies with your child to avoid social problems related to online communication and assess your child’s behavior, on and off campus. Help your child take these important steps:

Block the bullies. You can do this on Facebook through settings, and you can block incoming text messages by calling your service provider. Check out Facebook’s Family Safety Center for more useful tools and resources.

 

Don’t read comments. Some messages and posts are going to get through to your children, either on their phone or Facebook page or from someone else’s. Help your child understand the power of deleting all messages before they read them.  Bullies don’t win their game if their messages aren’t read.

 

Ignore comments that are read or talked about. This is hard to do. Your child wants to defend themself, but the truth is that bullies want them to fight back so they can continue to tear them down.  If your child can find the strength to ignore what the messages say, the bullies will have no way to continue to harass them.

 

Report threats. If your child receives a message that threatens their safety, contains vulgar language directed towards them, or just makes them uncomfortable, they need to know that they can tell you or a teacher, and that they will receive ongoing support. If someone feels like their life or personal belongings like their house or car are being threatened, they should immediately report the threat to the police.  Most states have enacted laws to protect children from cyberbullies.

Give your child a voice. Let them use the art of filmmaking to write and direct their own anti-bullying 2-5 minute film. The Great American NO BULL Challenge is the largest, youth-led national campaign in America that combats cyberbullying at the youth level. Online toolkits about “all things cyberbullying” are available on the campaign site. The annual campaign uses the power of social media to inspire 25 million middle and high school students to promote awareness, courage and equality using social media and filmmaking.

And most importantly, take a few hours out of your busy schedule to see the film Bully. Take as many teens to the film as you can, and advocate for your schools to screen the film–it’s that important and that good! Every middle and high school child needs to see Bully, and you can help make it happen. I can’t help but contemplate that maybe the MPAA had the bigger “picture” in mind when they gave bully its unearned R rating…just maybe it was their brilliant goal to get parents to accompany their children to see the film too? The fact is that today’s teens are very aware of what’s happening to bullied victims every day–it’s the parents and educators who are in the dark and behind the times.

Producer Harvey Weinstein is now releasing the film without a rating, which could further limit who sees the film.  Theater owners have the decision to run a film without a rating, which are typically treated as if they have an NC-17 rating, meaning nobody under 17 can see it.

Share your thoughts about bullying and the MPAA’s rating of Bully in the comments below. Read our other posts about Bully.

Shawn Marie Edgington is founder of the Great American NO BULL Challenge and bestselling author of the Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media.