Is anyone going to take responsibility for bullying in our schools? Anyone? Anyone?

Blame

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For me, it didn’t have to do with weight or body image.  But for so many, it does.Whatever the reason, we’ve got to do something. Anything. Watching people point fingers and put temporary band-aids in place that aren’t being followed in the first place isn’t helping anyone.  Not the teachers.  Not the bullies.  And certainly not the victims.  When is the time?

When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied.

As a woman in my 30s, I can still say this: It was one of the worst years of my life—perhaps THE worst—because going to school was so horrible and yet I had to do it 5 days a week. I still remember the knots in the pit of my stomach—waiting on line to go into the school—waiting for the laundry list of female relational aggression to start. Everyday was the same. Target…ostracized. Rumors…sent. Eyes…rolled.

The teachers never knew what to do. I’m not sure if they were cut off at the knees, they didn’t have a plan, or the school didn’t have their back.  All I know is that I was labeled “sensitive.” It was my problem—the teachers did feel bad about it but… “kids will be kids.”

So I stood there on the black top during recess, completely alone, clearly unhappy, clearly apart from the crowd, and yet…nothing. The one time something was done, I was sent to the library as the rest of the class sat in the classroom with the teacher and talked about…me. Then one of my “friends” who bullied in me in school came to get me, gave me a stare down before entering the class, told me not to “lie” and left me in her dust. Then the teacher talked to the class with me present. It was humiliating. It didn’t help. At. All.

So when I read yesterday in the Washington Post that the laws that were enacted to cope with the bullying problem, especially since the shootings in the 90s, offer practically no protection—mostly because, well, they aren’t really being enforced, I got that familiar knot in my stomach again. If you’ve never been bullied, it is the most sickening, exhausting, heart-wrenching feeling. You don’t feel comfortable walking around in your skin. You want to be anywhere but there. You want to be anyone but you.

It’s actually one of the reasons I do what I do.  From creating Powerful Words to the work I’ve done with girls to the presentations I do for teachers, coaches and instructors. I want to help kids like me—I want to help kids like those who bullied me—I want to help them early so that maybe…I don’t know…maybe an infiltration of character education, and understanding of how words and actions shape lives, encouragement that adults need to get involved and take responsibility– would help a few people avoid what I went through…or worse.

But what about the anti-bullying laws? And as it is, the laws wouldn’t have even been helpful for someone like me. I was only in 5th grade. The laws only apply 6th-12th. So what about those kids who aren’t yet 12 years old and in the 6th grade? Some will never reach it. Just take a look at these sad cases:

An 11-year-old had complained of teasing and was found hanged in his Springfield, Mass in mid-April.

A 10-year-old boy hanged himself in a restroom stall in a suburban Chicago school,

An 11-year-old boy was found dead in Chatham, south of Springfield,

An 11-year-old daughter hanged in a closet of their Chicago home.

All complaining of bullying before the tragedies.

One of the big problems here is that people are quick to point the finger at who should be in charge of teaching children not to bully and inflicting consequences if there are incidents. Parents point to teachers and school officials to take responsibility, teachers and school officials point back at parents.

“A lot of this has to be handled in the home,” said Peter Daboul, chair of the board of trustees at New Leadership, the Massachusetts school where her son was a 6th grader.

But what happens when the fingers get pointed? Nothing gets done. Result? Kids suffering.

I also find it very frustrating that relational aggression is clearly given “a pass.” Even those states that are doing something about bullying (like threatening that schools will lose their funding if they don’t keep good records and transfer bullies after 3 offenses, such as in Georgia), these departments are only tracking broad offenses like fighting and threats. So much for spreading rumors, being ostracized, and intense teasing. Those wouldn’t qualify or be recorded.

There is still great confusion about how to define bullying, what’s offensive, what’s child’s play, what can lead to tragedy. What counts? Blows to the head? Cyberbullying? Taunts and teasing? “One of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as simple as a rolling of the eyes,” said Dale Davis, a spokesman for schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide.

Maybe we should ask the kids…who are being bullied.

“In 2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55 million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics.”

So where are in this? Just spinning our wheels until something more tragic happens that leads us to wonder if what we are doing already is the right thing to do? I can tell you now—it’s not. I mean, 55 million kids sounds like a lot to me. does it to you?

I don’t know…maybe I’m just being sensitive.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Top 10 Ways to Thank teachers who make us feel good about ourselves

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It’s rare to find someone who inspires us to be our very best– who makes us feel good about who we are– no matter what our size or shape. Do you have a mentor, teacher, or coach who does that for you or your daughter? Let’s show them a little gratitude!

(1) Send out a press release: Press releases are simple and free. Write up a letter and send it to the press for all the community to see.

(2) Prepare a meal: The busiest mentors or teachers might not have time to prepare something special for themselves!

(3) Send a note of gratitude: Take time to write something really special. Teachers and coaches appreciate your words of support. Site specific ways that they have helped your children or family. You might think that “everyone” will send a note of appreciation—but many won’t. Be the person who provides a heartfelt thanks to a favorite teacher, coach, or mentor. You can even send a free e-card!

(4) Give a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant: Sometime during the month ask your teacher’s friend about which restaurant is a top-pick or ask the teacher where s/he might suggest you take your spouse to lunch or dinner over the weekend. Then get the gift certificate and surprise the teacher!

(5) Give a gift certificate for a massage, manicure/pedicure, or facial: Many teachers, coaches and mentors don’t take the time to pamper themselves. Give them the gift of relaxation as a real treat!

(6) Personalize t-shirts or coffee mugs: Take a picture of the children or teens that the teacher, mentor or coach have helped or have the children make a special collage and get it transferred onto a shirt or mug for posterity!

(7) Picture it: Take a picture of your daughter and put it into a special picture frame for the special teacher or coach. You can even personalize the picture frame with the teacher’s name, the grade, and the year with a little engraved brass tag or ask an artistic friend to paint it right onto frame.

(8) A tasty surprise: Bring in muffins, a cake, or pizza so that your favorite teachers or mentors can enjoy a special well-deserved treat.

(9) Walk of fame: Borrow or purchase a red carpet, roll of felt, or paint butcher paper red and tape it down in the center hallway. Make gold stars with each teacher’s name on one. Have the school greet the teachers as they enter the school, take pictures (paparazzi) and celebrate!

(10) Have a give-back day: The best way to show gratitude is to give back! Help clean, paint, and wash the windows! Raise money for the mentors/teachers’ favorite charity. Plant a tree or some flowers! Donate some books to the library in their honor! Refill their supply closet! There are many things you can do to give back to the people who’ve helped your family all year long!

We love our teachers, coaches, instructors, and mentors!

Thank you!

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Being a Positive Role Model: Seven Ways to Make an Impact

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She wants to be just like you. Are you being a positive role model?

A role model is someone whose behavior is imitated by others. Of course, there are good role models and bad role models. There is even the counterintuitive anti-role model who behaves so badly that s/he serves as a good example of what NOT to do.

Given all the negative messages children are getting about body image and self worth, we all hope that children have good, strong role models. These role models should possess the kind of qualities that make our sons and daughters want to be (and become) better people. While there is some variation in every parent’s definition of what it means to be a good person, the following 7 characteristics of a positive role model remain constant.

Positive role models;

(1) Model positive choice-making: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don’t only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Someday, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, “What did s/he do when s/he was in the same situation?” When you are a role model it’s not enough to tell your charges the best choices to make. You must put them into action yourself.

(2) Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weight the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they to come to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.

(3) Apologize and admit mistakes: Nobody’s perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) it’s not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you should take responsibility for it as soon as possible. By apologizing, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model.

(4) Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness and self discipline. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don’t quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) don’t back off when things get challenging. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an “if s/he can do it, so can I” attitude.

(5) Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to “treat others the way we want to be treated” and yet, may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead? Do you take your spouse, friends, or colleagues for granted? Do you show gratitude or attitude when others help you? In this case, it’s often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in how children perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.

(6) Be well rounded: While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just “parents” or “teachers.” They’re people who show curiosities and have varied interests. They’re great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones. You may be a father who’s also a student of the martial arts, a great chef, a good sportsman, and a treasured friend. You may be a mother who’s a gifted dancer, a solid rock climber, a celebrated singer, and a curious photographer. When children see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they don’t need to pigeon-hole themselves in order to be successful.

(7) Demonstrate confidence in who you are: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you’ve become and continue to become. It may have been a long road and you may have experienced bumps along the way, but it’s the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength we’ve amassed, and the character they’ve developed. We can always get better, however, in order for children to celebrate who they are, their role models need to show that confidence doesn’t start “5 pounds from now,” “2 more wins on top of this one,” or “1 more possession than I have today.” We must continue to strive while being happy with how far we’ve come at the same time.

While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; nobody is expecting you to be superhuman. We certainly wouldn’t expect that behavior from the children who are looking to us for answers and guidance—nor would we want them to expect that kind of flawless behavior from themselves or others. You can only do your best. And, if you mess up today, you can always refer back to tip #3 and try again tomorrow. Good role models earn multiple chances from the children who believe in them and know they can do anything if they simply put their mind to it.

Here’s to a Powerful Week!

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