Archive for January, 2011

Bullying: Teaching your child how to handle conflict (Pt.3)

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

This is the last installment of the article ‘Beneath the bulling, another victim’ written by Eric Gosier, Times Columnist for the St. Petersburg Times, on September 17, 2002.

“The chain of accountability that used to keep behavior corralled into manageable range has been broken: Children are shipped to schools miles outside the neighborhoods where they interact with children they see only at school.  Parents know teachers only through the names that appear on report cards.

With so much working against them, school officials deserve praise for keeping schools grounds from becoming more battleground than they are.  Until that continuum is resurrected, until parents assume more responsibility for guiding their children, until we as a society learn that setting boundaries for children is as important to a child’s development as letting them explore new ones, schools will be stuck in its growing role of treating symptoms.

It was disheartening to think what lies ahead for my grandson’s 6-year old bully.  Pinellas County schools have a program of training for teachers and administrators devoted to bullying.  It is run by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and came into being about nine months ago after analysis disclosed that two-thirds of school shootings involved young people who had been bullied.

Consequently, said Linda Jones, supervisor of the program, the emphasis is on teaching children who are being bullied how to respond appropriately.  She and Jan Urbanski, one of the prevention specialists conducting the training, confirmed some of my conclusions about bullying and said there has been little research.

They do know that the bully is searching for power and control, and it’s most prevalent in middle school, that in earlier grades it’s more likely to result from a lack of social skills than an ingrained desire for control, that it’s easier to fix at that stage.

I was surprised they did not reject out of hand my advice for my grandson.  Within the three R’s taught in their training — recognize, refuse and report — I suppose my suggestion would fit under the refuse part.  Jones and Urbanksi emphasized, though, that the victim should resist only when he determines it’s safe to do so.

With any luck, the little bully will acquire some social skills and become a well-liked, healthy citizen of his school and community.”

We often don’t want to think of the bully as a victim also, but that could be a very logical explanation?  Barb North, a well-known mediator and coach indicates that “…unresolved conflict is everywhere around us.”  She goes on to list the damage that unresolved conflict can have on our families:  domestic abuse, custody battles, communication breakdowns; to our schools: student and faculty assaults, harassment, lost class time; to neighborhoods: neighbor disputes, gang violence, police time wasted; to businesses: loss of productivity, needless litigation, backstabbing, retaliation; to innocent parties: collateral damage of every kind.

Is your child’s teacher(s) trained in conflict resolution? Is there an anti-bullying program, conflict resolution, or peer mediation program in your child’s school?  This writer would like to suggest that our parents take some time to find out exactly what their school is doing to manage bullying and conflicts between students.  This is for your child’s health and well being.  And your peace of mind.

Until next time…

Bullying: Teaching your child how to handle conflict (Pt.2)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

On September 17, 2002, Elijah Gosier, Times Columnist for the St. Petersburg Times, wrote a piece titled ‘Beneath the bullying, another victim’. Mr. Gosier reminds us that while our grandparents may have a specific instructions on how their sons and daughters should handle the school bully, that certainly is not the way to handle that type of behavior today. Perhaps you remember your father telling you. “Son, I don’t ever want you to start a fight, but if someone hits you, then I want you to make sure that you win!” His article continues…

“I learned — and taught — that lesson as a timid first-grader when a high school boy thought it would be funny to keep me from getting off the bus at my stop. What to him was a joke to amuse his friends was deadly serious to me: If I missed my stop, my normal six-tenths of a mile walk home would have more than a mile added to it. Size notwithstanding, I managed to swirl and bloody his nose.

I never had any trouble getting off the bus after that, and he endured teasing about the incident that grew in each retelling so that long before he graduated, it was simply “the time a first-grader beat him up.” My reputation after that — and that I had four older brothers — kept the rest of my school days essentially bully-free.

But there is another side to bullying, especially, as in my grandson’s case, when the bully is 6 years old. A child that age, who already displays such dysfunctional behavior, undoubtedly is dealing with other problems that make him more victim than the target of his bullying. Unfortunately, it is he, and not the parents, who ends up getting punched in the nose.

That’s what my son found when he accompanied my grandson to school the next day to make sure teachers and school administrators were aware of the problem. On sight, my grandson, who didn’t inherit my subtlety gene, announced to his bully — and whatever teachers and students were within a 100-yard range: “My dad said I can beat you up!”

The bully, confronted with responsibility for his actions, behaved like a timid 6-year-old, creating for my son a quandary: It’s easy enough to fix an instance of bullying, but how do you fix the problems that led to that behavior and will probably continue in other forms?

That is where I ran out of experience. The landscape is different now: The disconnect between school and community has never been greater. The fabric of family has never been more tattered. Standards of morality and notions of discipline have never been more muddled.”

There is certainly no excuse for bullying someone – constantly harassing an individual on an emotional or physical level – however, it is interesting to see that even in 2002 it is noted by Mr. Gosier that “…The disconnect between school and community has never been greater…family has never been more tattered…morality and notions of discipline have never been more muddled.” Is the implementation of Conflict Resolution, Peer Mediation, and Anti-bullying programs an essential part of our school system? Tomorrow, Mr. Gosier’s article concludes.

Bullying: Teaching your child how to handle conflict (Pt.1)

Monday, January 10th, 2011

On September 17, 2002, Elijah Gosier, Times Columnist for the St. Petersbug Times, wrote a piece titled ‘Beneath the bullying, another victim’.  Mr. Gosier reminds us that while our grandparents may have had specific instructions on how their sons and daughters should handle the school bully, that certainly is not the way to handle that type of behavior today. Perhaps you remember your father telling you, “Son, I don’t ever want you to start a fight, but if someone hits you, then I want you to make sure that you win!” Over the next couple of days, you will read how Mr. Gosier’s instructions to his son differ to the instructions he finds himself giving to his grandson.

“I could tell by the lateness of the call that he had given it a lot of thought.  My 5-year-old grandson, a couple of weeks into kindergarten, was facing his first bully and his father, my son, wanted to hear my thoughts on how he should deal with it.  He told me that he had already passed along the instructions I had given him when he was about that age and I was about his, the short version of which is: Never start a fight, but if forced to defend yourself, win.

Of course, now I added the suggestion that he should make sure the teacher and other school authorities were aware of the problem before he sent his son to school armed with permission to fight back.  That was a step I had left out of his instructions.  The experience and common sense I relied on for parenting guidance — rather than the latest fad theory of some childless expert — told me that it is usually not convenient to excuse yourself in the middle of being bullied to go tell the teacher.  Sometimes, telling plays right into the bully’s hands, affirming to him that you are afraid and need help dealing with him.  Sometimes, telling intensifies the bullying, which is usually done without benefit of an audience, or with an audience of others who already fear the bullying.

Experience taught me that bullies may like to beat up on kids, but they generally don’t like to fight.  They push around those children who are afraid to offer resistance.  Common sense tells me that in the long run you do the bully a favor by punching his lights out.  You teach him that assumptions about size and strength, personality and character are sometimes not valid, that there are consequences to trying to control and exploit other people.”

[This article will continue tomorrow - If you are parent and know that your child is being bullied in school contact the teacher or schools officials, or go to the Hernando County School Board's website and complete the Bullying Report form.]

Bullying: How does your school rate?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

We can agree that if your child is the victim of bullying it can be a very big deal, a traumatic experience. What are our schools doing to address and combat what appears to be an increase in bullying in our schools?  How about using ‘Little People’ as part of your Bullying Awareness Program?  That is exactly what a school in Spring Hill, Florida decided to do.

The John D. Floyd Elementary School for Environmental Sciences hosted an all-day event that focused teaching its students how to respect each other – the presenters were ‘Dwarfs’ or commonly referred to as ‘Little People’. The school partnered with the Hernando Sheriff’s Department and two ‘Little People’ who grew up with dwarfism.  Undoubtedly, these two men probably received their fair share of bullying throughout their childhood.  And I might venture to add, during their adult years as well from individuals who don’t know any better.

While this was just a one-day event and a positive start, what about the rest of the school year?  We want to believe that our schools don’t and won’t tolerate bullying.  But as a parent do you know if your child’s school has a program in place to deal with bullying or any other type of conflict?   Have the teacher’s gone through training to be able to address these problems? Is there a contact person that parents can go to if they have a complaint?  These are all valid questions that should be asked when enrolling your child into a school, including a before- or after-program.

Bully Prevention, Peer Mediation, or Conflict Resolution Programs, should all have a place in our school’s programming.  We can talk about the cost of implementing these programs, or the fact that our school boards don’t have the money.  But the truth of the matter is, our children and teachers alike need access to these programs especially when we see, hear, and read more and more about cyber-bullying, increased violence in schools, on school buses, shootings on school campuses – the list goes on and on.  How many children and teens have to die before we stop talking about addressing these issues, and start addressing them?  A modest but consistent prevention can go a long way to making our schools safer, providing our children a sense of security in a learning environment where they should be free to learn and not continually worry about school violence.

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