Dr. Linette Daniels has a PhD in Education – Training & Performance Improvement, is a national speaker, author and coach. She has spent the last 20-years working with youth from the cradle through college in a variety of arenas to include public school, child care, foster care, juvenile court, social services, and youth-serving programs. Daniels is also the founder of Empowering Youth For Success and has spent her whole life caring for and nurturing children – raising 2 biological children and 12 therapeutic foster care children as a single parent.
Examiner: What do you see as the cause for the rise in bullying?
Daniels: Our kids are over exposed – over exposure is the major problem. Over exposure has come as a result of technology, but it has now opened some doors that we did not have years ago. Our kids don’t read anymore because of video games, music videos, etc. They are being raised to want everything right now. Over exposure is replacing the innocence of our children, and our family time. The only way that some young people know how to express an emotion is with violence because that is what they are exposed to every day. Parents are not home anymore, so there is no balance with how long our children are being exposed to these other entities. Not all video games are appropriate.
Examiner: How does bullying relate to a young person’s success at home, in school and/or in life?
Daniels: It really doesn’t. Bullying is not good for the bully, and it is not good for the person being bullied. A child who is being bullied cannot possibility do their best in school because they are living in constant fear. The child who is being bullied, it can totally destroy their life. Kids are now killing themselves which is absolutely insane. This should not be happening. The kids who are being bullied feel no-one cares, and the person doing the bullying feel that they can continue to do what they do because no-one addresses the issue with them.
Examiner: What do youth need to turn this epidemic around?
Daniels: They need self-esteem. Take the person who is doing the bullying – if we can peel away a lot of the issues (layers), we may find abuse in the family, no food at home; when we get down to the root of the matter, it’s (all about) self-esteem. When a child has high self-esteem they don’t need to bully someone else. If the child who is being bullied has high self-esteem, not only will they stand up for themselves but they will have an ‘aura’ that they can’t be run over. When both sides of the coin if you will have high self-esteem in my opinion that is the ultimate medicine to the entire problem all the way around. When I worked with the juvenile court, the children who were bullied, the bullies in particular they are in a protective mode, and because they cannot take out their anger at home, or cannot express themselves at home – their displeasure, dislike – if they feel they have no control in one area of their life, then they will take that control and become a bully. Hear what I’m saying, that this is not the case with one who is a bully. Only some times. We’ve heard that rape is not about sex, it is about control (and power). Some people don’t understand that. Bullying is also about control and power. Where is that need for control and power coming from? It is to compensate for the lack of control and power they don’t have in their own life. [The act] of bullying is not where we should be looking at or focusing on. We need to get through the layers and get to the root of the problem. We spend too much time on what we ‘see’ is happening, and less time on the ‘fruit’. As long as we continue to address the fruit then all we are doing is putting a band aid on a wound that needs surgery or major stitches. We have to be proactive in getting to the root, the seed of the problem. In other words, for all the gardeners out there, if you have weeds in your garden, you don’t cut them off because you know the weed will continue to grow. What the gardener has to do is dig down to the root of the weed and pull it out. That is exactly what we have to do with those who engage in bullying, go to the root of the problem and take care of it.
Examiner: What do you think about incorporating peer mediation, Anti-bullying programs, and conflict resolution programs into our schools?
Daniels: Absolutely, I am 200% in favor. I love peer mediation. Having these services in the schools is where they need to be. Whenever I speak to teachers, I tell them the children are with you more awake hours than they are with their parents. So even though they may not want the responsibility of taking care of these children, they have it, by virtue of taking the responsibility of being a teacher. The school system then needs to have quite a bit of things in place that they don’t have. Kids don’t like to listen to adults and feel that we don’t understand. When you have peer mediation with young people listening and dialoguing both sides of the situation. That doesn’t mean that adults should not be present, as support, but we should train peers to be mediators. It teaches a skill and set-up a system to address conflict between young people. In addition, the school system needs to have classes like communication skills and conflict resolution which should be mandatory classes that kids in school should take. It should start in kindergarten. We wait until our kids are in high school and are killing each other before we want to teach them these skills. And what we don’t realize is that cliques start in kindergarten, not middle school and high school. We need to stop thinking that our toddlers will grow out of certain behaviors.
Examiner: What can adults do to help? Baring in mind that some people think that bullying is not an epidemic and that a small number of cases are being hyped by the media.
Daniels: There is a lot that we can do — we need to speak up and recognize that is an epidemic. Try telling that to parents who are burying their children because they were killed by their bully or they killed themselves because of being bullied. As adults we have to live and be an example, because our kids don’t do as we say, they do what they see us do. Bullying in the workplace is outrages today. Why is it ok for a parent to think they can holler and scream at their children? When we can behavior ourselves in a manner that is respectable and respectful then we are modeling how our children should behavior. Why is it ok for our teachers to talk to children like they are nothing – it isn’t. Why is it ok for a boss to yell, scream, and humiliate an employee – it isn’t. I personally had to have a teacher fired because of how they were talking to my child. Now, my child was in middle school and liked to talk too much. But he would come home everyday and tell me how one particular teacher was talking to him. But I didn’t believe him, initially. It took about three months, to get to the bottom of the problem, but eventually this teacher was recorded verbally abusing the students. As adults we cannot behavior how we want to and expect our children to behavior differently.
Examiner: Tell us a little bit out Empowering Youth for Success?
Daniels: At Empowering Youth For Success we focus on three areas – business success, financial success, and leadership success. We cannot empower young people to be leaders if they don’t have anyone to follow. Leadership is not about power, it is about everything except power. If we can teach young people how to be great leaders then we will also be able to address some of the bullying that we see going on. We not only work with young people, we work with parents as well. Leadership training empowers youth to be good leaders and ties so very well with attacking the bullying problem. Teaching them to be leaders is going to add to that self-esteem seed that we were talking about earlier. When young people realize that they can be leaders their self-esteem grows. A bully is a leader…misguided so we want to take that outspoken or aggressive quality and re-focus what is negative into positive leadership skills. All schools should have a youth entrepreneur class, a leadership class, and so no because our kids need to know more than just one + one = two. I’m not saying that, for instance, math is not important. But in today’s society our children need much more than the basic subjects to prepare them for an ever changing world, and also prepare them for conflict that they will experience in the workplace, in college, in church.
As always, I write these articles in the hope that they will inspire, provoke thought, and create conversation.
Until next time…