How can I protect my kid from a bully?

Today’s Question: The Bullied Kid

“My 9 year old daughter was bullied all year by the same boy. I brought my concerns to the teacher multiple times and told the yard duty to keep an eye on her at recess. On the last day of school he purposely pushed her down while they were standing in line and knee got all banged up. When I came to pick her up, the teacher said she fell and banged her knee but that she was fine. She was NOT FINE! She needed support! And why was he even allowed to stand next to her in line? The teacher knew this punk ass kid had been picking on her all year. I am livid!

I talked to the principal and she was trying to defend him saying he has behavior issues and the counselor was working with him. Um, NO. The teacher knew what was going on and still made her stand next to him in line. I’m so upset. I’m at the school all the time volunteering. My daughter hides behind me whenever she sees him, she’s terrified. I’m trying my best not to go crazy on them but this is not ok.

School is out for summer but I’m worried about this repeating next year. How can I ensure this student is not in her class? I want to help her feel safe but I don’t trust the school to look out for her. How can I protect my daughter from this bully when the school won’t?”    Allison

bullied kid

Parent Educator Answer: Why Do Kids Bully

I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this Allison. When I first started working as a parent educator (18 years ago?) no one talked about bullying. Slowly, people started talking, and boy did it spread like wildfire! Every American Idol contestant has been bullied in school. Educators made efforts to bully-proof their schools. Anti-bullying campaigns raised awareness. This problem is taken much more seriously now than in the past.

Because this term gets used so much, I think it would be helpful to define it. Bullying is the use of coercion and force to abuse and intimidate. In order to be considered bullying the behavior must include:

  • repetition
  • an intentional act to hurt or harm
  • an imbalance of power

It sounds like your daughter has been exposed to some repetitive behaviors this year. We don’t know if the boy’s intention was to hurt your daughter. He could have been mad that she was walking too slow, or annoyed that she was in his way. It could be he was going to push whoever was nearby and your daughter was an easy target.

It seems like this shouldn’t be important because the fact remains your daughter got hurt, she is scared of him, and the teacher hasn’t been able to protect her. This is important because the word bullying is often misused.

Sometimes, it’s just mean behavior. For example, in the last podcast, Andria wrote in about how her daughter tells girls she’s not their friend any more and gives them the cold shoulder. It would not be surprising, in this day and age, for this hurt girl to claim “bullying.”

The third criteria, the imbalance of power, is important to take a look at. It sounds like your daughter and this boy are the same age. If your daughter is in a minority race, religion, sexual orientation, then there is an imbalance of social power. If there is a significant size difference or she is disabled in some way, there can be a physical imbalance of power.

If there is no external imbalance of power but just a perceived one, where he thinks he can pick on her because she’s an easy target, then it may just be mean behavior.

Whether it’s real bullying or just mean behavior, finding ways for the victim to feel powerful is the most important thing.

The Bullied Kid: What To Do

Here are some ways to support your daughter so that you and she feel powerful:

  1. Talk to your daughter about things the teacher or yard duty could do to help her feel safe. We can’t make him “be nice to her” and the teacher can’t be expected to protect her from him all the time. Would she feel better if he switched seats or classrooms? Could she ask friends to stick by her side at recess? Encourage her to problem solve and ask for what she wants.
  2. Teach her to use powerful words with authority figures to get the attention of adults. Words like harassment, abuse, bullying, hostile environment are attention-grabbing and powerful. When kids are scared they tend to shy away, like a turtle pulling into its shell, hoping no one notices them. This makes them appear like an easy target to those looking for one.
  3. Document and share everything. The school’s hands are tied in many ways, but you and your daughter can help get the result you want by focusing on facts, safety, and sharing your documentation.
  4. Write an email to the principal stating how if this aggressive behavior continues next year, you will hold her out of school until they can provide a safe situation for your daughter. Be clear that you are holding the school accountable for her absence and they will need to make arrangements so it doesn’t impact her academics negatively.

Parents really do have a lot more power to affect change in schools than they realize.

What’s most important is for your daughter to feel heard, seen, felt, and protected. We are wired to experience bad things. This is not the issue. She can handle boys being mean, angry, and stupid. She can handle getting physically hurt and feeling scared. That’s just part of being human who is alive on the planet. Our job is not to prevent bad things from happening to our kids.

Our job is to help her feel supported, understood, and powerful.

We want our children to be able to identify an injustice and believe they have the power to change it. In order to create system wide change, we need to have confidence, persistence, and understanding.

Life Coaching Answer:

I’ve been teaching various parenting topics for 18 years: friendship challenges, puberty, money, anxiety, raising a reader, toilet training, you name it, I taught a class on it.

But I will NEVER teach a class on bullying and here’s why.

Right now, think the thought, “My daughter is being bullied.” Notice how you feel when you think that thought. Defensive? Tense? Tight? Ready to leap into action? What kind of action do we want to take from this state? We want to fight.

With clenched fists, we brace ourselves. We want to punch that bully. Or his parents. Or the school. The THOUGHT “My child is being bullied” makes us want to bully right back!

It’s a natural response. We are powerful momma lions wanting to protect our children, heck, ALL CHILDREN from these bullies. We think things like: “He needs to be taught a lesson.” “He can’t go around hurting people.” “The schools can’t allow kids to behave this way.”

None of these thoughts is helpful.

We can teach this boy lessons in kindness but we can’t make him learn. He does go around hurting people so clearly he CAN hurt people. The schools are obligated to educate all children, even ones with behavior issues. They can instruct and provide consequences, but there are protocols they have to follow before they can legally remove a child.

When we hear the word bullying, we jump into fight mode. This makes US feel powerful, but doesn’t help our KID feel powerful. It also doesn’t help us jump through the necessary hoops in order for productive action to be taken.

The schools need us to write down the specifics, exactly what FACTS took place, but it’s hard to do this when we have such a strong emotional response. Instead of helping schools take appropriate legal action, we get mad and stay mad.

Empowered

If you really want to help your daughter, remove the word bullying from YOUR vocabulary, but encourage HER to use it. She feels empowered because she knows bullying is wrong and this isn’t her fault. You can help her stay focused on taking productive action to make her school a better, safer place for everybody.

The best result to come from bullying is the victim learns her words have power, she feels supported, and believes that she has the ability to create social change.

Supermom Kryptonite – Complaining

In episode 16, I mentioned that getting together with girl friends and venting about frustrations can be very helpful. Venting your emotions into a journal or with a trusted friend, can release the pressure, helping you think more clearly and hear your own wisdom.

Complaining is repeating the problem from a place of powerlessness. It implies that nothing is going to change and you are helpless. Every time we repeat the same negative story, we reinforce the synapse in our brain, making it stronger and feel truer. Be careful not repeat anything that you don’t want to grow. Complaining not only makes us feel tired and helpless but negatively impacts the mood of those we are complaining with.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Let off steam

In order to access our calm, logical, and effective part of our brain, Momma Lion needs to let off some steam. We want to honor the anger, it’s an important emotion to have. Anger signals injustice. Don’t suppress it, instead:

  • go to kick boxing class,
  • scream your head off at your daughters swim meet
  • rip up a magazine
  • stomp on a cardboard box

Let your kid see mom process anger in a healthy way so they learn healthy ways to let it out.

Today’s Quote of the Day

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed; it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Nervous about having kids all summer? Here’s how to enjoy it.


Help Torie! I am nervous about summer! I’m a stay home mom and I WANT to be one of those chill moms who loves hanging out by the pool sipping lemonade. My kids are 5, 7 and 9 so I’ve done this enough times to know that I’m not a great summer-mom. I love the structure that the school year provides but I’m not good at creating a structure for myself at home.

I signed them up for swim lessons and some other activities but I’m nervous about not getting enough time by myself. My friends that love the slow-paced, lazy days of summer. The idea of it appeals to me but the reality is, I’ll probably be crazy by July. How can I make the most of my summer?        -Stephanie

Parent Educator Answer: When you are nervous about summer

Summertime is important for the mental, emotional and physical health of children. There are two pass times that will optimize this quality time for kids: downtime and pursuing passions.

Children’s brains need the lazy, slow-paced days of summer to integrate learning, build relationships, and recalibrate to life without stress. It’s also a great time to discover and pursue passions that they might not have time for during the school year.

If your child loves baking, allowing her extra time to do get creative in the kitchen is a great use of summer.

Whether it’s building a hammock out of duct tape or learning to dive into the pool, giving kids time to choose activities freely increases the motivation parts of their brains.

Sorry kids, (and tired moms), the negative consequences of screen time on children’s physical, mental and emotional health are still outweighing any positive effects.

Find passions to pursue in the real world to maximize summer. TV and video games are too physiologically stressful to be considered downtime.

Summer and the Obliger Mom

Life Coaching Answer: With the kids squared away, it’s time to talk about MOM.

Stephanie, you sound like a classic “obliger”. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book called The Four Tendencies which describes 4 different tendencies that come into play when someone wants to take change a habit.

The Obliger Mom

One tendency she calls, obliger. Obligers have an easy time meeting EXTERNAL expectations (we show up on time for appointments, we remember to attend Back to School nights, etc.) but we have a hard time with INTERNAL expectations (going to the gym, making time for ourselves, etc.)

You say you do well with the structure of school but are worried about getting enough time by yourself.

Other tendencies (Upholder and Questioner) have an easy time meeting INTERNAL expectations. Meaning, if they want to lay in the sun and read a book every day, they do it. If they want to work out, they head to the gym easily without any drama.

The problem for Obligers is the KIDS start to take on the role of “external expectations”.

It’s easy for us to obey the demands of others: “Mom, can you drive me to Sophie’s?” “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Mom, can we go to the pool today?”

It’s almost like we lose the ability to hear our own voice. We feel imprisoned by the demands of our kids. Waiting for them to be happy and satisfied before we can listen to our own voice.

Obliger moms have an especially hard time being home with kids all day.

Rather than wishing you were the kind of mom who can just chill and enjoy a slow-paced summer, learning to work with your natural tendency will make life much easier. Here are 4 tips to help obliger moms enjoy summer more.

4 Summer Tips for the Obliger Moms

  1. Recognize that waiting for your children to be happy and satisfied isn’t working. They will never push you out the door saying, “Go take care of yourself now, Mom!” If you want to feel better this summer, it’s going to have to come from your desire to give your kids a happy summer mommy.
  2. Start every day with a paper and pen, asking yourself “What would I LOVE to accomplish today?” “How do I want to feel while accomplishing these things?” “When I look back on my day before going to bed, what will I be most proud of?” Sit in the driver’s seat of your brain and tell it what to focus on.
  3. Build upon external expectations. Have a friend meet you at the gym. Tell your kids you have an appointment with your book at 3:00 and it’s their job to make sure you don’t miss it. Sign up for a class for YOURSELF. Make an appointment with a life coach.
  4. Use a timer as your external accountability. “I have 15 minutes to clean and then I get to relax.” or “I will drive you to your friend’s house if you’ll let me read for 30 minutes first.” The world benefits from obligers, but putting ourselves last has a cost to it. It’s time to prioritize your goals, dreams and desires, and show your kids the value of pursuing things that are important to you.

Supermom Kryptonite: Compare and despair.

It’s so easy to “compare and despair”. We go on Pinterest or Instagram and see other Moms so happy and creative, we think we should be different than we are. Everyone else appears to be having an easier time than us so we assume we should be different.

Instead, try thinking about adapting your life as a mom to your particular personality. If you like external expectations, sign up for classes and make appointments with friends and life coaches to help you work towards your goals.

If you are introverted and need extra time to be inside your own head, respect that and check into a hotel by yourself for 2 nights.

Take time every day to reflect on how things are going: What do you miss? What do you yearn for?

Motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all. The goal is to give your kids a happy, fulfilled mom. Make sure you are paying attention to who you are and what you want, rather than what everyone else is doing.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Read the book, The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Understanding your tendency can help you have compassion for yourself and others. Compassion always feels good and boosts our energy.

If you get frustrated with yourself, “Why can’t I be more easy going?” or “Why is it so hard for me to break this bad habit?” this book will help answer your questions.

There’s no one tendency that’s better than another (although Gretchen Rubin says Obligers don’t tend to like being obligers, where the other tendencies enjoy themselves more).

I WISH this book had been required reading before marrying my “Rebel” husband. It would have saved me many years of frustration, trying to get him to do what I wanted him to do.

Raising a rebel child came with its own brand of craziness. Since all teenagers have a rebellious streak, I recommend reading how to motivate a rebel for anyone raising an adolescent.

Whether you are an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, or Upholder, understanding and ACCEPTING your tendency makes life easier and more fun.

We tend to project our expectations onto our family, thinking they should be more like us. When you identify your loved one’s tendencies, it’s easier to enjoy them for who they are.

Quote:

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin

How can I motivate my son to do his homework after school?

Episode #3

How can I motivate my son to do his homework after school?

Today’s question comes from Lyla:

“My son is in 6th grade and isn’t motivated to do his homework. He does the bare minimum to get by. Everyday after school, I suggest, plead, scream, command (depends on my mood) that he GET his homework DONE so he doesn’t have to think about it anymore! All he wants to do after school is get on his skateboard. You’d think that would motivate him to get his homework done! When I make him to sit at the kitchen table with his books after school, he dawdles, complains, and argues with me. If I don’t say anything, and just let him ride his skateboard, he’ll pull his books out at 10:00pm and fall asleep shortly after. How can I motivate my son to do his homework after school?”

This is such a great question because it’s the classic example of Mom having a perfectly logical and reasonable solution to a problem. Getting the homework done after school is a great idea. The problem is, it’s not working. 

Lyla asks the question, “How do I motivate my kid?” but what she is really asking is “How do I motivate my kid to do what I want them to do?”

Parent Educator Answer – Motivating kids is about finding THEIR currency. Most kids want to get good grades, they just may not want to do the work required. Motivating kids is about finding out what works for them and this takes trial and error.

You can try no video games during the week, pulling out a favorite snack during homework time, sitting down at the kitchen table with them to do your own work. When the possibility of video games is available, it keeps the brain flooded with dopamine and can make it harder for kids to do the boring tasks of reading and homework. Eliminating the option can help. If the lure of free skateboarding time isn’t working, then it’s time to try something else.

The most important thing is to avoid a power struggle and get on the same team as your child. When our kids hit adolescence, it’s helpful to switch from being the authority with all the answers, to the coach and cheerleader, asking “How can I support the player?” They are so wired to rebel against parental authority, they might refuse your idea just because it’s your idea. 

Answer compliments of spiritual teacher, Byron Katie –

There are only 3 kinds of business: my business, your business, God’s business (Universe)

My business – Creating a conducive environment for homework (distraction free zone, quiet music, relaxing). I can create natural consequences for poor academic performance like hiring a tutor, meeting with the teacher, or reducing cell phone access. I can reward the EFFORT, not perfectionism.

When kids lose motivation to do well, it’s often because their parents have such high expectation and they feel such pressure, that they purposefully rebel against them.

Your business – What, how, and when you kids do your homework. I can sit at the table and put books in front of you, but I cannot make you read.

God’s business – If school is interesting or boring, hard or easy, it’s God’s business.

Do they like to work hard? Are they detail oriented?  Fast or slow? Are they competitive or collaborative? We can help our kids to appreciate who they are and how they best learn. Do they learn best in groups or alone? Or when they are outside and moving? Be careful not to argue with reality, wishing your kid was wired differently. Once you’ve figured out what is God’s business, you can let it go. There is nothing good to gain from arguing with it. 

 

Staying in “my business”

Movement helps kids process their learning. What if skateboarding is helping him integrate the information he’s already taken in? As our kids grow, we want them to have a good understanding of who they are and how they best learn. As moms, our job is to recognize that there is no right or wrong way. What works for us may not work for our kids, and that’s ok.

What gets in your way when you think about giving up your authority? Do you have a fear of letting go control? It’s really common with Supermoms. But trying to control something you have no control over puts us into struggle. 

At sixth grade, Lyla’s identity is still very enmeshed with her son’s grades and behavior. Her ego is probably tied up with her son’s performance and it’s a great age to separate. How can you still be a good mom while your kid has a D in math? Just because your child has a bad report card, doesn’t mean you get a bad report card as a mom.

You can separate out your ability to feel like a good mom, from your child’s grades, by staying in your own business and the things you have control over. This will allow you look deeper at the issue to understand why he is struggling, without making either of you feel like you are doing something wrong.

The most common thought moms have when their kid has bad grades or isn’t doing his homework, is “I’m not doing a good enough job as a mom.” We think we need to do MORE! This, naturally, gets us all anxious, trying to control the situation.

Circumstance – My kid isn’t doing homework

Thought – I’m not doing enough as a mom / I should be doing more

Feeling – anxious, embarrassed, insecure

Actions – do more, yell, plead, encourage, restrict, get more involved, overreact 

Result – We don’t sound like a coach or cheerleader. We seem needy and attached. Our child HAS to great their grades up in order for us to feel calm.

Instead of the thought, “I’m not doing enough as a mom”, what if we changed the thought to something like ….“He’s showing me what works for him and what doesn’t” ?

Feeling – calm

Action – observe, pay attention to, learn more about who he is, what works, and what doesn’t.

Result – You both are learning more about how to help the “player” win at the game of school. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Unproductive worry. Productive means there is an immediate action step to take. Ask yourself, “Is this productive worry or unproductive worry?” If I’m worrying about his bad grade, I could email the teacher, ask a friend for a tutor recommendation. If there is no immediate action step to take, let it go. 

 

Superpower Boost: Only try to control things you have control over. Figure out what here is mine, yours, The Universe’s. Example: 

My business: The food I buy, cook, serve and store in my house.

Their business: What they put into their mouth.

God’s business: They have a sensitive palette, hypo-sensitivity, hyper sensitivity, sugar addiction. 

Make sure you only try to control the things you have control over. You always have control of the thoughts you think, the feelings you feel, and the energy you bring to the relationship. If you want your kids to obey, make sure you stay in calm, confident energy.

 

Quote “Pay close attention to the particular thought you use to deprive yourself of happiness”  Byron Katie

Spending the holidays with annoying people

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung

So you will be spending the holidays with an annoying family member you don’t like.

You think it will be better this year. You won’t let them get to you.

As soon as you see this annoying person, you tighten up. You look away, then remember you are trying to be polite. You smile, say hello, engage in enough small talk so that you can avoid them the rest of the night without appearing rude. It works for a little while…until the wine kicks in and the comments come out….

Trumps latest political tirade. Your son’s behavior. Your daughter’s weight gain. The passive aggressive bragging about why they are better than you. The off-color joke. The rude comment.

You feel yourself starting to lose it. Promising yourself you won’t do this again. This is the last time.

You. are. done.

This holiday tradition happens in many homes around the country. But the best way to deal with it is before the event begins.

Instead of avoiding the issue and pretending like everything will be fine, use your past experience to predict and plan for the future.

I know it seems like THAT person is the annoying one and if they would just behave appropriately, then you could enjoy the family gathering. But THAT PERSON isn’t the problem.

The reason we get so annoyed is because of who we become when we are with them.

We don’t like tensing up and “making nice” when we don’t feel like it. It’s easy to get annoyed with ourselves for not saying the right thing at the right time. We wouldn’t be so bothered by them, if we acted in a way we admired. The reason that person gets under our skin is because of how we act when we’re around them.

The best way to stay true to yourself, no matter who is around or what they are saying, is to give other people permission to be who they are.

Give your uncle permission to think Trump is the lord and savior of our country.

Give your aunt permission to make passive aggressive comments about your unruly children.

Allow your Dad to raise his eyebrows at your spending habits.

Trust your Mom to make comments about your weight.

Give your brother permission to brag about his expensive splurges.

Expect your boss to make inappropriate comments about your co-worker.

Write down everything ridiculous thing you think might happen at your holiday party. (Doing this with a friend doubles the fun!)

Then watch the party unfold and your brain stay calm. This activity keeps you from arguing and getting annoyed “He’s an idiot, She shouldn’t say that, that is NOT OK!” to feeling satisfied, “I knew he was going to say that”.

This creates a win-win scenario for you. You either get to be right, or you get to have a peaceful evening without getting triggered by idiots.

You get to decide what you think, how you feel, and how you act. When we spend time with annoying people, it doesn’t feel like we have control over this. Allowing other people to be idiots, allows us to be ourselves, and stay in control.

If you struggle to stay calm and true to yourself around certain family members, schedule a free discovery call and let’s get you reconnected with your higher self, no matter who is around you.

 

Should I go or not?

Are you dreading an event that you’ve decided to go to?

I’m trying to decide if I should go to my class reunion. It starts in two hours so I can’t procrastinate any more. No one I was close to in high school is going to be there so it will just be vaguely familiar names and faces, that I will probably never see again.

I don’t feel strongly about going, or not going, which makes decision making difficult.

Are you going to an event, even if though it make you feel uncomfortable?

Maybe it’s your school auction, family reunion, class reunion, or work party that you feel obligated to go to? Going into an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar people is awkward for many of us. As I get ready to go to my class reunion tonight, I’m pulling out two life coaching tips I use in situations like this and I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. One way to get people to connect with you is to make yourself vulnerable (teenage girls are really good at this). It’s counter intuitive because when we are nervous, we tend to put up our protective shields and act “cool”. But if you can humble yourself in some way, others will connect more easily and feel invested in your well being. Tell someone that you feel nervous or uncomfortable not having anyone to sit with. Ask for advice with something simple like, “Where should I put my coat?” or “What drink should I get?” I’ve got a button on my dress that I can’t reach. Instead of working on it, I decided to leave it unbuttoned, then ask someone in the ladies room to fasten it for me. People like to help others so just by lowering yourself a little, you can make them feel good about being around you, making a slightly deeper connection than small talk provides.
  2. When I think about walking in there by myself tonight, I feel nervous about so much unfamiliarity. It’s overwhelming. By narrowing my focus, I can feel calmer and more in control. So instead of thinking about everyone else, I set an intention to experience something I value. You can choose to focus on enjoying food other people have prepared for you. Maybe you value new restaurants to explore or maybe there is one person you are looking forward to seeing? I know that people will be asking the very broad and annoying question “So what have you been up to for the last decade?” So I’ve decided to tell them about the up and coming projects I’m excited about (my new Supermom is Getting Tired podcast and facebook group!) These projects are much more interesting to me than my past and make me more excited about having the same conversation over and over again.

If you’ve decided to do something, you aren’t sure you want to do. Try these two tricks to enjoy yourself more. Humble yourself so that others can feel helpful and invested in your success, and set the intention to experience something you value. Thinking about your favorite conversation topic, beautiful scenery, or discovering a great new show to watch on Netflix, can make you feel in control.

Most people regret the things in life they don’t do, more than the things they do. So when in doubt, say yes.

 

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