Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Parents Can do when their Child is Bullied

I have a friend Roxanne who complained to me all year that her child was ridiculed by a few boys at his school. Her boy was highly academic and on the small side and didn’t care much for sports. The kids at their school constantly made fun of her child’s physique and called him “skinny” and “dorky”.

Her son, a very sensitive boy in the 6th grade, never complained that much and didn’t want his mom interfering. He feared that the older kids might retaliate even worse and call him a “mama’s boy” if she stepped in and met with the teachers and principals. Finally, at the end of the year, my friend got up the nerve to call several of the parents and ask them if THEIR child had been the object of anyone’s aggression. She asked them if anyone had called them names and she did it from the point of view that she was just trying to get to the bottom of the issue and didn’t accuse anyone. She acted like she had no idea who any of the culprits were and told them that her son hadn’t told her any names. The parents were all surprised that anyone had been negatively singled out at the school and promised to ask their sons about it.

The next day, several of the boys came to school and apologized to my friends’ son.

I have another friend, Linda, whose daughter is in the 4th grade. She’s a beautiful girl and gifted in music. She also does gymnastics and has a very pleasant personality. She’s on the shy and quiet side and comes from a very good and moral family. She’s been taught to respect everyone and to help out the less fortunate. Unfortunately, some of her classmates hadn’t been taught to do the same.

Her classmates have young moms who are still trying to look like teenagers themselves. They drop off their kids wearing short shorts and halter tops, hoping to score a few looks with the married dads. They allow their kids to dress sexy and go to PG 13 movies. They live a bit differently from my friend who is trying her best to protect her daughter from getting exposed to the world at too young of an age. Because my friend’s daughter is on the young side for her class, and a bit shy, she is constantly made fun of for not being able to go to PG 13 movies and for the clothes she wears. The other girls have often started rumors about this young girl and have threatened the other girls that have attempted to be friends with her.

Both of my friends have kids who were bullied. This year, neither of my friends will take it any more. They are going to take action this year!

According to research, bullying can be physical, verbal or relational/psychological. Teasing or spreading rumors is just as damaging psychologically as kicking, biting or hitting. Bullying has long term consequences on kids’ self esteem. Nipping it in the bud early can allow kids the opportunity to blossom and to concentrate on school and their extracurricular activities and not have to worry about their social standing.

Parents need to know that they can and should take action. First, talk to your kids to determine what is happening at the school and casually ask if there are any bullies at the school. It’s possible that your child is being bullied or is a bully without your knowledge. It’s best to take on a supportive tone when dealing with this subject and never take action without your child knowing about it. Getting kids to open up and discuss it by listening to their feelings about it can help you gain trust with your child.

Next, if there is no anti-bullying policy at the school, it’s time to start one! Enrolling help from the teachers, PTA and other parents is the first step. You might need to have a phone campaign to find other interested parties to help. Then, the awareness campaign must begin! Meet with teachers, the principles and students start peer mediation groups will help others take over the role of educating the school. Encourage everyone to speak about it, to discuss it and to brainstorm of ways within the school to deal with bullying. Meet other schools locally to understand how they’ve been able to deal with bullying and research the internet for speakers and organizations who help parents and kids.

The bottom line is this: if your school doesn’t have an anti-bullying program in place, more than likely bullying IS happening at your kid’s school. And whether or not your kid is being bullied or is the bully, its going to take parents who are willing to step up to the plate and teach the kids that it is not acceptable behavior.

Becoming an advocate is one of the best things that you can do for your kids. They’ll learn to take care of things from a leadership point of view by taking action instead of just complaining. And complaining to others creates more frustration. But frustration coupled with strong action plan equal positive results!

Working together, we can stop the bullies! Parents and kids UNITE and stop the bullies!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Schmooze Your Way to Social Success!

If you are like 99% of the population, you probably get a bit nervous before going to a gathering of people who you don’t know. Why are we humans like that? Aren’t parties and social functions intended to be fun? Aren’t we supposed to relax, enjoy the moment, and feel energized by connecting with new people? Perhaps.
But then why is drinking alcohol so popular at parties or at bars?
Believe it or not, just knowing that everyone in the room is feeling more or less the same can help you realize that you are not alone in your apprehension. Surely, many people debated whether or not to even show up at the party. Others called around and asked what their friends were wearing, what time they might arrive, or even tried to back out at the last moment. Some of them downed a quick beer or glass of wine or perhaps took a prescribed medication to calm their nerves before scooting out the door.
Why all of this trepidation for something as common as a social party? The simple answer is that we all desire to fit in and be liked. We want to feel at ease and comfortable in any environment. We worry if what we are saying is going to be appropriate and we worry if we’ll be able to THINK of something to say. Our fear is that we will stand there with a blank look on our face and appear stupid. Luckily, there are ways you can prepare……..
There are a few easy steps that are guaranteed to help the individual who really wants to get out and develop new friends or network to improve their business or social life. While the steps are simple, they take practice and so it may be a few parties before all of the steps feel natural to you. My suggestion is that you give them a try one by one.
First, realize that everyone is in the same position. Several are probably MORE terrified than you. Knowing this will help you understand that part of your job at the party is to help OTHERS feel less threatened. Take the lead! People will be so relieved that you started a conversation, any conversation, that they will immediately think you are dynamic and interesting.
Secondly, before you arrive at the party, take a few minutes to visualize yourself enjoying yourself at the party. Imagine yourself relaxed and having a good time with others and enjoying their company. This type of preparation can be crucial to your success because once you have a mental picture of yourself in a given situation, when you are actually placed in the situation you feel as though you’ve already been there.
Third, make sure that you are in a great place emotionally. Take a minute to assess things in your life that you are grateful for, things that you love, and people that you admire. Think of how you feel about a person when the only thing they have to say is negative or complaint-based.
So keep your complaining to yourself and be ready to be optimistic, hopeful and fun. If you’re really having trouble finding something to talk about compliment your surroundings or the wonderful job the host did by bringing everyone together. Enter the party in a relaxed state.
Deep breathing is a great way to calm the nerves.
When you arrive, take a look around the room and try to connect eyes with as many people as you can, and give a slight smile. Smiling and strong eye contact says to others, "Hey, I’m nice, friendly and optimistic and I’d love to get to know others who are the same". Wander over to the punch bowl or buffet table; people naturally congregate around the food and drinks.
Another great idea is to scan the newspaper or the internet and take a minute to review what is going on in the world so you’ll be able to comment on any current events that come up. It isn’t necessary you know ALL of the details, just a few simple ones. Remember this when getting briefed on news events: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Never worry about someone else knowing more about a topic than you do- chances are they will! And they will LOVE you for giving them a chance to talk about something they are knowledgeable about and be thrilled to have someone willing to listen.
And lastly, as QUESTIONS. Let others do the talking. For instance, "This seems like a GREAT party. Do you know many people here?" And then ask to be introduced to the people they know. If you don’t want to talk about the weather, then ask if the person comes to the area or neighborhood frequently. People love to tell others about their favorite haunts in a given area. Or if you’re from the same area, ask if they’ve been to your favorite haunts. Be willing to ask questions of others, and then share of yourself. The conversation should be equally split between the two or three people who are standing in clusters. Make sure you include everyone who is near you and draw each into the conversation.
Parties are a great place to network, develop new business, or just learn about what others are exploring in their lives. It is a great opportunity to increase your own knowledge about topics you know nothing about. People will LOVE you if you become naturally curious about them and their interests and are able to talk about things other than yourself. Once you implement these steps on a regular basis, your personality will become magnetic and people will be looking for YOU, instead of the punch bowl!