Tag Archives: teaching kids about bullying

Author Talk: A Conversation about Bullying

 

Pamela Price describes what happened after she gave an author talk on bullying

 

Although we homeschool (thanks, food allergies!), I’m conditioned by my own public school years to see the month of May as something akin to closure.

It’s a good time for reflection and taking stock.

Looking back, one of the standout moments of “my” 2015-2016 year was a school talk I gave about bullying. As a former bully target and as a journalist who wrote a parenting book on the topic, my anti-bullying talk is packaged as an “author chat” that engages students in different ways, I think, than if I came in hard and fast and “preachy” on the topic.

Below are some jottings about the experience, which I’ve edited to share with you.

Today, after my speech and as they were preparing to file out of the auditorium, two girls (one likely prone to mean-girl aggression and her sidekick) animatedly asked me about what to do when someone pushes, touches, hits or shoves. In other words, what to do about physical bullying.

When I told them what practicing martial artists will say–“Walk away”–they got agitated. “NO! You’re a wimp! A sissy!”

I responded that as much as they didn’t want to hear it, it’s true. Yes, one can defend one’s self but that’s not the same as active, routine retaliation.

I could see the second girl was starting to get it, so I proceeded.

“Neurologists–brain scientists–tell us that what fires together, wires together. Imagine if we respond to every slight, real or imagined, in [a hostile, retaliatory] mindset. Then we start to default to the “fight” part of our brains. It becomes how we interact–from a place of anger.”

CLICK.

I could see the secondary girl realize what I was saying. The most aggressive girl? She was visibly uncomfortable that I’d undermined her authority–an understandable reaction.

Watching all of this was a young man who had been seated with the girls earlier, chatting happily. Based on conversations with educators and observation, he appeared to me to be  twice-exceptional and consequently struggling with physical and emotional regulation. (In other words, a part of the demographic I specifically talk about in my book.) He pulled me aside and whispered “It’s like in the Bible. ‘Turn the other cheek.'”

“Yes,” I replied. “There’s wisdom in the Bible* about this kind of thing. About being loving and kind. You can use it as a model, if you want, if that’s what you believe.”

While the girls talked to others around them, I placed my hand on the boy’s shoulder and said “I’m counting on you to take leadership in the movement toward kindness. I think it’s in you.” And he smiled at me and nodded. Then he hugged me.

As they filed out, I could see that the dynamic in the trio’s relationship had shifted, changed, morphed. The lead girl was quiet, the sidekick gave a little side-eye to the lead, and the boy?

He was, for the moment, peaceful, calm.

All three of them are clearly intelligent and capable. They can indeed be forces for change in their schools, in their lives.

All three of them, I think, needed that conversation today.

I know I did. 

Weeks later I continue to feel deeply moved at the power of conversation and connection. It’s bigger and more important stuff than words on a page or slides on a screen–and a nice reminder of how author talks can pave the way for deeper personal inquiry.

*There is, of course,  much wisdom about interpersonal relationships in MANY religions and secular philosophies, but in this instance it as important to validate his revelation in his terms. I met him where he was, to encourage him.

 

***

Pamela Price is the San Antonio-based author of two books, including Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families (GHF Press, 2015). To inquire about having her speak to your school or group about bullying, click here.

 

 

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{Book Review} Ripple’s Effect by Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson

The cover to this children’s book, newly released by our friends at Little Pickle Press, caught my attention with it’s rockin’ title and adorable dolphin.

It has to be among the cleverest titles ever. Seriously.

As someone who has spent the last year giving a lot of thought to the issues of bullying and relational aggression, however, it was the book’s pages that most thrilled me. Ripple, you see, is a dolphin in a new tank–a fish in new waters, if you will–who runs into a nasty dude named Snark.

(Yes, Snark the Shark.)

Naturally, we grownups have all run into Snark (and Ms. Snark, too) in our lives. (This election year, some of us have run into them almost daily on Facebook.) Over time, we’ve learned to either tune them out or “kill ’em with kindness” depending upon the type of snarkiness they leave in their wakes. It takes time to learn these skills, and some kids are especially sensitive to the hostility thrown out by the Snarks of the world. So they need the guidance of a parent to help them manage the nastiness.

What is simply marvelous about Ripple’s Effect is that it shows children how the concept of “mirroring” works for us land mammals. Essentially, in the words of the authors, Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson, “When you smile, my mirror neurons light up, tell me I am the one smiling… We can make a ripple effect of positivity if we begin to choose happiness ourselves.”

Illustrator Cecilia Rebora brings this dolphin’s tale to life in captivating, gorgeous sea colors (blue, green, and white).

Much as Ripple lights up Snark’s life–and helps him leave (hopefully) his life of bullying behind, sharing this book with your youngster gives you a chance to emphasize positive solutions to big, ugly behavior. The trick to making the lessons stick is for us parents to continue the discussion about relational aggression throughout our every day experiences. (The publisher has graciously created FREE lesson plans.)

Curiously, I’ve found that the more we discuss these painful topics with our children, the more that we see evidence of negative, hostile and cruel behaviors in our own “mature” lives.

Yes, adult relational aggression is very real.

Perhaps if we parents teach our children well at home–using books like Ripple’s Effect, we can build good habits in our own “tanks.” And if enough of us do this and in turn form happiness ripples in the wider culture, then we might eliminate a lot of real-life snark.

Explore More:

• To purchase, Ripple’s Effect via the publisher’s website, please click here. This November, use code LPPRipple12 at checkout to save 30% on your entire order with purchase of Ripple’s Effect!

• You are invited to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and now on Sulia, where I’m micro-blogging on the Parenting Channel.

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher as part of a “blog book tour” celebrating the publication’s release. The opinions here are entirely my own.

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