Wednesday, August 31, 2016


There are billboards along the highway with positive messages against bullying and websites, many of which are empowering for those who are targets of bullies. Many issues are addressed but one aspect often overlooked is the fourth element in a bully arena:  the bystanders, a silent group that is not affiliated with the bully, the bully’s “henchmen”, or the “reinforcers”.  Data from a study that was done on school bullying sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, “Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice”, documents these four elements of the bully scenario.

An understanding of the dynamics of bullying can give a perspective on why and how, or why not, a bully becomes a respected force in a peer group.  Status is the main reason behind bullying, and status with respect is conferred by “popularity, dominance and visibility.” But to achieve this, the bully needs an audience. That audience is the “reinforcers” and bystanders. The bully needs others watching him/her tormenting another person.  There are four components in the bully arena:  the “henchmen”, those who help the bully torment the targets and “reinforcers”, those who laugh, cheer, taunt, video the torture, but remain disconnected from the bully, taking an obvious pro-bully side against the victim; and for the victim, the defenders, who can disable the bully in the classroom and outside, more than half of the time.  Lastly, the fourth element, are the bystanders, those who may be also traumatized by fear of the bully but cannot or will not take any action. So, in the arena, you are either the perpetrator, the bully, or an enforcer, an associate of the bully, or a reinforcer, participant in the audience, or a silent someone on the sidelines, a bystander.

What is needed is more defenders. To repeat an interesting point of the study, “The presence of defenders in classrooms is associated with fewer instances of bullying behavior, whereas the presence of reinforcers is linked to increased incidence of bullying (Salmivalli et al., 2011)….Bystanders doing nothing can also send a message that bullying is acceptable.”  This is important because it is the key to breaking the cycle of abuse.  This cycle starts in early grade school, and escalates during the teen years, especially with instances of cyberbullying. While one cannot necessarily vocalize, there are ways to stop the cyberbullies; firstly, by not participating in texting, sexting or harassing on social media, deleting the material after making a copy of the offending material and turning it over to someone in authority, and calling out those who are using cyberspace as an arena for bullying.

Talk, talk, talk to your children.  If we actively encouraged our children to be defenders, especially on the playground, and not to fear repercussions from the bully, then there would be no audience for the bullies.  Without an arena for the bully, henchmen, and reinforcers, there would not be positive payback for picking on someone.  Usually, even one person who speaks up and against the bullying, has a positive impact, stopping the action.  And others will follow the example of the ‘defender’ , but only if it is in the bystander’s best self-interest: i.e., if the bystander does not become the target.

Confronting the bullies can be rewarded by praise and examples set in the classroom by teachers and staff, and at home by caregivers and parents and family members, where children are encouraged to stand up, and speak up, because it is the right thing to do. There is a great website, Stomp out Bullying that used the term “Bystanders….Become Upstanders”.  Just the word, ‘upstanders’ is empowering and can make a big difference between a child feeling second-hand harassment or being proactive in a negative situation.  And it is proven in studies that when teachers, caregivers and parents encourage the ‘silent other’ to speak up on one’s own behalf or anothers, the bullying instances are reduced significantly in the classroom and on the playground. It is more than just words when one has a voice that is heard; it is power to be.

And be sure to check out this awesome website:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movies About Bullying to Share with Your Kids

Start the conversation about bullying, being a bystander, and being yourself, with these family-friendly movies.

Billy Elliot (2000)
A heartwarming tale of a young boy who dreams of being a dancer despite the protestations of his family and town.

Stars Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, and Jean Heywood.

More on>>

The Fat Boy Chronicles (2010)
When overweight teen Jimmy is bullied by his classmates at his new school, he starts keeping a journal to understand his feelings.

Stars Christopher Rivera, Kelly Washington, and Chris Bert.

More on>>

Cyberbully (2011)
Teenager Taylor becomes the target of cyberbullying via social media in this drama.

Stars Emily Osment, Kay Panabaker, and Meaghan Rath.

More on>>

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back-to-School Anxiety and Stress

Bullying and Back-to-School Anxiety
by Elizabeth J. Meyer Ph.D.,

Pay attention to what your kids don’t say. As school gets closer, your child’s behavior may change if they are experiencing fear or anxiety about returning to school. If they become more moody, withdrawn, or have a significant change in behavior or eating habits, these are all signals that something is going on that they may need your help with. Your job as a parent is to find out what it is and what you can do to help. If these behaviors become extreme (disordered eating, self harm, drug/alcohol abuse, etc.), don’t hesitate to seek out professional assistance. Read the entire article>>

9 Yoga Tools to Calm Kids’ Back-to-School Anxiety
By Erika Prafder,

It’s that time again—book bags are ready to roll and students nationwide are returning to school. While anxiety is natural, practicing yoga and certain breathing techniques can help students handle the pressures associated with peers, workload and making the grade. Try these 9 yoga tools with your kids for a stress-free start to the semester. Read the entire article>>

Plan to Tackle High School Stress, Now
by Alexandra Pannoni,

And while children should know their parents are there for them, parents shouldn't solve problems for their kids or put more pressure on them, Gissal says. Hughes says parents should resize their expectations of their kids. While everyone wants their children to get into the best colleges, Hughes says, that isn't the wisest goal for all students. Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 5: Soul Surfing (part 2)

He must have been puzzled, too. I don't think he had any idea of what a light was, or sunshine. Try explaining it sometime. It really stretches the brain cells. Popped a few of mine, for sure.

"Never mind, Yugo. I'll know it if I see it." Which I didn't, right at the moment. Everything still looked basically the same gray nothingness that covered acres and acres of land. The sky was still a washed-out colorless sheet overhead and the rocks were even all one color of non-color. "This would depress a saint, Yugo. So imagine how I feel."

I wish I hadn't said that, because he did imagine how I felt. Emotions were not a small matter to Yugo and the fleeting moment of hopelessness came back to me magnified. I would have to be more careful, more precise what I meant and to what degree, or I would be too overwhelmed by despair to get up and go on.

I stood, bent over and picked him up, giving him a firm hug. "We're not without hope! We're not going to give up!" I thought then, I would go straight ahead, keep moving until a better idea hit me. As I picked my way down over the rocks, off over my left shoulder, I spotted a bright mass. "Yugo!" I yelped for joy and just about lost my footing. "I think it's a city! Yes, it could be! Hold on!"

I scrambled down from the last rocky shelf, stumbling and almost falling, but Yugo clung to me with an iron grip that amazed me, I'd thought of him as almost helpless. Just as I started forward, I felt a rumbling behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a landslide of rocks coming down on us.

My first thought was Yugo. I hunched over, trying to cover him with as much as my body as I could while squeezing under the shelf I had jumped off. Pebbles and stones rained down, pattering the sand, stacking up as a wall around us.

Yugo cried and I felt him quaking in my arms. "It's all right," I reassured him, hoping he would believe me, "we aren't hurt and I'll dig us out of here." When I thought it safe enough, I once again put Yugo in the carrier-scarf and began plucking one by one at the rocks until there was an opening large enough for us to crawl out.

I was so happy, relieved and excited that I think I must have had the strength of Hercules to carry us all the way across the long stretch of sand that sucked at my feet. It was like running a marathon at Alki Beach, but in spite of the slowing down, I jogged at a steady pace, stopping short of the locked gate that led into the city of lights.

I was winded, but awfully happy to be here where there might be civilized beings. The whole place was lit up, the light radiating was clean, clear and bright. The buildings were huge, like gigantic polished mirrors that made what I realized was not a big city but more of a fortress, look so much bigger than it was.

"Our problem now, Yugo," I petted him and felt a hundred smiles inside of me, "is to get inside somehow." I absolutely had no doubt we would and could get there and get help. "I like to hear you purr, little guy."

I could tell he didn't like being strapped over my chest, so I undid the scarf, put him down while I tied the scarf around my waist, and then picked him again. I continued stroking him absent-mindedly while I searched for a doorbell or entrance. I no longer felt panicky, but figured it was just a matter getting someone's attention and we would be let inside. The last thing I figured on was Yugo biting me. "Ow! You brat!" I howled, shaking my hurt hand and hopping around, while I still held on to Yugo. "You're just lucky I didn't drop you on your face!" I examined my hand closely. No blood, but a lot of pain.

"Why'd you do that, anyway?" I peered into his face, and I didn't think he looked the least bit sorry, so I gave him a little shake and asked again, "Why did you bite me?"

Well, I guess if I'd been listening, I'd known the poor thing was hungry, more like starved. He must have thought I'd slacked off my efforts when I gawked so long at the city lights.

"All right, I understand, but remember it's me you're dealing with, and you shouldn't hurt your only friend." I snuggled him closer. "If you do it again, I'll put you down and you'll have to keep up with me any way you can, understand?" I think he took it as an empty threat, but I thought I could do it and would if he bit me again.

I grabbed the gate and rattled it, but it was solid didn't make any noise. I had been so happy to get here that I hadn't even considered the possibility of not getting inside. There was no way for me to climb over the six-foot metal fence, as it was smooth and slick, no footholds anywhere. So close, yet so far.

We'd come such a long way to get here, across a desert, chased by a demon, pelted by a rock slide, only to find out that we couldn't get in. We'd risked out lives to get here, and I wasn't going to let Yugo die. "Hey! Hey, someone, anyone!" I shouted, louder and louder. My echoes repeated, mocking me. "Someone, help! We need help!"

Even as I was shouting and peering through the slats of the gate, I thought it odd no one was in sight. I mean no one, no activity at all. The streets, sidewalks and storefronts were spotless and gleamed in the reflection of the lit-up buildings, making it all the more eerie because the city seemed lifeless. I listened real hard, turning my attention outward away from my thoughts or Yugo. I heard nothing. I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I screamed. Clutching Yugo, I backed up against the fence and stared, mouth wide open at the awesome, nasty looking dude in front of me.