Don’t Be An Easy Target

At times victims of bullying can be like a magnet and attract bullies. They can become easy targets based upon how they walk, what they say, or because they are just awkward in social situations. This is not to say that victims are to blame for their treatment. Rather I am offering an approach to help the victim develop resiliency and confidence. This requires coaching. We can’t just say to a victim to take action on their own. They have to practice, pick and choose their battles, and know when to walk away. This all comes with the help of a teacher, a parent, or a coach who has their best interest at heart. Here are eleven easy strategies that you can teach your students to help them develop confidence and avoid becoming or remaining a target.

  1.  Only you know if you are being bullied. The warning signs are the knot in your stomach and the fear in your heart.
    Bullies don’t have to know about the knot or the fear.
  2. Learn to stay “Stop Knock It Off.” Realize that when you say it that the behavior may not stop. After you say it, walk away.
  3. If what you say doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. You failed that time. You just haven’t gotten there yet.
  4. If a bully confronts you simply state “You have mistaken me for someone who wants to fight.” And Walk Away.
  5. Walk with your head up and your shoulders back. Walk at a moderate pace between classes. Don’t give the impression that you are looking over your shoulder.
  6. Hold your books under your right arm with a firm grip. Don’t clench them like you are thinking that someone is going to knock them out of your hands.
  7. Pay attention to your surroundings. When you are walking almost take a panoramic view of where you are going.
  8. Listen to your classmates and only respond when you believe that it is absolutely necessary.
  9. Don’t disclose any information to anyone that you believe that they will use to bully you.
  10. Know who your friends are. Keep your friends close and your enemies (the bully closer). Don’t try to be friends with the bully or be his sidekick. It won’t stop him from bullying you. By keeping the bully closer you are merely trying to understand his motives and how to manage his words and actions.

The Haunted House

Forgive and forget; that’s the line we are all taught as kids, and as adults we try to be sure not to hold grudges against those who have slighted us or who have exhibited behavior that lessened our own sense of self worth. Well, the forgiving part is easy because we forgive for ourselves and saying I forgive you is easy enough but, unless a person gets amnesia they will never forget the past hurts that have been inflicted upon them by their parents, peers, siblings, or maybe even employers. We all are only a compilation of what people have said to us or done to us, and those past hurts can wreak havoc on future relationships and can produce in families what I call

The Haunted House.

This house is not the brick and mortar variety and the residents are not harassed by the likes of some specter in the movie Poltergeist. It is a place where the experiences of the past have created an environment where the members of this family accept the abnormal behavior almost as a new normal, and this is where many children are raised. The dysfunction that occurs within the walls of this house is a direct result of the past hurts of the parents of the children that have been inflicted upon them by their parents or other significant others. Remember, people never forget, and if anger and bitterness remain because of past hurts during a person’s upbringing the children will suffer at the hands of a parent who lacks the ability to love, discipline, and communicate and by all measures is a parental bully; a bully who lacks the requisite skills to form a lifelong relationship with his/her children. But, that’s not all; this parental bully will create schisms in the house that pit the family members against each other and an example will be set that I get what I want through fear and intimidation.

What are some of the problems that this haunted house produces? Well read on and you will discover some of the reasons why dysfunction exists in so many homes, schools, and society.

The Haunted House produces a poor perception of life. Things don’t happen to us they just happen. Our reaction or our response to what happens will determine the tone that gets produced in a home. Those that live in a haunted house are always blaming circumstance or upbringing as the reason why they act as they do. They believe that they are determined. In other words, it came down through the DNA molecules or the learned behavior is so ingrained that they just can’t change. They don’t believe in the power of change or that they can change their response to the negative influences that have plagued them over the years. They are irresponsible in their thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, and motives and these negative traits just leak out into the atmosphere of the home where they are absorbed almost by osmosis by the children.

The Haunted House produces disrespectful attitudes. Ah, yes respect; having a high regard for the rights and privileges of another person. Respect is hard to give if you are not receiving it yourself and in a haunted house respect is tough to find. Parents who have multiple children and who are disrespectful can almost unwittingly create such sibling rivalry that the children begin to bully one another. Mom and dad fight all the time so it must be okay for us to fight as well. The problems really start though when mom or dad starts to draw some unfavorable comparisons between the children. This by default produces a sense of favoritism with children becoming jealous and envious of each other with one of the children gaining an upper hand; the upper hand that was given to them by one of the parents. Once the attitude of superiority develops in one of the children they then begin to believe that they can say and do what they want to their sibling(s). This behavior can be so unforgiving that it can produce scars that last a lifetime and it all started in the dysfunctional haunted house.

The Haunted House produces a lack of cooperation and non-compliance. Why are kids rude and disrespectful to one another? Is it a condition or is it learned behavior? I am not going to get into whether or not ADHD or ODD is the cause of the problem. All I can say is that 40 years ago the problems with blatant disrespect were few and far between possibly because these conditions weren’t invented yet. Bullying is a learned behavior and it is learned intergenerationally. What parents do in moderation the children will do in excess. Adult children who have left home in rebellion and have strained relationship with their parents have lost their ability to cooperate with family, school, and employment systems. They no longer know how to cooperate even though they might not agree nor do they have the ability to disagree with the right attitude. Moreover, the kids suffer because this attitude is brought into schools across the country where the children of these parents bring that same learned behavior with them and will con mom/dad to fight to the end against a discipline policy that that they believe has treated them unfairly. Parents accept this challenge only because they believe that they can win the battle with the school but will ultimately loss the battle with their child at home. This lack of cooperation and non-compliance has imputed the idea in our children that they are more academically adept than they really are, and that behavior is relative to a situation. It communicates that everyone has reasons for their behavior, but rapidly these reasons are becoming excuses. Self esteem is important but because of the failure to see the forest for the trees today kids feel good about themselves for no apparent reason. This failure of a society to go to the mat with this type of behavior has produced entitlement in our children and has allowed the bullying epidemic to escalate across the country.

So What Can We Do? We can’t change the way a parent was raised, but we can work to change the attitudes of children today, so going forward the next generation will develop more kind and caring behavior towards each other. Permanent help comes when we address the root problem and it is eradicated almost like the vaccine eradicated polio. Temporary relief comes when we work along the way and treat the symptoms we see and hold individuals more accountable for their actions. Awareness is the key and parents must be aware of their own upbringing and how the past can truly remind them of what they are not now. So here are some ideas on how we can overcome the dysfunction of the haunted house.

Knowledge of where we came from can at first be frightening but then it can help us gain insight into our own behavior. I am not talking about genetics here but more how we can understand the lifestyle and behavior of our ancestors. Do a family tree or visit the homeland of your grandparents if possible. It can help to understand the origin of some of the dysfunction that plagues you today.

Build a value system in your home. Know what is important to you and understand why you are teaching it to your kids.

Set boundaries long before they are violated. Boundaries set in anger only make situations worse. Teach your children how to set boundaries as well especially if they are the victim of bullying. Teaching a child at a young age to say “Stop, Knock It Off” can go along way in building their confidence.

Know your own discipline style. Are you autocratic or permissive? Do you best to balance your rules with a sense of love and understanding.

Don’t hold grudges especially against your spouse or your children. Once consequences have been imposed by you or even someone else realize that the deed was done and the price was paid.

Ask for forgiveness when needed and keep the emotional bank account from becoming overdrawn. This helps build trust and allows for mistakes.

Talk to your parents. Get things straightened out if the relationship with your parents has been strained over the years. Understand that you don’t have to do what your parents say, but always work to respect their opinion.

Understand that change at times can be frightening and that it is a step of faith. Accept the incremental process of change and be aware that you will revisit old behaviors from time to time.

Accept confrontations as a part of life and be courageous. Fearing someone can be paralyzing especially if it is your own child that you fear. Realize for yourself and for your children that courage is like a muscle and we only have to be brave for 2 minutes at a time.

Realize that this process is a marathon not a sprint. Stay the course, don’t give up. If necessary seek the help of a mental health professional to gain greater understanding into your own behavior.

Four Educational Models That Have Been Over Used

If you were to pick up a textbook on educational methodology and looked through it you would find models that educators have used for years. And I mean for years. A current textbook will have the same models in it that were considered current forty years ago. In the past these models were proven to help educators deal with student academic and behavioral performance and were part of the intervention process when students struggled with social, emotional, and conduct issues. Educators have used these models with some success but, as we have moved through the generations these models have suffered from what I call over use injury. The models haven’t changed but student behavior has, and the models have been used more now as a crutch than an intervention and do very little to help educators deal with the chronic behavioral issues in their schools. Behaviors such as disrespect, irresponsibility, bullying, violence, power struggles, lack of student motivation, clinical issues such as depression and ADHD and other issues were all problems that educators faced many years ago, but the intensity and frequency of these behaviors has become now the norm and not the exception. Let me make something very clear; an intervention is only an intervention if student behavior changes. Using an intervention that students are now immune to will only ceremoniously allow educators to say that something is being done; whether it works or not. So, what are these models? There are four of them, the biological/organic model, the behavioral model, the environmental model, and the psycho-educational model. All of them had their advantages many years ago, but now they suffer from what I call over use injury and may only work in a very controlled environment such as prison, or an inpatient psychiatric unit. Let me spell out for you how these models were used and are used now and help you understand how intergenerationally students have adapted to these interventions and why they no longer net the same results that they did in the past.

The Organic/Biological Model 

Our bodies can at times suffer from organic imperfections that can cause high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, or other diseases that can be treated with medications or other medical interventions that basically can keep a person alive. The wonders and the evolution of medicine have increased society’s life span by more than 15 years since the 1940’s, and is a necessary commodity if a person wants to maintain quality of life. Usually a blood or other test reveals the cause of certain symptoms that prompts the doctor to place his/her patient on medication to lower blood pressure or aid in the relief of those symptoms. Children who are behavioral problems have too often been treated with Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs as a means of controlling out of control behavior and all too often these drugs are used as the first resort and not the last. As an administrator I have called many parents about their child’s behavior only to be told that the child didn’t take his pill that morning or that the prescription has run out and they have to get to the doctor or the pharmacy for a refill. The debate is not whether or not to medicate a child, rather the debate is what the medication does to a child and is medication the only answer. Those in the mental health industry will tell you that therapy along with medication nets the best result when dealing with a client, it would seem rather apparent that medication along with fair, firm, and consistent discipline that is balanced with rules and compassion would net the best result in education as well. The truth is the so called quick fix may be what we are looking for. A person with high blood pressure has to take responsibility for his own health by walking, eating right, and watching his weight; this along with medication will help to lower his blood pressure. Students need to take responsibility for their behavior through the imposition of consequences, if not the only thing educators can expect is temporary relief, not permanent help.

Parents who discover that their son or daughter may have ADHD are at times relieved to find this out because they then can transfer the burden of responsibility to the school who they will claim doesn’t understand their child’s condition and can very easily convert the reasons for the child’s unruly behavior to an excuse. Once excuses are used behavioral problems escalate and by default we can unwittingly agree with the behavior as it hides behind the condition. In reality it may not be a condition at all rather, a learned behavior.

The organic/biological model can at times cause educators to lower their expectations for student behavior as well. As a teacher I would meet parents at conferences only to discover that the parent in their own way had the same personality characteristics as their child. This discovery would send me to the faculty room crying out “I know now why Joe is the way he is, I just met his father or mother and they’re as weird as he is.” I will admit that once this happened I saw no hope and began to lower my expectation for the student. Genetics only influence student behavior, they don’t determine it. A person can change their response to the influences of poor genetics and begin to unlearn some of the  behaviors that are interfering with his/her learning. Students need to be taught how to rise above any genetic imperfection and this can only happen when we increase our expectations. Lowering expectations will only give the student the idea that they are incapable of not behaving in a manner that is acceptable to a family, a school, or society in general.

The Behavioral Model

When students or even adults contemplate certain actions they do so based upon two very important outcomes. What am I going to gain, and what am I going to lose. If the lose is great enough the risk might be too high. If the risk is at a minimum they may jump in feet first. If the consequence from the loss is too great they may evaluate taking that risk again. Students are in a constant state of evaluation and ask themselves these questions when they are thinking about doing something that could result in some uncomfortable consequences. For students who lack good judgment and are always involved in some type of misconduct educators use a behavioral approach and place the student on a behavior modification program. In other words they receive a reward for acting and behaving in appropriate ways as opposed to exhibiting poor judgment. If I understand this correctly students are rewarded when they change their behavior; which makes sense. But, what about the students who exhibit positive behaviors all the time, where is their reward? To the students who are always on the right track it would be to their advantage to act up and then change their behavior once they receive their reward. Behavior modification does work, but it is so extrinsic that students can’t maintain their positive behavior once the rewards stop coming. Many years ago students were rewarded for going above and beyond the behavioral expectations of the teacher, now students are rewarded for what they should be doing anyway, such as staying in their seat or being on time for school. Because of the over use injury that this model has sustained kids look to be rewarded for anything and everything. The students feel good about themselves for no apparent reason, it is a temporary fix, and once the novelty of the reward wears off the behavior continues. In addition the stakes have been raised with children in homes being given high end items for doing something that in years past would have been viewed as daily household chores. The same is true with the use of praise. A student could exhibit positive behavior for a day or two and the teacher falls all over this child with an avalanche of positive comments that do nothing more than put pressure on the student to continue to live up to expectations that he/she is incapable of. Praise if given too frequently can become like white noise in the mind of the student with him or her almost not believing the comments themselves. Praise needs to be given on a 1-9 ratio, for every one correction there needs to be nine statements of praise doled out. With ten months in the school year that should be one solid comment of praise once a month. In between educators need to strengthen their relationship with their students by practicing the 2X10. Two minutes a day for 10 days straight a conversation needs to take place with a student that is the most unlikeable and unruly. This conversation will strengthen the student/teacher bond and by the eighth day the student will be looking for the conversation. This breeds respect which if not present no amount of praise will change student behavior.

The Environmental Model

As a special educator I used the environmental model much of  the time. My students needed to work at desks that had blinders on them, use head phones, and were given individual instruction. With behavior problems the students were spread out all over the room to avoid verbal confrontations. The environmental model worked. By today’s standard the environmental model has taken on a whole different meaning. Parents request that their child’s schedule be changed because they are not getting along with the teacher or other students in the class. Students are now given individual personal aids to monitor them because their behavior is so out of control. No Child Left Behind standards now have teachers preparing individual lessons for many students in their room with two or three teachers in the room to aid with instruction. The environment has been modified to a point where more emphasis is placed on the 20% of the students with difficulty rather than on the 80% who want and deserve a quality education. The environmental model suffers from severe over use injury and no longer is used in education for what it was intended for. In reality environments are not modified for adults in the work environment. Oh, if an individual has a disability and needs modifications to perform their job duties they are protected under law but no employer will modify an environment due to an individuals poor social skills or lack of motivation. A person with this type of profile will provide all the evidence that will support the employer’s belief and they most times will be terminated. The environmental model needs to be used as an intervention to improve student performance not offer a way out due to poor behavior or social inadequacies.

The Psycho-Educational Model

When a student’s behavior is out of control what factors in the student’s life do we have to consider?  Some educators may consider the following: The parent’s are going through a messy divorce, alcoholism in the family, the student broke up with his/her boyfriend or girlfriend, low IQ, or they didn’t make a spots team. Which of these factors need to be considered? The truth is none of them. That is of course if you are a teacher. A social worker, behaviorist, or school psychologist would consider them all, and there in lies the problem. Teachers and support staff like the ones mentioned never have and never will get along in a school environment: why: because teachers seek consequences for inappropriate behavior and social workers et.al. seek reasons. This model has been over used and has suffered injury due to the fact that accountability for poor behavior has taken a back seat behind the guise of reasons which have become excuses. This model used to work well when teachers balanced their rules and regulations with compassion and understanding. That’s when the teacher did it all and offered an understanding ear after the student was disciplined. The minute that two people enter the discipline process a bad marriage begins to form with two very different philosophies being used. Students know this and just like parenting when mom says no ask dad, when the teacher is viewed as unfair enter the mental health professional to soothe the soul that feels maltreated. Some students need therapy and should receive it but it needs to be balanced with an environment that offers real world consequence.

The psycho-educational model has been misused and widely misunderstood by educators. The core psycho-educational principle is education has a role in emotional and behavioral change. . The rationale behind a psycho-educational approach is that, with a clear understanding of the mental condition, and self-knowledge of own strengths, community resources, and coping skills, the individual is better equipped to deal with the problem and to contribute to his or her own emotional well-being. Consequently, improved awareness of causes and effects leads to improved self-efficacy (the person believing that he is able to manage the situation), and improved self-efficacy leads to better self-control. In other words, the person feels less helpless about the situation and more in control of himself or herself. This model if used correctly can make a difference in the lives of students and parents as long as in the process of disciplining students educators and other mental health professionals work together in understanding a student’s diagnosis and use that diagnosis to educate and improve student accountability and not excuse unruly behavior behind a condition.

 

 

An Engaging And Thought Provoking Talk Show

Here is a wonderful testimonials that I received regarding The Bully Proof Classroom radio show that I do on blogtalkradio.  If you would like to be interviewed on my show please do not hesitate to contact me through this website. Just click on the tab contact at the top. The interviewee was Tiffany Haisten a dynamic teacher who has some great ideas on how to combat the problem of bullying that we face in our families, schools, and communities. Listen here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bullyproofclassroom/2013/11/14/the-bully-proof-classroom-interviews-tiffany-haisten

 

The Bully Proof Classroom is an engaging and thought provoking talk show. Jim Burns is informative and provides meaningful insight to the problems that teachers and parents face daily. The Bully Proof Classroom gives straightforward advice to the bullying epidemic that is swamping the nation. Listeners are guaranteed to hear honest and uncensored common sense discussions. Guests on the Bully Proof Classroom are allowed to bring real world situations to the table and share proactive tips on parenting in this “post-modern” world.  Jim Burns approaches topics that are often controversial with grace and tact; which provides the listener and guests the opportunity to hear opposing opinions without the worry of argumentative shenanigans.  Jim Burns and the Bully Proof Classroom are equipping parents and educators with the resolve they need to stand up for our most precious gift – our children. I am listening…are you?

Health Insurance Or Health Care?

What does health insurance and health care have to do with bullying? Well maybe nothing or maybe it has a lot to do with it; maybe more than we would like or even imagine. I’m not sure but I feel compelled to speak about an event that occurred on October 18, 2013 that involved my daughter Grace and I. I think that it’s important to state here that I have health insurance, good health insurance. I am a retired high school administrator and receive an excellent health care package from the state of New Jersey. So, this is not going to be a complaint fest. It’s something that I am speaking about because my eyes were opened to a few things that are worth sharing as the topic of health care has become so divisive in our country. I’m not a politician, just an average Joe but things happen at times that just trouble me.

I received a call on Friday morning from the nurse of Grace’s school. She informed me that Grace was experiencing a great deal of pain on her right side and should be taken to a doctor or to the emergency room at our local hospital to rule out appendicitis. I drove over to the school picked up Grace and headed to the hospital’s emergency room. We walked in and filled out a form with all of the basic information needed by the hospital. We then sat and waited to be called for what they call triage. About ten minutes later a nurse called us in to an examining room and asked us for the same information that was on the form I just filled out and entered it into a computer. She asked Grace some basic questions about her condition took her vital signs and told us we would be called back in when a bed was available. In about 15 minutes we were called back in, directed to a room where Grace put on her hospital gown and waited. Waited for what I hoped would be a doctor. Well, the door opened and in came a woman with a portable computer and asked us for the same information that I just gave to the triage nurse. I hope you are counting. A nurse came in occasionally and tucked Grace in, took her temperature, asked her how she was feeling and left. We just wanted to see a doctor and get a diagnosis.

After about an hour a woman came in, gave us her name and identified herself as the nurse practitioner. She examined Grace and told her that her pain was in the area of her appendix and that she was going to order a CAT scan. My question was and still is; where was the doctor? I mean I have good health insurance right, so why was my daughter being examined by the doctor’s underling?  The next thing that happened was a tech came in to schedule the CAT scan and asked Grace the same questions that the other three people asked her previously. How many times do they need this information? Well Grace had her CAT scan, and we found out after a six hour stint in the ER that she was constipated. She was told to go home take a laxative and eat more fiber.

Well, now the rant. As stated earlier I have good health insurance as do many people but, that doesn’t matter, because health care, not health insurance has become a political football in this country. The government was shut down because of it, patients who are in the hospital pay $60 dollars for Tylenol because of it, the mind of everyone is focused on it, the media talks about it, and quite frankly I am sick of IT. What’s the difference between health insurance and health care? Health insurance is what you have or will have when you apply online and receive the health insurance that will be assigned to you by the government. To many people this is a life saver. Some people think that it is for FREE. It’s not, the co-pays are huge, the deductibles are between 2 and $10,000, and based upon your income you will have to pay a monthly premium. Health insurance is what you have or will have; health care is what you get. The quality of the care will be determined by how much the doctors, clinics, and hospitals can afford to offer based upon how much they receive from the insurance companies. My quality health insurance does not guarantee me quality health care. I can see any doctor I want but my care will be based upon the doctors revenue overall. If my doctor has huge overhead and he is treating patients with huge co-pays and deductibles the chances are pretty good that when he is done treating those patients he will be waiting around for his money for a good long while. The results for someone like me; I receive the same health care as does everyone else.

Let me get this straight right now, I am pleased that everyone will receive health insurance. But, I want them to be aware often what is believed to be a life saver can be a killer. Many people are broke in this country right now. What are they supposed to do when the doctor wants his co-pay, or when they can’t afford to pay the minimum insurance premium, or when something catastrophic happens and their insurance doesn’t cover it, or when money has to be paid to meet their deductible? The government will have to eat those numbers and that will drive up the national debt all the more.

I am just an average Joe which I said already, I worked for 30 years to receive the great health insurance that I now have. But, I can see already that if an emergency room doesn’t have a doctor but has a nurse practitioner working the floor someone will pay and I don’t mean monetarily. Did I feel bullied the other day? Of course I did. I was forced to accept the unacceptable because there was no other alternative. Are we being bullied as a country? Of course we are, the problem is though the country doesn’t even realize it.