Discovering That Your Child is Bullying Others

Everyone knows that bullying is a big problem in schoolyards and communities. However, health if it IS a big problem, search it means that there are a lot of bullies out there. It also means that a lot of parents have children who are bullies! Most of these parents are kind and reasonable people, order people who are shocked and dismayed when they discover that their child is a bully. They are also truly confused: how did this happen? How could their own child fail to absorb their values of respecting and caring for others?

If you have been informed that your child has been intimidating, scaring or hurting other children, consider the following tips:

Keep Perspective
Hearing that your child has been aggressive – and maybe even violent— tends to evoke a lot of strong feelings. There’s often anger, grief, embarrassment and shame – especially in front of the victim’s parents; there might also be confusion, guilt and maybe a little self-blame. It’s best to take time to process these intense emotions and really important NOT to try to deal with your child while you are still feeling very overwhelmed and/or very upset. If you confront your child at the height of emotion, you risk aggravating the situation and possibly even making the bullying behavior worse!

While you are calming down, consider the silver lining in this cloud: you have been made aware of a problem that needs healing attention. Often, bullying is a symptom of a bigger problem. It can be that your child has been victimized and is acting out his or her own pain. It might also be a symptom of a problem in your family that really needs corrective attention. Sometimes something in the child’s biology or psychology needs therapy. Take the current crisis as an opportunity to diagnose what is not working in your child and/or your family.

Look for Anger
Bullying is usually a symptom of a child’s repressed anger. If you find out that your child is a bully, try to determine if your child is angry and/or needs help managing anger.

Note that even young kids do experience anger. If they feel powerless against a parent or a sibling, they are likely to nurture a lot of resentment. If they are being bullied by bigger bullies, then they might be seeking revenge on people they can control. Children can also be angry about the “cards” that life has dealt them: experiencing difficult circumstances such as chronic illness, disability or death in the family, financial problems, separation or divorce, or other challenges and this anger can be unfairly directed at vulnerable people. This is even more likely when the child’s pain has not yet been identified or addressed by parents or professionals.

Look for Role Models
If your child is bullying others you might also look into the influences that might be feeding this behavior. Sometimes kids learn to bully by becoming friendly with bullies or even admiring a popular crowd of bullies in their school or neighborhood. Sometimes they learn it in the home, as older kids or even parents use “strong arm” techniques to get their way with them or other members of the family. Sometimes T.V., movies, computer games or other media can make rough behavior seem permissible or even positive in some way. If you see that your child is spending time in the presence of aggressive models, take steps to improve his environment and what he’s exposed to.

Seek Professional Consultation
Unless this is the first time your child has been accused of bullying behavior and unless that behavior is the most mild form of bullying (i.e. being a bystander when another child is acting aggressive), do consider involving a mental health professional. A little prevention can go a long way. Have the professional provide an assessment of the problem and make recommendations for the best treatment. If it is appropriate, have the professional provide therapy as well. Nipping this kind of behavior in the bud can help your child lead a happier and more successful life.

Take Other Steps to Address the Problem
If the bullying is new and minor, consider using Bach Flower Therapy. The Bach remedy Vine can often reduce the bullying tendency in children as well as adults. Four drops four times a day in liquid can be given until the behavior is no longer an issue.

Bach Flowers can also be used when other steps are also being taken – such as counseling, anger management programs, behavior management programs or other interventions that your child might benefit from. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

You might also want to arrange a bit of family counseling or marital counseling. It’s important to offer the best model possible for your kids. If you or your spouse tends to be very strong in parenting or marriage communications, your child may be acting out or copying your style. Professional help can speed recovery along, although if you and  your partner are motivated, self-help videos, books and classes can help bring your family to a higher level of emotional well-being while reducing conflict, anger and aggression, improving relationships and enhancing empathy.

Continue to Monitor Progress
Let your child know that bullying is completely unacceptable and will always be addressed through every possible means, be it education, communication, discipline, therapy or any other form of intervention. Show your youngster that this is a behavior you take seriously and want to help, not only because you object to it on moral grounds, but mostly because you know your child will never be happy as long as he or she feels the need to hurt other people.

Fakes Illness

Children often complain of stomach aches and vague symptoms like “not feeling well.” When there isn’t a fever, a rash, an x-ray or other “evidence” of illness, parents often feel confused. Is the child really sick of just “faking it?” Should the parent allow the child to stay home from school or send him off whining and crying?

What would cause a child to “fake illness?” While some parents may feel that laziness, lack of motivation or some other attitude problem may be the culprit, in fact there are often more serious reasons lurking beneath the surface.

If your child frequently complains of illness that the doctor cannot substantiate, consider the following tips:

Social Problems
Some children feel unsafe or uncomfortable at school. The discomfort can be triggered by the teacher, classmates or children in the schoolyard. How does a parent find out if the child is feeling frightened? Try not to ask directly. For instance, try not to ask, “Is someone frightening you?” Instead, use bibliotherapy – the reading of stories (or telling stories) about kids who are having trouble with friends, bullies or teachers. As you are reading, share some of your own memories of difficult times in your own childhood school days. In that context, you can ask the child “did something like this ever happen to you?”  This approach eases the child, allowing the youngster to learn first that social difficulties are normal and common. This helps him to relax, talk and listen better, giving you more opportunity to be helpful.

If the child does end up sharing a social problem, try to stay very calm and quiet no matter what you are hearing. This helps the child feel safe enough to tell you the whole story and to continue to share with you. If the child needs your help or intervention, do all problem-solving calmly and slowly. Take time to seek advice from your spouse, the teacher or a professional – whoever is appropriate. Work out a plan with the child and/or with a professional. Sometimes a formal plan isn’t necessary – just giving the child the opportunity to talk about his problem can be helpful. Often the child can work out his own solutions when a parent just listens compassionately, without jumping in with advice.

Academic Issues
If you have an exceptionally bright child, then he or she may not be interested with the current lessons and is painfully bored at school. On the other hand, school can sometimes be too challenging for a child, leaving the youngster feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes a child just needs a day off – a mental health day – after a period of hard work, academic stress or general life pressure. In such a case, just give your child an occasional day off and tell him directly that he doesn’t need to be sick. Just arrange a break once every couple of months or so. If you’re not sure whether schoolwork is the issue, a psycho-educational assessment can pinpoint the problem and offer solutions. Sometimes, it’s as simple as ordering glasses for a child who can’t see the board or read the instructions.

Family Problems
Sometimes a child is emotionally distressed by stress in the home. The child wants to stay home either because he is too distressed and distracted by what’s happening in the family (conflict, violence, separation, divorce, illness, dying, etc.), or because he wants to keep the home safe himself by “holding down the fort.” Sometimes the child is trying to divert attention from a family crisis by being “sick” and needy; if everyone has to take care of him, then they won’t be able to die/fight/dissolve or otherwise engage in some destructive process.

If you suspect that the child is reacting to family problems, make sure you are addressing the family problems. Enlist the help of a professional family therapist – your child’s behavior is a real cry for help. Make sure that the adults get the help they need and that the child has someone to talk to.

Hidden Health Problems
Just because the family doctor can’t find a problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Consider consulting a naturopath or alternative health practitioner to explore the aches and pains more fully. There are many different paradigms and healing options out there – you might discover one that really helps. Especially when stomach problems are reported, keep in mind that stress is NOT always the problem. Hidden food intolerances can cause lots of physical, emotional and even behavioral issues.

When Your Child Has Been Bullied

Being the victim of a bully can take a severe toll on a child. There are intense feelings like anger, helplessness, sadness, shame and fear to process and accept. There’s also the stress that comes with the aftermath of the difficult event, including having to deal with authority figures who want to know more about what happened, and peers who sometimes choose to tease and ridicule. Bullying and mistreatment can even be so traumatic,that the effects are felt for weeks, months or even years – in some cases, decades!

Do you have a child who has experienced bullying or mistreatment? Consider the following tips:

Emphasize That it’s Not Your Child’s Fault
Bullying and mistreatment are the result of a perpetrator choosing to act aggressively against a less strong individual. Any aggressor has problems – the person hurts others because of their own psychic pain. Explain this to your victimized child (in an age-appropriate way) just to help the child shake feelings of personal responsibility for their abuse. Kids need to know that abuse isn’t their fault.

Help Your Child Vent
As mentioned, surviving bullying and mistreatment can create many unpleasant emotions in a child. These emotions are normal, and should be affirmed by a parent or a caregiver. Saying that “you’ll get over it” or “you’re overreacting” or “toughen up” will just force a child to repress what he or she is feeling, instead of getting it out and moving on. If you want to help your child bounce back from a negative experience, give him or her the opportunity to express their fear, rage, helplessness and loss. Use Emotional Coaching – naming the child’s feelings – to help the child express and clear feelings (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, for more information on Emotional Coaching).

Role-Play Victory
Sometimes kids who are victimized ruminate about their inability to fight back. These thoughts can become obsessions that become anxieties. One way parents can help their child recover from their feeling of helplessness and self-blame is to role play what they want but didn’t or couldn’t do to their bully. For example, did they want to scream and fight back? Do they fantasize about telling the bully off? Let them paint a verbal fantasy of what they wish they would have done or what they’d like to do now – don’t worry about how violent it may sound.  Imagination can help release violent feelings in a safe, harmless way. If, however, you notice that your child is actually talking about taking revenge in the real world, do step in and warn him of the potential negative consequences. Help your child identify with “good guy” characters rather than villains. Make up stories for him or ask your librarian for help in selecting books that will model the right attitudes and behaviors in the face of victimization.

Affirm Your Child’s Strength  
If  bullying has weakened your child’s self-concept, try to give your youngster extra “strengthening” experiences. For instance, enroll your child in sports or self-defence arts to build a strong physical self-image. This will help put a protective aura around your child so that bullies won’t be so tempted to pick on him. Or, enroll your child in drama classes so that he can experiment with and find different aspects of his personality that he can call upon when he needs to. Most importantly, make sure no one at home is bullying your child with forceful discipline or name-calling; if your child gets used to being treated badly, he wears an invisible energetic sign that virtually invites others to mistreat him (and troubled kids are all too willing to comply). Your child may also benefit from assertiveness training or special anti-bullying classes, art therapy or play therapy. Other types of psychotherapy can also help your child process the pain of his experience and learn skills that will help him become more “bully-proof” in the future.

Extreme Misbehavior – Conduct Disorder

Even before stepping into high school, John had already accumulated a laundry list of offenses. He had been involved in bullying, vandalism, fire setting, stealing, and fighting, among other aggressive or illegal activities. As if these antisocial behaviors weren’t enough, John also had other issues like abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, and threatening his parents with violence.  At 14, he was arrested for assault, and placed in a juvenile correction facility.

John has Conduct Disorder, a mental health condition believed to affect 3-10% of American children and adolescents. Conduct Disorder or CD is characterized by persistent patterns of antisocial behavior, behavior that violates the rights of others and breaks rules and laws. While most kids have natural tendencies towards episodes of lying, belligerence and aggression, children and teenagers with Conduct Disorder exhibit chronic and inflexible patterns of gross misbehavior and violence. Conduct Disorder is a serious disorder of behavior and not simply an overdose of the sort of ordinary mischief or misbehavior that all children get into. It is characterized by repetitive, consistent antisocial behavior that is not responsive to normal parenting interventions.

Conduct Disorder manifests in aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violations of rule such as running away, using dangerous weapons, skipping school and classes, ignoring curfews and so on. Symptoms cause severe impairment in the child’s personal, academic or social life. Conduct Disorder occurs more often among males than among females and usually coexists with other mental health conditions such as substance abuse, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, learning disorders, and depression.

What it’s Like for Parents
Conduct Disorder poses one of the greatest sources of grief and stress among parents. Symptoms can start out looking relatively normal, involving “misbehavior” such as chronic arguments with parents, disobedience and even hyperactivity. But as time goes by the gravity of the symptoms tend to escalate, alongside with their frequency. Temper tantrums can become actual episodes of violence and assault; lying to parents can become stealing from friends and classmates; and lack of respect for privacy at home can become breaking and entering somebody else’s home. Conduct Disorders can lead to cases of rape and sexual abuse, even homicide. If left untreated, Conduct Disorders can evolve into the adult disorder known as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Receiving calls from teachers, principals and even the local police station, are common occurrences for parents of conduct disordered children and teens. Usually, there are many fruitless attempts to discipline or moderate a child’s behavior. Even counseling is insufficient because the biological nature of the disorder necessitates medical treatment as well. Because kids and teens with Conduct Disorder  suffer from a lack of empathy and emotional responsiveness, parents rarely get through to their child on their own.

What can Parents Do?
The good news is that there is hope for treating Conduct Disorders, and many programs have been found effective in both managing symptoms and restoring functionality. However, treatment is usually slow and complex. Indeed, Conduct Disorder is one of the most difficult behavioral disorders to treat. Recovery generally requires time and a combination of many different treatment approaches including different types of therapy, education, behavioral interventions and medications.

What can Help?
Early intervention helps increase the likelihood of successful treatment, which is why parents should act promptly when they notice antisocial behavior in their children. CD often begins as ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a condition characterized by lack of respect for authority. Lack of empathy is also a risk factor, alongside a family history of antisocial and/or criminal behavior.

As part of a comprehensive treatment program, traditional counseling and therapy interventions can go a long way, particularly those that aims to teach positive social skills such as communication, empathy and conflict management. Emotional management techniques, such as anger management interventions can also help. Sensitivity training, especially those at residential camps where kids and teens can interact with peers (and sometimes animals like horses), have also been known to be effective.

Parents are also encouraged to join family therapy sessions and Parent Management Training or PMT. Family therapy can surface systemic factors that cause and reinforce antisocial behavior in children. Family therapy can also help parents establish more effective forms of guidance and discipline, and teach parents how to respond to disruptive and defiant behaviors.

Because of the biological factor in Conduct Disorders, getting pharmacological help is important as well. A psychiatrist can help plan the appropriate drug therapy for a child or teenager with Conduct Disorder. In addition, a psychiatrist can help manage the child’s overall program of therapy and specific interventions. Sometimes the best source of help for children with Conduct Disorder is a specialized children’s mental health treatment center where many different types of professionals offer services under one roof and the child’s program can be coordinated through one department. Ask your doctor for a referral to such a center for diagnosis and treatment of your child.

Bullying

Bullying is something most children encounter in one form or another. Children struggle with being called names, being picked on, being excluded, or being the ones acting unkindly or aggressively toward others. Scientific studies show that bullying is an international problem that affects all schools, and that bullying cuts across international, socio-economic status and ethnic boundaries. Hence, across the nation, parents, teachers, schools and children alike are taking action to learn to recognize the extent and impact of bullying and to stop it from happening. We are not exempt from the problem; we, too, need to address it for the sake of our children.

When bullying is ignored or downplayed, children will suffer torment in the short-term, and possible life-long consequences. Bullying makes young people feel unsafe and feel that there is something wrong with them. It can make them feel lonely, unhappy, and physically ill. Children may lose confidence and may not want to go to school any more. Victims of bullying may also exhibit changes in speech patterns, sleeping patterns, diet, and academic performance as well display secretiveness, uncommunicativeness, bed-wetting and sullenness. In extreme cases, bullying has even led to child suicide.

As for the bullies, research shows that without intervention, many child bullies continue to engage in these offenses as well as other antisocial or criminal acts. Children who bully at school and who get away with it are more likely go on to be bullies in the workplace and to engage in domestic violence.

Hence, as parents and educators invested in our children’s welfare and eductation, it is incumbent upon us to address the phenomenon of bullying and to offer our help and support to both victims and bullies alike. All incidents and forms of bullying are abusive and unacceptable, yet they can be turned into opportunities to teach our children how to better interrelate, how to be considerate of others, and how to be a better person.

Fortunately, there is clear evidence that parental and school action can dramatically reduce the incidence of bullying. There are an increasing number of tools to help teach children who are bullied how to stand up for themselves, to teach bullies themselves alternate ways of handling their feelings, and to teach schools how to be advocates for creating a community that will not tolerate bullying behaviours. This article will provide a brief review of what the experts say about bullying behavior, bullies and their victims, and practical steps that children, parents, and educators alike can take to stop bullying.

Bullying Behaviors
A bully is someone who uses his or her power to hurt another person. Bullying can be physical, verbal, psychological, or a combination of these. It may involve one child bullying another, a group of children against a single child or groups against other groups (gangs).

Physical: – it can mean hitting or kicking or pushing or shoving, or making someone do something they don’t want to do.

Verbal: – it can mean calling someone names, saying or writing mean things, spreading rumors, or threatening someone.

Psychological: – it can mean making someone feel unsafe, uncomfortable or scared, leaving them out of activities, ignoring them or making them feel invisible.

Why Do Children Bully?
While bullies are often perceived as confident, arrogant and invulnerable, in most cases, they actually suffer from low self-esteem. They may bully to get attention, to feel in control, or to make themselves more popular. (In fact, however, while bullies are often surrounded by other children, it is usually out of fear of the bully and not through popularity). Bullies are also often angry, maybe jealous of the person they are bullying, and are very often children who have been bullied or abused themselves. Sometimes they are children experiencing life situations they can’t cope with, leaving them feeling helpless and out of control. They may be children with poor social skills, who do not fit in, or who cannot meet the expectations of their family or school. Hence, they bully to feel competent, successful, to control someone else, and to get some relief from their own feelings of powerlessness. It is important to recognize that in some cases, bullies may not even understand how wrong their behavior is and how it makes the person being bullied feel.

Why are Some Children Bullied?
Some children are bullied for no particular reason, however there are two streams of data on the types of children who are more prone to be picked upon. One line of research identifies children with the following characteristics: low self-esteem; insecure; lack of social skills; cry or become emotionally distraught easily;  or unable to defend or stand up for themselves. Children might also be targeted if they are different in some way – i.e. the color of their skin, the way they talk, their size or their name. Targets of bullying also tend to be non-violent, preferring to resolve conflict with dialogue.

Alternatively, other research finds that bullies target children who are responsible and respectful, and communicate easily with adults. These victims may be self-reliant and independent, such that they don’t need to join gangs or form cliques. Driven by jealousy, bullies target these children who have a higher-than-average emotional intelligence and who have high moral integrity that they’re unwilling to compromise.

Advice for Children Being Bullied
There are many practical tips that we can offer children if they are confronted by negative or potentially abusive behavior. It is important for them to know that they are not alone, and to emphasize that they have a right to feel safe and secure: no one should have to put up with a bully, and no one has the right to make someone else feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It should also be emphasized that (in most cases) it’s really the bully’s problems that are causing the situation, and that the bully’s taunts should not be taken personally.

Here are some suggestions to share with your children:

  • Believe in yourself. Have confidence that you can deal with bullies in a peaceful manner.
  • Ask your friends to get involved and to stand up for you when the bully is bothering you.
  • If you don’t have good friends, just ask some classmates to help by confronting the bully (see below) if needed. Ignore them/walk away: if the bully no longer gets a reaction out of you, he/she will usually move on. It is no longer any fun.
  • Look the bully in the eye and say “STOP DOING THAT”.
  • If the bully makes a teasing joke, laugh and say “That’s funny.” Then just walk away.
  • Try confronting him and telling him how he is making you feel. “What did I do to you?” BUT, if the bully is very abusive or violent, this technique should be avoided.
  • Tell your parent, teacher, principal or another adult that you trust. This isn’t tattling — you have a right to be safe and adults can do things to get the bullying stopped. Keep telling adults until you find one who is willing and able to help – don’t give up.
  • Travel to school in a group; at recess time, play close to the teacher on yard duty.
  • Spend time with your friends/join with others – bullies hardly ever pick on people if they’re with others in a group.
  • If you find it difficult to talk about being bullied, you might find it easier to write down what’s been happening to you and give it to an adult you trust.
  • If you see someone else being bullied you should always try to stop it. Get as many of your friends involved as you can.  Research shows that bullying occurs because people who see it do nothing to stop it.  However, if several kids confront the bully (“leave him alone”) then the bully will back down. Let the bully know that you think what he is doing is stupid and mean. Get someone to call an adult. When witnesses do nothing, on the other hand, they are condoning the behaviour of the bully and giving him permission to continue.

Help Your Child
No one suspects that his or her child is a bully. However, it is clear that someone’s child is! Help out by discussing the problem of bullying at your dinner table. Ask the children about their experiences both as victim and as aggressor. Explain the motivation behind bullying behavior. Discuss coping mechanisms for victims. Do some role-playing. Discuss ideas for helping bullies build their self-concept in a healthier way (i.e. finding successes in different areas, making friends, getting professional help).

Another important way to help reduce bullying is by using discipline techniques with the children that do not involve bullying – provide a model of problem-solving that shows respect for the child’s feelings and demonstrates rational forms of communication.  Keep anger to a minimum since it can create anger and aggression in children. Keep in mind that most bullies become that way because they don’t like themselves very much. Your child may need more positive attention. Further, a prime strategy to ensuring children’s safety is to empower them to resolve their conflicts on their own, in assertive, non-aggressive manners. Teach your children to behave respectfully toward their siblings. Make clear consequences for aggressive and bullying behavior in the home.

Teachers: Preventing Bullying
As soon as children begin to interact with others, we can begin to teach them not to be bullies and not to be bullied. We can give them words for their feelings, limit and change their behavior, and teach them better ways to express their wishes. Children do not learn to solve problems and get along by themselves. We need to teach them.

Schools are the ideal environments in which to promote anti-bullying policies and in which to teach students how to effectively prevent and deal with incidences of bullying. Further, children who are not bullies or victims have a powerful role to play in shaping the behavior of other children. Teach your students to speak up on behalf of students being bullied. “Don’t treat her that way, it’s not nice.” “Hitting is not a good way to solve problems, let’s find a teacher and talk about what happened.”

Schools: Preventing Bullying
Schools have a moral obligation to provide a safe physical and emotional environment. Since bullying can be found in every school, every school must recognize its extent and impact and take steps to stop it from happening. Indeed, a school’s failure to deal with bullying endangers the safety of all its pupils by allowing a hostile environment to interfere with learning.

There is solid evidence that school action can dramatically reduce the incidence of bullying. What works best is a “Whole School Approach” in which the development of a ‘common understanding’ of bullying and expressing it in a policy is the key to reducing bullying. It must be supported by clear guidelines on how to deal with cases of bullying.
The following are some suggested actions schools can take to create a bully-free environment:

  • Take a proactive approach to bullying, not a reactive one which will be too late.
  • Create a whole-school ethos such that bullying is regarded unambiguously as unacceptable behavior.
  • Use a full staff meeting to raise awareness and knowledge of the issue. The anti-bullying initiative must be tied to the school’s philosophy.
  • Research existing anti-bullying programs or initiatives that best fit the culture of the school; find out what similar schools have done.
  • Teacher Action: All staff must to be committed to a common response to bullying when it does happen.  Immediate intervention is crucial.
  • Curriculum Action:  All pupils in the school will need to have their awareness raised, and this can be accomplished in a variety of ways: 1) integrating an anti-bullying component into existing curriculum areas; 2) introducing a series of discrete anti-bullying modules as part of a special social-skill-development program; 3) reinforcing anti-bullying messages in school-wide forums such as assemblies, newsletters, or awareness days.
  • Teach assertiveness, anger management and conflict resolution.
  • The goal is to convey that: STOPPING BULLYING IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY.
  • Outside the classroom: Provide adequate supervision in places and times that pupils identify as problematic (i.e. where bullies dominate); provide opportunities for bullies to be kept busy, i.e. introduce activities that will involve the bullies and encourage them to participate positively; have discipline procedures in place that remove persistent offenders from the environment.
  • Remember: If there are no consequences to the bad behavior; if the victim does not complain and if the peer group silently or even actively colludes, the bully will continue with the behavior.

We can stop the cycle of bullying, and in its stead impart to our children valuable lessons in morality, self-esteem, character, responsibility, and interpersonal relationships.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Sexual Harassment via Social Media

Our children may be spending considerable time each day logging on to social networking sites. But just because your child is surfing from the comfort of home doesn’t mean his or her safety is guaranteed. In fact, there is one serious threat to children online that must be given particular attention by parents: sexual harassment via social media.

The anonymity of the internet can easily make people do things they wouldn’t normally do in real life. Inhibitions, after all, can dissolve when you can’t see the person on the other end of the line. Add to this is the difficulty in policing people online, and the lack of anti-cyber crime laws in many countries and states. The reality is: the internet is ripe for committing sexual harassment.

Many cases of sexual harassment online have resulted in tragic consequences; from the teenage girl who developed an eating disorder because of the barrage of negative comments about her figure, to the gay teen who committed suicide because a video of him kissing another man was uploaded by a roommate. Sexual harassment, whether face to face or online, can result in psychological trauma and severe mental anguish.

The following are some tips in helping protect your child against sexual harassment online:

Educate Your Child
The first thing you need to do is to increase your child’s awareness of what sexual harassment is. Many children today are already getting sexually harassed but don’t know it, simply because the internet is filled with ideas presented in all extremes. For example, not all kids know that demeaning comments about one’s gender and/or one’s gender preference is a form of sexual harassment. The same goes with unwanted sexual comments or innuendos. Your child may already be suffering the ill effects of sexual harassment, and yet not know that they are being victimized.  Talk about the issue comfortably so that your children will feel comfortable coming to you when they have concerns or need your help. The last thing you want to do is make your child afraid to come to you when he or she needs you most. Avoid heavy-handed threats and tacticts. The internet is here to stay; help your child learn to use it safely and learn to use YOU as a safe resource.

Protect When Possible
Using child protection software may be helpful. Keeping your computer in a public area or just doing random checks can help your children and younger teens stay on a proper path and not deviate off to more suspicious communications online. Let your child know that you have reporting software and that you are checking regularly. Older teens want and need more privacy. With this group, make sure you keep your communication lines open; keep a warm and friendly relationship with them so that they’ll feel comfortable asking you for help when they need it. Also, as mentioned above, talk openly about your concerns and the dangers that some innocent kids have fallen into.

Never Release Private Information Online
Tell your child that he or she must always be careful what kind of information to release online — even to friends! Never give out contact details aside from email addresses; you can always give this information face to face. Similarly, never release information that can be used to track you, such as school ID number or a parent’s social security number, especially when commenting on pages accessible to the general public. A social networking site may claim to have privacy settings that protect members, but at the end of the day, you don’t really know when your private information will be hacked by someone with malicious intent.

Don’t Engage the Harasser
Teach your child that if you’re the victim of sexual harassment on social networking sites, the first thing you must do is to disengage — whether the other person is someone you know or is a stranger. Don’t argue or fight with your harasser; it will only lengthen the ordeal and encourage further contact. Instead, collect documentation, e.g. screenshots of what they said with timestamps, copies of their emails and IMs, and all information about them that you have. Then block your victimizer from your list of friends immediately and/or change your account, password and/or username.

Report Harassment to the Authorities
Tell your child the following: They should tell you and other adults what is going on. Let the right authority deal with your harasser. If he or she is someone from your school, then do report their action to the school principal or prefect of discipline. For people you don’t know, and for serious cases, report the crime to the police. You should also send the management of the social networking site a copy of your documentation so that they can permanently remove that person’s account.

Stalking

Have you ever been so enamored of a celebrity that you wanted to know what they were doing every single minute of the day? Or did you ever have an ex in your life that you couldn’t let go of, and you hungered to know details of what he or she was doing in life after your relationship ended? Intense curiosity about others is a normal phenomenon experienced by millions of people every day. Usually, people don’t act on their feeling of “wanting to know,” but sometimes they do. When someone closely tracks another person’s activities it is called “stalking.”

Young people are just as capable of stalking as adults. What can you do if you discover that your own child is involved in this activity?

What is Stalking?
Stalking refers to tracking the behaviors of another person in such a way that the person feels harassed and violated.  Stalking, an invasion of another person’s privacy, can take many forms. For instance, stalking behaviors  include spying on someone’s private mail or phone conversations, following a person wherever they go, watching a person’s comings and goings, sending unwanted correspondence or gifts, forcing unwanted relationships, and even threatening and attacking the object of one’s obsession. Very recently a new brand of stalking has surfaced — cyberstalking — which is stalking behavior conducted over the internet.

Stalking is a criminal offense punishable by law.

How Do Kids and Teenagers Engage in Stalking Behavior?
Stalking behaviors can range from mild to severe. In some cases, kids and teens don’t even realize that what they are doing may be considered stalking. In other cases, they may be fully aware that their behavior is unacceptable, harmful,  and even illegal but they continue to do it nonetheless.

Obsessing about and following celebrities is the more common type of stalking behavior among young people. Teens can get so attached to a matinee idol or rock band, for example, that they devise creative means to find out where their favorite stars hang out, and sneak inside the hotel they are staying in or the restaurant where they’re eating. This kind of behavior in young people may or may not be considered a criminal offense; some celebrities do encourage these accidental “spottings” (even announcing it on their microblogging sites!) for the sake of publicity. But in any event, any excessive adoration is unhealthy, and can cause significant problems at home or at school.

But there is also the more serious type of stalking behavior happening among young people today, one that is more malicious and ill-intentioned. With the ease of modern  communication and networking, young people can easily find ways to attack someone that they have issues with, or force embarrassing public confrontations. Pervasive harassment through sms, emails, blogs and social networking sites, for example, are fairly common among young people. Worse, some kids and teens are unaware of how they are actually victimizing other people with their actions. They underestimate the destructive impact of their behavior.

What can Parents Do?
Stalking behavior should be treated as a serious matter. Not only can stalking cause severe problems in relating and working, stalking is a criminal offense that can result in arrest and/or commitment to a juvenile facility. Children and teens must know when to draw a line between acceptable ways of relating and violation of other people’s rights. Remember, even if a fixation or obsession is manageable at the moment, it can easily turn unhealthy.

If you’re a parent whose child engages in stalking behavior, consider the following tips:

Evaluate the Gravity of the Situation
As mentioned, stalking behavior exists in a range; with some behaviors more understandable and acceptable than others. Find out where your child is in the stalking spectrum so that you may know if guidance and education is sufficient, or stronger interventions are necessary (such as assessment and treatment by a mental health professional). Signs of seriousness include the presence of delusions (e.g. the belief that the other person is in love with the stalker), lack of empathy for the other person’s feelings, severe anxiety if stalking behavior is not fulfilled, and intrusions of the obsessions into everyday living causing problems at home and/or school.

Explain to Your Child Why Stalking is Wrong
Perhaps your child is simply unaware that what they are doing is wrong. Educate your child about the impact of stalking behavior on not just the stalker, but also on the target. Psychologists have conceptualized stalking as a form of mental and emotional assault (sometimes even physical), that can be traumatic to its victim. But even if the target of the stalking is unaware that he or she is being followed or watched, common courtesy and ethics demand that stalking be stopped. Moreover, obsessing, even without stalking, is an unhealthy habit for a person and should be replaced with more wholesome activities. If your child seems fixated on someone to the extent that other activities are being neglected, try to arrange a consultation with a mental health professional to help address the problem.

Make Them Aware of the Risks of Stalking
Aside, from getting arrested, stalking can also put a person at risk for various negative consequences. Following celebrities around, for example, can result in being crushed in a throng of people, especially if the celebrity sighting is accompanied by fan hysteria. A person also does not know how a victim of stalking will react to finding out that they are being followed; stalking also puts person at risk for being victims of assault.

Give Them Sensitivity Training on Issues of Privacy and Boundaries
At the end of the day, what you want is to enhance your child’s sensitivity to the basic rights of other people. Take all opportunities to teach your child about the importance of boundaries and private spaces. Differentiate between information that should be kept to one’s self, and information that should be kept in private. Tell your children that in the same way they don’t want to have their secrets broadcast to strangers, they also don’t want to intrude on another person’s private correspondence and activities. Let them also understand the line between being friendly and being creepy. Training in social skills can help eliminate stalking behavior.

Deal with the Feelings Behind the Stalking Behavior
Obsessively following or communicating with another person can be a dysfunctional way of coping with unpleasant emotions. For example, the inability to let go of a lost relationship can cause a person to obsess on an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend. Boredom over one’s plain and unexciting life can cause teenagers to want to follow celebrities around. If you can teach your child to better manage their negative emotions, you can give them more functional coping strategies than stalking. Again, treatment by a mental health professional can be the most effective way to help your child if he or she is obsessing or stalking. Keep in mind, too, that stalking and obsessing may be symptoms of a mental health disorder. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is typically thought of as something that happens between a boss and an employee, or committed by a drunk in the bar. But recent reports have shown that sexual harassment in schools is on the rise. A national survey of American public schools report that as much as 80% of female students and 60% of male students have experienced sexual harassment while in school! Worse, most of the time these harassments occur right out in the open, in full view and/or hearing of other people.

What is Sexual Harassment?
Put simply, sexual harassment is any unsolicited and unwanted sexual advance or attack against one’s gender and sexuality. Behaviors considered as sexual harassment exist in a range, from making sexual jokes or comments, to giving looks that may be construed as lewd or suggestive, to inappropriate touches and forcing someone to engage in sexual behavior.

Sexual harassment can happen face-to-face or indirectly. Abuses within internet chatrooms, spreading nasty rumors, and vandalisms that contain explicit sexual content targeted to a particular person are all considered indirect ways of sexual harassment. Both direct and indirect ways of sexual harassment can cause severe stress and trauma to its victim, and must be taken seriously.

What can Parents Do?
There are many things that parents can do to prevent sexual harassment from reaching their children.

Prevention is always better than any steps taken after the fact, so it’s best if parents take a proactive role in combating sexual harassment.

Parents can start by educating their kids on what sexual harassment is, and its impact to its victims. For instance, parents must take a hard stance against making inappropriate jokes and comments, even if there are those who would say “boys are just being boys” or “it’s all just good-natured teasing.” Sensitizing children on the offensive nature of sexual jokes is a good start in preventing sexual harassment from spreading. Similarly, children must always be taught to respect people’s sexuality. Calling someone a “faggot” or a “dyke,”  a “whore” or other insulting sexual names is not to be tolerated under any circumstance. By teaching kids not to hurt others in this way, parents help put an end to the cycle of victimization.

However, parents also have to teach their children how to respond to sexual harassment in the case that it happens to them. This can help prevent trauma.  When a child knows what steps to take, he or she feels empowered and supported. For instance, teach your child to report harassment to the principle or guidance counselor immediately.  Kids can also be taught how to stand up to bullies of all kinds, including those who bully through sexual harassment. Bully-proofing can be brought into schools as a program for the student body – speak to the guidance department about arranging this. Kids should also be taught how not to invite abuse and harassment through their own behaviors. For instance, if a girl dresses very provocatively instead of more modestly, she is communicating that she wants to be noticed sexually. Although she is not responsible for being victimized by harassment, she is certainly responsible for inviting sexual attention. Teach your kids how the opposite gender reacts to cues (i.e. how boys are stimulated by revealing clothing and so on).

Parents can ask their local librarian for help in selecting age-appropriate materials on this subject to bring home for their kids. When children learn from books it can be extra powerful – it means that the information they are receiving is not just Mom or Dad’s nervous over-reactions.

Sometimes parents can take the advocacy to the school and the community. Many school administrators, teachers and community members are unaware of how prevalent the problem is, and thus they are not as vigilant in identifying and reporting sexual harassment cases. A culture of silence and impunity may exist in a school, so it’s best to launch information campaigns designed to remove the stigma associated with being victimized. Establishing clear channels for reporting harassment and systems of response and referral are also ideal.

Lastly, it’s important that parents make their kids aware of what their rights are. For instance, choosing not give in to peer pressure to harass others is a right and a responsibility. Similarly, one always has a right to say “no” to any unwanted communication or sexual advance. And if they are victimized, or know someone who has been, it’s their right to report the harassment to the proper authorities.

Forcing Sexual Attention on a Peer

No one wants to hear that their child is misbehaving at school, on the sports team or in the neighborhood. A call home from teacher, principal, or coach can make good parents cringe. They feel ashamed of their child as well as concerned for him or her. However, one of the hardest things to hear is a report that one’s child has committed a sexual misdeed. In such cases, parents feel not only shame and embarrassment, but also panic and horror. What kind of monster have they raised?

What are parents to do when they find out that their child has forced sexual attention on a peer?

Stay Calm
Hearing from the school principal — or worse, the police — that your child committed sexual harassment is difficult. You might be tempted to give in to your emotions and lash out at your child — don’t! Instead, take the time to calm down so that you can approach the situation rationally. The issue is too important to treat with drama or hysteria.

Take the Behavior Seriously
Parents of kids who sexually harass others may deliberately or unconsciously water down the gravity of the issue. They might say that their child is just being flirtatious, or is responding to mixed messages from the victim. If you’re a parent sincerely interested in helping your child, do not give in to this temptation. Whether your child was deliberate in forcing sexual attention on a peer, or your child is honestly unaware that what he or she did is wrong, this is one behavior you want to nip in the bud. Studies show that adult sexual offenders begin through inappropriate sexual behavior as teenagers or young children. Shrugging things off today may prove to be costly in the future.

Assess How Much Help Your Child Needs
Each case of sexual harassment is different and must be approached differently. Some cases are more serious than others and will  require professional intervention. Other cases can be addressed by parent education, sensitivity training and logical consequences. It’s important that parents assess the problem correctly so that they can make the most appropriate intervention. Enlisting the help of objective professionals is highly recommended. For instance, a child psychologist is in an excellent position to determine whether the child’s behavior reflects serious mental health issues or more benign inappropriate actions.

What are the things parents and professionals should consider?

First, ask: is this a first offense or is this behavior been going on for some time now? If it’s the latter then you don’t just have a one time incident to deal with but a pattern of misbehavior to address. You may need extra support and professional intervention to help your child towards positive change.

Second, assess: did your child deliberately force sexual attention on his or her friend or classmate, or is your child honestly confused regarding the gravity of his or her actions? If it’s the first case, the situation is more serious, as there is an actual choice to do something that is clearly wrong and harmful. You might be dealing with a conduct disorder or other mental health disorder. If, however, the child is honestly confused regarding the gravity of his or her actions, it’s possible that your child is merely poorly socialized, and has no idea how to behave appropriately in the presence of people he or she finds sexually attractive. In fact, the child may just be modeling negative role models, like swashbuckling TV characters who get away with the kind of behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated in real life.

Lastly, consider your child’s age. To what degree does he or she have an understanding of sex and sexuality? The younger kids are, the less likely it is that their misbehavior was malicious in nature. In addition, it is more likely that they would be confused as to when an action is wanted or unwanted. Older children and teenagers, however, must be charged with greater accountability for their actions, as they are expected to be aware of the impact of their behavior on their victim.

Provide the Help Needed
As mentioned, the intervention must fit the gravity of the problem. If the situation is not alarming – that is, a parent is dealing with a first offense, done without awareness of the wrongness of the deed, by a child too young to understand what sexual harassment is – then parents can deal with the situation at home using education, guidance and a system of consequences. For increasing gravity, increasing degrees of professional help must be solicited.

Education is the lightest intervention. Teach your child that what he or she did is wrong, and why exactly it is wrong. Emphasize that it’s a behavior that you don’t ever want to see repeated again. Sensitivity training can follow; teach your child to understand a peer’s point of view and why ta victim would find unwanted sexual advances not just offensive but traumatic. Contract for logical consequences; make sure your child apologizes to his or her victim and/or victim’s parents. If victims press charges, it is possible that the child may also be made to undergo counseling and therapy, or put in community service. Sadly, a child may also have to go through juvenile court as consequence of his or her behavior.

For serious cases, professional treatment is required. You may also want to consult the local social welfare office for resources on how to help juvenile sexual offenders. There are also non-governmental institutions that assist sexual offenders. Treatment options can range from out-patient weekly therapy session to residential placement and treatment.