Loner or Socially Handicapped?

Is there something wrong with a child who doesn’t like to play with friends? Or, is it possible that the child is just a healthy loner? How would a parent know if and when to intervene?

If you are concerned about your child’s lack of social life, consider the following tips:

Content vs. Discontent?
Is your child playing happily on his own? Is he busy with books, toys, computers, and other resources in the home? Is he building, creating, learning, exploring and otherwise enjoying himself? Is he acquiring new skills or engaging in productive activities? If your child is thriving in his independent activities, he may just be an introvert – someone who is energized by his own personal activities and drained by being with people. Or, it might just be that he’s had enough people for the day, having interacted with his peers at school for 8 hours or longer; now he’s ready to spend time with himself. Not a full-fledged introvert, he just has a lower need for social activity. Adults are like this too – many grownups just want to relax at home in the evening after a day of interacting in the world. In short, if your child is happy on his own, don’t worry about his behavior and don’t push him to be with friends.

Fearful or Comfortable?
If your child would like to have friends but doesn’t know how to make meaningful social connections, he might benefit from some help. Try a bit of bibliotherapy – ask the librarian for age-appropriate books on the subject of how to make friends. Talk about the subject directly or do some role-playing in order to practice various skills: making and accepting invitations, being a host, being a guest, keeping friends and so on. Also consider enlisting the help of professionals – there are social skills classes and trainers and also mental health professionals who can help. If your child actually feels fear at the idea of inviting a friend over or fear at the idea of going to a friend’s house, then accessing the help of a mental health professional is definitely recommended: there are techniques and interventions that can help your child overcome social discomfort and anxiety.

All or Nothing?
If your child has even one or two regular pals, there is no need to worry about his social life. Not everyone wants or needs a big social net. Similarly, if your child has close and warm relationships with siblings, cousins, community members or neighbors, there is no need to worry that he doesn’t have more friends. However, if your youngster has absolutely no one to connect to there is more reason for concern. Having someone to interact with and talk to is an important life skill. Again, professionals are available to help your child learn how to create at least a small social circle.

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.

Dealing with Jealous Feelings

There are always people who have more than us – just like there are always those who have less. Unfortunately, instead of feeling grateful for having more than others do, it is all too easy for children, teens and even adults to feel jealous of those who have more. Jealous feelings are not only unpleasant to experience, but also potentially destructive; the emotion can transform otherwise well-behaved youngsters into “green-eyed monsters” who behave very badly. “Why does HE have more! It isn’t fair!” can be followed by grabbing whatever it is out of the child’s hand. Older kids may react by snubbing or mocking others – or worse. It’s important then that parents teach their children how to manage jealousy and envy from an early age.

If your child experiences jealousy feelings, consider the following tips:

Be “Fair” not “Equal”
In your home, make it a priority to meet the individual needs of family members. If one child needs new shoes, he or she gets them – but there is no need to get shoes for another child in the family who does not currently need them. Getting both children shoes would be trying to make things “equal” whereas getting each child shoes when they’re needed is “fair.” When the child asks “Why does SHE get new shoes and I don’t?” you can answer “because SHE needs shoes now and you don’t.  When YOU need shoes, you’ll be getting them – I promise!” In other words, everyone will get what they need at the right time.

When serving dessert, refrain from taking out the ruler to make sure everyone gets the exact same size piece of cake. “He has a bigger piece!” can be answered with “It all works out in the end – sometimes his piece is a bit bigger and sometimes yours is the bigger one.” Your relaxed attitude and your refusal to try to make things equal can help a child learn that equality is not really necessary.

Easy & Difficult Children
Most parents do not have difficulty treating their kids approximately the same – giving each approximately (not exactly!) the same kind of wardrobe, the same types of privileges and so on. Where parents might experience a greater challenge would be in the way they treat favored and not-favored children. For instance, it is just easier to smile at, joke around with and complement easy-going, cooperative children. More challenging children tend to earn themselves more criticism, complaint and negativity. Treating the “easy” child and the “difficult” child the same is quite a challenge – but try to do it anyway. Children are VERY sensitive. The difficult child doesn’t want to be difficult (no matter what it looks like to you); he or she is suffering from some internal challenge. The child can easily see that you like a sibling more and the subsequent jealousy and hurt can be very destructive. It’s O.K. to ACT more loving than you feel; care less about the risk of possible deception and more about the devastating effects of parental rejection. And, of course, it is essential to avoid making comparisons between the children. Each one needs to be celebrated according to his or her OWN milestones and accomplishments.

Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
As much as you can, emphasize, acknowledge and celebrate each of your children’s strengths — let them know that they are people of worth and value. Show them everyday how much they matter to you. Furthermore, communicate that everyone is unique, with their own gifts and charisms. A sibling may be a better singer, but it doesn’t mean that one is inferior or lacking. Perhaps one’s talent lies elsewhere! Having cute nicknames that highlight each child’s strength and unique identity can help – only if the child identifies positively with his or her nickname. For instance, in one family, we might have “Canary Carol” or sings so beautifully and “Hammer Henry” who is a very competent young handyman. Avoid potentially insulting labels like “Brainy Ben” – the brains in the family and his less bright sister “Beautiful Betty” – it is much more important to highlight Betty’s strongpoints in skill, talent and personality than just her exterior looks. Everyone has some speciality – finding one of your child’s many strong points highlights this fact and reduces insecurity and jealousy.

Most importantly, encourage your child to celebrate the sibling’s successes and strengths. Help your kids to feel the joy of pride in a sibling’s accomplishment – whether it is the building of a tall block tower or winning on the debating team. Encourage a family feeling of group identification: “You little Rosses are all adorable!” (or brilliant, super, thoughtful, etc.). Also encourage each child to bring gifts for the others in the family – “Did you get candy when you went to see Grandma today? Why don’t you offer some to your brother?” Follow up with the CLeaR Method (comment, label reward – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details). “You shared so nicely. That was so generous of you! I think you both deserve to go to the park with Mommy this afternoon.”

Name and Accept Feelings
When your child expresses a jealous feeling, refrain from reprimanding him. A feeling is just a feeling – just name it:  “Yes, I understand that you’d like new shoes now too. It’s hard to wait. It doesn’t seem fair.”  Without using the word “but” make a new sentence to continue your thoughts: “You’ll be getting new shoes when you need them. Remember how you got shoes in the summer but no one else in the family did? That’s because YOU needed them and they didn’t. Everyone gets shoes when they need them.”

Discipline Misbehavior
While feelings are all acceptable, behaviors may not be. If your jealous child lashes out at you or a sibling, the misbehavior needs correction. “I understand that you wanted his toy. You cannot grab it from him – you need to wait your turn. From now on, when you grab things away from him, you won’t get your turn at all that day.” (See the 2X-Rule of discipline in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.)

Consider Bach Flower Therapy
The Bach Flower Remedy called “Holly” can help ease jealous and angry feelings. This harmless, water-based remedy can help “turn off” the tendency to fall into jealousy (learn more about Bach Flowers in “Bach Flower Remedies” on this site).

Consider Professional Help
If your child is really suffering jealous feelings and your interventions are not helping, do consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

When Your Child is Sad

Dealing with sadness effectively is a skill that will serve a child all throughout his or her life. After all, loss is an inevitable experience in this world – whether it is the loss of a favorite sweater, a cherished pet or beloved family member. Sadness is the appropriate response to loss. It is an emotional signal that says, “something is missing.” We feel sad until we have somehow reorganized our inner world to sew up the gaping hole left by the loss.

Parents can help children move through sadness. Moving through this feeling is important because failing to do so – staying stuck in sadness – can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and panic, among other reactions. Unresolved sadness can also manifest as bodily pain and/or illness. For instance, unexplained tummy aches and headaches can be fueled by unresolved feelings of sadness. Parental support and guidance can help move sadness through and out of the child’s heart.

If your child is feeling sad, consider the following tips:

Let Your Child Know That’s It’s Okay to Feel Sad
Many parents are so distressed at seeing their kids upset that they want to cheer them up, reassure them and if possible, replace their loss, immediately. However, this approach only teaches children that sadness is an intolerable emotion. Unfortunately, such a message not only fails to teach a child how to handle feelings of sadness, but also increases the likelihood that kids will eventually run to escape measures like addictions when sadness threatens. Therefore, the first and most important step for parents to take is to calmly and compassionately welcome feelings of sadness. A simple acknowledgement of sadness can suffice, as in “you must feel so sad about that.” A period and a pause is necessary in order to convey acceptance, before continuing to speak. Avoid the word “but” since that word rushes too quickly to “fix” the sad feeling without processing it (see below for more about this). Allowing a child to feel sad also means letting him or her become temporarily withdrawn, unhappy and moody when suffering a loss. Refrain from trying to distract a sad child and from telling him or her to “cheer up.”

Provide Emotional Coaching
Dr. John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child explains that naming and accepting a child’s feelings helps the child to both manage and release painful emotion. Just saying something like, “that must make you feel sad,” or “it really hurts” or “that’s very painful” or “I know it’s very upsetting” can give a child a channel for acknowledging difficult feelings inside of himself.  When the child can acknowledge the feeling, half of it disappears immediately. The other half will slowly melt out of the child’s heart with the continued support of the parent. All that is required is to let the feeling be, without  minimizing it or trying to change it in any way. For instance, suppose a child is very sad because his best friend is changing schools. The parent is tempted to say things like, “don’t worry – you can still visit him and have a friendship over the computer and the telephone.” However, the parent who offers Emotional Coaching says things like, “Wow, that’s hard. It’s sad to lose a best friend. I bet you’re pretty upset.” The parent accepts whatever the child says, naming the feelings that seem to be present. Emotional Coaching often allows a child to go even deeper into the bad feeling before resurfacing with a positive emotional resolution. Perhaps the child in our example might say something like  “Yes I am upset! I’ll never have another friend like him! I hate everyone else at school. There’s no one I’ll be able to be friends with!” If this happens, the parent just affirms how awful all that must feel (“It’s such a disappointment that he’s leaving, especially when there’s no one else to take his place and you’re going to be all alone.”) Once the child hears his feelings being spoken out-loud, he usually self-corrects and starts to cheer himself up (“well, maybe I’ll spend more time with Josh Lankin”). If the child doesn’t pull himself out of the sad feeling, the parent who has provided emotional acknowledgement is now in a good position to help the youngster think things through: advice that is offered AFTER Emotional Coaching is often much more likely to be accepted. You can learn more about Emotional Coaching in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Provide Perspective
Parents can provide education and guidance AFTER providing Emotional Coaching. Trying to do it beforehand often backfires, as the youngster feels that the parent just doesn’t understand the pain he or she is experiencing. Without understanding, the parent has “no right” to start offering advice. After Emotional Coaching, on the other hand, the child knows that the parent really understands and accepts the feelings of sadness. Now the parent “has the right” to try to provide information or perspective on the matter. In a study of children with depression, it’s been found that optimism is one of the factors that help protect children from the effect of overwhelming sadness. Kids who experience intense feelings of sadness (e.g. the sadness that comes after parents’ divorce or separation), but remain resilient are those who believe that the sadness is temporary — and that tomorrow will bring better days. If you can teach your children to look at the next day as having the potential to bring a new beginning, then you can help your child manage sadness better. Some parents will be able to draw on a strong religious faith to bring this notion forward and some will draw it out from their own bright view of life. If you have neither, however, try looking at the writings of Norman Vincent Peale – the father of “positive thinking.” Peale wrote dozens of books on the subject of maintaining an optimistic outlook, but even a quick perusal of his famous “The Power of Positive Thinking” will fill you with a rich reservoir of ideas to share with your children.

Encourage Your Child to Seek Social Support
Friends are handy in all moments of grief! As kids grow older, they can look to friends as people they can trust with their innermost thoughts and feelings. Studies among children and adults confirm the value of social support when handling difficult situations in life. Encourage your child to always maintain a couple of close friendships and a couple of casual friends. Close friends can provide valuable emotional support through sad and troubled times and casual friends can provide welcome distractions. Model this practice in your own life.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy
Bach Flower Remedies provide emotional relief in the form of a harmless water-based tincture. A few drops of remedy in liquid (water, tea, milk, juice, coffee, soda, etc.) several times a day can help feelings resolve more rapidly. Star of Bethlehem is one of the 38 Bach Flower Remedies – it helps heal feelings of shock and grief. It can help kids deal with death, divorce, loss of a good friend and other serious losses. Walnut can help kids move more gracefully through changing circumstances. Gorse can help lift depressed feelings. Mustard can help with sadness that comes for biological reasons like shifting hormones, grey skies and genetic predisposition to low moods. Larch can help with sadness that is caused by insecurity and Oak can be used when excessive strain and effort leads to unhappiness. There are other Bach Remedies that can help as well, depending on how the child is experiencing sadness. Consult a Bach Flower Practitioner or read up on the remedies. You can purchase them at most health food stores and online.

Consider Professional Help
If your child is “stuck” in sadness and can’t get out of it despite your interventions, do consult a pediatric psychologist or psychiatrist. A mental health professional is highly trained to help kids move through sadness and get on with a happy, productive life!

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.

Asperger’s Syndrome

Named after Hans Asperger, the pediatrician who first described its symptoms, Asperger’s is a part of an umbrella of neurological and social conditions called “autism spectrum disorders.” Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is more difficult to identify and diagnose than many autism-related disorders, mostly because symptoms can be attributed to many other conditions. But the diagnosis of AS is usually empowering, as persons with Asperger’s typically have an easier time mainstreaming than those with other autism spectrum disorders.

The onset of the disease is usually at 3 to 5 years old.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome (also called Asperger’s Disorder) is a neurological condition characterized by:

Severe Impairment in Social Interaction and Skills
People with Asperger’s tend to be self-focused (which is not to say they are self-centered). They prefer to be alone and have very little need for companionship. They are more interested in their inner musings, and are prone towards introspection and daydreaming. They can appear rude when spoken to, and may have difficulty following the subtext of a conversation (they can’t “read between the lines”). They can be very selective  when it comes to associating with peers or adults. Additionally, many kids and adults with AS are prone to random bursts of temper.

Limited Repetitive Behavior
People with Asperger’s are also prone to various obsessions and narrow interests. For instance, they might be interested in  parts of objects (like clocks) or they might like spinning things over and over and over. They flap their hands (particularly when excited).  Some children with Asperger’s are called “little professors,”  as they like to recite to others (as if teaching) whatever it is they are currently obsessing about.

Lack of Emotional Reciprocity
People with Asperger’s have difficulty identifying their own emotions as well as empathizing with other people. They can’t read non-verbal cues that communicate feelings, and may even appear cold and dismissive of other’s distress or pain. They are also poor at using non-verbal cues themselves such as maintaining eye contact, showing appropriate facial expressions or using gestures naturally. Not surprisingly, considering all this, people with AS have trouble making friends. However, they often don’t care so much about this as they are not all that interested in social relationships.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to have excellent language and cognitive skills, and may even excel in areas they obsess on. Some may have motor problems and clumsiness.

What Can Parents Do?
If parents suspect that their child may have Asperger’s, the best thing to do is to get a diagnosis by a qualified mental health practitioner. Developmental psychologists, as well as psychiatrists, are generally competent at diagnosing autism spectrum disorders, but it’s always better to consult one who specializes in the disease. Because Asperger’s is primarily biological in origin (it is not caused by trauma nor by bad parenting), it has an early onset; symptoms that look like Asperger’s, but appear later in life, are unlikely to stem from Asperger’s Disorder.

Early intervention is critical in managing Asperger’s Syndrome. Currently, there are no cures for the illness, but medications and therapy can assist in managing symptoms. Many with AS are able to live highly functioning and productive lives. It does help for parents and other care-providers to be educated about their children’s particular needs. Training in social and communication skills, as well as occupational therapy can help with the various symptoms of AS.

Biting

Everyone is challenged by frustration, viagra buy no matter what his or her age may be. Frustrated kids physically attack their siblings; frustrated teenagers talk back to their parents; and frustrated adults say and do all kinds of things they later regret. However, recipe no one except for toddlers has any excuse for engaging in hurtful behaviors! Toddlers lash out because they’re too little and too verbally challenged to handle their upset in more mature ways. Still, it is the job of parents to teach their small children both how to refrain from aggressive behaviors and also how to express anger in acceptable ways.

Frustrated Toddlers
The first lessons in frustration management begin when a child is just out of babyhood. Babies get frustrated due to fatigue, hunger, tummy upset, physical discomfort, wanting to be held and so forth. The only thing they can do about it is cry. Once a child learns a few words, he has a few more options. Instead of just crying, he can say things like “no want” or “want Mommy.” By communicating his or her needs, the child will be less frustrated and will be able to release a bit of the frustration that he or she encounters. As the toddler acquires a more elaborate vocabulary, it becomes more and more possible for him or her to reduce and relieve frustration.

However, the baby ways will still persist for a while as well. For example, frustrated toddlers will still sometimes be at a loss for words and just cry in frustration instead. Sometimes they will thrash about like earlier versions of themselves, flailing and stamping their feet. Often they’ll throw an item (a toy, some food or other object). Although these early expressions of frustration are normal in toddlers, parents still must intervene with “frustration education.” Even little kids can begin to learn to express their frustration in words.

Discovering that Biting “Works”
Many toddlers learn quite accidentally, that biting or otherwise hurting someone, is a particularly satisfying way to release feelings of helpless anger and frustration. At first, such a behavior is the product of desperation, adrenalin and infantile problem-solving skills. However, learning occurs rapidly when the toddler discovers the “power” of his or her violent action. The victim screams in sudden pain! The toddler realizes that he or she can actually use violence on purpose in order to communicate strong emotion.

Although many toddlers limit the use of their power to other people their size, they can and do also try it out on their caregivers. While they will sometimes attack teachers and babysitters, their favorite targets are often their parents. How should parents handle a biting/kicking/scratching/hurting toddler?

Helping Toddlers Stop Biting
Toddlers are too young for “real” discipline. Although some two-year-olds seem to understand the concept of negative consequences (i.e. “if you hit Mommy you’ll have to sit in a thinking chair”), most very small children do not really benefit from formal discipline. Discipline becomes more effective after around the age of 3. Even then, parents are just introducing the structure of discipline in tiny steps to these youngest candidates. Although many parents put a child in a crib for a few moments for biting, this strategy usually acts only to stop the present moment aggression. It is a “time-out” that  does virtually nothing to prevent the biting behavior in the future. Discipline that doesn’t “cure” the behavior is not discipline at all and should not be used (the word “discipline” means “to teach” – if the strategy is not teaching the child not to bite, there is no point in using it). However, there are always exceptions: if you’re child is biting less often because you have given him or her a time-out or another punishment, then your intervention IS working and you can continue to use it.

Most parents of toddlers will have to refrain from using discipline for biting and instead, address the misbehavior by managing attention. This means that a parent gives strong, positive attention to desirable behaviors and little or very mild attention to undesirable behaviors (like biting). (Distraction can also be used in these early years to simply steer a child away from undesirable or unacceptable activities that are not aggressive or hurtful.) There is a natural tendency, however, for parents to give LOTS of attention to undesirable behaviors. For instance, they may actually yell at a child who is biting. That yelling is an overdose of attention, sure to encourage lots more biting! Parents have to overcome their natural tendencies in order to restrain themselves when their youngster bites them, other adults or other children.

When Toddlers Bite Caregivers
It is essential that a child be stopped immediately from being aggressive toward his or her caregivers for several reasons. Parents must be seen as benevolent authority figures. This allows them to lovingly guide the development of their youngsters, teaching them right from wrong. A child must therefore learn early that he or she is not to attack the parent either physically or verbally. It is just as out-of-line to do so as it would be for an adult to attack a police officer physically or verbally! In addition, children need their parents’ affection in order to develop optimally. However, parents don’t tend to like their aggressive, violent youngsters as much as they like their cooperative, respectful ones. Teaching the child to be respectful is therefore in the child’s best interest – for this reason as well as myriad other reasons. The lesson begins right at the beginning; even small children are not permitted to behave obnoxiously. Of course, toddlers and pre-schoolers will all behave quite badly at times, but parents must step in and begin the process of gentle, but firm, loving guidance. It’s just not O.K. to bite parents, babysitters, teachers or other caregivers.

Toddlers can be discouraged from biting adults by experiencing the withdrawal of positive attention. Parents can display a strong differentiation between their normal, pleasant, kind, loving selves and their very displeased, uninterested self that comes forth when the child bites or hits. Thus, they may be playing happily with the child when something happens that causes the child to become violent. Now the parent looks seriously displeased, uses a very brief stern reprimanding “NO!” and quickly moves away  from the youngster. The parent should not engage in any sort of lecture or education (this actually provides too much attention for the misbehavior which can accidentally reinforce or encourage more of that behavior.) The parent should also not use a sing-song, soft voice, gently breathing out “no-o-o-o-o, don’t bite Mommy.” The voice must be short and firm (not angry). The facial expression should not be  friendly or gentle, but rather very business-like. This sort of “rejection” (really, more a temporary withdrawal of otherwise flowing positive affection) should not be used for other types of misbehavior, but only reserved for a child’s physically hurtful, aggressive actions (like biting). The trick here is to reserve the icy cold rejecting voice for this one behavior only. The child must immediately see that this is a behavior that the parent doesn’t like. It is essential that the contrast between this harsh face of the parent and the parent’s normal, regular, routine and consistent pleasant face be strong and clear. If the parent is routinely displeased, regularly irritated, often angry, etc., then there will be insufficient contrast to be able to effectively use this technique. Most toddlers who are used to a parent’s gentle, loving ways, will quickly learn to refrain from biting and hurting when this differentiation strategy is employed.

When Toddlers Bite Other Children
A similar use of withdrawal of attention can be used when a child bites another child. If the biting occurs in the school setting, parents should ask the teacher NOT to speak to the child about the biting behavior. Remember: one-on-one time with the teacher, intense direct eye-contact and a few minutes of speaking to the child all constitutes a highly reinforcing form of attention. With all that “quality time” with the teacher, the youngster is much more likely to bite again. Instead, the teacher should say only two words – “No biting” – and have the child sit in a time-out chair facing away from the classroom activity (i.e. facing a wall) for a couple of minutes. The other, non-biting children will be getting the teacher’s attention and the little biter will have lost a few minutes of attention.

The same sort of intervention can be used at home: everyone else remains “part of the scene” but the biting toddler is given the cold shoulder. As discussed above, the “thinking chair” can be used with children 3 years old and up.

If the toddler bites another child, the VICTIM should be given all the attention. The victim’s parent or caregiver should be given lots of apologies in the form of “I’m so sorry – we’ll be doing something about this after the play-date – we’re working on preventing this behavior.” If it is O.K. with the parent or caregiver, the victim can be offered a treat as compensation. Meanwhile the little biter gets virtually NO attention and certainly no treats! Minimizing words, eye contact and physical contact to a biting toddler is one way to strongly discourage the behavior in the future.

Frequent Biters
Consider Bach Flower Therapy for a child who frequently bites others. The remedies Impatiens, Cherry Plum, Chestnut Bud, Holly and Vine can be used. However, it is best to consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to create an appropriate, individually tailored remedy bottle that can help reduce the biting tendency in your toddler. You can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

If your child is not responding to your interventions and is so aggressive that he or she is being “expelled” from nursery schools, then consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

Won`t Speak to Adults or Strangers

When parents talk about improving their children’s social skills, they’re usually referring to skills in interacting with same-aged children. But truly socially-adjusted kids are those who are not only comfortable dealing with peers, but are also comfortable dealing with older children and adults too.

But what if your child refuses to speak to adults or strangers? Consider the following tips:

Who is a Stranger?
It is appropriate for children to be wary of strangers and there is certainly no need for them to interact with complete strangers when they are alone. However, kids have to know how to approach even a total stranger for help when help is needed – i.e. someone has been injured or lost or is otherwise in trouble. It’s not practical to tell a child to find a police officer since police officers aren’t always handy; sometimes the child will have to ask a regular adult for assistance. Advising children to search out a sales clerk in a store or a mother with children may be a good opening strategy. If neither is available, however, children should be advised to look for other outer signs of respectability in a strange adult – type of clothing, companions and other “safety features.” Don’t assume that your child knows all these  things – take time to give examples and spell out details. When out and about, point out the kind of people that seem most trustworthy for emergency-only interactions, as well as the kind of people you feel it would be best to avoid if possible. While providing this education, make sure to point out that almost all people are kind to children and most strangers are very normal, respectful people. Moreover, let your children know that just because someone wears a nice suit doesn’t mean that he is a good person and just because someone has an unusual hair style doesn’t mean that he is dangerous. Looking for conservative appearance is only one small step a child can take toward ensuring his or her safety.

Apart from life-and-death issues and other safety concerns, kids should be encouraged to talk to adults when they are with you or other caregivers. Naturally shy children will need your help in developing social skills. Explain exactly what you want them to do – i.e. smile, say “hello” and possibly shake hands. Offer generous positive feedback when your child makes efforts to behave appropriately and avoid criticism. Speaking to adults on the phone can be part of the training process. Take time to teach the skills: use a pleasant tone of voice, say “hello,” and “one moment please” or ask the person “could you please hold on?” and so on. Be patient with your youngster, allowing him or her to build up confidence and skill through practice over time.

Is Your Child Feeling Intimidated by Adults?
A child whose teachers and parents are low-key, warm, friendly people tends to have less fear of adults than one whose teachers and parents tend to be strict disciplinarians. If your child is overly intimidated by adults, it could be that he or she is just very timid by nature but it might also be that you have accidentally (or purposely!) instilled a little too much fear. Keep in mind that kids turn out healthiest when they are raised by warm, loving parents who impose a comfortable amount of structure and rules. Following the 80-20 Rule as described in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice will achieve the desired effect.

Does Your Child Need Time to Warm Up?
You can’t just introduce your child to a stranger and then expect him or her to immediately jump into conversation. Kids usually like to feel their way into a conversation, making tentative remarks and openings that can eventually lead down a fruitful path. Moreover, it’s important not to push a child to speak when he or she clearly feels uncomfortable. If a child holds onto your skirts, let him for the time being but make a note to practice social skills (see above) later. Do not mock or criticize your child for the way he or she acts around people. If your child tends to be shy during the first hello, be patient. Establishing rapport takes time; allow your child to go at his own pace. Say nothing at the time – and be particularly careful not to comment on his or her quiet behavior IN FRONT of another person – and then provide help later.

Child Refuses to Talk to Adults at All
There are some children who simply won’t talk to adults outside their immediate family members. This can include their teachers, doctors, neighbors and others. They might be suffering from Selective Mutism, a psychological disorder in which a child is capable of speaking but absolutely refuses to do so.

Children with selective mutism may speak to other children but refuse to speak to adults or, in some cases, refuse to speak to certain kinds of adults (like men or people in positions of authority). Sometimes kids refuse to speak in public (i.e. school or other areas outside the home) to both children and adults. For instance a child with Selective Mutism in the classroom may not speak at all to her friend, but if that same friend is invited to her house for a play-date, she will speak to her completely normally.

Selective Mutism is diagnosed and treated by speech and language pathologists and mental health professionals. If you believe your child may have Selective Mutism, do consult a speech and language pathologist or child psychologist with experience in assessing and treating Selective Mutism (you can ask your pediatrician for a referral).

Autism

One of the greatest joys of parenting is being able to communicate with one’s child. This is why knowing that a child has Autism or Autistic Disorder can be so painful and difficult to accept. The condition significantly impairs a person’s social and communication skills, so that it can feel like the autistic child is living in his own little world. Autism does occur on a spectrum, causing severe impairment in some and only mild impairment in others. However, once a child has been diagnosed with this condition – whether it is mild or severe – parents find themselves raising a “special needs child.” This brings new challenges to the already challenging job of parenting.

What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication, as well as tendency towards repetitive behavior. The exact cause of the disorder is not known, but it is believed to be a result of neurons misfiring and creating mixed communication in the brain. Symptoms of Autism appear early in a child’s life, sometimes as early as the first year. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Autism yet, although parental support, behavioral therapy and special education can bring improvement in functioning and quality of life among children with Autism.

How Can I Tell if My Child Has Autism?
Like most developmental disorders, Autism is diagnosed using the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria found in the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A diagnosis of Autistic Disorder is given to a child when he or she meets certain criteria. Below: is a list of symptoms characteristic of Autism.  A mental health professional can assess whether your child’s symptoms meet criteria for a diagnosis of autism or another disorder on the autistic spectrum or another diagnosis altogether. It is also possible that, despite having some symptoms, your child does not meet criteria for any diagnosis at all. This why proper diagnosis and assessment by a qualified mental health professional is so essential; teachers, friends and others cannot make an accurate diagnosis!

A. Impairment in social interaction

This category of symptoms include impairments in the use of non-verbal communication (e.g. eye contact and gestures), failure to develop appropriate peer relationships, absence of spontaneous attempts to seek enjoyment with other people (e.g. not showing interest in other children playing), and the lack of social and emotional reciprocity.

B. Impairment in communication

This category includes symptoms like significant delay in language development, impairment in the ability to initiate conversation, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, and the lack of spontaneous make-believe play that is typical of children within a certain developmental level. It’s important to note the communication issues that are symptoms of Autism are not due to learning disabilities or physical disabilities.

C. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

Children with Autism tend to get preoccupied with a small range of activities, and are prone to engaging in repetitive actions. For example, they might enjoy hitting just one key in the piano for hours. They also get easily obsessed with things that children without the condition will merely pass; for instance they can get preoccupied with random parts of an object. They might engage in ritualistic behavior, hand flapping, and sometimes in self-injury (like head-banging) as well. These obsessions, preoccupations and rituals are inflexible for the child with Autism.

Are There Different Kinds of Autism?
Symptoms of Autism exist in a range, from mild to severe. Some children are more open to social interaction and communication than others. Some persons with mild Autism for example can still be mainstreamed in traditional schools.

Other disorders are listed under the category Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These conditions are Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (you can find more information on these specific disorders on this site and online).

What Can Parents Do?
If you are concerned about your child’s social behavior, emotional reactions, habits or personality, get a referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist who can offer assessment and guidance. As for most developmental disorders, early detection and early intervention makes an important difference.

If a diagnosis of autism is confirmed, it’s time to learn as much as possible about the condition. There are many groups today that focus on Autism and  Autism Spectrum Disorders. The condition is more understood that it used to be, and parental support systems are well established. Benefit from the experience of others by accessing on-line support groups and/or joining groups offered by your local community mental health services. You will learn techniques for stimulating your child’s development at home. You will learn how to interact with him in order to bring out his best and reduce episodes of anger or anxiety. Becoming active in your child’s healing process is good for you as well as for the child, as it gives you more control and counteracts feelings of overwhelming helplessness. Your intervention can make a tremendous positive difference to your child’s development.

This being said, it is important to deal with your feelings about a diagnosis of Autism. Learning that your child has Autism can be a shock, and you might go through a grieving cycle as you readjust your hopes and dreams for this youngster. This is normal; there is a real loss when you know that your child has a developmental disorder. With time and/or professional help, you will eventually bounce back and open your self to the blessing of having a child with special needs. Interacting with a child with Autism requires a lot more patience and care than interacting with a child who doesn’t have the condition, but it has its rewards. The key is providing consistent stimulation in order to interest your child in social events. Training in communication skills, e.g. basic sign language can also help.