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The West Wing

Allow me to share an article with you that I recently read. It is written by Sally Ogden, author of the book “Words Will Never Hurt Me.” I think she gives some excellent advice and tools for not only children, but for adults as well.

“How do we prepare children to handle the difficult and critical people in the world?

A great deal of attention has turned to the prevention of bullying in the schools. We will fall short of success if we don’t realize that changing the external world has its limitations. Some educators and parents would like to create a perfect world, prohibiting all cruel acts or apprehending all perpetrators. This is noble, but not realistic. How will they control what happens outside of school, at the mall, at sporting events, at parties, etc.?

We can teach students how to change their responses and reactions to difficult situations. They can employ strategies that will create more peaceful interactions and diffuse the power of bullies. We can help children learn to:

1. Change how they think about criticism. Translation! If something said is mean, critical, or cruel, it’s coming from a place of pain in the person who said it. Kids can say to themselves: “The other guy isn’t doing too well right now. I don’t need to internalize this mean comment.”

2. Change how they respond. The key is not to engage in the bully’s plan. Children can use a response that shows that the bully does not have the ability to get them to act in a weak, childish, or retaliatory way.

For example:

*Use an “I” Message: “Ooh, I get hurt when people criticize my mom.”

*Agree with the criticism: “I know, I do have big ears! They are great receptors for intergalactic communication!”

*Use a neutral response: “I’m sorry you see it that way,” or, “Thanks for telling me.”

The ability to use this information can protect kids even in the toughest situations and allow them to retain their peace of mind and belief in themselves throughout their lives.

Using these tools is a powerful step toward bully-proofing kids!”

We all know, at least intellectually, that the only person we can change is our self. The rub comes in the heat of the moment. Children are quick to run to “tattle” that another child has called them a name, pushed them, taken something from them, or my favorite, is chasing them. Of course, since they are now standing by me, none of these things are happening. I often will ask “Why are you telling me this?” and the response is usually, “I want you to make them stop.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting the behavior to stop, but most often I wonder if the child were honest they would be saying “I want them to get in trouble.”

It’s at this point that I believe we need to be teaching our children some of the skills Ms. Ogden suggests. When children can understand that often the behavior of others comes from a hurt in their own life and learn a proper way to respond, they are empowered and no longer need to get someone “in trouble.”

Thanks for listening.

Conquering in love,

Mrs. West