Raising Readers

Parents frequently ask me reading-related questions. Some want to know how to encourage reading in their child, while others are wrestling with what to allow their child to read, especially if that child reads above grade level.

Encouraging Reading
Here are some ways to inspire reading in our kids.

Give them books. One of the best ways to encourage kids to read is to supply them with books—lots and lots of books! Studies have shown that the more books one has in the home, the more kids will be apt to become readers. Building your child’s personal library is a great way to surround him with books. Yard sales, tag sales, thrift stores, library used book sales and websites like PaperBackSwap are inexpensive ways to do this.

Visit the library. Frequent trips to the library can also create a desire for books. Many libraries offer reading programs for children of all ages that can stimulate a love of books.

Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Read to them. Reading to your kids—of all ages—has been proven to stimulate reading in them. Read books they suggest and ones you remember from your own childhood.

Read yourself. When kids see parents reading, it sends a strong message that reading is something you do all your life. So put down that smartphone and pick up a book (yes, ebooks count).

Appropriate Reading Selections
My two girls (10 and 12) both read above grade level, so this is a topic that my husband and I have discussed much in our home. The truth of the matter is that all children want to read about kids who are just a little bit older than they are–that’s part of the growing up process. Books can provide a safe environment for kids to experience things that will soon be happening—or could happen—to them. But on the other hand, sometimes, we as parents are so happy to have our children interested in reading, that we neglect to have a care with what they are reading. The content of books is just as important as the reading itself—probably even more so. Many times, we fear that if we restrict access to certain books (for now or forever), our kids will ditch the reading entirely.Here are some suggestions for how to figure out if a book is good for your children.

Seek outside assistance. There are numerous websites that rate children’s and YA (young adult), such as https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews and http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/protecting-your-family/book-reviews-for-parents/book-reviews-for-parents). Talking with other parents who share your values about book titles

Read the book first yourself. Whether it’s the flip-and-pause method or reading the entire book, looking at a book can help you decide whether it’s appropriate material or not.

Ask a librarian. Our local resource librarians are gems in helping us figure out if a book is on the right age level for our kids, as well as pointing out similar books if they like a certain author, etc. School librarians can be helpful as well.

Start a book club with your child. If there’s a book that your child wants to read but you’re unsure about the subject matter, read the book together and talk about it. This might help alleviate your concerns about certain book content and give you a platform to hear what your child thinks about the topics in the book. When I recently answered a question about a 10-year-old girl reading books “too old” for her in an online forum, another reader chimed in with the following response: “This is really a hot topic because my son is such a speedy reader and devours books he brings home from the library. My husband and I have been discussing this for some time now, as our 8-year-old son is reading above grade level and while he is able to read “older” books, I don’t always think the content is appropriate. My son and I both recently read Wonder, which he read it first and told me that I would find some “violence” in there. I didn’t think there was much, but it gave me an opportunity to bring up some points with him and we discussed some of the book (he recognized what the other kids were doing was wrong and so forth).”

When the Companion’s Invisible

Q: My 4-year-old daughter has an imaginary friend called Buster. She talks to Buster, plays with Buster, insists that Buster sit at the table with her, etc. Sometimes, she expects me to talk to Buster too. I’m not sure having an invisible friend is such a good idea. What should I do about Buster?

A: When my oldest was around 4, she had an imaginary friend who accompanied her everywhere—to the park, outside, the dinner table, etc. She talked about this friend for so long, her younger sister (around 2) started talking to her sister’s imaginary friend too. Those were some interesting times in our household, that’s for sure!

I viewed the imaginary friend as a tangible outcome of a vivid imagination, something that we should treasure in our children. Sure, it’s silly and funny and annoying at times, but imaginary friends serve a couple of important purposes for our kids. First, it gives them an outlet for their creative imaginations. Second, it provides them with a safe place to explore their own feelings. For example, sometimes, my daughter’s imaginary friend would do something bad. She would talk about how that made her imaginary friend feel and work through those feelings in a safe place.

As to how parents should react to such a “friend,” here are some tips.

  • Don’t overreact. Sure, it can be trying to have your child always talking about someone who isn’t real, but it’s also usually only a sign of a child’s active imagination, not something seriously wrong with the child.
  • Give the responsibility to the child. This means if the child wants the imaginary friend to sit at the dinner table, that’s fine. However, the child should be responsible for his “guest’s” behavior. In other words, no spilling milk deliberately and blaming it on the imaginary friend. The child is completely accountable for the actions of the imaginary friend.
  • Don’t overindulge, either. I made it a practice to only say “hello” or “goodbye” to my daughter’s imaginary friend. I would say that it was her friend, not mine, so the bulk of the discussion should be between the child and the imaginary friend, not the parent and the imaginary friend. This keeps the play with the child, where it belongs.

Above all, enjoy the silliness that imaginary friends can be for our children. There’s something rather sweet and innocent about a little kid talking to someone who isn’t there. As adults, we’re sometimes overly grounded in reality that we forget the magic that children see and feel and view all around them. For all too short a time, they can touch and experience the wonder of imaginary friends. Reality will intrude as they grow up, so don’t rush them through the magic of this part of childhood too soon.

Parenting According to Vicki Hoefle, Part Two

I recently spoke with Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator, author of Duct Tape Parenting, and national speaker, about parenting. Her new book, The Straight Talk on Parenting; A No-Nonsense Approach on How to Grow a Grown-Up is available now. Catch up on the first part of our conversation here.VHoefle-1

What are some of the most common parenting missteps moms and dads make?

Vicki: Doing too much for their kids and removing obstacles from the children’s lives.

Doing too much for our kids sends the message that we don’t believe they are capable of navigating their own lives. A child who doesn’t believe in himself and who does not think he is capable will behave in ways that support this belief. As the child grows and matures, this belief becomes anchored and they see themselves as limited in their capacity to successfully navigate their adult lives. Both children and adults become dependent on others to do for them what they could do for themselves. If you have spent your entire childhood being convinced that you aren’t capable of taking care of yourself or your responsibilities, it is going to influence how you see yourself as an adult.

Removing obstacles from our children’s lives sends the message that we have little faith in their ability to recover from life’s ups and down, including an embarrassing moment, a rejection or a lousy grade on a test. This lack of faith is carried into adulthood and can severely limit the persons desire to try new things, take healthy risks or their ability to rebound after experiencing a disappointment. In the worse-case scenario, the adult experiences isolation, depression, and other emotional and mental challenges.

Why is instilling character so important for a child’s growth?

Vicki: When I consider the character traits that helped me establish a satisfying and fulfilling life as an adult, I can think of several, but self-control or self-regulation is right there at the top. Self-control is a character trait that takes years to develop.

If we helped our kids develop these character traits while they were young, two things would happen. The first is that you would see children begin to demonstrate them on a regular basis. For example, your four-year-old hits his younger brother when he knocks over the fort. Three years later, if the parent is helping the child develop self-discipline (instead of punishing the child for hitting), it is likely that this child will have developed the self-control necessary to walk away or use some other acceptable and effective strategy. It’s a win-win for everyone.

The second thing that would happen is that the character trait that was introduced into the life of the child would grow strong with each year and eventually, you would have an adult who had mastered the art of self-control, self-regulation, and their life would reflect this. If, however, a child is not given the chance to develop these character traits, it is unlikely that he will display them in his adult life.

What do you hope parents take away from The Straight Talk on Parenting?

Vicki: My motto for more than 20 years has been this: I know I have been a success when parents no longer look to me for answers. I truly believe that parents are the true experts in their children’s lives and when introduced to a simple method for uncovering causes of misbehavior with solutions that are designed to bring out lasting change and support emotional health in kids for a lifetime, they can do the job without all the experts piping in with their wisdom. There is no magical mystery to raising children—a few straightforward ideas are enough to raise respectful, responsible, and resilient human beings. I want parents to know that if they practice a simple method for just a few weeks, they can solve any problem that comes up in daily life with their kids. That would be a glorious day indeed. Empower the parents, empower the child.Straight Talk on Parenting FINAL

Parenting According to Vicki Hoefle, Part One

I recently spoke with Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator, author of Duct Tape Parenting, and national speaker, about parenting. Her new book, The Straight Talk on Parenting; A No-Nonsense Approach on How to Grow a Grown-Up is available now.

VHoefle-1What surprised you the most in raising your own six kids?

Vicki: How much I didn’t know and how often I let personal prestige (what others thought of me as a mother) guide my parenting decisions.

For the most part, American parents 50 or 60 years ago knew they weren’t raising kids—they were raising adults. What happened to change that mindset in today’s parents?

Vicki: In the not-so-distant past, parents understood that their future depended on children who were ready to leave home and start working their own plot of land. The sooner their kids were prepared, the sooner they could strike out on their own.

Think about it. Parents spent time teaching their kids how to make bread, wash clothes by hand, repair socks, cut and stack wood for winter, repair roofs, till soil and care for livestock. No parent back then was thinking that their 5-year-old or 9-year-old was going to make it big in the NBA or be the next senator. They were preparing them for a life that would mimic their own. Simple.

Fast forward a few dozen years. The choice is still simple: attend college in order to secure a good job to support yourself and your family, or enter the workforce right out of high school to support yourself and your family. Again, no one was thinking that their child would be the next superstar or millionaire.

And then Baby Einstein came along, and parents were fed the idea that if they played Mozart while the child was in utero, hung the right mobiles, read to the child, and taught the child his numbers, letters and colors all before the age of 3, he would have a better chance of getting into a great college, hence securing his future. So, we all went along with the story and began spending hours and hours with our kids “preparing” them for the future. At some point, this idea morphed into the idea that if a parent could stack the deck for their child educationally, why not in other areas? What if I invested my time and resourced into preparing my kid to be the best possible soccer player so they could get a million dollar contract, etc. Suddenly, we stopped helping our kids learn real life skills and started focusing on the elite career they might have.

Today almost every parent I speak with thinks that their child is exceptional, the special one—and so they spend their time preparing the child for a career that will, in all likelihood, never arrive. That is why they send a 5-year-old to a summer-long soccer camp or a 9-year-old to a science camp at MIT.

Add to this the technological revolution and things intensified. Parents are sharing their children’s accomplishments with the world so there is a lot of comparing going on. Once your personal prestige is activated, it’s easy to see why parents are focusing their attention on the here and now and not on the future.

What prompted you to write this book?

Vicki: I know as a mother who has raised kids, that paying too much attention to toddlerhood can derail our attempts at raising emotionally healthy, high functioning adults. Finding that sweet spot of living with a toddler while raising an adult became a passion of mine and I wanted to share what I learned with parents everywhere.Straight Talk on Parenting FINAL

Stop by next Tuesday, April 28, to read what Vicki thinks are some of the most common parenting missteps we make today and why character is so important to a child’s growth.

Embrace the ‘Meanie’ Label

Q: My six-year-old son has started back-talking, mostly calling me a “meanie” when I tell him to do something he doesn’t like, such as chores, homework, no snack right now, etc. What’s frustrating is that his three-year-old sister now copies him when she’s upset with something I, my wife or her brothers do.

What can we do to get rid of this disrespect? I’ve repeatedly told him that it’s rude and he’s lost privileges for saying that. As for his sister, I tell her firmly no and that it’s not respectful. I do sometimes point out to her brother that he has taught her to be not respectful, which he, naturally, denies!

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: This is probably going to shock you, but I think you’re over-reacting about the “meanie” comments, thus making a mountain out of a molehill. Since you didn’t mention that your son disobeyed the instruction given, I’m going to assume that he’s obedient but grumbly about it.

Your beef is one that plagues many parents today but that didn’t phase your grandparents’ generation. Parents of the 1950s and earlier knew to expect a certain amount of grumbling from their children in the form of eye rolls, “you meanie” comments, and other such nonsense. As long as the child in question did as he was told, those parents rightly ignored such comments as part of the “junk” that comes from raising an immature person to adulthood.

What’s happened is that today’s parents are hyper-focused on managing all aspects of a child’s life, from his actions to his reactions. Sometimes that’s appropriate, in that a child needs correcting if he’s having a temper tantrum, for example. But most of the time, we can safely ignore the shrugs, sighs and expressions of disappointment that accompany obedience to the task at hand.

Why this frustrates us today can be boiled down to the simple fact that we want our children to understand the whys behind our edicts. In short, we want our kids to say something like this: “Gee, Dad, of course it’s time to do my homework. Thanks for reminding me” or “Now that you’ve explained why the bathroom needs cleaning, I’ll get right on that job, Mom.”

That’s not going to happen until the child is grown up and probably has kids of his own. Then, and only then, will he understand why you did and said the things you did and said when he was a child.

Many parents make this mistake in thinking that obedience has to be both inward and outward all of the time. Yes, we’re concerned about our children’s hearts, but we have to remember that we’re the same way about chores we don’t particularly like to do, only we’re adults, so we’ve learned to hide those grumbles inside. Kids haven’t–they let their grumbles show on their face (eye rolls, sighs, etc.) and words (calling a parent a “meanie” really isn’t disrespectful; calling a parent a four-letter word is).

As for your situation in particular, here’s what you can do. Tell your son that you are no longer going to punish him when he calls you a meanie (or other similar words). If he wishes to do so, he may shout it or sing it or whisper it as much as he likes in the downstairs powder room (or guest room). That’s his special “meanie” room. That gives the child the freedom to say those words, but also parameters in which to do so. You can send your daughter to that room as well if she wishes to have her own “meanie” session.

Then stop worrying about his expressions when told to do or not to do something–instead, correct him when he doesn’t do the thing requested or does the forbidden thing. You should certainly have conversations at other times (not in the midst of a “meanie” episode) about what’s going on in his heart when he gets upset about directives.

Above all, remember that we shouldn’t expect a perfect response from our kids all of the time. Wear that “meanie” label proudly—it generally means you’re doing a good job being a parent.

Keeping It Real

One of my daughters really loves to write. She reminds me of myself at that age—always penning bits and pieces of stories on scraps of paper or in notebooks. She’s told me many times that she wants to be a writer when she grows up—“Just like you, Mom.”

While I must admit to having a certain amount of pride that at least one of my children has a similar dream that I have, I also want to be realistic in my guidance and encouragement of those dreams. So I’ve told this daughter that writing can be a lifelong passion, but that she should realize it’s difficult to make a living out of writing.

I don’t want to crush her dream, but allow her to think about writing in the context of what’s probable versus what’s fantasy. It’s probable that she can find outlets for her writing, but fantasy that she’ll be able to pay all of her bills as a writer. (And yes, it pains me to write that. Unfortunately, journalistic and writing jobs are becoming more scarce as full time opportunities these days.)

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think that’s a large part of our goal as parents—not to dish our children’s dreams, but to help our kids to temper them in light of the world in which we live. That means not telling our kids they can become superstars just because they want to win American Idol. That means not encouraging our kids to hyper-focus on a particular sport in the hopes that they will make it in a national league when they’re older.

What it does mean is that we allow them freedom to try things—not necessarily by giving them lessons or signing them up for classes—but by providing enough free time for them to dream those dreams, and to figure out for themselves what they really like about something.

All to often, at the first hint of an interest in something, we’re all in as parents. We immediately buy whatever tools needed for that interest, such as sports equipment or art supplies. We search out extracurricular classes or activities to learn more about that interest. We hunt out coaches to hone their skills in private lessons. We research the interest and possible college scholarship opportunities.

In other words, we go overboard, way beyond simple encouragement in their interest. When we think we’re helping them to enhance their skills in that area, what we more often than not do is smother that interest or pigeonhole a child into a sport or activity that the child might not love as much as we think he does.

We’ve forgotten that children like to try on personalities and activities like playing dress up. One day it’s dragons, while the next it’s dinosaurs. One day it’s soccer, while the next it’s biking. One day it’s art, while the next it’s sewing.

We need to give our children the freedom to figure out these things on their own without rushing into it headlong. So instead of signing up for an art class, give a child some supplies and let her tinker a bit on her own. Rather than joining a baseball team, get out in the backyard and toss a few balls with your son for a time.

Above all, give them the free time to dream, to think, to imagine a host of things. And when they come to you with their ideas, listen, offer a bit of realistic advice, then step aside. Most of the time, the child will figure out what he wants to do on his own with just a little help from others.

Until next time,

Sarah

The Angst of a Good Mother

What makes a good mother? Contemplating the answer to that is something that can keep us women with children awake at night. I think we look at the answer backwards. We shouldn’t be thinking what make a good mother but rather what do we do that’s good enough for our children.

There’s a world of difference between those two points of view. The good mother camp worries incessantly about how their actions and decisions impact their children for good or bad. The “good enough for our kids” camp realize that we do the best we can and the rest is up to the child.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s one example of a mother who is suffering from trying to be a good mother—and feeling like a failure. She and her husband adopted two, 3-year-old boys from Russia, who are now 15 years old. The boys are struggling some in school and reading at a fifth-grade level even though they are in ninth grade.

She writes, “I feel I haven’t been a good mother and am wondering what suggestions you might have to fix my mistakes. I guess I didn’t spend enough time with them reading and learning. I fear they will just be completely lost when they are 18 and older as the world moves so fast. I feel like I’ve really failed them.”

This mother had given her children the best possible life: good schools, tutors when necessary, and above all, love and affection. Yet she still feels like she failed them because they are not top of their class and are not performing as well as their peers on some levels.

The fact of the matter is we all “could” have done things differently in raising our kids–all parents think that one time or another—but most of us (with the exception being truly abusive parents) have done the best we could. What we forget is that we only plan a part in our children’s upbringing. An important part, but only a part. Our children have the majority of the responsibility for how they turn out, i.e., by taking full advantage of the opportunities given to them, by applying themselves to school, etc.

We can’t make our children better people—we can only provide the opportunities and incentives (read: consequences for bad behavior) to motivate them to become a good person. We give them the environment most conducive to academic success (in other words, a good school, good teachers, a place to do their homework at home, etc.), then we step back and let them sink or swim on their own.

Our focus should be less on being a good mother but more on raising kids who are good, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, honest, hardworking, empathetic, and other positive characteristics. Instead of worrying overmuch about their academic or intellectual success of our kids, we should enjoy them for who they are–not for who you want them to be because of some arbitrary social standard. Let’s keep your eyes on the kind of men and women we want our children to be at age 30 and we’ll stop being so concerned about whether or not we’re good mothers.

I’d much rather been a mother raising her kids the best she can than a good mother.

The Problem With Words

Q: My 12-year-old daughter has a friend who began saying things like, “That’s really gay,” when my daughter made a face or put forth an idea. Naturally, this friend said that phrase in front of other kids. My daughter knows what gay means, but her friend’s usage of that term in relation to my daughter is confusing to my daughter. It’s hard for my daughter to ignore the comments because my daughter sees this girl on a regular business because of shared after-school activities. How should we handle this?

A: When I was a young teen, I had a fair-weather friend, a girl my age who sometimes was my friend and sometimes not. Nothing I did seemed to make a difference in whether or not she was friendly to me. Needless to say, this on-again, off-again relationship was at turns hurtful and hopeful. Being friends with her was akin to riding a roller-coaster with its ups and downs.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My mother offered this excellent advice when I asked how to handle the situation: “You know how Susie (not her real name) is. It’s up to you to decide if you want to take a break from the friendship or continue with it, knowing that it’s likely to cause you pain and hurt feelings.”

I think having a similar conversation with your daughter could be empowering for her. Acknowledging that you know she’s hurting because of her friend’s comments, but that it’s up to your daughter to decide whether or not to continue hanging around with this friend. At this age, we can suggest alternatives, but phrasing it in a way that gives the ultimate decision to your daughter is better than telling her daughter not to see this friend. Now if this was a case of drugs or alcohol–or any other truly unsafe situation–then you can intervene a bit more strongly. But this is more nebulous, and so I would gently suggest, then back off.

Follow-up response from parent: Thanks, Sarah (and your mother) for the advice. We used it almost word for word. Our daughter decided to take a break and was almost grateful for the “permission” to do so. She relaxed immediately and was still comfortable with the idea this morning on the way to school. Wish we had thought of it earlier!

8 Ways to Love Your Unrepentant Child

What can we do when our child keeps choosing the wrong path in life? Check out my article on  “8 Ways to Love Your Unrepentant Child” on Crosswalk.com.

“Through it all, we hope our children will see the wrongness of their actions, but in the end, it’s not up to us to convict their hearts—that’s the province of God—so we tell them we love them, we levy appropriate consequences when necessary, and we make the way to repentance not steep or rocky, but paved with love and forgiveness.”

A Bully of a Label

“You’re ugly.” Those words pierced my heart as a gawky 13-year-old seventh grader. It was hard enough to be the new kid at a private school where my classmates had been together since elementary school. What made things even harder was the near-constant teasing from both boys and girls. Over and over and over again, they told me how ugly I was.

The trouble with going to a small private school was that there was no escape from my tormentors—not many places to hide in a grade with a mere 17 kids. All that seventh-grade year, I went to school knowing that chances were pretty high I would hear that phrase at some point during the day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was an almost everyday occurrence. Many nights, I cried myself to sleep because of the hurt and anguish caused by those kids. I used to beg God to make me pretty, not in a vain request for good looks but because I figured that if I wasn’t ugly, then the taunting would stop.

Yes, I told my mother about it, and she tried to help with coping mechanisms (not showing that the words hurt, etc.). But with little information out there on bullying, it was something those of us who were targets had to simply live with the abuse. I think I asked my parents not to say anything to the school administrators, because instinctively I knew that wouldn’t solve anything. The kids would get a “talking to” and the abuse would continue, albeit more under cover. Back then, no one thought that kind of verbal abuse was anything to get worked up about.

Today, we would call their actions bullying, but a few decades ago, there wasn’t a fancy name for that kind of shaming. Fast-forward to 2015, where anti-bullying messages are the drumbeat of every elementary school, junior high and high school curriculum. From kindergarten to seniors, children learn about the devastating impact of bullying, and are encouraged to report any incident of bullying to teachers, parents and administrators.

This is a good thing in many ways. It empowers those who have long had no voice. It brings much needed awareness of the harm verbal and physical abuse has on the weak and the different. It has helped to produce a more accepting attitude among our children for those who are not like us.

But all this attention to bullying has also blurred the line between abusive behavior and kids being kids. We have perhaps let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, slapping a bullying label on situations or events that are nothing more than misunderstandings or misperceptions.

Image courtesy of prawny/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of prawny/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

For example, one message each of my children has brought home after hearing an anti-bullying presentation in first or second grade has been that someone who hurts your feelings is being a bully. Yes, bullying hurts feelings. But the very definition of bullying is a pattern of abuse, not one isolated incident.

Handling a Bullying Situation
So what’s a parent to do? How can we help our children understand the very real dangers bullying is yet temper that with a kind heart willing to overlook the mistakes of friends and classmates? Here are three ways to provide guidance to our kids.

  1. Overlook a first offense. Children especially are all too quick to take offense at anything or anyone who rubs them the wrong way or hurts their feelings. We should help our children to see that most of the time, friends and classmates and siblings are not out to hurt us. Reminding our kids of times when they hurt someone else’s feelings accidentally will guide them in having a spirit that overlooks random offenses.
  1. Talk to a trusted adult. We absolutely should listen to our children when they come home with tales of woe from school or play. But we should do more than provide a listening ear—we should help them sort out what happened and what it means before throwing on the bullying label. Questions we can ask include
  • Is it part of an overall pattern?
  • Did our child contribute to the situation by his own actions?
  • Is it something the child can handle on her own?
  1. Formulate a plan. When faced with a potential bullying situation, we need to assist our children in developing a plan. Whether it’s personal or happening to a friend, role playing different scenarios can help a kid figure out what to say or do. Try a variety of responses with the child until he’s comfortable. This will help the child be able to execute the plan more easily when confronted with the bullying child.

These three steps are only the foundation for handling a bullying situation. This is where we should start with our children. Some situations may call for interventions on a higher level, such as with teachers or school administrators. Some may call for discussions with the parents of the other children involved. All should be done with thoughtfulness and compassion, without rushing to judgment.

Beyond Bullying
What happens after the situation has been addressed? That’s a crucial part of ending this cycle of bullying that we too often see continuing in our schools, homes and communities. We need to think beyond the bullying to helping our children grow together, both bully and victim. Here are a couple of ways to get started.

Do little acts of kindness. Being kind to someone who has treated us ill—whether accidentally or on-purpose—can diffuse a potentially damaging situation. Help our kids to see that being nice in the face of unkindness can be freeing to their own hearts—and could have a huge impact on the other person. Your small act of kindness can touch the heart of another, and that’s a good thing to remember.

Walk in their shoes. When my oldest was in kindergarten, she came home with tales of “Teddy” being mean to her. Teddy bumped into her and knocked the book out of her hand. Teddy stepped on her toes. I checked with her teacher, who said that Teddy liked my daughter, but that he was rather clumsy because of his larger size than most of his classmates. I explained that to my daughter. The teacher worked with Teddy on boundaries, while my daughter had a new understanding of what her classmate was going through.

Sometimes, if we try to understand where the other person is coming from, we can find common ground—and compassion. We might not always know the full story of why a child acts the way he or she does, but by helping our children think about the other person’s story, we can help them develop empathy for their fellow classmates—a good thing to develop.

Bullying is an issue that we should continue to dialogue about with our children and in our schools. But we must balance that with thoughtful discussions about embracing our differences, developing a kindness towards others, and helping both bullies and victims to overcome their past.