Parenting Tip: Don’t BE the Bully

Kids going to school in the 80s and 90s did not get the same exposure to “bullying” as kids do now. The bully back then was a real stand-out kid, the stereotypical macho, hyper-aggressive, low-intellect, unhygienic, knuckle-dragging waste of human flesh. Well, that’s I looked at them.

The Bullying Paradox

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How to Talk to Your Kids

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
You can’t really take my word too seriously on this topic because I seem to have lost my ability to talk to my kids. People always warned me from the moment my daughter was born that the teen years would be hell, and when the second one came along people found it amusing to point out just how much trouble I was in for. Hearing comments like that were laughable, and over time they angered me because I felt it was pretty obvious that I had a great relationship with my girls. To me, those people were flat out wrong. At least it were wrong at the time. That is until around the age of 8 (or thereabouts), for both of them. I once read that 8 years old is when girls start to diverge from their parents’ way of thinking – when they begin flexing their individuality, and that held true in my house. They began to really express their individual personalities at that time, and that was hard to deal with. I’ll admit that I didn’t deal with it very well, because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I was also out of the country for five months around this time, and custody was split 50/50. Enough complications? Ugh.

I have found that the harder I try to hang onto what we once had the worse it becomes. That relationship is gone. Those little girls are gone. They’re young women now and they don’t have the same wants and needs anymore, so for me –the same guy, mostly– to continue on with them as though they’re still 8 (or younger) is a disservice to them. And to me. I have to adapt as they mature.

I read a book called “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that I found very helpful. I ran into an article on today that reminded me of that book, and inspired me to write this post. If you don’t have time for the book, the article summarizes many of the principles very well. If I could condense it even further, I’d say this:

Shut up and LISTEN to what your kids have to say.

While you’re listening the only thing you should be thinking about is how what they’re telling you is –aside from paying attention, obviously– this question, “How does this make her feel?

Kids are new – they don’t know until their taught. If you can identify how they’re feeling, say it as a sympathetic statement, or ask directly. If you translate their feelings into words they are now more equipped to express and eventually process (deal with) those feelings.

One of the challenges for the adult mind to deal with in these situations is to shut up. For us the problems kids deal with are simple, easy to solve or avoid, and largely inconsequential. We could easily deal with them in their shoes, but only if we had our adult brain and lifetime of experience. They don’t have those, so remember that. What they feel is real, regardless of your perception of it. To them, their feelings are their world; don’t deny them.

Portrayals of Girls

What Do You Tell Your Kids About Strangers?

By Lance D’Aoust

I write this after hearing about the Tori Stafford case in Woodstock Ontario (Video Article here). Short version: An 8 year old girl willingly walked away from her school with a woman. Apparently that woman’s boyfriend killed Tori that same day, April 8th 2009. Absolutely disgusting and completely deserving of the death penalty.

This story leaves many parents obviously shaken, but more importantly worried about their own children and how they can help prevent this from happening again. Please comment on this article with what methods you employ to keep your kids safe. Here are some comments I’ve read from my friends own web-postings. It’s important to collect this information and distribute it to all parents because as we’ve just seen it is really that simple for major harm to happen to a child.

I tell my ___ not to yell help but fire! Because stupid f__ks wont look when someone yells help cause they don’t want to get involved but they’ll look at a fire.

“When my ___ were younger I told them to never go with ANYONE, even their aunts and uncles unless I told them to. If ANYONE (even friends and family) tell them to go with them, without me telling them to, they had to ask them what the secret password was.

We made up a password, that they would remember, and if I sent anyone for them I would tell it to them. That’s how they would know it’s ok to go with them. Once that password was used by someone, we thought up a new one.

And I told them that even if someone said I was hurt or in the hospital, don’t go with them. The only person exempt from the password was my mom. (just in case I was injured so bad I couldn’t speak).”

One tactic that I read about from a police officer was that if the child is on a bicycle DO NOT get off it. Hold onto that bike and bike away. If you’re grabbed, hang onto that bike because it is really hard to steal a child and the bike at the same time.

I like these ideas.  I taught my children to push their thumbs into their attacker’s eyeballs, to bite them repeatedly, anywhere and to fight for their lives; screaming “stranger,” “you’re not my daddy/mommy,” “fire” the whole time, kicking and generally making themselves difficult to steal or sneak away.  We go through it every time I think they’ll be out of my reach or go into crowded public areas. I even have them practice biting and thumb-poking (on me) so they can actually feel it and not be surprised if it ever happens.

An interesting note about the eye poking: The eyes are like balls of jelly and when you poke them they feel strange but they don’t burst. If an eye poke goes too far the eyeball will be forced out of it’s socket. Sounds gross and it is, and the reason I type this is because should this ever happen the surprise of the result can immobilize the child who should be running now that the attacker is blinded.

When I was little my mom would worry so much about me that I am surprised she didn’t have monthly heart attacks. I would try to reassure her by telling her that I would just kick the attacker in the ding-ding (my way of saying man’s privates). One day at around 13 I went out after midnight and stole a bike. I was riding the stolen bike around when a compact car full of undesirable people spotted me. I dodged them 3 times before they finally located me. One of them was on foot while the others drove. I pedaled that bike as fast as I could. I headed for an place I thought I could lose them, but having never been there at night I did not realize the gate would be closed. I was cornered. I knew it and so did they.

I tried to ride around them but 4 older teens or young men were too much for me on the bike. I had no idea what to do, no training, no prior instructions – nothing. They pretended to be off duty police who knew that I had stolen the bike. I didn’t buy the police bit but I remember wondering how they knew I stole the bike. They told me to put the bike into the hatchback and they would take me to the station. I played along, put the bike in the back and took off running. My hope was that had what they wanted and I would not be chased. Luckily for me they did not chase me.

I always told my mom I would kick them in the privates, but that never happened. I didn’t even think of it, and to be honest I am glad I didn’t because as a man I have been kicked there; I have seen others kicked there and I can say from experience that it will not stop an assailant. In every instance where a man has been kicked in the groin in a violent encounter it either didn’t do enough or it made the man angrier. Perhaps it is revenge or some other instinct.

A groin kick does not immobilize so it is a wasted effort.

Looking back at my experience I can’t help but realize a few things. Talking about what you’re going to do is not enough. Practicing it is very important and that’s why I practice the things I tell my children. They know that if they kick or punch me it will do nothing to stop me, and I am not a large person. They know that a bite will take my attention away and place it onto the bite. They know an eye poke will make me drop them. They know because they’ve done it already.