Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Teens Stamping Out Cyberbullying

When we hear the word "cyberbullying" we immediately think of all the bad things kids are doing through the internet, cell phones, and videos. On the bright side of this looming social problem, however, is an amazing network called  TeenAngels. These are kids ranging from 13 to 18 who have voluntarily been trained in internet safety, security, and other pertinent issues, who take their knowledge on the road, literally and figuratively. The brainchild of Parry Aftab of, TeenAngels, and their younger counterparts, TweenAngels -- 7- to 12-year olds -- speak to schools and community groups about cyberbullying and other internet safety issues, plus conduct research and write articles on these topics. Here's just a smattering of some of the wonderful articles they've written:

- A Victim Among Us?
Be an upstander and become a TeenAngel.
- Cyberbullying                                            
- Priming Parents for Online Perils
- Making the Internet a Safer Place

Wow! Now that's what I call being upstanders!  If you know a child who's being cyberbullied, you can also take them to StopCyberbullying, another of Aftab's excellent sites, for information and support.

Stamping out cyberbullying!
Let's get more kids onboard. TeenAngels and TweenAngels -- we need to multiply you a thousand times over!!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Starting When Kids Are Young

Eight years ago I had the pleasure of speaking at a very special school in Albertville, Alabama, several hours south of Birmingham. Big Spring Lake Kindergarten School was configured decades ago as a place where young children of all races could come together to learn under one roof. Big Spring Lake proudly has proudly continued its tradition of peacemaking and acceptance, teaching all their children that "we're the same inside." The peacemaking program that started at Big Spring Lake has since spread to other schools in the district. Veteran teacher, Wanda Pollard, recently gave me an update on some of the many things Big Spring Lake, and other schools in Albertville are doing to promote peace, tolerance, and kindness:

"I provided some pictures so you could see the lasting  effects your work has had in  our school system.  Our kindergarten students have said the peace pledge  every morning  as a total school -- led over the intercom  along with the pledge to the flag -- for the past eight years! Teachers continue to make the teaching of peacemaking skills an integral part of the curriculum.  We have witnessed the effectiveness of this teaching as students learn to actively use conflict resolution skills. I look forward to continuing to learn to provide students with the skills needed to enjoy a peaceful life . . both in school and out! 

This picture is painted on a wall in the main office next to the principal's door. Its prominent display lets students, parents, and visitors know the importance our school places on teaching and practicing peacemaking skills:  

Conflict resolution guidelines used throughout the school

Thank you, Wanda, for your inspiring words! And thanks to all the teachers, administrators, and parents who support the work of peacemaking. You're doing what all schools need to do each day: educating children to be peacemakers in a world desperately in need of peace. May your work continue to spread.
Qualities of peacemakers taught to children school-wide

What Do You Think?  To leave a comment, e-mail me at or click on the word “comments." Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Tool For Managing Anger

We all get angry. It's part of being human. The problem with anger is how people handle it. Some of us hold it in, only to explode later. Others explode right away, then regret what they said or did. And some of us try to push our anger down, only to have it leach out in some inappropriate way -- blame, resentment, coldness, and more. And in kids, anger can lead to bullying. (I don't like you anymore, and I'm going to tell my friends so they won't like you anymore either!)

The truth about anger is that we always have a choice in terms of how we're going to respond to it. We actually need to make friends with angry feelings that arise in us, accepting that we're going to get angry from time to time, and when we do, we can choose a healthy way to respond. The best strategy I know for responding to anger is called "STOP, BREATHE, CHILL."

Here's how it works. When anger strikes, and your heart starts pounding and palms get sweaty, take the first step and simply STOP. Say the word in your head, and instead of going forward into the anger, flash a stop sign in your head, and as you do, BREATHE --  three slow deep breaths -- inhale deeply and picture the air going right into your abdomen. In fact, as you inhale, expand the lower abdomen as though it were filled with air.

Next, CHILL by replacing reactive thoughts with a calming statement. The one I always use is, "I can handle this." Some people use a single word, like "Peace," others use a favorite phrase from a song or prayer, and others use a calming image or a word that represents it (beach, sky, ocean). Choose a calming statement that works for you, and use it every time anger strikes.

Each time you use "STOP, BREATHE, CHILL," you'll be training your brain to respond to anger in a whole new way. In the process, you'll actually be forming a new neural pathway.  In time, you'll find the old reactive patterns having less of hold on you. Not that all angry feelings will fade away forever, but  "STOP, BREATHE, CHILL," will help you gain distance from the old patterns, and greater control over your reactions.

Here's what several 5th-graders reported after learning how to use "STOP, BREATHE, CHILL:"

"Knowing how to stop, breathe, and chill really helps me handle my anger. I can control myself better now. Before I would do things when I was mad that I would feel guilty about. Sometimes I'd end up getting punished. Now I calm myself down and make better choices. I feel better about myself now."

"I use Stop, Breathe, Chill whenever I get mad now. It really helps me. The other day I was on the basketball court and a player shoved me. I was going to shove back, but I thought about the consequences and decided to stop, breathe, and chill instead. I told myself it wasn't worth fighting over, and it wasn't. I was able to lead my team to victory instead of being called out on a foul for fighting."

"STOP, BREATHE, CHILL" can help people of any age choose a response to anger, rather than simply reacting to it. In the process we actually can make friends with anger, allowing it to guide us to a new way of being.



What Do You Think? To leave a comment e-mail me at, or click on the word “comments.”  Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Focusing on Peacemaking

I just lead an anti-bullying workshop for parents at the wonderful Bradford School in Montclair, NJ. This is a school completely dedicated to peacemaking, and it shows. From the thousand paper cranes hanging in the halls, to the Peacemaker of the Week bulletin board proudly displayed with pictures of all the kid who have earned this honor, the kids at Bradford are learning that kindness is cool, and compassion is the way to go.

More on what's happening at Bradford in future posts. What are you doing in your school to promote peacemaking and anti-bullying? E-mail me at and let me know.

What Do You Think? To leave a comment, click on the word “comments” (ignore the number that precedes it). Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ways to Foster Kids Who Don't Bully

Recent research tells us that kids who bully all share one thing in common: They lack empathy. If you're a teacher or parent who wants to help kids resist bulling, here are four things you can do right now:

1. Name your feelings and help kids name their own. Kids who lack empathy are often completely out of touch with how other people feel, and how they themselves feel too. They might be able to identify basic emotions like happy and angry, but, beyond that, they may be completely clueless. They need your help to tune in. Naming and identifying feelings is one of the first steps in developing empathy.

2. Model respect and compassion even when you're angry. Kids who bully tend to be hot-headed and easily frustrated. Help them learn to manage anger and frustration through your own example. One respectful, compassionate way to express angry feelings is to say something like this: "I know you're feeling frustrated right no, but what you said made me mad. I'm taking a few minutes to cool off. Then we can talk about it.

3. Call kids on mean words and actions of any kind.  Whether directed at a sibling or peer, don't ignore cruel behavior. Say something like, "That was really unkind," or "I felt so upset seeing you treat your brother in such a mean way." Then have them think of ways to make amends to the person they've hurt.

4. Seek out books, videos, and TV shows with characters who exhibit compassion and respect. Look for real life models too. Name the positive qualities you see and discuss them together. Kids need exposure to more and more examples of people who are decent, kind, compassionate, and respectful. Since they learn primarily through imitation, we need to help them have good examples to imitate and emulate.

What Do You Think? To leave a comment, e-mail me at, or click on the word “comments” below. Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Your Child Bullying Someone?

So many of us are concerned about kids who are bullied -- and we should be. But what about the kid who's doing the bullying? There's cause for concern here too. Did you know that kids who bully are at greater risk for getting in trouble with the law later in life? They're also at risk for school failure, troubled relationships and substance abuse.

What can you do if you suspect your child might be bullying? According to StopBullyingNow, "Requests to aplogize, self-esteem building, asking why, pleading, and expressions of frustration are unlikely to help and may make things worse. Here's what they recommend you do instead . . .

Ask Useful Questions:

- What did you do"
- Why was that a bad thing to do?
- Who did you hurt?
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- Next time you have that goal, how can you meet it without hurting anybody?

(from StopBullyingNow)

Additionally, it's important to help kids who bully gain empathy, conscience, and a sense of responsibility for their actions. If your child is bullying someone, let him know how it makes you feel, and then talk together about how he can make amends. Ask, "What can you do to make up for the pain you've caused?" Then, hold your child accountable and make sure he follows through. By doing so you'll be helping him and the child he's been hurting.

What Do You Think? Since it's so hard to leave comments on this blog site, drop me a line at I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

News You Can Use Right Now

If you're looking for hands-on strategies on preventing bullying and conflict in your classroom, you can sign up for a live webinar I'll be doing on March 24th. Here's the information. Hope you can join us!

 Bullying Prevention and Conflict Resolution: Tips and Strategies You Can Use Today

Here's what we'll cover:
- Ways to foster kindness and compassion
- How to help kids be “upstanders” for peers who are mistreated
- Six steps for working out conflicts 

Time: 4:00 Eastern time, 3:00 Central
Cost: $25.00 
A Strategy for Fostering Compassion and Helping Kids Disavow Mean Words

Using a "Memory Bank" is one way to help kids grasp the impact of mean words. Here's a wonderful description of how to use this strategy from 4th grade teacher Melissa Shanahan of Cedar Bluffs Elementary School in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska:

Our fourth graders have been doing activities from No Kidding About Bullying. These activities are designed to help students manage anger, resolve, conflicts, build empathy, and learn to get along. One of the activities is about creating memory banks. The lesson talks about how our actions today may affect how people remember us in the future. I talked about how when we treat someone poorly we create a bad memory for them. The students wrote down mean things that had been said to them. Next, I read the comments. Then the students put the mean comments into a box called a "Memory Bank." While the students answered questions I shook the box loud in front of them. They said it was too hard to concentrate with all the noise in their ears. I told them that people who are treated poorly may have that going on in their heads all the time. It's really hard to think when you have bad thoughts of things people have said to you floating around in your head. We then threw away the  bad thoughts and filled the box with positive ones. I explained that it would be nice if our brains could do that, but they can't, and what we say ad do today can affect the way feel about us and themselves in the future. As a class we are working hared to create a positive memory bank for the people in our lives. A parent recently told me that one of my students referenced creating  a positive memory bank for someone at basketball practice.

We've also made posters to hang around our school with the new definition of cool from No Kidding About Bullying, how to be an upstander, and using kind words. I've been sending home a letter a week so parents can know what we've been working on in class. I'm hoping they will reinforce this at home.

I've had several parents thank me for working on these skills with the class. It's really nice to have something to refer to when there are problems in the classroom and on the playground. Using the word "upstander" and reminding my students of the memory bank seems to help. I'm excited to try the rest of the lessons.

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing this. We look forward to hearing more from you!

One More Thing: 

If you're an educator in the state of New Jersey, here's another workshop I think you'll be interested in:

Hope to see you there!!!

What Do You Think? To leave a comment, click on the word “comments” (ignore the number that precedes it). Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”