This week we are discussing bullying and strategies to help our kids navigate these complex situations.
Join me and my guest, Sally Northway Ogden, a 32-year veteran teacher of middle and high school, Colorado Teacher of the Year, and author of "Words Will Never Hurt Me, Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying, and Put Downs"
As much as we want to protect our kids we need to empower them with tools to deal with situations as they arise.
Book (As an Amazon affiliate, at no extra cost to you, we will earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
Words Will Never Hurt Me, Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying, and Putdowns by Sally Ogden
Guest website: https://fearfreeed.com/
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Hi, and welcome to Real Life Momz I'm your host Lisa Foster and Real Life Momz is a podcast that's all about connecting moms through real parenting conversations. I believe that moms have so much insight and knowledge, and together we are powerful. On this podcast, we give moms a voice to tell their stories, and share their expertise and resources through real conversations. And this week we are joined by Sally Northway Ogden. She had worked for 32 years as a teacher at the middle and high school levels. She's the author of “Words Will Never Hurt Me, helping kids handle teasing, bullying, and Putdowns”.
And today, Sally's here to talk about bullying and ways to empower our kids to handle these situations.
Hi Sally. Welcome to Real Life Momz
Hi, Lisa. What a pleasure to be
here. Oh, so excited for you to be here, um, because today we're discussing a really important topic and I think many people and parents are concerned about it, and that is the topic of bullying. So thank you so much for coming on the show today.
My pleasure. So
Maybe we can let the listeners get to know you a little bit, cuz you have a lot of wealth and knowledge from your experience in this area. Um, so maybe tell us a little bit about your background.
You bet. I started teaching when I was 21. I taught 13 years of middle school and then transferred to high school where I taught 19 more years. So 32 years altogether. And, uh, early on in my career, I also started teaching teachers and parents, uh, discipline strategies, classroom management, parenting skills, and especially what to do about bullying. Because early in my career, uh, I was teaching French and I noticed that kids would come in from after lunch and put their heads down on the desk and I'd say, well, what's wrong sweetie?
And that this little girl would say, well, all my friends hate me and they're bullying me and I'm not invited to the parties. And I didn't know what to tell her. And so I would say, well, let's conjugate some verbs that'll, that'll be good, <laugh> <laugh>. And that didn't seem to work. So I started talking to all my friends and my colleagues and I said, what do you tell kids when they're being bullied?
And what I found out is that at that time there was very little information available, and no books in the library. Uh, and a lot of the people would tell me, especially the men in the, at the, in the teacher's lounge, would say, well, I tell my son, honey, when, when nobody's around, just go ahead and take 'em out, beat 'em up. And I thought, well, that's not a great answer, you know, for everybody. I'm not sure I wanna recommend violence. Right. So I started, uh, uh, just researching and one of the things I did that worked really well was I started watching the kids who seem to know how to diffuse bullies.
And I started kind of keeping track of that. And, uh, I also, and a lot of your moms might remember this, I, uh, was working with Love and Logic, which was, a parenting organization that taught parents throughout the country.
And Jim Faye, who was the president of that, was, a mentor for me. And I got with him also, and I said, why do you teach kids? How do you help kids with this whole bullying deal? So after about two or three years, I put together a whole package and started teaching my students how to respond to bullies. And every year that I did it, the kids would say, why didn't somebody teach us this sooner? And that it was really, really successful. And so that's the kind of thing that I'd love to share with everybody.
Well, I'm excited to hear all those things, <laugh>.
Well, I'm happy to share them.
Yeah. But before we dive, dive into this, can you actually define bullying? Because I feel like is bullying anything that's mean towards a kid? Or is it more like that it's targeted towards a kid and it's repetitive? Like how do you know when someone's being bullied? You
Know, that's a great point because bullying has been such, uh, an important thing in the news, and it's gotten so much attention that kids have picked this up and they all go to their teacher and say, Jimmy's bullying me. He won't let me have them, won't let me borrow a pencil. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know? And so pretty soon everything started becoming bullying. So it's really a good question. It is, let's see if I can do this definition just off the top of my head. The repeated and deliberate attempt to make someone else feel inadequate.
Mm-hmm. And unimportant. So a couple of keywords there, deliberate and repeated. Um, so, you know, because someone can say something offhandedly one time that, you know, isn't really a big deal, but it's deliberately designed to make someone feel bad and it's repetitive. That's, that's kind of the two key ingredients, I would say, in bullying.
Yeah. Okay. So there's bullying and then there's also not maybe someone saying something that's just not nice, but it's one time.
Exactly. Yeah. Or it's slipped out wrong or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, the other person was having a bad day or, you know, but, you know, bullying needs to be, um, a little more repetitive, deliberate mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that kinda, yeah. That kind of thing.
Yeah. Okay. And so you have these amazing strategies and I'm assuming it could also work for, you know, maybe a situation that's more of a tease or nondeliberate, also some of these strategies. Yeah,
Sure. And not only that, it can work with bosses, neighbors, uh, husbands <laugh>.
Oh, so this is good. Yeah. This is important stuff we need for life
Because it turns out that difficult people tend to show up throughout life. And you know, one of the things that, that was popular when bullying kind of came to the forefront was, um, that teachers need to intervene, adults need to intervene. And the problem with that is that, first of all, what does a kid, kid do when the adult isn't there? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And second, when a bully finds out that a kid is so weak that he needs an adult to intervene, uh, then he's likely to do it worse later.
So part of my premise is that we really need to give kids the skills they need to take throughout life to diffuse the power of bullies. Another thing that was really popular, uh, was, um, the bystander, that a bystander should intervene. And I'm a hundred percent for that. You know, if uh, a child sees another kid being bullied and he can step in and say, Hey, don't do that, that's great. But in my experience, uh, it, first of all, it takes a really strong ego of that bystander to step in.
Second, often the bystander will end up being the next person to be bullied. And third, how does the kid who's being bullied learn how to handle it on his own? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, um, I'm all in favor of that, but I don't see it happening too often. And, um, it's, it's kind of a, it's a hard thing to count on
As well. Yeah. And I love the thought of teaching kids how to handle a situation themselves.
Exactly. That. That's, that's, that's what we need. I wanna tell one quick story, if I may, about bystanders. Sure. When I was in middle school, um, there was a real popular girl who used to tease a special ed student, and then he would chase her around before school in the morning and everyone would laugh at him as she flirted with him. And they were all making fun of him. And I thought it was just terrible. Um, but did I go to a teacher or did I talk to her or confront any of these kids?
I did not, because first of all, I didn't have the ego strength to do it. And second, I was afraid that all those popular kids would turn on me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, uh, I would, I will say that I think it's very wise for schools to have a safe place where students can report bullying anonymously. Because I would've done that. I would've gone to a counselor and written in a little note and, you know, let them know this was going on. Mm-hmm. So I think that's really important.
Um, do they have that, uh, because I, what do schools have? I'm not really sure what,
You know, it depends on the school. Uh, but, but one of the things we have in Colorado, which we're very lucky to have, and it happened after Columbine is safe to tell. Yeah. And, um, that is a number that especially high school students are given when they register, that they can call to report bullying, to report, uh, if they suspect there's going to be any kind of school violence, that kind of thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's a really powerful, powerful tool that we have in Colorado. Not all states have that mm-hmm.
<affirmative>, but, um, that, that is something that, that
Well, and that's, that is interesting cuz obviously I'm in Colorado also, and I know safe to tell, but I did not know it was for bullying at all. I thought it was just for maybe a suicidal intention or like you said, uh, some violence against the school, but not for bullying.
I think, uh, it probably depends on the degree mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, but I, I think it sure can be used for that. You bet. Wow. Because as we know, sadly, uh, sometimes bullying can result in suicide mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, uh, yeah. I don't think they would turn anyone away who was concerned about someone who was being, you know, unmercifully bullied.
Yeah. Okay. And when they get something like bullying, do you know the steps that schools would take to then? I, I don't know if the word is intervened, but intervene,
You know, well, this is a frustration because it, it just depends on the knowledge and strength of the counselors and the administrators. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it ranges all the way from, from there, doing nothing at all to being very effective. It just depends on the school and the administrators. There was a movie out not too long ago, and there was a student being unmercifully bullied, and they had a videotape of it, and they took it to the administrator who asked the student to shake hands with his, with his acosta and, let it all go.
And, so it was horrifying. So, you know, it just varies. I think. Um, a lot of schools actually, and parents just don't know what to tell kids.
Uh, they tell 'em to ignore it or let it go, or, you know, and, and so that's where I really like to step in and say, wait, we can help kids with this. We can give them some skills.
Yes. What are these skills? What are these skills? Because I'm like, yes. Like parents do not know. At least I have no idea.
I'm not telling, no, I'm kidding. <laugh>,
You're bullying me, aren't you, <laugh>?
Well, the first thing we need to do is to help students and help everybody understand that if it's mean if it's nasty if it's hateful, it's coming from a place of pain in the other guy. And I used to teach my students five and a half words if it's mean, hateful, or nasty, five and a half words. It's about the other guy. Uh, hurt people. Hurt people. I was doing a presentation in Detroit one time with teachers, and I, said, put that up in your classroom.
Hurt people. Hurt people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And this teacher said, if I put that up in my classroom, they would take that as a double commandment to get out there and hurt people. <laugh> <laugh>. So, but, and I used to talk about, um, and this is in my book and, and my d v d that I did a little presentation with my seventh graders and I talked about a little boy who was having a real bad day.
Everything was going wrong, he wasn't doing well in class. His, friends weren't inviting him to the party. Uh, his mom was mad at him cuz he wasn't doing his chores. And I asked the students, now, if you had a day like this, how, how would you act in class? Would you tend to be real enthusiastic and raise your hand a lot? And the kids would all say, no, you'd probably pout at your desk. Exactly. And is this a day when you would be complimentary of your classmates, or would you be likely to say something mean to them?
And they said, oh yeah, you'd probably be mean. I said, someone steps in front of you in the lunch line and what would you do? And they said, oh, you'd probably punch him. I said, so on the self-concept chart, how does this kid feel today?
10 being the best he can feel, zero being the worst. And the kids would all say, oh, he feels like a zero. Exactly. So what's his behavior like? Well, his behavior's zero. So then I would come up with a conclusion. People who feel bad act badly mm-hmm. <affirmative> people. And, and that's such a key thing for us to remember that it, you know, when someone is acting mean and nasty, there's something going on with them. Now we don't need to know what it is. If they just found out their parents were getting divorced or if they just got an F on the last test, what we need to know is just something isn't going well with that guy right now, but here's the key point.
But I don't need to internalize what they're saying to me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I can reflect it back to them and understand, hey, they're having a bad day.
And I used to tell my students, imagine yourself wrapped around, wrapped with mirrors around you. When someone says something nasty, let it reflect back on them. Don't take it inside of you. If someone dumped a bunch of trash on your lawn, would you pick it up and bring it inside your house? So I said, verbal trash is the same thing. Don't pick it up and put it inside of you. Remember that it's about the other guy if it's nasty, mean, and hateful. Mm-hmm.
<affirmative>. So, um, so that was, that's the first key ingredient. Yes. Yes. Then the second ingredient is, once you know that, then pick from a totally different set of skills in how you respond. So for example,, we've taught kids, like if a kid says, oh, you're fat, we teach kids to say, well, I may be fat, but you're ugly.
I can lose weight, but you'll still be ugly. No. You know, now you're sinking down to their level. And you know,, my mom always told me this when I was younger, never sink to their level. Rise above mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So this is where I started in with a bunch of strategies of, uh, tools that you can use once you realize if it's mean, if it's nasty, if it's hateful, it's about the other guy. One of the tools that you can answer with simply agrees. So if someone says, um, gosh, you look really ugly today.
You just go, boy, I know. I'm not at my best today, I am looking kind of weird today, I had a little, uh, eighth-grade student, and it was a day when kids were all wearing shorts to school. And another student came up to me and said, wow, you've got really skinny legs.
The kid said, oh, I know. Look how skinny my legs are. They're so skinny. My bicep is almost the same size as my legs. Well, then the other kid who had said that kind of went, yeah, mm-hmm. <affirmative> nothing left to say, and then he walked off. You can't keep coming after a person who responds in a healthy, healthy way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the weakness is a really healthy, healthy thing. Um, I have a friend, someone told him he was really weird and he answered back, oh, you have no idea. Weird.
I really am. So someone says, you're crazy. What do you answer? Oh, yeah. Sometimes I can do really crazy stuff.
What if the thing is kind of really hurtful though, and you don't
Wanna agree with that? Okay. That's, that's great. Then there are a couple of answers to that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> probably the most powerful way to respond to that, but also the most difficult to teach, um, is an iMessage. So say you say to me, wow, Sally, you're really fat. I can say back, wow, I need to let you know that really hurts me because the other guy isn't really trying to hurt you. They're trying to take care of their pain, whatever it is. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But this is a hard one to teach because it's not modeled very much.
Um, most people teach kids to retaliate. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Well, you shouldn't say stuff like that. You, you know, you're just me. You're just a bully. And when you attack back, then you've sunk down to a level where they are like, oh good. I gotcha. You know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that's what you don't wanna do.
So you can say things like, wow, that's difficult for me to hear. Or you can say, wow, that was hurtful. You just walk off. You know, you can just say, wow, that was hurtful. So you're right. You don't wanna agree with everything. Um, you can say that one, but another thing you can use is what I call the neutral response. But say they say, um, you look really terrible today. I might answer, I'm sorry you feel that way, or Good to know how you see it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> just a neutral response or one of my favorites. That's a thought
<laugh>. Mm. I love that one. Yeah.
Everything's a thought. You're not focusing on whether it's a good thought or a bad thought. It's just a thought.
Yeah. So those neutral responses, there's probably something you can have in your pocket prepared almost.
Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. And I always told my students, to memorize one of these and have it ready. Mm-hmm. Uh, one of the ones I really liked a lot is, I'm sorry you feel that way. Um, yeah. I like that one. That's a good one. You know, it, it takes a strong, healthy person to say that. And, uh, and those are really hard to argue with, but you're right. Just memorize one of those, put it in your back pocket, and have it ready to go. Because how many times have you been in a situation when you come home later and say, oh, I wish I had said blah, blah, blah.
Yeah. Yeah. So I used to teach the students, to get one of these and memorize, memorize it. And then the next day I'd say, what's your, what's your neutral response? And everybody have to tell me what it is, had it ready to go.
So neutral response is a really good one. Um, then, then there's one that's kind of lighthearted that, uh, you don't wanna use all the time, but it's a lot of fun. And that's when you out crazy, the crazies. So if somebody says, wow, you look really ugly today. You just bark back <laugh>. Or you sing or you say, well, and I learned this from a fellow, uh, a colleague. He was teaching social studies to seventh graders and a little kid came up to his desk and said, this test is unfair you never told us.
And rah. And the teacher said, go lie down now go on, go lie down. <laugh> <laugh>. And the little seventh grader went away because the idea of out-crazy the crazies is that there's no room for two crazy people in the same place. One of them just gotta go away with this. And so I used to teach my kids just say, just say, uh, no thanks, I just had a banana.
They loved that one. And I'd say, now, get out there and get put down so you can try these. And my students, their favorite one was, no thanks. I just had a banana. And they would come back and say, you know, this is the weirdest thing. I've been trying to get people to say nasty things to me, but, they won't do it. Cuz I wanna say, no thanks, I just had a banana. It's interesting when you're armed and ready to respond to this bullying or put-downs, you send out a different vibe. Often the bully will pick somebody else who doesn't look as strong or as, ready to respond, with a great response.
Uh, it's, it's an odd thing, but I found it happens over and over again. Kids would say, you know, I wanna say that. No thanks. I had a banana.
I just had a banana, but nobody will put me down. So. Right. Cause you're changing your energy level almost. You're changing your energy now. You're no longer on the same wavelength that the bully is. Yeah, exactly. Another one of my favorites was is, uh, doesn't that just frost <laugh>? You know, I don't even know what that means, <laugh>. Yeah. I mean, what does that even mean? Like, a student would say, oh, are we really having a test tomorrow? That's unfair. Yeah. Doesn't that just frost <laugh>? That's what they say to that. Well, so I was teaching this to a class of seniors and I had a senior who worked in the student store and he said Mrs.
Ogden, what do I do? I've got this, this ninth grader that comes up to the student store. I work there for the first five minutes of every class period, and he wants to buy Skittles.
And I've told him that we're sold outta Skittles. But then he comes back the next hour and says, where're the Skittles? I wanna buy the Skittles. And I tell him, I just told you last hour, we don't have any Skittles. We've ordered more, but they won't be in for another week. He said, but sure enough, the next hour here comes this ninth grader again. Where're the Skittles? He said, so what do I do about this? I said, well, then, the kid sounds a little bit crazy, so it might be time to out-crazy him. Do you think you can do that? And this, this, my student's name was Mark. And Mark said, oh, you bet I can.
He said, I'm, I'm in the theater. I'm a thespian and I think I can act this one out and have a lot of fun. I said, okay, but you've gotta come back and tell me what you did.
He said, okay. So about five minutes later he came back, mark came back. I said, so what happened? He said, well, the little ninth grader came up and said, where're the Skittles? And I said the Martians stole my dog <laugh>. And the ninth-grader said, what do you mean the Martians? Where're the Skittles? And Mark said you should have seen them goofy little things come out of their ears. Little spaceship sitting there. And the ninth-grader said, yeah, well what about the Skittles? And Mark said, and then they got in their spaceship and they flew away. And I haven't seen him since.
And Mark said when he looked up, the little ninth grader was gone and he hadn't been back. <laugh>. Yeah. You just out crazy him just out crazy. But you don't wanna do that one all the time cuz they'll think you are crazy. You know
<laugh>, right? Yes. Well, it's interesting. I'm thinking of, it's funny cuz I told my daughter about something when I was younger, probably in high school, um, when I had a walk to a certain area, sometimes there'd be some sketchy people. I'm originally from New York and there was this one time that there was somebody, um, that I felt very uncomfortable around. Um, so what I did was I started twitching, like almost like seizure-esque, you know, and I would perfect and start kept walking, but twitching. And that person, like gone <laugh> was, I was like, so I told my daughter that, and I'm like if you're uncomfortable, seems to work.
So you naturally knew how to out crazy. Yeah. That that's great. And I bet a lot of your moms listening know already how to out-crazy their kids when they go do goofy things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I bet they, and my students would come up with all kinds of stuff. They would make computer noises. They'd go beep,
Boop. Or they would sing whatever they could think of. And, um, yeah, it works like, works like magic. Okay. Another one is a broken record. Um, so when, when somebody stays after you, you can say like, they say, well, you're just, you're such a geek. Say, well, that may be, but I'd still like to be your friend, but you're just such a geek. You're so weird. I know that may be, but I'd still like to be your friend. Yeah. But h why are you so weird? I don't know. But I'd still like to be your friend. You just repeat the same thing.
Another one you can do is probably so, but you're blah, blah, blah. I know. Probably so mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And each time get your voice a little bit softer mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So rather than getting loud and aggressive, what we do is get softer. Why?
Because that shows strength, that shows control, and strength. And the last thing a bully wants is somebody who is stronger emotionally than they are. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So a broken record is really good. I remember sometimes, um, I would have a student misbehaving and I would say, welcome back to the classroom as soon as your behavior is appropriate. Yeah. Well, I wasn't doing anything. He started it. I know. And welcome back as soon as your behavior is appropriate, but that's not fair. And welcome back as soon as your behavior is appropriate.
That's a great one for moms too, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, welcome back to the dinner table as soon as your manners are appropriate. But I wasn't doing it. Jim and my brother started it and welcome back as soon as just repeat it. Yeah. Or I'm sorry you feel that way, but you told me that blah, blah, blah. I know. And I'm sorry you feel that way. Just repeat it. But again, every time you say it, have your voice get a little bit softer. And so that's, have you ever told that as a mom? Have you ever used that one?
Yeah. Because I can't think of an instance, but I definitely feel like I have because they're not getting a different response. Like they're trying different things, but if you're sticking to the same response, it's all of a sudden it's like, well, I'm not getting anywhere, you know, I'm still getting the same response, so
Exactly. Yes. I know other kids are doing it and that's not going to be what's happening for you mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but all the kids are going, I know other kids are doing it, and that's not going to be happening for you, but this is unfair. I know. And that's not gonna be happening for you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, it just repeats the same thing and they'll realize this just isn't going anywhere. They can tongue-click, roll their eyes, or do whatever. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you just keep softly repeating the same thing.
Right. And, what about like when things get a little bit more aggressive or physical?
Well, you know, my whole premise is that you need to start with these responses to keep it from getting aggressive or physical. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, I had a senior boy who, he was a skinny kid and real nice kid. Most everybody liked him, but for some reason a big football player came up and said, I'm gonna beat you up after school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And this kid said, you know, that'd be sad because you were like 200 pounds of twisted tiger meat over blue too, <laugh>, and I'm this little skinny kid that probably wouldn't be that fun for you at all.
And then he just walked off. Mm. Well, what was the big bully kid gonna do with that? So, uh, I'm not guaranteeing that you can defer all physical violence with this, but my premise is that if you start with this, the bully's gonna have to pick someone else.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I would also like to add that we need to understand in the schools that if a punch is thrown, that's assault. Mm-hmm. And there, and there needs to be, um, big steps taken to a consequence that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, and I think, I think in the schools we've gotten too used to fighting. And I remember I know in my school people used to say, well, they're these high school boys, it's just testosterone. No, you know what, it's not okay.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, that kind of violence is assault. And if, if parents and administrators in schools would follow up on assault, um, and do whatever the school policy is on that, which maybe would result in, uh, detention or a one-day suspension or an in-school suspension, I think it would go a long way too, to defer some of this. That's, that's my thought on that. But
And of course, if life and limb are really in danger, if a kid is afraid that there's gonna be guns involved or um, a gang is gonna come after him or whatever, then it's time to hightail it to an administrator or a parent call the police, whatever mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's time not to let the kid handle it on his own. If, if they think real physical violence is involved mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then it's time to call out the, the big guns, so to speak. Yeah. I have one more if you're ready.
Yeah. Let's hear
It. And this takes a really healthy person. Uh, but, uh, and I used to use this in teaching a lot. Uh, if a student would say, you know, I think this last test was unfair sometimes I'd say, well, tell me more. Help me understand, uh, what worked for you. Uh, what, what didn't, what did you think wasn't good about it? Um, or you're really frustrated that blah, blah, blah. Or what else has been bugging you about this class? So, uh, when parents can do this too, your child says, you know, you've just been unfair to me.
You're never, you never hear my side of things. That's when I would say, well, tell me more. Help me understand, when do you think this has been going on? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, let, let me see this from your viewpoint. And again, this takes a really healthy person and it's likely to result in a really nice, uh, healthy conversation.
Yeah. So I think, like what I am hearing though, is a lot of it is just kind of empowering ourselves, right? To have a healthy self-identity. So when someone is kind of coming at us, we can recognize, cuz a lot of times they're coming at us and we're not that healthy, um, ourselves. So we're like, yeah, I do feel ugly today. Or, you know, I am stupid and I can't get this problem or whatever. We're not feeling that secure in ourselves, so we kind of almost think that they're right, but, really we have to do, and on both ends, it seems like empowering the kids, the bullies, right?
Because they need to feel better about themselves and have better secure feelings about them, their own selves, and empower the children who are being bullied to feel better. So it seems like we need to actually empower kids to feel better about themselves. <laugh> babies, some of this would get Yeah.
That, that's, that's such a profound point because see what happens to the little seventh-grade girl when someone comes up and tells her she's fat. It's very hard for her to say, I have gained five pounds. <laugh>. Right. Because she feels afraid of being inadequate and afraid of being rejected. And so she internalizes it like, well, I'm fat and I'm not as good as other kids, and people are rejecting me because of this, so I'm gonna attack back. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know? And so yeah, you're, you've got a great point there.
And that's why I always started with, you need to understand when someone says something nasty mean or critical to you that it's about them. But, you make a great point that we also have to help kids feel good about themselves. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Now how we do that, um, well that's a whole master's class in self-concept, but we can talk about that a little bit.
But of, one of the things that, uh, I used to teach my kids, and I've been working on myself my whole life, is to simply not be afraid to be inadequate or rejected.
And that's a mouthful. But what I learned is that as human beings, we all have our flaws. We all get rejected. We all get broken hearts. We don't win everything that we enter. You know, we're going to lose, we're going to get bad grades sometimes we're going to have people that don't like us. And you know what? That's okay. And if we would start teaching our children that from a very young age mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think they would be empowered to where they can say, I know I do have some flaws, don't I, I, yeah.
I am a little overweight. Well, ain't that, isn't that the dickens? You know, <laugh>
Or that's just me. You know, like, I like who's to say what, what is that perfect thing that we're striving for? You know, like, I, I think being you out in the world is there's only gonna be one of you. And, we need that you, whether there are what you call flaws that probably aren't just a part of you and embrace all that and being okay. I think we're never taught that it's okay to be messy. You know, we're always, you know, you're in school and you have to get, you know, certain grades to pass and you have to play, you know, to be in the cool kids, you have to maybe play certain sports or do this, you know,
You have to have a certain body type, you have a certain hair. Yeah. You know, Nike had a saying for a while. Second place is the first loser. Right. They also said, you don't win silver, you lose gold. What are we teaching kids when we say that? Because let's face it, most of our lives, we are not going to go out and be number one in everything, or even number two, or even number 20. And so, you know, we have to face that, uh, not only is it okay to be inadequate or being rejected, but you make such a valid point.
You are magnificent and valuable exactly the way you are. Now that doesn't mean you can't grow and change and, and, and work on things, that's fine. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But, don't let somebody degrade who you are by some, you know, some cheap little comment, you know?
Yeah. And I used to tell my kids sometimes that last is the first place backward.
Oh, that's great. <laugh>.
Yeah. I mean, I think we have to, I, it'd be nice if our kids were taught to be messy, almost like, you made a mistake. Congratulations. You just learned something new. Cuz you, you ma you made a mistake. You know what? You're not either gonna do that again or maybe decided you liked doing it that way. Great. Good learning experience. Hundred percent. Hundred percent. You get an a <laugh>.
That's, that's great. You know, I, uh, taught a lot of classes for teachers for credit, and they would be graded. And I would say, okay, your challenge in this class is to not get an A goal for the B mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you, uh, I had teachers that just could not do it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I said, what's gonna happen if you get a B in this graduate-level class? That's just for your salary increment or for your recertification? What's gonna happen if you get a B? You're here, you're learning, you're, you're growing. What would be the problem if you happened to get a B?
Would you be grounded? Your husband wouldn't take you out this weekend for dinner, would you? I mean, would your parents be upset? What, I mean, what, what would be the problem? But I had teachers that just could not do it. They had to get the a.
I'm like, wow. And I think as a society, we have created that, um, that we've always gotta be best. We've gotta, you know, we put down red carpets for these women that are anorexic, you know, at the, at the Academy Awards. And we, we think that that's the pinnacle of what we all have to be. Or, you know, or the, the Super Bowl I remember from coming from Colorado, you probably remember this, when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl, I thought, I thought the world was going to be a different color the next day.
<laugh>, I thought no babies would die anymore. I thought we'd reached world peace or something. And turns out they started a whole new football season the next fall. And you know, in the big long course of life, it really didn't even matter. Yeah. But, we act as it does, you know?
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we act and, and, unfortunately we're modeling that for our kids. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, that you've gotta be best, you've gotta be right. You've gotta be perfect. You've gotta get straight A's. Also you've gotta go to college mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you know, we know right now there, there are so many good jobs that make a lot of money that don't call for a college degree. I'm all in favor of a college degree, but I think it's a luxury. Not everybody has to go to college, but what I find is that most parents say, well, that's all fine and good for my neighbor's kid, but my kids going to college.
I had a friend who said, I'm raising my daughters to be happy waitresses. And anything beyond that is their choice. <laugh>.
Hmm. Yeah. There was another parent who was interesting. Um, not, not from America. So I think that really helps. And you know, he was just like, I just want my daughter to be happy in whatever she chooses. Exactly. Like, you know, and I was like, well, there is a perspective, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so I, so what I'm hearing is, and going back to maybe the listeners, cuz maybe we can at least start with the listeners and then spread the wealth is, you know, just embracing each other, like modeling that we make mistakes and that's okay.
Cuz that's part of who I am. And I'm comfortable not living in this perfection of doing things perfectly, but trying things. I like being myself and being okay with that. You know,
That's, that's a wonderful point, but can I jump in on this one? Yeah. Because, um, when I was teaching senior high school, I would have these students that would get straight A's, and there would be devastated if they got a 97 on a test instead of a 99 or a hundred. And the parent would say, what do I do about this perfectionism? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I would say, well, forgive me, but I'm about to ask you a question you're not gonna like, and that is, do you model making mistakes? And the parents would say, oh yes, I make mistakes all the time.
I said, I know, but do you talk about it?
Do you say, wow, I really blew it at work today and now I'm gonna have to figure out how to fix it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, do you verbalize it? Because we as adults do make mistakes all the time but are we talking about it in front of our kids? Because what kids see, what children see when they look at adults are these really capable people that buy homes and drive cars and, and, and work jobs and make money and pay taxes. And I don't think in looking at them, they see, um, the, the mistakes that they make and what do we do when we come home from work?
We say, wow, I had a great day and the boss called me in and, and he's really pleased with what I'm doing. We don't tend to talk about the opposite. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And my challenge for parents is don't only to model it, but talk about it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, one great way to talk about it is with a friend on the phone and let your child overhear it.
Right. Because when they're Oh, hearing something, they kind of know it's true. Right,
Right. And it's a scoop, you know,
It's a scoop. Yeah. But, you know, I've done it directly to my kids, like my daughter who's, you know, a teen now and before we know it will be off to college maybe. Right? Oh, maybe. Yeah. And she is like, you know, getting a little concerned about the real world, and she's like, how do you know how to do everything? And I turned to her and I was like, I have no idea what I'm doing. Honestly, I'm 50 years old, <laugh>, and I, and I still feel like a kid, like, I don't know, like when something breaks in the house, I have no idea. Did we know how to buy a house?
No. I had no idea. Like I Right. You know, and I was just very honest. I'm like, no, we, we have no idea what we're doing. <laugh>. There is no charades in our house. They, oh, they're good for you.
Yeah. They're stumbling through the best we can. Yeah.
I think kids need to know, you know, sometimes I do things really well and I feel proud of myself and that's great. And other times I don't do things really well and that's okay too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'm, but I, that's what I know I need to work on mm-hmm. <affirmative> and that's okay. But I, but I've realized I don't have to be great at everything. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, I used to tell my senior psychology students, you know, most of us are great at one or two things. We're mediocre at a lot of things and we're bad at a lot of things too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So your challenge is to find out what you love, and what you're good at, and don't worry so much about the other things.
I think too much in school and too many parents are, what do we do? We see the report card and we say, uh, let's see, five A's, and then the C what's the C? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> now that we need to start working on this C what's going on in math? Yeah. Well, you know, how would we like it if our partners said, well, you know, you're a pretty good wife except for
Asparagus is yet to work on that. Do you know? Right.
So, um, so we should be saying, wow, you got five A's that's amazing. And forget about the C
Say, is it, it'll be interesting to see what you do with that C Yeah. That'll be interesting. That'll be interesting.
That'll be interesting. I love that. Well,
I'm not, you know, I'm not worried about it. I'm, you must, and then another great line for parents, you must feel really proud of yourself for the effort you put in to get those good grades, you know? But I bet you feel proud. Yeah. And, uh, and put it back on them because our love for our kids should be unconditional. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'm gonna love you no matter what grade you get. Um, you know, this is, it's up to you what makes you feel good, but I need to let you know that I'm gonna love you no matter what. So, right. And, the great thing about a fifth grade is they offer it every year at that school.
So, you know, if you don't finish it this year, it's no problem. You can do it again next year. <laugh>.
I don't, I don't know if they'd like that, but Yeah. <laugh>
Or you can do it. You know, I used to tell my students in high school students, it's not a problem. Um, if you don't pass this class lots of ways to get the credit, you can do it in summer school, and you can get a GRE lot of things. But what you need to know is that I love having you in class, so don't worry about disappointing me, because if you're back next year in my class again, that'll be fine with me. You just need to know you, you just need to do what feels good to you. Mm-hmm.
<affirmative>. Yeah. Well,
That was a really powerful message.
Yeah. That's, and
An unusual message, not one that students hear that often.
Right, right. Because they don't wanna do that, so they'll be like, no. Well, okay. So empowering our kids to feel good. So if we can be filling the bullies bucket, the bullet people, kids that are being bullied, um, if our just in general our kid's buckets at home, at least they're going in with a full, they feel full and loved and seen already. So maybe they're not looking to have to hurt anybody else. Right. So that's, that's right. One thing we can be doing, can we like shift a little bit and talk about just online, because I, I feel like this is a, an area because it, it doesn't have to be face-to-face that kids can be very mean.
And I don't know if it ca it's categorized as always bullying because sometimes it's a one-and-done comment, but it's mean and it's not in their face. And what do you say about online?
You know, um, the same principles apply to online stuff. Um, it's still, if it's nasty and means it's about the other guy mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but, you know, online stuff can be sometimes anonymous. It can be. Um, but one great thing about online stuff is if it's really threatening, um, it, it can be sourced and, and adults can find out where it's coming from.
Yeah. So, um, that's, whereas actually in the school, if a kid says something mean, you know, then it becomes he, he said, she said, but some of the online things we can actually dig into and find out where it's coming from. But, I'm not a real expert on the online stuff other than to help kids understand that the same principles apply. I wouldn't respond ever to anything online because things when you write them,, they can get distorted and weird.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, but one of the things that, uh, I have seen about online stuff is that kids will say, this person keeps, keeps writing all these mean things about me. Well block 'em, you
Know, <laugh> Yeah. You do have that option. Yeah.
That quit listening, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um,
Get off that. Yeah.
Get off of that. Right. But, another thing for parents to know is that there are, in any one of the online, um, avenues, there are like, you can report to bullying on Google, you can report it on Facebook. All you have to do is Google how to report bullying on Facebook, and how to report bullying on goo on whatever vehicle it is. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there are some strategies, but, you know, o one thing, if I may redirect us a little bit, let's make sure as parents, we're not bullying our kids.
And I would like to hit you with a strategy that I learned in teaching rather than using fear or punishment or big commands with kids. And it's called enforceable statements. This is something I learned from love and logic. This is turning your word to gold by telling your kids what you're gonna do, not what they're going to do.
So instead of saying you need to get upstairs and do your homework, we say, I'll be happy to drive you to soccer when I see that your homework is done. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or, uh, I am happy to give allowance to kids who follow the rules, um, too little kids. Feel free to keep all the toys you pick up. So these enforceable statements begin with, I will feel free to, you're welcome to. I can't wait to, I'll be happy to, like, I'll be happy to listen to you as soon as your voice is as soft as mine.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or I'll be happy to listen to you when there's no swearing in your, in your talking. Here's one of my very favorites. I charge $2 a minute for listening to arguing in the backseat of the car,
So these enforceable statements, they're enforceable because, um, the parent is saying, or the teacher is saying, this is what I'm going to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'm not telling you what to do because when I tell you what to do, I'm likely to get into a fight. But when I tell you what I'm gonna do, I can enforce that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I will be happy to take you over to your friend's house as soon as I see your room is clean, then you go sit on the couch and, uh, read your book and wait till the room is clean. And if it's not clean, then that's sad. Well, we'll try again tomorrow, you know?
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, the great thing about this is we're not bullying kids. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> by saying, you're gonna be sorry if, or you're so lazy. Or how many times have I told you? Or you need to fix your attitude, you know, how many times when I was growing up and my dad would say, now you need to get upstairs and think about it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> did I go upstairs and say, you know, dad makes some really good points? I need to rearrange my attitude and really weigh what he's saying. You know, <laugh>, that just doesn't happen.
Right. And then also posing questions like you're, you know, or things that you're going to do. I mean, you're also modeling other ways of telling people what to do without, like you said, bullying them. Right. So it's also another way of your child learning, a different way of communicating too.
What a great point. Because I'm just thinking about kids who are involved in a situation, uh, with peers that make them feel uncomfortable. They can say, you know, I'll be happy to drive with you if, if I know that there won't be any drinking mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or, or, um, feel free to come with me. Um, as long as you don't smoke. In other words, teaching kids a way that they can model, um, taking care, good care of themselves.
Right. Yeah. So yeah, cuz they are little mirrors. They are probably picking up on some of the, you know, us going to be like, go clean your room, you know, <laugh>. Right, right, right, right. And then my kids maybe in kindergarten going, you know, like wanting something to look, go get me that crayon instead of maybe a different uhhuh. Right. Where like wordage that they could be using because they're using similar things that maybe they're hearing too. So that's a good
Point for little kids. I'll be happy to share it with you when you give me my crayon back, you
Know, <laugh>. Yeah, exactly. Wouldn't that be magical? Well,
Whatever it is. Now I've got one other really good strategy for parents, and this is kind of a multipurpose concept, consequence kind of thing. So whatever goes wrong with your child, you can have an energy dream. And the way these works is, let's say your child is talking back to you Now, you could use an enforceable statement and say, I listen to kids who don't talk back to me. Or you could say, wow, this is draining my energy.
And then you go away and then later your child says, mom, mom, it's time to go to soccer. And you say, oh no, remember earlier today when my energy got drained, I don't have the energy to drive to soccer, or I don't have the energy to make dinner, but there's a real nice can of spam in the refrigerator. Feel free to have a place <laugh>. Um, so when you have an energy drain, you can have the child do the parent chores. No, I really don't have the energy for that, but you know, you could restore my energy by vacuuming, um, the house that, that would bring my energy back.
But the wonderful thing about the energy drain is that again, it can work for any misbehavior that a child has. I had, a mom in North Dakota who started using the energy drain with her kids and she said it was working great, but one day one of her daughters said, mom, mom, you need a new battery. You're getting your energy drained Too often <laugh>,
I would think my kids eventually would be like, mom, you're draining my energy. What are you gonna do to recharge me? <laugh>?
Well, yeah, now that does happen. And then what you say is nice try. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Nice try. And then of course the other thing that really helps with parenting is to make sure you're having fun with your kid. Um, do you know, there was a Carnegie report several years ago that said that 76% of high school students wish they spent more quality time with their parents. Hmm. And you would think most high school kids wanna be with their friends all the time, but they, they wanted to be with their parents.
Now, I don't think that meant cleaning the garage, you know? Right. But, but so what does that mean? It means eating together, playing together, getting a stream in a good movie and popping some popcorn, getting on the floor and playing games with them, um, doing community service together. And then one of the very best ways, I think to keep a great relationship going with your child is to self-disclose.
Tell 'em about your life. Tell 'em, as you mentioned earlier mm-hmm. <affirmative>, tell about your struggles, and you know what's going on for you. And I know that especially in recent years, I loved to talk to my mom about, oh, her high school boyfriend and, and, um, you know, what it was like for her when she went to college and taking care of her mom. And I loved to hear those things. And so I would really encourage your moms to the moms that are listening, disclose tell your kids about, about your life and not just the great things as we mentioned earlier.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, tell 'em about some of the challenges. My mother told me that when her high school boyfriend broke up with her, it was harder on her than when her mother died. Her mother had been sick for a long time and she'd been taking care of her, but I'll never forget she said that. Wow. So when I got my first broken heart and I was really struggling, I'm like, wait, my mom struggled too. This is okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> disclosure's really important.
Yeah. And that special time, as you said with the, with the teens in like high school, I think it is so important. I think we forget that they still need that quality time because like, like, you know, we're saying the school could be tough. There's a lot of lot to live up to, whether you're being bullied or you're not. But a home situation is where they're gonna feel loved, safe, secure, seen, and heard. And that's not something that they feel probably all day that they're in school.
So having those quality time moments to fill, once again, failure your kids' bucket, right. So that they're having more self-worth going through the day-to-day. Right. Um, is really important. And it, and it, it should be more that one-on-one time versus like, okay, help me clean the garage or Exactly whatever. Like actually getting to know your teen because they're really cool teens, they're cool. Be very, very cool. You
Know, I loved teaching junior high and high school and kids, people would say, well how did you teach those junior high? Oh, I loved them. They were so fun. And high school kids are a kick. They're just so fun. And I would add to what you're saying, find out what the kid likes to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I know that in my family we loved to play cards and I just cherished that time when I got to play cards with my family just, and it was just everybody together and we had fun and nobody was mad and mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I know nobody was critical and Oh, I just love that. Yeah. So what is it watching movies?
Is it going for hikes? Is it going for bike rides? What, is it that you can do together that they, that your child really enjoys? Um, I had a friend who was wildly creative, this mom, and, uh, one winter she was getting, uh, upset because the kids were spending too much time watching tv. So we'd had a big snowstorm and she went out and started with milk cartons, making blocks of, snow, and building an igloo, <laugh>. And pretty soon the whole family came out and said, what are you doing?
She said, leave me alone and building an igloo, or, pretty soon everybody started, helping with the milk cartons and building the igloo. And that night we drove by, my family drove by and they had a full igloo with the whole family inside, including grandma.
Oh, I love that.
For, for, for mats on the ground. And they were reading stories and telling stories. Well, nobody will forget that for the rest of their lives, you know? Yeah. So what can you do together that's fun, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and noncritical. And that's just so wildly important.
So important. Now you have some amazing resources. You have a book and you have a video. You wanna tell us a little bit about where people can find you and some of your resources?
Thank you so much. I would love to, uh, my book is called Words Will Never Hurt Me, and it's available on Amazon, but if I could tell the mom's listening when you go to Amazon and look up words Will Never Hurt Me. The Kindle edition, uh, is what shows, if you click on the Kindle Addiction, uh, addition, it will take you to also to the paperback. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But for some reason, the paperback doesn't show up on the first glance. I don't, I'm not sure why that is. So that's my book, and I, would recommend it that moms read it with their kids, um, start when they're young, teach 'em these things, give 'em these tools, and um, uh, and I would suggest that a, you know, a child that's in maybe fourth, fifth, sixth grade can read it on their own.
I wrote it so it's not Tolstoy.
It's, it's easy to read mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, I highly recommend it, um, just get it and read it with your child. Then I have a website, again, that's words will Never Hurt me, click on the Kindle edition to take you to, to the paperback. And I just wanna say I'm not in this for the money. Um, I'm retired, I'm happy, uh, I don't, I don't get much money from those book sales. I'm in it because I know this can help your, your children. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I have a website called fear free ed.com, fear Free, and then another e eed.com.
So there's three E's in a row, Fearfreeed.com And, uh, what I love to do is presentations for schools, uh, PTAs, parent groups. Um, and on my website you can find, um, references and evaluations and some of the topics I do, I love to talk to groups about all of these things we talked about tonight. And again, I'm not in it for the money. Um, so my charges would be very reasonable, probably just a little bit over expenses. So that's Fearfreeed.com
Awesome. That's great. That's great. This is so helpful. And I did look at your website, so it is something that it's, it's nice. Has some good information on there.
Yeah. There's also some, um, there are some articles on there that people might find interesting, um, that kind of support some of the things that we've said here. So
Yeah, I do have a subscriber question that, um, someone did write in, so I do wanna ask you, um, and that is, what do you do when your child feels that by talking to the school about a specific bullying situation would make matters worse and wants to keep it quiet?
Well, I agree with that a hundred percent. I think that unless again, un unless life and limb are involved, I wouldn't go to school. I would teach the kid the skills to handle it himself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And if, if that can't work, then as a last resort, then I think we do have to go to the school. But the child is wise to know that if the adults get involved, it probably will get worse. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's why it's so vital to give the kid the skills themselves.
Yeah. And it's true because I think as adults when we have an issue, we can like kind of move around a little bit, but these kids could be in school together for like 10 years. Right. Or they're sitting next to each other in class or whatever, and they don't have, they don't have an out as we do.
No. But you know, this is where parenting takes so much wisdom, is that a parent needs to know when is this serious enough that we really need to intervene mm-hmm. <affirmative> and when is it something that I can teach my child to handle? But again, I would get with that kid and read my book, um, teach 'em, you know, over and over again that it's not about them, it's about the evil person. So they can send out, as you mentioned earlier, a different energy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> really, really important.
Yeah. Okay. So parents should in situations, you know, teach their kid these skills, but also ask questions maybe to make sure that they're physically safe and feel safe first. Absolutely. If they don't feel safe, then it is a reportable thing that the schools should handle. That's right. Immediately. Or maybe they have a safe to tell or something like that. If it's not, then teaching these skills to empower the child. That's right.
Yeah. But, you know, unfortunately, I have to say that I have heard many stories of when the school is not successful at handling these things mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that's disappointing. Yeah. And I really don't know what to say about that. Um, because sometimes there are serious, serious things that don't get handled well. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and then we just have to do the best we can, I guess. Um,
Yeah. That's unfortunate. But yes,
I don't, I don't have a great answer for that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Except the more skills you can give your child, um, the better off they'll be throughout their whole lives.
Yeah. I love that. Yeah, exactly. If we can learn these types of skills now, then we can use them throughout their, our lives. I think that's great.
Well, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this topic. It's a, it's a tricky one and I, thanks for throwing in when our kids might be bullying us, actually as That's right. As parents, right. It's a tricky how to
Handle that. We run into it constantly, you know, we run into difficult people constantly. That's why it's so important to learn these skills. It's been an absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you so very much. And I hope this helps the moms listening. Um, so give them the skills they need to help their kids.
Awesome. Thank you. Thank you for listening to this episode. Sally shared some
Creative strategies to help empower victims of bullying, but she also reminded us that hurt people, hurt others. So it's important to build our kids up so they feel seen, heard, and loved, and they can go into their day with their emotional cups already full.
Teacher, Author, Presenter
32 year veteran teacher of middle and high school, adjunct professor of several universities, Colorado Teacher of the Year, 1977, author of "Words Will Never Hurt Me, Helping Kids handle Teasing, bullying and Put Downs" Website: Fearfreeed.com