It’s All About Consent

If bullying is all about climbing on top of someone else’s power, then the antidote to bullying is consent. Consensual interaction feels good to everyone involved. “May I climb on top of your power?” “Sure, and then I’ll take a turn being in in charge!” Sounds funny, but isn’t it much more fun?

At the Oscars last week, Joe Biden introduced a song by Lady Gaga that grapples with sexual abuse (a particularly form of bullying), and got a standing ovation for his speech about ending this social vice. Watch his speech here.

If you haven’t seen the “Tea” video about consensual sex yet, you must. Watch it before showing to your (older) kids. Without talking heavily about drinking, having sex, passing out, it very playfully—and very clearly—spells out right and wrong!


The Sweet Tweet to Save Lives

In this BBC report about school pressure and suicide, it comes clear how bad bullying is in one of the world’s most high-achieving countries.

According to the Japanese cabinet office, 1 September is historically the day the largest number of children under 18 have taken their own lives.

Between 1972 and 2013, of the 18,048 children who killed themselves, on average 92 did so on 31 August, 131 on 1 September and 94 on 2 September.

The numbers were also high in early April when the first semester begins in the Japanese school calendar.

On seeing the statistic earlier this month, Maho Kawai, a librarian in Kamakura, tweeted: “The second semester is almost upon us. If you are thinking of killing yourself because you hate school so much, why not come to us? We have comics and light novels.

“No-one would tell you off if you spend all day here. Remember us as your refuge if you’re thinking of choosing death over school in September.”

It was a controversial move for the library, which is part of the city’s education committee, not to encourage children to stay in school. The director of the library Takashi Kikuchi told the BBC that there was even talk of deleting the tweet.

But it touched many hearts and within 24 hours, it was retweeted more than 60,000 times.

japanese library tweet

Take a Peek Inside a Trauma-Sensitive School

What other schools might see as bullying, San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary recognizes as children acting out trauma. Check out these excerpts from an ACEs Too High article… that reported an 89% drop in suspensions!

“Many teachers and principals think kids’ “bad” behavior is deliberate, and that the kids can control it. But it’s often not and they can’t – not without help, says Dorado. Their behaviors are a normal response to stresses they’re not equipped to deal with. Throwing a punch makes sense if they’re jumping in to defend their mother from an alcoholic raging father; screaming in fury is a normal reaction to a bully who continuously harasses them. But when the raised voice of a teacher or a counselor who’s criticizing them inadvertently triggers the same response, these behaviors look “abnormal, rude, or inappropriate,” says Dorado. “So, they’re getting kicked out of class and disengage from school. That puts our kids at incredible risk for later problems, including imprisonment.”

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Upstanders Stand Up in Style!

Some of the most inspiring efforts to stand up against bullying are sartorial.

A nationwide movement to wear pink shirts in protest of bullying everywhere started when high schoolers in one Canada town passed out pink shirts from the Goodwill and discount stores for seniors to wear in support of a ninth grader who had been bullied for wearing pink. | video

ea2459b61afb11e2914322000a1f984e_61Students in three high schools in San Francisco’s East Bay towns wore skirts on busses and to schools to show solidarity for an agender senior whose skirt had been lit on fire on the bus.

Gang Up for Good’s Mean Stinks campaign has two million girls painting their pinky fingernails blue to show they won’t stand for bullying.

And here’s a great story about boys! Young football players, rather than “beating up on the bullies” as tough guys tend to want to do when they’re feeling hurt and upset, dressed up instead to show they were with the target. Way to disengage from the bullying dynamic!


Kids at school often bullied Danny — they didn’t understand why he wore a dress shirt or fedora each day, and they didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk. Danny has apraxia of speech, a motor disorder that makes it difficult for him to communicate. Kids would go up to him and ask, “Why can’t you talk? Just talk.” He’d come home from school distraught.

But a group of the boys on the Bridgewater Badgers’ football team, where Danny is the official water manager, wouldn’t stand for this. Their solution? A “Danny Appreciation Day,” where they would all imitate Danny’s suave style and proudly go to school. In the Life Is Good video below, you can watch scenes from that day — more than 40 boys wore suits. Danny led the march.

via 40 Boys Put on Suits to Stand Up for Their Friend. It Worked. | The Mighty.


Honk If You Hate Bullies

Lately there have been stories and photos in the news and on Facebook streams, of parents hanging signs on children to shame them for bad behavior. We would like to say that it’s cute with dogs, but it hurts children. Some parents, unfortunately, are wildly approving of this idea. I think of it as  combat parenting.

In one of our workshops, one parent thought the dad who made his son hold a poster about bullying was setting a limit. We agreed that he made a good effort to teach his son a lesson, but his method was too harsh. If the child had stood with a sign that simply said “Honk if you hate bullies,” he would have had a sufficiently eye-opening experience. But by starting the sign with “I am a bully,” this child invited honkers to hate him personally. And every viewer of the sign was put in the horrible position of having to judge this child without knowing the whole story, and to participate in the bullying dynamic themselves.

We encourage parents to set limits and hold kids accountable, but we learned in writing The Bullying Antidote that shame and humiliation are at the roots of violent behavior (Chapter 4). Modeling and teaching respect, empathy, communication and compassion are the keys to shaping positive behavior — and self-compassion is part of it. Kids who don’t let bad feelings fester don’t take them out on other kids.

Our society has come a long way since public stoning and scarlet letters were the norm. Publicly shaming your children for bullying, or stealing, or in at least one case, pooping. is like putting a curse on them that will erode family love and trust down the road.

Louise recently shared a wonderful blog post on our Facebook page that explains in a very clear way the emotional impact of shaming on a child’s heart. Imagine parents, this writer suggests, having to hold signs that say,

“Forgot to pay phone bill and got cut off.”

“Yelled at a co-worker and lost my job. Now we are losing our house.”

“Went out and got drunk and now I have a DUI.”

In this article, blogger Heidi Stone points to another blog that suggests a much better approach: Praise in public, correct in private. Respect and compassion maximize cooperation, improve a relationship, and increase the likelihood of learning the lesson.

Bullying and Zorgos on the Political Stage

Want to talk about the bullying dynamic? Let’s look at South Africa before the 1990s. The bullies were the white South African people, backed up by their government, which systemically victimized the black South African people, who had no economic or legal means. This system was held in place by fear: the victims feared the capricious violence of the bullies on a daily basis, and the bullies feared the retribution of these people, should they ever get an ounce of power. In other words, the bullies feared becoming victims themselves. They could see no other outcome.

Want to talk about Zorgos? Let’s look at Nelson Mandela, who saw the way through this psychosocial stalemate, this political nightmare, this emotional sewer. He stood up with his people and said “This is not right.” He was thrown in jail for 28 years. But he never gave up hope that his country could evolve beyond bullying, and he never stopped working on the problem.

Credit goes to President de Klerk, also, for freeing Mandela at last, without any controlling conditions. He saw that Mandela had something special in him. Still, the bullying dynamic continued, with his government continuing to provoke and harm their legal inferiors. The fear that one day the black community would call for revenge was a “realistic” expectation in their mindset.

That mindset took some work to change. In spite of their pain, in spite of their absolutely understandable desire to fight their bullies, Mandela—who had received military training and knew he could fight—asked his people to lay their guns aside and proceed peacefully toward their goals of equality. This astonished the bullying government, gave them hope that their worst fears would not be realized, and helped them take responsibility for being the aggressors. The country was close to a civil war, but it never had one. de Klerk’s government gave black South Africans the right to vote.

South Africa elected Nelson Mandela president. The bullying dynamic was defused with a sincere commitment to positive change. The new government took care to address all lingering hard feelings. In a shocking display of forgiveness, they allowed all South Africans to stand up and confess to one another the horrible things they had done, rather than persecuting those who had acted out of fear and hatred. As pain was shared, emotions were released. Apologies were given. Amends were made. A new South Africa was born.

Want to talk about how Zorgos defeats the bullying dynamic? This is how it’s done. With vision. With collaboration. With commitment to morality, humanity, justice, dignity, understanding, conviction, lucidity, self-discipline, thoughtfulness, respect. With inspiration. With love. With Amandla.

A Parent’s Place in the War on Cyberbullying

In a recent AP article,  Dr. Victor Strasburger talks about a new policy put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics policy that extends the 2-hour screen-time limit to include social media.

Because cyberbullying takes place away from parental supervision, the AAP recommends strict limits on smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices, going as far as saying  TV and internet access have no place in a child’s or teen’s bedroom except for homework.

“Kids are getting way too much computer time,” says one parent. “It’s bad for their socialization, it’s overstimulating, it’s numbing them.” Screens in bedrooms not only interfere with child’s sleep, causing them to be more vulnerable to bullying during school, but they provide access to anti-social modeling. Says Dr. Strasburger, “I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an Internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography.”

A two-hour time limit may feel impossible to today’s families, but when children share your goals for them (health, well-developed talents, a positive social life), and parents limit themselves as well, you will find more cooperation.

Positive Parenting vs. Physical Discipline –

I heard a talk show recently on NPR about corporal punishment in children. The interviewer returned to one panelist and said, “So, in your opinion, physical punishment doesn’t work.” The panelist responded, “It’s not my opinion, it’s proven research.” Here is some more information from the New York Times.

It is now well accepted that physical discipline is not only less effective than other non-coercive methods, it is more harmful than has often been understood — and not just to children. A review of two decades worth of studies has shown that corporal punishment is associated with antisocial behavior and aggression in children, and later in life is linked to depression, unhappiness, anxiety, drug and alcohol use and psychological maladjustment. Beyond beating, parents can also hurt children by humiliating them, labeling them in harmful ways (“Why are you so stupid?”), or continually criticizing their behavior.

Improving the way people parent might seem an impossible challenge, given the competing views about what constitutes good parenting. Can we influence a behavior that is rooted in upbringing and culture, affected by stress, and occurs mainly in private? And even if we could reach large populations with evidence-based messages the way public health officials got people to quit smoking, wear seat belts or apply sunscreen, would it have an impact?

That’s what was explored in South Carolina in recent years, and the answer appears to be yes. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a parenting system called the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which was developed at the University of Queensland, Australia, was tested in nine counties across the state. Eighteen counties were randomly selected to receive either a broad dissemination of Triple P’s program or services as usual. The results were both highly promising and troubling.

Learn more about the Triple P program at The Benefits of Positive Parenting –

Keep in mind that corporal punishment is a common parenting practice used in cultures around the world, throughout history. The roots of bullying are deep.