Cosmic Citizen Radio on The Big Picture of Bullying

Please listen to this wonderful two-hour interview with Kristen Caven about bullying from a spiritual perspective. Paula Thompson, Andre Radatus, and Christilyn Biek-Larson, the hosts of Cosmic Citizen Radio provide space and time for a wide-ranging conversation about every angle of this social problem.

It is a two-hour interview, but if you would like to drop in and listen for a few minutes, here is a guide to the key moments:

  • 5:30 Interview begins
  • 6:45 Kristen explains why bullying is NOT a subject near and dear to her heart.
  • 10:00 What The Bullying Antidote is and how the book is structured – 3 parts
  • 11:30 What bullying is and how we can understand it: bullying defined, the bullying dynamic.
  • 14:50 Zorgos!
  • 17:30 Racism, Terrorism… how we justify bullying with fear and confusion.
  • 18:45 What’s in the news: “average citizen” shooter in Chattanooga has an abusive family; random racial beating by college students; Boko Haram uses child bombers; what bullying turns into.
  • 22:00 What do we tolerate and what do we nurture? How the extreme fundamentalist, autocratic parenting style has swung to permissive style. Cultural support for and normalcy of bullying.
  • 25:00 Three mainstream parenting practices that unknowingly nurture bullying dynamics.
  • 27:30 ACES study
  • 30:00 Long-term research on punishment in Sweden – the story of how one country changed its story, and how the US rates in UNICEF study.
  • 34:00 Brain Science – we are wired for negativity and need to consciously work on positivity
  • 35:00 No-spank laws and the Declaration on the Rights of the Child
  • 39:00 How the US ranks nationally for childhood wellness
  • 41:30 The great work being done in the US, in schools, to diminish bullying
  • 43:45 Pre-school is key to protecting society from bullying & crime
  • 44:30 How cooperative preschools create good culture; what to look for in schools in terms of bullying
  • 47:00 <an enthusiastic plug for Pixar’s Inside Out!
  • 48:00 My Vision for World Domination…?
  • 50:00 (How this book can help heal adult love relationships as well!)
  • 53:00 Bullying is being mean! If we are compassionate to ourselves, we won’t hurt others/our kids. 
  • 54:00 Gandalf’s intention: “You! Shall! Not! Pass!” Great example of how to stand up against bullies.
  • 56:00 How Paula’s daughter was bullied (note about handout at bottom of this page: https://zorgos.wordpress.com/discussion/)
  • 1:03 Kristen’s response…pecking orders… when bullying begins… how schools respond…what bullying isn’t…testing…
  • 1:08:30 How Kristen was a bully, and what her teacher did.
  • 1:09:30 Christilyn on Halt and Catch Fire “faggot” locker scene – how sexual difference is a “protected” area for bullies
  • 1:13 Kristen compares culture of gay bullying before legal Gay Marriage struggle to Nazi and Slavery propaganda that made killing Jews, enslaving blacks culturally/economically correct. Bringing injustice to light eliminates systemic discrimination.
  • 1:16 good school rules – respect, no labeling
  • 1:18 Dennis Leary quote: “My kid hates one thing: naps.” How racism and hatred are perpetuated.
  • 1:19:45 Chrystilin on how teaching kids how to be obedient teaches them to accept social bullying
  • 1:20:30 Fight, Flight, or Freeze question
  • 1:21: Nazi generation victims of terrible parenting in Weimar Republic – children as “poison containers” – this mindset happening now. How a child’s brain chooses whether to develop survival- or growth- oriented neurons. Feminine perspective is “tend and befriend.” Kids learn there are other options to conflict.
  • 1:28:30 The power of upstanders! Great stories about people with Zorgos who say “knock it off.” (bully guards, mean stinks, pink shirt day)
  • 1:34 How one parent turned her child bully’s life around 
  • 1:36 Caller: a schoolteacher who sees systemic bullying. Thoughts on anti-bullying policies.
  • 1:42 How to look at school bullying programs & policies
  • 1:46 (shout-out to Oakland), and the importance of parents in supporting schools
  • 1:50:30 Bullying is a human rights issue.
  • 1:52:30 Don’t read The Bullying Antidote alone! The work of changing a culture cannot be done alone.
  • 1:53 Quick look at Part 3 of the book – things you can learn.
  • 1:57 parents are more powerful than we know! Parents could turn bullying around in one generation by teaching our kids Zorgos!
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Nip Meanness in the Bud

book-tiltedOne day at the post office, I mentioned to the clerk that I was writing a book on bullying. Her face lit up eager to tell me about her son. I was so impressed with her story – and how she helped change his life, that we share it in Chapter Five of The Bullying Antidote.

A local post office clerk was called in by the principal at her son’s school because he was bullying younger students. During the meeting, the mother’s heart sank for the little children. She asked them, “Is he scaring you?” They nodded their heads. In front of her son, she said, “I promise you he will never do that again. If you need any help, or someone else is ever bullying you, he will be the one to go to.”

That experience changed the young man. Over time, through programs at school and working with his mother at home, he became a friend to those children.

The school security guard bumped into him one day and asked how he was doing. “Great!” the boy replied. “Love school, and I’m getting good grades.” The surprised guard joked with him: “I thought I would see you in juvenile hall by now.”

“Now, he is a sweetheart,” his mother boasts. “He will even be speaker at his graduation!”

I gave her one of the first copies of The Bullying Antidote. That evening she read the passage to her son—who didn’t remember the experience. “Was I mean, mom? Was I mean?”

The Take-Away of this story:

Kids mostly don’t realize they are being mean. Parents and teachers can nip meanness in the bud by speaking up when it happens saying, “That was mean,” and encouraging them to soften the statement: “Can you say that another way?” With feedback helps children develop their identity, self-image and character. Identifying what’s mean, and knowing that mean is not good, can curb negative behaviors and bullying.

It is even more important to notice and comment on positive behaviors, to reinforce desired behavior. Martin Seligman, the “Father of Positive Psychology,” advises parents to look for emerging strengths and virtues, like kindness, prudence, judgment, and fairness. Noticing and identifying positive qualities build “signature strengths” in youngsters. These positive strengths can be buffers against negative emotions and depression, and lift life up to a more positive plane.

This is one way to build emotional and social health and pro-social skills in children, and to foster self- regulation that interrupts meanness and curbs bullying.

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.