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.

 

What if There Had Been Upstanders When…

A program in central Florida has reframed bullying and put it in a “woah” context.

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Logo_Image_2-290x141UpStanders: Stand Up To Bullying uses the history and lessons of the Holocaust, in particular the stories of Rescuers or Righteous Gentiles, to inspire students to become UpStanders rather than bystanders. The goal is to make the community one in which diversity is celebrated, and everyone feels respected and safe. The example of Rescuer behavior during the Holocaust is used to teach students the importance of guarding the rights and safety of others. It is a five-part initiative that is presented to middle school students over a two-school year period.In the UpStanders program, students learn how and when to what to do safely intervene when they witness bullying. It is based on solid research that tells us that the single most effective intervention to interrupt bullying behavior is for bystanders to step in and step up for other students.

via Upstanders | Education | The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida.

Taming the Troubled Brain


Raising kids is a demanding job. When we’re tired or stressed or don’t feel good, our emotions can get triggered and we can do things that can overpower and harm our children. Explosive outbursts – yelling and screaming, for example – frighten children. As a little girl, when my mother lost her temper, yelled, and punished us, it struck terror in my heart – and damaged the love, trust and connection. Later as a mother, when I lost my temper and yelled, I felt guilty. With explosive outbursts everyone feels bad—and kids can take it out by bullying others.

The important question to ask: how can we put the brakes on out-of-control emotions so they don’t explode and damage people? So we can model Zorgos skills to our kids? Let’s turn to brain science to learn why it’s so hard to harness our deepest reactive emotions, and learn two emotional management skills to help us keep our cool.

Brain Science

Deep inside the brain is the amygdala whose job it is to ensure survival. Like a guard dog, it’s always watching for danger and ready to immediately and intensely sound the alarm. Once triggered, the emotional brain floods our body with hormones and chemicals that compel us to fight, flee, or freeze. The amygdala packs an emotional—and physical—wallop, and hijacks the thinking part of the brain! Our stress system goes haywire on red alert. Unable to think straight, we may quite literally be “out of our minds.”

This also happens to children. A child who is experiencing emotional flooding cannot hear you, and cannot be reasonable. Logic does not work during a meltdown or tantrum, so don’t waste your breath. Instead, be patient. Calm yourself. Calm and soothe your child. Be present and connect. Later on, after the storm passes, you’ll be able to talk about what happened. (Adapted from The Bullying Antidote, p. 283)

A Six-Second Grace Period

The intense emotional reactions of the amygdala have a life-or-death urgency. They run ahead of the thinking (cognitive) brain by six seconds. After the alarm sounds, it takes the thinking brain time to activate, evaluate the situation, calm the freaked-out emotional brain and RESPOND. This takes restraint. Do your best to hold off the strong urge to REACT for six seconds. You can harness that strong knee-jerk reaction – the “power-assertive method” — that can harm your child and that you’ll probably regret.

Mindfulness slows down a knee-jerk reaction to a second-by-second awareness of what is going on, inserting a pause that changes impulsive reactions to thoughtful responses. —The Bullying Antidote, page 198

Forget Counting to Ten – EXHALE!

The parasympathetic nervous system quiets the amygdala and tilts body, brain, and mind toward a sense of safety and well-being. It is activated through big exhalations. When you experience the next upset, instead of counting to ten, take a big, deep inhalation, hold it, then exhale gradually while relaxing, focusing on exhaling completely. Do that three or more times. Deep exhalations can harness strong emotions and make time for the rational thinking brain to regain equanimity. So the next time your child is distressed, soothe and calm him/her by connecting, and encourage him/her to blow out the hard feelings.

These emotional management tools corroborated by brain science can restrain the upsetting feelings of parents and children alike. They can strengthen connections and help us move beyond bullying.

A Minute of Silence for Peace.

Complaining is easy. Lashing out when we are hurt comes naturally. Bullying happens.

Peace, on the other hand, is hard. To live in happiness with others, we can’t always put ourselves first. We have to nurture our best intentions, and consciously and constantly point ourselves in the right direction. This needs to happen on the most intimate level, as well as in the grand political theater.

This Saturday is the International Day of Peace.  Set your alarms for noon. Every year on September 21, people around the world share a minute of silence at 12p.m. to contemplate, wish for, and create global peace. This U.N. Celebration is part of their Culture of Peace Initiative, designed to unite the strengths of organizations and individuals who are working to make Peace a practical reality.

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There are many resources available on their web page, highlighting this year’s theme, Education for Peace. One of my favorites is a free ebook with instructions to prepare a classroom of 3-6 year-olds for the Minute of Silence.

Peace Day will fall on a weekend this year, when kids are home with families. Take a little time before lunch to talk to your kids about these broad concepts of peace that we discuss in The Bullying Antidote:

  • Our needs and feelings are part of life and there is always a place for them. They guide us to listen to our intuition.
  • There are infinite possibilities and solutions to resolve challenges.
  • We have to pursue loving, relationship-focused attitudes.
  • Harmony, peace, and joy are normal experiences.

With the right frame of mind, any day can be Peace Day, even with the bumps and bruises life provides.  Hope yours is serene, sweet, and full of joy!