Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bullying on the Bus

Last week I was interviewed by a Los Angeles Times reporter regarding the YouTube video of the bullying of a 68-year-old grandma and bus monitor by four middle school boys. I recommended that the boys should not be punished in traditional ways (bullying by adults) and have since been bullied by many readers of the Times article.

I have been called an idiot, a quack, a sociopath, pathetic, a loser, a libtard, spouting crap, hogwash, nuts, this womans horses$%t, the fool "expert," a joke, etc. And we wonder where kids learn about bullying.

(Hey guys, I’m a 75-year-old grandma with 7 children and 21 grandchildren who love me. )

These readers are ready to crucify me and they haven’t asked one question about how much of the article was a true depiction of what I said in the interview. The reporter didn’t even spell my name correctly.

Actually, I thought that much of the article was excellent—and, much of what I said was left out.

The reporter didn't include what I said about brain research and the importance of connecting before correcting, so kids can learn from their mistakes.  Punishment (which is very different from discipline) simply increases power struggles and revenge cycles (as in wars), or blind obedience out of fear. One purpose of Positive Discipline is to help kids learn to do what is right when no one is looking.

She didn't focus on all the things I said about helping kids explore the consequences of their choices and then focusing on solutions (and making amends). Helping children explore the consequences of their choices is much different from imposing consequences (punishment) on them. When kids explore the consequences of the their choices (in a non-threatening atmosphere) they are often led to true remorse and a desire to make sincere amends—not forced and false apologies.

She didn't mention the importance of creating an atmosphere where all kids feel a sense of belonging and significance and then teaching kids about respect and problem-solving skills in regular class meetings and family meetings.

Most readers of the article assumed that Positive Discipline advocates that nothing would be done to the boys who were involved in the bullying. This is partially true. I don’t think anything should be done “to” the boys, but I think a lot should be done with the boys. This would be an excellent time for curiosity questions with the boys:

  • What happened?
  • What do you think caused that to happen?
  • What were the results of what happened?
  • How did it affect others?
  • How did it affect you?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • How can you use what you learned to make amends?

Another possibility would be to invite the boys to create a program that would help other kids learn from their experience. They could be invited to show the video to kids in other classrooms and/or assemblies and share what they learned from the curiosity questions and invited discussion from other kids on how to avoid their mistake. Note I said, “invited,” not forced. Sharing their experience would be most effective if they had the support of adults who would understand (and help them understand) that it would take a lot of courage to use their mistake to help others.

Some people have assumed that the apologies made by the boys were forced and not sincere. I don’t know for sure, but I believe they got caught up in mob mentality and were mortified when they saw what they had done. Positive Discipline teaches that mistakes are opportunities to learn. In this case, the mistake could be an opportunity to learn—and to help others learn.

It is my wish that adults would remember that kids learn what they live, and that we need to look at the bullying model we provide for kids when we bully kids.  As Haim G. Ginot said:

  • When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
  • When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. 
  • When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
  • When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Understand the Brain Using the Palm of Your Hand

In their book, Parenting From the Inside Out (Tarcher/Penguin, 2004) Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell present an elegant and refreshingly (to us non-brain-scientists) understandable explanation of brain processes. In our Positive Discipline classes with both parents and teachers of children, this model remains one of the most useful and remembered tools. It’s called “Brain in the Palm of Your Hand.” What follows is a demonstration of Siegel’s model.

With two flipped lids face to face (yours and your child’s), how much helpful problem solving do you think is happening? Who is listening? When you and your child are in a “flipped lid” state, is this the time to teach or try to solve the conflict?

Many parents and teachers try to deal with a behavior problem with a child when they are in the “flipped lid” state of brain functioning. When you understand the brain you realize that this is useless. Children cannot learn anything positive when they feel threatened. They are capable only of fight or flight—even though their fight or flight may be emotional withdrawal or thoughts of avoiding rebellion. Lectures are useless at best and damaging at worst because children in a flipped lid state tune out lectures or take them into their decision making process through the amygdala where they may be deciding to get even, to avoid getting caught in the future, or deciding, “I am a bad person.”