Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bullies Need Help, Too

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri, 

My nine-year-old daughter was always shy, but I’ve put her into activities.

The principal just told me she’s in a group of bullies. You could’ve hit me over the head with a baseball bat, and I still wouldn’t have believed it.

I’ve been divorced from a very abusive husband and father. We were scared of him, but he moved across the country and she never sees him.

I got my daughter into a great charter school, but she doesn’t listen and gets angry often.

I talked with her about being a bully and why bullying hurts. She tried to make excuses and blame her father. She didn’t seem to care.

Sad, Single Mom

Dear Mom,

It’s great that you gave your child ownership and accountability of her problem and still you’ll help her through the traumas you both face.

Being an example of a value-centered person is the best thing you can do for her, and, according to Robert Fulgham (author of “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”), “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.”

Oftentimes, parents aren’t aware of their children’s unacceptable behavior, because they act differently at home.

Bullying is:

1.      Bullying is abuse and a desire to have power over others.
2.      It’s deliberate and intended to harm someone.
3.      It’s repeated over time.
4.      Victims are perceived as vulnerable.

Bullying facts:
  • At least 1 in 4 children are bullied at school.
  • Approximately 30 percent of students admit to bullying others.
  • 70 percent of students and staff witness bullying daily.
  • Bullying has surpassed kidnapping as parents’ number one worry for their children.
  • 160,000 students – across the nation – miss school daily because of it.
Ask the following:
  • Does she understand empathy?
  • Does she need to be in control?
  • Are her social skills and values developed?
  • Does she attack others before she’s attacked?
  • Is she intentionally excluding people?
  • Is she concerned with being popular?
  • Is she displaying disrespect for others who are “different?”
These questions may help her learn about her self-worth and the worth of others.

Your daughter’s trauma may be helped with the following methodologies:
  • Cognitive therapy
  • “Tapping” developed by Dr. Robert Callahan – sending signals to the brain by stimulating meridian points to diminish trauma.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – nontraditional psychotherapy, used especially for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which diminishes trauma while removing body memories.
  • Spiritual development – through a belief in God, or other spiritual concepts.
You can definitely help her define herself with dignity.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Good Manners are the Golden Ticket

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My wife embarrasses me because she doesn’t have good manners or grooming habits. I make excuses for her to not go with me to dinners and social events.

She’ll roll out of bed and go grocery shopping without brushing her teeth, hair, and she smells awful.
She doesn’t greet people, look them in their eyes, introduce herself, or hold a conversation.

She’s loving and caring (plus we’ve been married for 15 years), but I don’t want to be seen with her.

Embarrassed Husband

Dear Husband,

Having good manners is the same as having civility – our definition of civility is to be caring, considerate, and courteous to everyone. Being socially proficient is a communications and confidence issue.

We encourage people to learn to feel well enough about themselves in order to be able to turn their focus towards others. That means grooming yourself daily, standing tall, having eye contact and connecting with others by caring.

First, have a gentle discussion with your wife about depression or other issues that might be preventing her from being socially adept and well-groomed.

If she becomes defensive, find a therapist about this issue. Show her this column, so she’ll understand you love her and you want the best for both of you.

A few important manners:
  1. Be aware of offensive smells, grooming habits and inappropriate activities that belong in the bathroom (picking teeth, blowing nose, and spitting).
  2. It’s courteous to endure boredom or differing beliefs, unless the conversation is rude, rough, or gossipy … then politely excuse yourself.
  3. Mingle well, don’t cause scenes, be brief in storytelling, don’t be a walking encyclopedia, be aware of what’s happening in the world, and be enjoyable and positive.
  4. TMI (too much information) is inappropriate and uncomfortable.
  5. Say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry.”
  6. Don’t swear, be obscene, joke about everything, or argue in public.
  7. Practice table manners: Close your mouth when chewing, pass food to the right, use your napkin, don’t announce bathroom visits, don’t interrupt, and pay attention to others.
  8. Don’t recite all your ailments and opinions.
  9. Have civility, be confident, humble, and listen more than you speak.

Benefits of good manners:

  1. You’ll set good standards for respectful behavior, and create a better culture.
  2. When you care for yourself, others tend to care about you, and you then care about others. It’s a healthy circle of communication.
  3. People appreciate others who are polite, interested and interesting.

Practice the golden rule and the golden ticket to joy will come to you, your family, and our society. Good manners are contagious.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Is ti ever too-too late to apologize?

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m 33 and was a nerd without friends in high school until I suddenly became accepted into the “cool guys” group. I was told to “just chill,” so I did.

I became so chill that I stood by while my new friends bullied a girl I’d known since kindergarten.

The girl they bullied (while I stood by and did nothing) was overweight but sweet and funny. They were extremely mean to her, calling her fat. They made sexually harassing comments and called her a loser.

The pain I imagine she felt, when I didn’t stand up for her, must have been devastating.
I want to profusely apologize to her. I still feel so guilty – I’m responsible for allowing the bullying to continue to happen.

I don’t know how to get in touch with her, though.

Is it too-too late to apologize?

Not Cool Anymore

Dear Young Man,

It is never too-too late to apologize and it could be a life-changer for her and you.

Try finding her on social media, contact old friends, and dig deep to find her. It’s imperative, no matter how late it seems to you. She may feel comforted or have a cathartic (good or bad) experience with you.

Tips on apologizing: 

  • Be authentic; remember this is about her and her trauma, not your guilt.
  • Be humble; she needs to know she has worth.
  • No excuses; be accountable.
  • Her trauma is real; you may have no idea how much therapy she’s needed or relationship problems she’s had because she was betrayed and can’t trust others.
  • Own and admit your mistake; being remorseful means not diluting your apology by blaming the “real” bullies. Not standing up against bullies makes you one of them.
  • Don’t expect immediate acceptance of your apology; she’s probably suffered for a while. Allow her to vent or cry, however, don’t allow her to become abusive to you.
  • Make restitution; Offer your unconditional care, and if she asks for you to go to a therapy session, go once if her therapist is in agreement.
  • In person – in public – is best; see her face to face (if possible), it’ll help show her your true regret. Your body language and tone of voice accounts for 93 percent of your regretful communication (leaving only 7 percent for words). But make sure not to give out your personal information. Revenge bullying is very common today.
  • Seek forgiveness; never say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or use the word “but,” which negates your apology.

We are all imperfect beings, who may, however, apologize perfectly.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What is a "lawnmower parent?"

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m a teacher with two 11-year-old girls who both reported being bullied by each other.
They used to talk and giggle together, incessantly, in my classroom.

They did a gymnastics talent show together. They were sweet and never aggressive towards each other, until the day I was the cafeteria monitor. They were sitting apart.

One was sitting with the popular girls. They mocked and teased the other girl. The targeted girl yelled at her former friend. Then they both stood up and pushed each other. They were going to fight.

I talked with them about their unacceptable behavior. They continued accusing and name-calling each other, so I sent them to the principal. He only told them to stop it.

I brought their parents in and they started bashing each other. They were threatening and swearing and accusing each other’s kids. Surprise – surprise.

The principle said they’re just being “lawnmower parents.” This is a new one to me.

My daughter once said I was an embarrassing helicopter parent. Is this the same?

Not a “Lawnmower Parent” (I think)

Dear Ms. Teacher,

We’d like to commend you for taking a genuine interest in the welfare of your students. You’re a great example of our definition of civility. (Be caring, considerate, and courteous).

Lawnmower parenting is a new buzzword for a parenting style. It means the parents “mow down” their child’s confrontations and anxieties. They do the fighting back, or they take over their child’s (necessary) struggles to eliminate embarrassment and awkwardness. The most damaging effect is diminishing their children’s ability to analyze problems and find solutions. 

Don’t worry about the labels of helicopter or lawnmower parenting. However, you may help your students discover how to become mature adults on their own by teaching the following:

  • Decision-making – Do activities, role-plays, or skits involving problems and solutions, such as responding to mean comments like, “You’re ugly.” Provide two helpful and healthy choices and one unhealthy choice.
 1. Humor shows strength: “I guess that wasn’t a compliment.”
2. Directness shows confidence: “Stop bullying me.” (Don’t engage.)
3. Revenge bullying is unhealthy and ineffective: “I’ll show everyone horrible, fat pictures of you.”  

  • Facing confrontations – Do activities, role-plays, or skits concerning having been excluded by a friend: “I didn’t invite you to my party, sorry.”
 1.  Humor: “I’ll live.”
2.  Directness: “Our friendship has changed.”
3. Revenge bullying: “You didn’t hear about my sleepover, where I didn’t invite you?”

Help your students become educated about healthy friendships and values by having them list what constitutes a great friendship and values (choosing three). Give them a 20-value list to take home.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

FOMO is a thing

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My daughter has always been very social. But she’s almost 16 and suddenly everything that everyone else is doing is more exciting, fun, and the event of a lifetime.

She spends so much time on Twitter, Instagram, texting, and Facebook, her father and I can’t keep up. We’ve always tried to oversee what and with whom she’s engaging.

I walked into her room, which looked like a tornado landed (not like the immaculately clean room she used to have), and she was sobbing. I thought a friend died.

It turns out that when we “made” her stay home and help us clean out the garage, “everyone in the world” went to the beach and had the best time they’ve ever had, according to the pictures and tweets. She read 107 tweets about it.

I tried reasoning with her, using humor, and finally, we took her phone and computer, until she could get a grip on reality. She exploded. Her hysteria almost landed her in the hospital.

My friend said she probably has FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’ve heard of it, but I didn’t think it was real.

Is FOMO real?  

Dear Mom,

Unfortunately, FOMO is a real “thing.” FOMO means someone who has an all-encompassing anxiety and nervousness about missing out on social events, people, or experiences they perceive to be superior to their own life, and maybe, their own self. FOMO, for some, is an uncontrollable need to stay connected with other people's lives online.

Our experience is that some teens are so addicted to the lives of others, they disappear into depression, and may stay at home, eating ice cream and watching other people – to the extent that they can’t go out to an event because they feel they’ll miss something else.

Some people start believing that everyone is better, with better opportunities, friends, and social lives.
It’s a vicious cycle of not living their own life and feeling their life isn’t worth living, because they don’t think theirs will measure up to anyone else’s.

It may become compulsively obsessive.

Tips to help with FOMO:

1. Maybe you’re not actually missing out on anything but your own life. Engage in social media for 40 minutes a day. Develop a talent (sports, arts, academics …) and practice an hour daily.

2.  Start creating your own real life.  Schedule time to identify and learn about your spiritual, physical, and emotional self.  Don’t make comparisons.

3. Become a well-developed person. Instead of watching others, who seem well-developed, based on social media “staging,” define yourself before others do.

Remember, social media is often a fa├žade.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri