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

I'm a 'roasting' mess

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I’m very insecure, but I’ve always been the funny girl, because I make fun of myself. I dress weird and have frizzy hair. People love me because I put myself down.

Last night, someone dared me to get “roasted.” One day later, there were hundreds of horrible obscenities, and I was told I have a pig’s face. People I don’t know said worse things to me.

I can’t go back to school, I’m so embarrassed. The worst thing is, my mom asked why I was crying, and I told her. She yelled and said I was stupid to do this to myself. She said I can’t claim to be a victim, because I did it to myself.

My friends told me that I can’t take a joke.

Roasted and eaten

Dear Fair-lady,

We’re so sorry this happened to you. Roasting happens on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit. It’s something that teens do to prove they have the courage to be blasted by insults.

Roasting is not funny. It’s a place for people to vent and let their anger out. Many times, the teens don’t know the person they’re roasting. It’s surreal because no one is communicating face to face.

Top reasons for roasting someone:

• Lack of understanding
• A dare
• Amusement
• Boredom

Most adults aren’t familiar with roasting. Please show this column to your mom. It may help her to realize that roasting is a serious and unexpected form of cyberbullying. Please seek professional help.
Research and therapists say kids accept roasting as a coping skill – a shield of sorts against insecurities. Instead, it quickly becomes a barrage of destructive messages that no one can take. It has nothing to do with courage. Teens don’t always draw the line at what’s funny, and it turns into being mean and then bullying.

Some experts say roasting is a level up from bantering. We say its miles down from bantering and one-upping. The psychological slamming that these experiences give to teens may derail their often fragile confidence.

We all have insecurities on some level. However, roasting is a form of self-harm. This is not to blame and shame you, but to help you know that this is dangerous and can lead to depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, teens don’t always know where and when to draw the line regarding what’s funny and what’s vicious. Some say that a joke is only funny if the person being joked about doesn’t mind. We say there’s nothing funny about burning someone’s heart. 

Teens are especially vulnerable to bullying when it’s presented as humor and joking, but roasting is NO JOKE!

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Saturday, March 9, 2019

My Sister is an Angry Bully

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My sister and I are in high school. She’s bossy and angry, just like my parents.

She gets outraged if I don’t do what she says. She says, “You made me so angry that I … couldn’t finish my homework or failed a test because of you.” It never ends.

We don’t do the same things. She dances. I’m on the swim team.

She says she does everything and yells at me to do the dishes, laundry, and cleaning. I already do all that. She exploded because I took a shower and “used all the hot water,” and that’s not true, either.

I had enough of her accusations and told her off. She got quiet and said in a scary way, that I had better “watch it.” Or what?

My parents tell me to ignore her. But they don’t take their own advice.

I can’t sleep, eat, or pay attention, and this makes my sister happy. Is she a bully or mentally ill?

Getting Angry

Dear Sister,

Bullying is an imbalance of power. Anger can be a part of mental illnesses, however, being a bully isn’t the same as having an anger problem/ Bullies look for someone to dominate. It appears your acquiescence to her has made you her punching bag. Stand tall, be calm, and using your eye contact, tell her, “Stop bullying me.” Don’t engage in any other way, ever.

It is not your fault that you’re her victim. Choosing not to stay a victim is difficult, but best for you.
It’s a process we call our Triangle of Triumph.

Step #1 – As a victim (first side of the triangle) you’re choosing not to stay one. Learn about the five stages of grieving (denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance) and start working through them in healthy ways: physical gestures, like pressing your fingers together hard, kickboxing, or screaming into a pillow.

Step #2 – is survival, which doesn’t mean just existing. Immerse yourself in our 5Cs of Leadership: Civility – no matter what your sister does, be caring, courteous, and considerate of her; Confidence – don’t react to her; Courage – Don’t become a bully-victim, which means revenge bullying; Creativity – practice your own talents; Communication – be brief, don’t explain or defend yourself.

Step #3 – become a good leader of yourself and then be an example.

Your sister may have an angry mask on to hide fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, insecurities, sadness, or emotional pain. Have faith. You may break the cycle of anger in your family.

Remember, you aren’t ignoring her, you just won’t banter with her. You can only change you, not your sister, mother, or father.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri