Friday, December 31, 2010

WASH Helps a Fellow Writer

I wanted to write something about the New Year and New Year's resolutions today, but I'm appealing to you for help instead.

What happened?

A dear fellow writer was diagnosed with leukemia yesterday. That means she won't be able to work for quite some time and needs expensive treatment.

This cancer is bullying her!

She is an amazing woman and writer, a loving mother of a young son, and a beloved wife.

Step up against bullying now and help her focus on beating cancer while we take care of her financial needs! If many of us only donate a dollar or two or take the time to read some of her articles so that she gets revenue, it will sum up to help her and her family through this hard time.

Please take a moment to read through these sites:

Rissa's Battle

Rissa's Contributor Profile

If you feel you could need a song which inspires hope now, feel free to listen to (and share) my

Ray of Hope for Rissa

Last but not least, I wish you all a happy New Year and hope that it will bring health, hope and happiness to all of you!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Healing The Heart Of A Bully

When someone hurts us, the natural reaction is to want the offending person to hurt as much as we do, to take vengeance, to make their life impossible. If we do that though, we are then becoming bullies ourselves, are we not? In most places, there is a system that is used to exact retribution. Even still, if we even THINK of doing that nasty thing back to the bully who committed whatever type of wrong it was, we've already done harm because the heart of bullying even as an act of revenge towards a bully means that we have already harmed that person in our thoughts which is just as bad because it breeds anger.

Bullies do what they do because they are hurting and have not learned the proper coping methods and techniques to talk about what it is that hurts so much. Once a bully enters the system, and the system starts to act on the incident, we must ensure that retribution is just a portion of the actions taken because there also has to be therapy and healing for the offending person.

We live in the age of victim's rights which is all good as far as the intent goes, but in reality, it gets applied quite unevenly and leaves our society in a vicious cycle of making life so tough for someone who has bullied that we are the ones creating a great risk of re-offense when we do not have anything to give the offending person as an incentive to live the right way from here on out.

Community resources, social work, education about harmful behavior and it's impact on others are just a small list of things that can help someone who has bullied to have a chance at healing and processing their own wayward behavior. To reach out to the heart of a bully is to break the cycle of intensifying negative behaviors as a national trend. Tough love can be an answer only when it is mixed with a chance to allow the offending person to have equal access to a system of organized and sensible rehabilitation that allows for the offending person to both see through the victim's eyes and look into themselves as someone who has potential for becoming new again, for re-inventing themselves in such a way that they no longer see bullying as an option but they would rather find appropriate ways to communicate.

Bullying has different causes at each developmental cycle and age. In the younger kids, it's mostly a mechanism for attempting to "fit in" where in the older kids, the causes become more numerous and complicated. When a bully reaches adulthood, the bullying behaviors either become more serious, the behavior more at a juvenile level, or they "burn out" and stuff their anger because they have no one to communicate to due to the numerous consequences they have likely suffered already.

Stuffing of anger isn't a good thing for anyone, especially someone with a propensity to bully. Standing up to a bully can be done appropriately in such a way as the potential victim can decide to see the threat as simply someone seeking attention and choosing to see through the tough guy / tough girl act and reach out by taking the first step..."I don't feel threatened by you although you want me to, I don't." and then follow up by asking "Why do you feel so intense that you think killing someone's spirit is the answer?"

This author has learned to practice this well in his personal life and professional career. If the offending person won't talk, then, leave the door open for building trust in the relationship honestly by simply saying "You don't have to talk now, but if ever you do, my door is open for you if you can act in a way that is civil."

It takes more than this with more disturbed individuals, but with someone who is displaying obvious behavior that uses mere words as opposed to actions, it works fine most times. No one should take on a bully alone and try to act as mediator in each instance if the behavior seems escalating towards more extremes. People displaying the extremes of bullying in regards to escalation of behavior can best be dealt with by a clinical professional who can use their years of training to help reach into the heart of the bully and turn them around.

The old saying "Kill em' with kindness" has a universal truth to it and can be practiced each day in our lives in some way if only we look for those ways and really tune in to ourselves watchfully and as time passes, we can get better at it. Many times, this author has used "kill em' with kindness" methods and techniques with complete success each time, although the fruits weren't always seen immediately. One person in particular wrote to this author after more than a year or two and apologized because I acted with kindness and understanding towards the offending person who felt guilty all that time to such high levels that they felt compelled to write in order to clear their soul.

One real situation other than this had to do with an enraged airline passenger that arrived at the airport too late for their flight and took it out on everyone! Passenger went to the ticket counter only to be told that they could not hold the flight, passenger swore at the ticket agent with extreme vehemency, went through security and threw their belongings at airport security workers, then continued down the concourse using one threatening and foul diatribe after another before meeting this author.

The passenger escalated horribly at that moment and said things I cannot repeat here. I was already well informed as to the passenger's plight and allowed the passenger to get it all out before attempting to speak. Passenger now done with foul temper display, I said "I'm sorry to see you've had such a rough experience, and I see why you're upset. I can help you to your gate if you wish, and then I can help you try to find a flight this evening." We arrive at the gate, at which time I viewed the passenger's itinerary, and spoke with a near - by gate agent.

Passenger was on the next flight out an hour after that. As I saw this passenger to their flight, my last words were "I'm glad to have served you well and am happy to see how things turned out for you." The passenger asked "why did you treat me so well when I acted so horribly?" to which I replied, "Because I understand and I know how frustrating flying can be when nothing goes right."

Passenger boarded the aircraft with a smile. Problem solved! This passenger's act was one of bullying because the passenger actually said and did some really hurtful things that made one employee want to quit right then and there. All it took was one person to reach into that passenger's heart to effect change and change the overall affect at both ends of the spectrum of the problem.

Margaret Becker wrote a song back in the 80s called "Never For Nothing" which can be used here as an example in a small quoted snippet from this song "It's never for nothing when you love with no return, it's never for nothing. You light your candle in the darkness because it's never for nothing."

No person is ever so tall as when they reach into the heart of another to help out when the time comes around, even if the reaction is at first a bit bitter. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Racism as Extreme Form of Bullying

by Saoirse O'Mara

As a German, I have been confronted with the issue of racism very early in my life and then several times at school. German history is nothing to be proud of, for sure. It teaches us one very important lesson, however.

Racism has to be stopped before it is too late!

You might wonder what racism has to do with bullying. I'll tell you. Everything! You see, racism is probably the most extreme form of bullying. People are bashed for no other reason than their origin, their religion or their looks. It exists in every way "normal" bullying exists: name-calling, pushing around, ignoring, threatening, beating someone up.

The only difference is that racists are far harder to stop than bullies. They bully out of a deeper belief instead of out of fun. Therefore, they are prepared to take greater risks and to be punished for what they do.

If you notice any racist tendencies in children or teenagers in your environment, act at once. Try to talk to them. Ask them why they think the way they do about others. You might still have a chance to show them tolerance is a better way if they aren't too deep into the racist thinking yet. Many children and teenagers just try to find a group to which they can belong; and without guidance, they might easily end up with the wrong group.

Even more important, be tolerant yourself! Children learn from the adults around them. Check yourself: Do you have any prejudices against any group of people? If so, why do you have these prejudices? Do you show them in front of children?

You can do a great deal towards making your children to be bullies or to teaching them tolerance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Extending A Helping Hand For A Fellow Writer

Laurie Meekis, a fellow writer, is in the hospital having major surgery. This news comes to us from the Writerish Blog. Surgery means that Laurie will not be able to make an income through the craft she loves so much until she is recovered. WASH is joining the effort to help Laurie to have what we know as a residual income by asking as many of you as will possibly take a few moments to click on her work at the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

A content writer makes their income honestly and survives from up-front payments each time they publish as well as page views and performance bonuses. Clicking on her work means that Laurie gets paid and that her income continues to stream in. Unfortunately, freelance writers do not get corporate health benefits and must rely on being able to pay for private insurance.

WASH wishes Laurie a fast recovery that is free from complications and that she has all the support she can get in this time. Get well soon, Laurie!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Turbans On The Hill - Assumptions As Bullying

A peaceful group of local muslim believers in Sidney, New York recently faced bullying at the hands of their local Board of Supervisors for the town of Sidney, New York over the right to bury their dearly departed. The muslim group did all of their paperwork and obtained the proper burial permits, yet, the Sidney Board of Supervisors initiated action against the group saying "You can't just bury grandma on a hill".

Residents of Sidney, New York who rallied from all walks of life took up the cause of this group even though some of them were not familiar with muslim practices out of their belief that the group was being bullied by the local government, and they were right.

Yahoo News has the story

Although the Board Of Supervisors quickly backed off of their aggressive stance, the people of America and hopefully, the people of the world around us have learned a great lesson: bullying can happen when we make false assumptions about others out of fear rather than solid knowledge.

Assumptions become bullying when we react because someone or something that a person does, says, or believes is different than what we commonly hold close to us...whatever that value might be. Sure, we can be offended at someone because of their affiliation with another person or group of people, but why? Hasn't every person or group of people at some time done something wrong? If we use that logic and decide to evaluate ourselves, we will see what hypocrites we are because if we hold to those types of false logics, then we would have to disown all of our friends, all of our families, and all of our fellow citizens of the world because everyone and every group of people have some sort of horrible pasts.

When we make assumptions without knowing all of the intimate details instead of what we know for sure, we propagate paranoia without any real need to do it. It is a well known fact that we need to take the plank out of our own eye before trying to help someone else take the speck out of their eye.

A well known writer reminded all of us recently that we do not have to accept the gift of abuse. This is an old Buddhist proverb that asks the proper question of: If someone is giving you a gift and you refuse to take that gift, who is the rightful owner? Bullying  is a situation that requires us to do one of two things: personalize the gift and make it ours, or decline to accept and make it the problem of the gift giver.

In the end, while we may not all get along all of the time, we CAN accept each other for who we are, what makes us the person we are, and live in the peace that we can support each other because the next person that someone in some position of social, political, or other power picks on could be YOU! It could be your Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Cousin, Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, Girlfriend, Boyfriend, Husband, Wife, Child, etc.

We do not have the right, nor do we have the privilege to denounce what someone decides is right for them. We cannot even attempt to take that power from a person, for if we do, where does it end? Where would we draw the line? What dangerous territory we would find ourselves in!

A person can have an opinion, but watch where you point that thing because it is just solely an opinion! Opinions and facts get separated from each other for good reason. One of those reasons is to prevent bullying! To kick off this week and to help make for a great Christmas, this publication would like to encourage our readers to go visit different places of faith and different parts of your local community in order to see for yourself the very close bonds that acceptance of each other at the human level can create!

Visit a Muslim mosque, visit a Buddhist place of faith, visit with someone who is a part of the GLBT community, visit someone who is Jewish, visit someone who is Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Agnostic, just visit! Taste the different foods and cultures of your community, take some time to hear their stories and have a glimpse into their personalities.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Preventing Bullying at School

Teachers can do a great deal to prevent bullying at school. First of all, they can help to build up a good community among the students. A good community is the most important factor to prevent bullying as the students are one group instead of many small groups. I've seen this happen back at school. My class was the only one without a good community, and we were the only ones with bullying.

Of course, as a teacher, you can't always manage to prevent bullying at all, but even if you think you are helpless, you are not. There are so many ways to strengthen your class's cooperation and community as well as each individual. Here are only a few tips:

Help your students to discover and develop their personal strengths.

Promote cooperation instead of rivalry, e.g. by doing teamwork exercises.

Offer class activities outside the normal school activities, e.g. visit a museum together.

You know your class best. Think of activities which could be fun for all of your students. Why not try to play a short theatre play for the parents? It could easily be integrated into English classes, is fun (for most students at least; consider your individuals) and promotes cooperation.

When you try to use these strategies from the beginning instead of waiting for first signs of bullying, you may be able to prevent bullying completely in your class. And honestly, this goal is worth the extra effort, isn't it?

When Schools, Youth Organizations, and Community Youth Resources Bully

Parenting is supposed to be a precious gift to be treasured every moment of our family lives. We send our kids to school, to a youth organization, or community resource for youth in order to keep our children well educated, well socialized, and to teach them about how they can be a part of the community.

Just like the children of Mentor, Ohio and the 49 other states, our own children can become the victims of bullying and it sometimes takes on the saddest circumstance of all: Schools, Youth Organizations, and Community Youth Resources can become the bully.

This happens when one of these entities ignores bullying, takes some action but not the appropriate action rising to the level of neglect, or misuse of well meant intentions designed to protect our children. How many times have you or your child had to deal with a situation where your child was bullied so severely that they had real reason based in reality to fear for their immediate safety or for their life? Perhaps your child defended him/herself only to be the one on the receiving end of disciplinary / legal action?

How many times has a bully been found to be guilty by a school investigation or an investigation done by whatever other community agency they are a part of and the bully gets a slap on the wrist, or your child is made out to be at fault because of some politically correct line of thinking?

How about when a school or other community resource working with youth knowingly abuses or misuses laws and public policies designed to protect our children? All of these things happen more often than the public is aware of. As a matter of fact, our community leaders at all levels will defend these incidents on part of those who are charged with the care & protection of our children, even coming up with some very crafty statements & excuses.

All of these things are examples of how schools and other youth related community resources become bullies themselves. When families find themselves in these situations the first thing that will always happen will be a canned statement about how none of this is "personal" and that there are certain policies and protocols to be followed. Then they will always tell you about how they have to protect themselves from liability and how public laws & policies are written and interpreted.

Bullying started to become out of control back in the 80s when the political correctness movement was gaining steam. Back in that era, bullying not only became more violent, it became a part of the political correctness movement. Those of us who grew up in major metropolitan areas know first hand what it is like when the schools, youth organizations, and community youth resources become the bullies.

Imagine if you will, being the only child of a specific race & ethnicity in the school. Imagine that the majority of the students come from abusive, neglectful, chaotic homes from the most violent, gang infested parts of the city. Imagine being violently bullied because of your race, ethnicity, and social status. Imagine that bullying being so violent that you are in real life danger with absolutely no choice but to defend yourself because there is nowhere to run, hide, and no other way to get help because the school, youth organization or community youth resource staff is too scared to "get involved".

They state to be "scared" of lawsuits, criminal charges, and image problems. Now imagine being suspended and investigated by the police for doing what had to be done to stay alive. Imagine being flatly told that you aren't allowed to do anything and that you did "something" that no one can name to make yourself a victim.
They can't name anything you did because there is nothing, and the offender gets told what an emotionally fragile, confused creature he/she is and that it's "ok" because they themselves are a "victim".

The tables are turned in such a way that even with your serious injuries requiring emergency medical attention, you can't prove you were violently attacked and everyone is protecting the offender.

This scenario happened to this author on several occasions. The school, youth organization, or community youth resource protecting the bully and the bully's family are alleging that you injured yourself in order to pin it on their kid because you're of an opposite race and ethnicity, and that you're "racist", but forensic medical science definitively says otherwise.  The bully / offender has a juvenile rap sheet with "adjudications" (Convictions) longer than you can ever want to know about, is a State Ward of The Court as are many of the other kids in the school, and yet he/she is given every special consideration and is given an over-abundance of credibility.

This next scenario is hypothetical, but based on knowledge of real cases that have occurred in the lives of people once known by this author.

As the U.S. entered the 1990s, the children's rights movement partnered with law enforcement agencies nationwide, state child protection agencies, and legislators to create what we now know as the "Mandatory Reporter Act". Mandatory reporter laws enacted into law were written so broadly and vaguely that it promoted excessive questioning and paranoia about what constitutes child abuse, neglect, or dependency because the law did not define any of these things.

Schools, youth organizations, and community youth resources started calling the abuse & neglect hotline for every little scratch, bruise, bump, and family struggle. This practice has continued to this day, catching innocent parents and children in it's wide net. The courts have repeatedly been asked to define what abuse, neglect and dependency is and they have refused out of fear of not being able to properly protect children.

Mandatory reporters in many areas of the U.S. from higher educational and income brackets have been widely known to call the hotline out of their own opinionated prejudices and pre-conceptions. If parents and children are lucky, the call becomes "Unfounded" or is given a "No Action" status when a false call was really made. There are those times, however, when false calls result in an "open case" which sends the child and family through absolute hell! Sometimes, these cases get screened into the State Juvenile Court where the game become ass covering because now the state has to take responsibility for a huge mistake.

All of this has stressed the Child Protection System so badly that they are losing money on cases that should have never been brought into the system or even "indicated" to begin with. The truth is that most of the people in the system do not have children of their own and only have a one sided understanding of an academic text and professional practice, with no quality training and the person who called the hotline was not given enough training on abuse & neglect to even hold credibility.

These are good examples of when schools, youth organizations, or community youth resources become bullies. If you are a school teacher or administrator, a child care professional, a youth service agency worker, or an employee of a community youth resource agency, please talk to your administration about obtaining clinical forensic training given by licensed medical forensic professionals about child abuse/neglect, and more hours of training about proper use of the child abuse/neglect hotline. Improper use or misuse of this hotline is a crime in some states that can land you in jail for up to one year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Soft Bullying

by Kathy Foust

Most of the time when we think about bullies, we picture the big kid poking the scrawny kid in the chest while yelling threats or better yet, the big kid shaking the smaller one upside down for his lunch money (something that still goes on today). But what about what I like to call "soft bullyiing", which is really just another term for manipulation?

Soft bullying is done every day of our lives and we tend to put up with it. Why? Because it's usually done by an authority figure. Well, guess what! No one is an authority figure that you don't allow to be.

For instance, when Hunter got his progress report, the teacher put a note on there that she was concerned about his attendance. I will be the first to admit that school attendance isn't my top priority. If I think he can benefit educationally or emotionally from being somewhere else, then he's going to be somewhere else. For instance, we went to the Museum of Science and Industry a while back. We went on scheduled days off, but had I felt that it would have served him better to go during a school day, then yes, that's when we would have gone. I'm a parent and Hunter is my first concern, not the rankings of the school.

This morning when he woke up at about 12-1 AM, he was very sick. I considered sending him to school anyhow, knowing that they would send him home. When they send him home, it seems to be okay, but when I keep him home it's not. Then it occurred to me. Why was I even worried about what they thought?

I was because it had been drilled into my head that educational professionals know best. Now, I'm not knocking them either. They are underpaid and have to deal with some serious issues. But I have one shot to raise this child and there aren't any "do overs" in this game, so I need to do what I think is best at all times. If that happens to conflict with someone else's opinion..well to be blunt, I couldn't really give a rat's ass. And how do I show my son to stand up for what he believes is right if as an adult I can't do it myself.

Authority figures use their own guidelines and threats of some type of failure, often presented as false concern for us as individuals. If my guidelines and values happen to coincide with theirs, that's fantastic. But, if they don't do I need to allow myself to be bullied into doing it their way instead of the right way? I think not because my backbone isn't that flexible. And, I'd like to be able to look in a mirror or my son's eyes and know that even if I do everything different from the rest of the world, that doesn't mean I'm wrong and no amount of bullying, soft or otherwise is going to make me be someone I'm not. If I falter, I falter in shame and recognize it as so eventually. My goal is to keep that to a minimum.

May we all walk with kindness in our hearts and our eyes open so that we may recognize the injustices that are suffered so that we make take a step further in rectifying them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Message from the WASH Staff

by Kathy Foust on behalf of the WASH group

We just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a happy holiday season. As very often happens around the holidays, there are life events that sometimes interfere with doing the things that are so important to us, like keeping up on a blog that is dedicated to sending a positive message. The absence of regular posts this week does not make us any less concerned about the issue of bullying. If anything, it saddens us that some of life's issues can get in the way of pursuing the very things that mean the most to us.

The very fact that posts were missed this week is an indication that doing things like this blog are not the only way that we can make a positive impact on this world. I feel confident that my fellow groups members nod their heads as I say that if we cannot put the effort that is needed into a positive post, whether it be due to physical pain, a broken heart or a need to tend to our own families, then we would rather not post at all. Our goal here is quality information, not random posts stuffed with keywords.

Never fear, we do promote positive living in our own lives, even if we don't post on here. We might instead write an encouraging note to a loved one, give our children much needed hugs or search for something positive to say about a day that seemed to suck the life out of us. With that being said, we ask that you too take time out of your regular schedule to let a child know how important they are, to nurse your own broken heart so that you can remember that you too have value or to even do something as simple as smile at a stranger because you never know, that may be the only smile they get that day.

Mathematically speaking, if we push the positive, we leave no room for the negative. Today, I have posted a link to 'The Secret', a wonderful book that explains a simple concept about how you can draw positive results into your own life and the lives of those around you. I encourage you to look into it and maybe even do what I did with mine. I bought a copy, read it, absorbed it, then passed it on to someone else with the understanding that they do the same.

From the WASH staff, happy holidays to you all. May they be filled with love and hope and may you all embrace your own self worth, no matter what the negative people in your life may present to you. Remember that no matter what happens, people can only hurt the core of you if you give them access.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scars of Bullying Victims Never Fully Heal

by Saoirse O'Mara

I have been a victim of bullying throughout my whole school life. It began in elementary school. Other children laughed at me, called me names, sometimes even pushed me around. Their reason: I was different. And I was smarter than most of them.

When I changed into the German equivalent to a highschool, I was glad that none of my former classmates were in my new class. I could start anew. My peace lasted over a year. Some time during my second year, my "friends"started to whisper about me behind my back. They didn't want to play with or talk to me anymore. I didn't know what I had done to them and they wouldn't tell me. I was alone once again. Soon after, some of my classmates began to call me names and push me around again. They took my pencil case or school books, they even kicked me during breaks. It became so bad that I was afraid of going to school. The only times I felt secure were when a teacher was around, e.g. in class. I tried to avoid them during breaks but as soon as we had to return to our class, I had no chance to hide. My only hope was that our teacher would arrive pretty soon to stop them.

My daily trials went on for months. I was too afraid to tell anyone, or maybe I was ashamed, or I thought no one would help or believe me. I don't know my exact reasons but I kept silent. Until that day when I was with my best (and at that time only) friend. She was at a different school, and she was the only person whom I told about all that. I was crying that afternoon and we tried to think of a way out for me. We somehow came up with the idea that it would be great if I could just change schools and go to her school. As her mom was teacher, we decided to ask her if such a thing was possible at all. Of course, she wanted to know why we were asking, so one thing after another, I told her the whole story. She explained that a school change was possible but that I had to talk to my parents first of all. She made me promise that I would. Since the idea of changing schools gave me hope again, I told my parents that very evening, with lots of tears and sobbing.

What followed were weeks of insecurity and even more trials but some sliver of light at the horizon too. Now that my parents knew what was going on, they let me stay home when I felt ill in the mornings - and there were lots of days when I woke up sick or with headaches. Normally, those ailments would disappear after I knew I could stay home. At school, my teacher talked to the ones who were actively pushing me around. One of them apologised and left me alone afterwards, but the others only said what the teacher wanted to hear without changing their behaviour. Some weeks later, my teacher wanted to talk to my parents and me about my wish to change schools. She talked about just changing classes until I finally started crying uncontrollably. I couldn't bear it any longer. After that, they agreed that changing schools would be best for me.

Still, I had obstacles to overcome. The principal of the new school didn't want to take me in as he didn't want to take good students away from the other schools. I was dumbstruck. I pleaded. My parents explained my situation once again. Finally, he agreed to talk to my current principal and make his decision afterwards. He took me in. I was so relieved to get away from my bullies yet I was afraid of what would await me at my new school.

My first day at the new school was difficult. However, I was in the same class as my friend so I knew someone. I soon found another good friend with whom I'm still in contact. I became the victim of name-calling and rumours again too. This time, it was easier to bear with the bullies as they didn't touch me physically. The most important change, though, was the fact that I was no longer alone. My time at school wasn't exactly easy but it was manageable.

Later at vocational school, there were students as well who didn't like me and showed it openly. Again, I had a friend so I could bear with the others. However, I was relieved when I finished my professional training because that day meant that I would never need to go to school again if I didn't want to.

Even now, three and a half years after that day, I feel uneasy when I'm around people who are at my age or younger (teenagers) and look like this type of people who bullied me. I can't bear walking into a highschool while being watched by teenagers. Yes, I have grown emotionally because I had to. But those scars on my soul, they will never fully heal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are You Teaching Your Child to be a Victim?

by Kathy Foust

You might have read the title and immediately thought to yourself "Who would teach their child to be a victim", but in reality you'd be shocked at how easy it is to create a victim mentality without even meaning to.

Being a victim doesn't just happen. It's a gradual mindset that takes hold and while it can certainly be changed, it's smarter to just avoid ever going there at all. As parents, we have the power to provide our children with the tools to be strong enough to avoid ever becoming a victim. That doesn't mean nothing is ever going to happen to them, but it does mean that they will have the ability to bounce back from life's little twists and turns. A good majority of that ability starts with a healthy self esteem.

One way to create a healthy self esteem is to create a strong family unit that your child is proud to be a part of. I'm not talking about Brady Bunch kind of stuff either. I'm talking about a child who is happy to come home, who knows they have a strong support system and isn't afraid to talk to his or her parents. Below are some suggestions.

Encourage their interests. If you want your child to accept who they are, your acceptance goes a long way toward that. It's always a great idea to have them try new things, but don't condemn their current interests. I personally approach my child's activities the same way I approach dinner time. He has to try everything on his plate, but he doesn't have to eat what he doesn't like. The same goes for his interests. I also don't let him wolf down a bag of marshmallows for dinner, no matter how much he likes them because it isn't healthy.

When it comes to activities, I have no interest in video games, but he does. That means I listen to his vivid descriptions of how he just saved the world, but he has to do other things as well. For instance, he didn't want to join the baseball team because he was nervous. I didn't just make him go to practices. I went with him to every single one. I played catch with him. I bragged about his skills to his dad. It only took a couple of times of us tossing the ball around for him to decide joining the team wasn't such a bad idea.

Provide them with age appropriate tools. At 9 years old, my son is starting to notice girls and to wonder whether they notice him. He has a pretty healthy self esteem, but he's still dealing with all the insecurities that come with being 9 years old. So, I talk to him about how I felt at that age. I also encourage him to read his favorite books, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It's inexpensive and he really enjoys it. In the meantime, though he doesn't realize it, he learning to relate to other children. He's reading about another child his age and that child's issues. In fact, he got so excited by this series that when we ordered them from Scholastic, he couldn't wait. He went to the library and had every one of them read before his own copies ever came in!

Books like this are great tools for kids. They increase their reading speed, develop comprehension skills and give your child a character that he or she can relate to in their own imagination. Really, a parent couldn't ask for much more than that!

Do things as a family. When you do activities as a family, like family fun nights, you are creating a wealth of experience for your child to draw from. They learn to have fun in a healthy as a family unit. Given the fact that most households are busy trying to make money to pay the bills, parents seem to run on limited time. When your child realizes that you took time out to spend it with the entire family, that shows him or her a certain level of dedication that's ongoing. It builds a strong support system for them to draw their decision making skills from. Prizes for family fun night are always a great motivator as well!

Get involved in the community. Every member of any community has a responsibility to draw on their strengths in an effort to do positive things for the community. It doesn't matter if you join a club or if you do something simple live creating service projects together in an effort to support some parts of the community. What's important here is to create a sense of belonging in a larger way than just inside the household.

Don't forget your role. As a parent, you are obligated to fulfill your role no matter how tired or frustrated you may be. Remember, your children didn't ask to be there. Since they are there though, you need to provide them with the skills they need. Talk to your children, not down to them. Learn how to make an impact on your child by sending the right message when you talk to them. Use the resources that you have and do things like play games to increase self esteem, providing words of encouragement and opportunities for success.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thoughts of a Bullied Child

by Saoirse O'Mara

Many children don't tell anyone when they are harassed by peers or maybe even teachers. The question is: Why not? Is their fear so great that they rather put up with their bullies?

Let's have a look inside the head of a bullying victim:

They have hit me again at school. Why can't they just stop? I have done nothing to them ... and my teachers don't say anything. But when I tell them about it, the bullying will only get worse.

I don't want to go to school. I'm sick, my head aches, I feel terrible ... when I only think about school, I want to cry. Why do my parents force me to go to school? Can't they see that I'm suffering?

I wished someone would notice how I feel ... I can't tell anyone. I'm afraid they won't believe me. Why can't mom just hug me once?

Many victims of bullying are afraid - either of their parents (that they don't believe them, that they get angry with their children for being so "weak", ...) or their bullies. That's why they often don't say anything about their suffering. Instead, their bodies send signs: headaches, sickness, depressions.

It is essential that both parents and teachers watch out for signs of bullying because the victims are caught in their fear and won't seek help on their own.

Anyone can become a victim of bullying. The best thing parents can do to prevent bullying is to help their children grow to be self-conscious and develop strong personalities and empathy. Bullies tend to choose victims who seem weak for some reason or other. Weak persons are less likely to defend themselves and thus it is more satisfying for the bullies to harass their victim.

Let's listen to the thoughts of a bullying victim again after someone noticed that he is bullied:

I'm so glad they asked me ... now I could finally tell them. They really want to help me and find a solution with me.

Mom has comforted me all evening after she found out. I'm feeling better now even though we don't know what to do next. At least I'm not alone anymore.

Talk to your children! Most victims won't talk to you unless you ask them but they will be glad when they have finally told you the truth!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Future of Bullies

by Kathy Foust

Why do we think it's so important to stop bullying in schools? Well, for me it isn't just about the here and now. No, I do not like to read or hear about children being hurt or hurting themselves. I hate that. More than hating the acts that are committed, I hate knowing the feeling those kids have when they hurt themselves. I hate the very idea that anyone feels that hopeless because I've been down that road and I wouldn't wish those feelings on anyone. But, even more than that I want to change the future and the way that people think about things. Changes for the future start right here, right now, with our children.

Years ago, Americans stood and fought their own countrymen for what was right. They stood in the face of fear, with mobs condemning them, sometimes to death. Their homes got destroyed and families were torn apart. All because they wanted to do the right thing, something that seems to have been lost in this day and age when people seem to be oblivious to their rights.

We don't stand up anymore and we are encouraged to tell our children not to stand up for themselves, something I absolutely refuse to do. There are so many restrictions on teachers today that I can see where we are creating bullies out of children with special needs who may not even know any better and who aren't being properly instructed so that they can learn better.

We have public officials saying that the people's opinion doesn't matter when it comes to certain laws. We are so duped into submission through the intimidation of law makers that we are now compliant without them even issuing a threat. We have become sheep led by bullies. And yet, we refuse to stand up for ourselves out of fear.

Do I want our children to start a war? No. I hope that my child never has to face armed combat. By the same token, I will encourage my own child to stand up for himself, even if it's to me. And sometimes I make mistakes in my own judgement and I appreciate his brutal honesty that's given in the only way a 9 year old can, without flowery words or pampering, but with simple concepts and home truths. But, if I don't stand up for what's right, how can I teach him to?

In truth, we need to teach our children that sometimes, even when the consequences are harsh, doing the right thing is the only thing to do.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Being a Bully? - No. Having Bullied Someone? - Yes.

by Saoirse O'Mara

Ok ... I admit I have been kind of bullying someone this morning. She had asked for it, really. But I better start at the beginning.

I have worked on a non-fiction book project together with two other authors. I would have been responsible towards our small publisher (a friend of mine) and would edit the manuscript. So far, so good. The project was already on the finish line. I had planned for this book to be published at the end of November or the beginning of December.

This morning, I continued with the second edit of one of the texts. Some facts seemed strange to me so I asked Google to verify the information. You won't imagine what I found out! I stumbled upon a site which read exactly as the text I had just read ... and when I say I stumbled upon it, it was pure luck!

After checking and re-checking it, it was clear: the author had simply copied the text from the website, including even the mistakes, and posted it into her own text. Without naming a source, without even telling me that part of the text might not be her own. She simply stole the text!

So when I found out, I sent her an email. A very angry email. Yes, a bully email. But honestly, a little bit (ok, a lot) of angry writing (I would have shouted at her had she been around) is NOTHING compared to what she had done.

Let's think this story to an end. If I hadn't noticed the copyright infringement by chance, it would have been published that way. Sooner or later, the wesite owner would have found out about it. In the best possible scenario, we might just have got a huge invoice for using the texts. In the worst case scenario, he would have sued us - and won! So we wouldn't have had to pay a huge sum but our reputation would have been crap too. Imagine, that woman risked all this even though she should have known better. After all, she's a grown up woman with quite some education and claiming to be an author as well, so you should guess she knows the concept of copyrights.

And bet what? I regret not having sent her an invoice along with that angry email for all the hours I spent editing "her" text for nothing!

So yes, I guess I have been bullying her this morning. Tell you what, I don't regret it a bit. She asked for it deceiving me like that. But I'm proud that I didn't bully someone else who wasn't responsible for my explosive mood because that's what real bullies do: They bully someone innocent because someone else got on their nerves.

And that's the important difference: I bullied someone but I am no bully. (Or at least I try not to snap at someone who didn't ask for it ... lucky I have been alone this morning ...)

A last thing: Yes, I can bully someone verbally when they ask for it, but I would never turn violent unless being attacked first ...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What is Tolerance

by Kathy Foust

I don't know about you, but somedays it seems as if everyone wants some kind of specialized treatment. Sometimes those that are the loudest about it are the ones who end up being bullied or end up being bullies themselves. With everyone demanding approval for their own lifestyles and us trying to teach our children to develop their own morals, how does a parent know what to tell their children anymore? I think it's time to start taking a look at the difference between tolerance and approval and every individual's right to both.

I personally try to teach my child to be accepting of others. We are not a prejudiced household by any stretch of the imagination. However, from time to time there is some confusion about what's acceptable and what's not. As a parent, I have to be very careful of how I word the difference between being tolerate, approving and contributing. Because you see, I firmly believe that my son should treat everyone with respect, regardless of their personal values. It's up to him to maintain his own values. That doesn't mean he has to approve or like everything everyone around us does.

I think we have in some ways gone too far in asking for acceptance. At all times there is some group somewhere that is screaming to be accepted or approved of. Sometimes it seems to me that they  purposely aim for those that have different values than them. But wait, isn't everyone entitled to their own values? Isn't that the main issue?

Tolerance is that act of accepting the fact that people are unique and have every right to be. That doesn't mean that everyone is going to like them or that everyone is going to approve of them. And while I certainly don't condone any type of harassment, I don't condone antagonizing things either. The double standard has to go. We cannot preach about acceptance and rights, then deny people with opposing views to have their own set of rights and limits of acceptance.

So, for myself, I will continue to teach my son to have respect for people and to uphold his own values, regardless of how anyone else is behaving. I will not force him to accept what to him may be unacceptable and I will not encourage him to try to convince others that his way is the only way either. Because no matter how you slice it, someone is always going to be around to be different than you and that doesn't mean that either of you have to change.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Smile a Day!

by Saoirse O'Mara

Have you smiled today? Have you made someone else smile?

Why not?

A smile costs nothing but can bring back so much! A smile can spread happiness and good feelings around you. It chases away bad feelings, sorrow and anger.

You wonder what a smile has to do with bullying? Oh, more than you think!

People who smile and who are happy are less likely to bully someone. They just have no reason to bully someone! When they aren't angry or frustrated, they need no one to punish for their bad feelings.

Thus my demand of every one who reads this: Make someone smile today! It can be as simple as to smile at them. Next time you pass someone on the streets, greet him with a smile. Many people will smile back at you.

Which brings me to my second topic for today: Why are some people more destined to being bullied than others? What type of people get bullied?

The answer is as simple as disturbing: Everyone who is different. Bullies see difference as weakness and try to take advantage of it. If their victim isn't strong enough, a devil's circle begins: The victim is bullied and as a consequence loses self-esteem and thus appears even weaker.

Children have to know their worth. They need self-esteem and willpower. Devote your parenting to the goal to make your children strong, self-assured and caring. If everyone did that, bullying would be a problem of the past ...

Have a nice weekend and smile!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Security Planning and Investigation For Surviving Chronic Bullying

America's daytime television talk show circuit has recently seen new competition in the form of a new group of ladies called "The Talk" on the CBS Network. The Talk has recently aired a series of shows dealing with the topic of school harassment & bullying. Rosalind Wiseman appeared on this show four days ago, and is an internationally recognized author and educator on children, teens, parenting, education and social justice. Her work aims to help parents, educators and young people successfully navigate the social challenges of young adulthood.

After this show, Rosalind stayed behind for what was titled "The Talk After The Talk" in which she spoke about important steps to take when parents deal with bullying in their child's schools. One of Rosalind's suggestions was to use the language used by the school staff instead of just jumping off the deep end because your child is watching you and is indeed going to use this time as a way to learn how to solve serious problems in life. This author agrees with Rosalind. Before confronting your child's school staff in a meeting with the principal and asst. principal present, it is imperative that you learn the specific policies governing your specific situation and while you state your case to these people, make sure to say "You even say in your policies that you will honor this safeguard for the school environment".

Go in with a calm head at all times. Your credibility as a parent i son the line, and your character will be truly seen in these situations. Rosalind goes on to mention a second great point for parents to stay in charge of their child's well being in a school harassment / bullying scenario. That advice given is to buy a cheap alarm clock that your child can use to wake up on time in the morning for school while you, the parent keep hold of the cell phone. Rosalind points out that this will take away the temptation of your child to try and "fix" the situation by constantly checking into Facebook and other social networking sites, and by constantly texting about the situation.

Make strict rules for your child during school harassment / bullying scenarios that will keep the child from using homework time for internet time which is one prime opportunity the child will have to be further reachable by their tormentor(s) and / or exposed to the continuing drama involved with these troublesome occurrences. What happens on-line affects your child's ability to concentrate and live in a healthy manner in the real world.

Rosalind wrote a great book called "Queen Bees and Wannabes". According to Wiseman, bullies have definite personality types. In her video at the CBS site linked to above, she tells us all just a couple of things to look for in a bully even if that bully be our own child.

Looking for red flags is always something parents must do to protect their children, however, do not lean only one learning one personality type and do NOT rely on honing an expert ability to use psychological profiling as this practice has been proven to have major pitfalls even when used by John Douglas, who invented this practice. John had to learn about these pitfalls as part and parcel of the specific science he was pioneering. One thing that was learned, revealed to the world of psychology that any person can fit a profile due to teh fact of no two people being the same, and everyone having their own personality type which may not always mean danger.

Where is a parent to turn? Turn to common sense! The first thing to teach your child is that the best response to harassment / bullying is absolutely no response at all beyond setting boundaries. Your child need not actually speak to a bully to set these boundaries. Setting boundaries that say "STOP!" and "YOU MAKE ME UNCOMFORTABLE" can look like a combination of ignoring and body language towards the offending party which needs to be obvious but not an obvious threat. Non-verbal cues need to be simple, but clear on the first communication! A bully should only get ONE parental warning from the parent of the victim before school officials or law enforcement get involved.

So, the first part of a security plan is NO CONTACT / NO RESPONSE!

The next part of your security plan needs to be keeping an accurate log of contacts made towards the victim by the offender. This needs to include credible data such as who, what, when, where, why and how. Include times and dates, witnesses, document everything in case the need to pursue legal remedies should happen. Part of the bullying process includes those people who may call your child at home or have personal contact with your child at school in the role of the "informer". Sometimes the "informer" is actually doing just that and the information / rumor being told to your child about his/her situation is true and other time, the "informer" is a party to the psychological and emotional aspect of the bullying.

Put the informer in your logs as well! The third part of the plan is to keep open communication flowing between you and your child and be there to allow your child to "vent" until this scenario gets satisfactorily resolved. If and when the school leadership shows that they cannot control the school environment well enough to provide for a safe, encouraging, healthy environment that fosters learning, take your child out of that school!

Whatever calls your child gets at home should be monitored with the child present in front of you and this should only apply to bullying scenarios. Be a witness to other related things at all times. These things may be contact between your child and his/her friends, the walk to/from school, monitor your child's usual hang-outs and change those hang outs during bullying scenarios. Allow your child to go to different places near your home and do it within a planned time frame that only you and your home know about.

These tools give a parent all they need to investigate a bullying scenario, and a way to watch the texts / threatening e-mails or damaging internet postings get published!  I didn't mention that, did I? While you are doing these simple things to protect your child, you can be monitoring everything. Make sure you have either a key logger or screen shot software on your computer that will allow you to simply right click and choose your method to save material that is harassing or threatening. Most screen shot software choices will allow you to save by selection, save by full frame / page, and other options. This is indeed credible because a screen shot can be examined for authenticity if ever it needs to be used in a legal proceeding. Screen shots are VERY powerful and convincing pieces of evidence.

We've talked about planning and investigation, now we'll talk about evidence. Remember that log that was mentioned before? That counts as evidence at least when it comes to probable cause. Keep a chain of custody entry in that log along with an index of what evidence you have compiled, who compiled it, when, how, and why. The chain of custody entries will simply note who handled the logs and other evidence, who created them, when, etc. Being organized is the best thing you can do instead of panicking. A family united for their own peace is a chronic bullies' worst nightmare.

Evidence is important because vague allegations, and skepticism just don't cut it today. In today's world, you have to have evidence to prove everything. Chances could certainly be that while you are building your case against the buly and the bully's parents, the school and the bully's parents may be trying to build a case against you in order to deny that bullying is even happening or to paint the victim as the guilty party. These practices by offender's families and schools are old. Old enough that there are a number of spins that can be put on this practice, and they're all based on making the complaining party (victim) look like 1. a liar, 2. less than credible, 3. emotionally/psychiatrically disturbed.

When all else fails, and a school is hellbent on denial, number three works nicely most times, and it is hard to disprove! It's really a catch 22 in which no one wins and everyone loses. it takes critical thinking, asking hard questions, and gathering evidence during the investigation of the bullying scenario to win. As a final note in this section, it needs to be said that schools practicing this are far and few between.

The final step should be to obtain family support even if by use of a professional counselor, social worker, or psychologist. After a bullying incident it is usually wise to evaluate your child for the harm done so that the child can be properly supported through the healing process if the bullying was a severe to chronic experience. Reserve the use of this resource only for the worst experiences. Other less harmful events can usually be dealt with at home. No matter what, support your child when suspected bullying has started.

Kathy Foust has written recent articles about bullying and mental health that may be helpful in the security planning and investigation of chronic bullying. and then enter her name in the search box!       

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is Your Child a Bully?

by Kathy Foust

Most parents aren't going to admit that their child is a bully. Sure, they might say it in a joking manner, but most parents don't want their children to be in any kind of negative class. I know I don't! The fact of the matter is that almost every child or adult is going to bully someone at one time or another. It's called testing the limits or pushing the bar or just plain old seeing what you can get away with based on the fact that you want something from that person. Of course, sometimes all you or your child really wants is some attention.

I can't stress how important it is it give your child positive attention. If they don't get positive attention, there's only one other way to get it and bullying might be what they resort to. Children will test limits from time to time, but a child who is a bully is in need of some kind of attention for sure. It may just be that he or she wants to look tough or is maybe seeking some kind of control in his or her life.

The smartest way to make sure that your child doesn't become a bully is to model good behavior and provide adequate affection. I know we all get busy with work, school, medical stuff and just life in general, but we really need to take time out to actually pay individual attention to our children. It's possible for parents to create bullies out of children that didn't have to be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is Your Child Bullied too?

Bullying has become a more and more important topic. Many children are bullied at school. The reasons are numerous: race, religion, sexuality, cleverness, shyness, his nose, her glasses, ...

The thing is: Bullied children often endure all this without asking anyone for help. They fear that adults either don't believe them or that the bullying would only get worse if they were defended by an adult. That means that victims are often harassed for weeks or even months before someone notices anything.

What can you as parents do to help your child? First of all, keep your eyes open for signs of bullying. Is your child often complaining about headaches or stomach aches before school? Is he or she quieter than usual? Watch out for any change in behaviour as this could be a sign. If you notice something unusual, talk to your child! But be gentle and don't press your child too much. Ask how he or she feels, if something has been worrying him or her lately. If you were bullied at school too, tell your child about it. It is important that your child trusts you.

Should you find out that your child indeed is a victim of bullying, keep calm and think before taking action. Calling the bullies' parents will most probably only worsen your child's situation. Talk to your child's teachers and think of the best way to tackle this sensitive issue together. But most important: Support your child! Show him or her that you are on his or her side, that you want to help. It can take a great weight off his or her shoulders to know that he or she isn't alone.

It might be advisable to keep your child home for a few days to lessen the stress. Talk to the teachers about the reasons for staying away from school but ask them not to tell the class.

If the problem cannot be solved, investigate whether your child can change to another school or be homeschooled.

When you have read Kathy's Wednesday post about bullicide, you know how dangerous bullying can be for your child. Protect your child with every possible means!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meet The WASH Administrators

Dan Hensley

Dan started working with the public full time as a High School student at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as a Special Service Agent back in 1994. In this position, Dan was responsible for the safe & reliable transport of physically & mentally challenged airline passengers. Airline passengers requiring other types of assistance also fell under Dan's area of responsibility, to include VIP Escort & assistance of major Hollywood celebrities, corporate executives, and other important figures. Dan was promoted to Baggage Handler before finally making Skycap.

Dan moved on to Airport Security & Safety responsibilities in December of 1995. Rapidly mastering the tasks involved with detection of weapons & contraband, preventing terrorism, and airport security breaches, Dan was promoted several times into several sensitive areas. Other aviation titles include a stint as an airline gate agent, and Airport Ambassador for the City of Chicago with the Chicago Department of Aviation where he served as a trainer and VIP greeter / escort.

Dan moved on to work for a major Private Security & Investigation Corporation where he held the title of Public Safety Officer, Field Training Officer, Officer In Charge, Assistant Watch Commander, and Watch Commander / Assistant Director. Dan's experiences include Retail Loss Prevention & General Public Safety in major commercial environments, Physical Security, Alarm Monitoring, and Surveillance as well as Internal Investigations and Security Management.

Dan worked in a Command position at a major terrorist target in Chicago, IL on the morning of 9-11-01 and retired from the business exactly one week after.

Dan holds certifications from the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security by way of the FEMA Emergency Management Institute in several areas of Emergency Response to include Basic Response To Terrorism, Incident Command System, and National Incident Management System. Dan graduated from the Chicago Police Department Community Policing Leadership Development Institute with a Diploma on December 2nd, 2006. Dan became a Professional Writer in 2007 when he was published at Associated Content from Yahoo!, and has worked for Helium. Dan's work at Associated Content goes beyond writing as he has covered the 2009 Chicago Auto Show, and the Election of President Barack O'Bama as a Photographer.

At Helium, Dan wrote what is still a number one piece called "Airport Security, Who Is Watching?"

Dan created his own brand back in 2008 called "Shortwave America" with a focus on Radio Communications, and currently has over three thousand readers. Shortwave America has been recognized by two veteran Radio Broadcasters, Pirate Radio Weekly, two National Intelligence Professionals, and other important groups in the radio practice.

Saoirse O'Mara

Saoirse has one great passion: Language. She speaks two languages fluently, four additional languages well and learns a whole bunch more - just for fun. Yes, she is crazy. Not only a tad bit but quite a lot. After all, she is a professional freelance writer, editor, translator and language teacher. Her articles can be found on Bright Hub and Bukisa but she also writes children's books and fantasy novels and works for a whole bunch of private clients as well as agencies.

She lives in Germany but wants to move away with her sweetheart and her crazy little dwarf hamster girl. Her roots may be in Germany but her heart is like a leaf in the wind. She feels neither German nor completely belonging anywhere else.

Maybe her passion for languages or her love of writing were the reason for years of being bullied at school. She has always been one of the smartest kids in class, interested in many things and able to grasp new things with extraordinary speed - as long as they were interesting. For that, she has paid. It began in elementary school and only ended when she left vocational school after her professional training - after thirteen years of being bullied and talked about. Later at work (one of the few jobs she had), she ended up in a group of women who excluded her and made her feel bad. Again.

Now she works from her home office (rather: the spot of couch in front of her laptop) or from wherever she takes her notebooks or laptop (a bakery, a train, a café, ...) and enjoys her freedom. She doesn't miss "real life" colleagues. Instead, she takes part in several online communities where she meets like-minded people. Ok, granted, and procrastinates ...

It is her personal experience with being bullied which makes her feel so strongly about this topic.

Kathy Foust

Kathy is a professional freelance writer, substitute teacher, mother and college student. Kathy has worked with children on a variety of levels. She has a sincere interest in mental health, especially as it pertains to the development of children.

Kathy realizes there are many forms of bullying and recognizes that she has been guilty of being a bully at times, while being the victim of bullying at other times. She has a very strong personality and as a result, may be intimidating to some people, though it is rarely her intention to do so.

Kathy Foust is a fan of independent thinking, learning and teaching. She recognizes that everyone learns in their own ways and that empathy is almost surely the most direct route to understanding. It is her intention to continuously pursue the betterment of her own life. Her goals are not monetary or material. Instead she hopes to have a positive impact on the planet as well as the people on the planet.

Currently Kathy is the Founder and Administrator of Write the Weight, a site that she created along with several other wonderful writers as an effort to lose weight and encourage other writers to live healthier lifestyles. She also has two pieces scheduled to be in print from Twin Trinity Media. Kathy writes for Associated Content by Yahoo, Bright Hub and a variety of private clients.

Who is a Bully?

by Kathy Foust

To begin with, you have to understand that I have yet to develop any fiction skills. Sure, I have stories in my mind, but I have yet to put them on paper. That's something to keep in mind when you read my posts because I only write factual information. Sometimes it's not so pretty, but it's honest. The other thing that I need to make clear is that I am sometimes brutally honest, even with myself. I am all about constant self improvement and that means that I don't always see rainbows and lollipops when I look in the mirror. In fact, there have been time when a bully has stared back at me. Let me tell you a bit about that.

Being a bully doesn't always mean that you are an evil person. If you've ever yelled or intimidated someone in some way, then you bullied them. One of the biggest regrets of my life stems from such situations. I didn't yell at the girl, but I did bully her. I didn't like her because she was exactly the type of gal I didn't understand.

I was in a residential program as a teen and she was on her way there as well. I couldn't stand her, but I hardly knew her. My influence on my peers was so strong that by the time she got there, most of them wouldn't even give her a chance. Once I realized what I had done and how it had affected her, I tried to rectify the situation. Thankfully, my friends saw the error of my ways and did give her a chance, but what if I hadn't noticed? What if I didn't care? What if this girl came to a new state where she knew no one but me and has to live in the isolation of her own mind because of what I had said?

A bully is a sad and lonely child inside. No one has ever showed them how to love properly. They associate social connections with pain, if even for a moment. That pain has to come out and the result is often seen in situations of bullicide, something that's becoming more and more popular. A bully does what he or she does because they feel the need to make up for their own inadequacies. The really interesting thing is that they are intimidated by something in the person they are bullying. Often, they are simply afraid of the unknown. It's not a matter of gay bashing or racism. It's a matter of nontolerance in our children.

Who gave anyone else the right to try to make others conform? Who gets to make the rules about who is "different"? I revel in my uniqueness of self, but it took me years to get there. It also took a lot of strength and effort. After all, even in 2010, a single mother/college student/writer isn't exactly sitting at the height of popularity in small town Indiana!

It doesn't matter who you are, it's possible for you to bully someone else. It doesn't matter who you are, it's possible to be bullied and live a lifetime in the shadow of those who keep you in fear. If you don't think you're a bully, why not pay attention to what you say. If you have to intimidate anyone, even indirectly (yes, gossip counts), then you are a bully. Just remember what someone's mother said: "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all!"

In fact, as an effort to fight bullying, why not compliment someone unexpectedly today!

Monday, October 18, 2010

WASH To Wash Out Bullying

WASH is the acronym for Writers Against School Harassment. WASH exists to wash out bullying by bringing together the collective community of writers from every corner of the globe to use the power of the written word to prevent this epidemic that is no longer just "kids being kids". Bullying has taken lives by way of suicide, something we now know as "Bullicide", a term coined by well known writer, Kathy Faust.

WASH was founded in October of 2010 by Dan Hensley & Saorise O'Mara, in memory of Sladjana Vidovic, whose tormentors continued their victimizing ways when they showed up at her wake and made fun of her body, and cracked tasteless jokes about what lifeless Sladjana looked like as her grieving family looked on.

Other young people have taken their lives before Sladjana. Most recently, a college student whose fellow students streamed a same sex encounter between him and another male on the internet, took his life as a result of this ultimate form of advanced bullying. When tormentors can cause their victims to take their own lives, facing absolutely zero possibilities of consequences for their actions, it is time people from all over stand up and say ENOUGH!

In this effort to wash out bullying, it is imperative that actions take precedence over an internet presence. The old adage that says "The pen is mightier than the sword" is absolutely true. In this technologically advanced world, the internet has become a breeding ground for deadly bullying just as the school yard and colleges have classically been the main attraction of bullies. It is imperative that we recognize bullying does not know the boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, social standing, financial class, sexual preference, disability, or national origin.

WASH wishes to build relationships with writers of every genre, of every type of work experience, and every level of professional public exposure in the art of the written word. WASH exists without any certain or definitive social, religious, political, or other belief. WASH exists simply to use the literary arts as a way to build community relationships with parents, schools, colleges, social service agencies, mental health professionals, concerned friends of victims, law enforcement agencies, human service agencies, and other concerns charged with the well being of others who experience trauma.

WASH exists to use our influence and talents as a way to teach the example of humane conflict settlement, humane communications, and celebration of the differences that make us all who and what we are. Tolerance isn't enough. We need to be finders & givers of hope. In memory of those who have lost their lives by medical cause of Bullicide, welcome to WASH!