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!