Look at the behaviours under "unlucky kids"? They are unlucky, because the way that they are showing discomfort is through behaviours that close our hearts.
Lucky kids? They cry, they stall, they cuddle in... And, we easily love them.
Why is this so profound for me? Because I have worked with these "unlucky kids" for years - both as kids and teens who bully, but also those who get picked on and explode.
What do I see behind my closed door once they feel safe? Tears, shame, discomfort... and mostly - a willingness to change.
What do they feel from society? That they are "bad" at their cores.
Most importantly - we need to understand that these unlucky kids will NEVER change when we punish or isolate them. They are lacking SKILLS to handle things better.
So - the next time a child, teen or adult explodes? Take a deep breath, and open that big heart of yours. Find out what's going on - stay curious - and THAT is what they need..
Isn't this so beautiful?
This quote came from one of my clients. It was her mantra.
Mantra? Yes... Part of the Third Way process is not only figuring out how to find your strong and kind voice with the person bullying you, but, understanding the truth of the relationship and solidly finding your spot in it.
Cue creating a mantra.
I will ask my clients this question: "What is the truth of this whole situation?"
The truth becomes their mantra. We write it on a sticky note and they put it in their bedroom. I tell them that they must say it to themselves before they go to bed, and when they wake in the morning.
By following through on this practice, they re-find their truth - their power - their foundation - every day. The result? They stand taller and are much less likely to give their power up.
About 50% of the time the mantra is SO successful my clients never get bullied again.
The truth? Sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I snap, or yell, or pick a child up and move them somewhere else.
I try really hard to make those moments the minority though.
It is HARD to be calm, and curious, and non-reactive with 3 small children whipping around me at warp sleep. Really really hard some days. Finding my strong and kind voice as a parent has been one of my toughest challenge yet.
So - I'm going to share with the best wisdom I've learned along the way... maybe there's a little nugget in here to help you out.
1. I go to therapy. We make sense of the past, of lessons we learned, and the person I want to be instead. It's given me clarity, and relief, and has helped me find the voice I want to use.
2. I read parenting books. When we find a behaviour that seems impossible, we look for an answer in the research we have found (next week I'll share my favourite books and blogs with you!)
3. Being a mom and entrepreneur and wife is HARD... and my legs tell me to "flight" sometimes. So - I do the thing my body wants me to do: I run away almost every day. And then (of course) I loop back home. By doing what my parasympathetic nervous system is asking me to, I can return with a better hormonal balance to be the calm and centred mom I want to be.
4. I sleep. My goal? 8.5 hours a night. I find there's a direct connection between my mood and sleep. Bad sleep = angry mom. Good sleep = calm mom.
5. I have figured out which emotion is hard for ME to feel: grumpy. When my kids are grumpy - I have a hard time being supportive of them. I have found a mantra that helps "he's grumpy. This is hard for ME. Let him feel it, it will wash through him."
6. I practice acknowledging my kids thoughts and feelings so intensely that it's now THE habit. It easily pops out of my mouth.
7. And then, when I mess up... which I do... I apologize. I want them to understand that when I lose my cool, it is not because they are bad, but because I am a human and imperfect. I find those moments to be hugely connecting - they soothe the bad moment, and teach them how to apologize too when it's their turn.
What can YOU do to support YOU through this hard work?
What does this have to do with my kids' big emotions?
Staying calm during a storm of emotions is HARD work. Asking you to feel compassion for your child while they rage and reel against you... well, it can be downright excruciating at times.
If you don't find a way to "put your oxygen mask on first" - these skills will be almost impossible to follow through on.
A question I always ask parents is: "What is the one activity you enjoy doing that shifts your mood for 24 to 48 hours?"
Before you pick your activity, do a body scan.
Our bodies often tell us what is going on with our parasympathetic nervous system. These kid blow-ups might be putting you into "fight or flight" - so, to calm down, you'll need to "fight or flight". Obviously I'm not suggesting you ACTUALLY do those things - but, get to a gym and do the work your body wants you to.
If your arms, shoulders and neck are tight, you might consider trying some boxing while you're at the gym or try a Flow or Vinyasa yoga class. Legs? Get running, hop on the elliptical, skip.
If your body feels loose but your mind or spirit are low - go to the activities you know will fill that need - singing, meditating, praying, quilting, laughing with a friend.
Once you find the right activity for yourself, see how you can fit it in more regularly - and I mean about 4 to 5 times a week.
We can't schedule our kids' meltdowns, so, without a pretty regular self-care practice, you might not be all that successful at staying present and calm during the moments of big feelings.
Share in the comments the activity you think will help YOU to unwind! Maybe we can make a list together to help the parents out who might be still searching for that "right" activity.
You can do this - I promise. It's hard work, but the results are... well, beautiful. Your home will be calmer. You will feel more connected to your kids. You will feel proud of yourself.
Doesn't that sound good?
And, if you need a bit of extra help to get here, remember I am here to help, just send me a DM/PM and we can set up a session!
Yesterday, we talked about what to do when your kids are raging... or bawling... or showing other HUGE emotions.
We talked about how important it is to let them have their feelings. Not only will they feel supported, heard, and understood... But, by letting them have the full range of their emotions, they will decrease the amount of stress hormone in their body and will be open to problem solving!
So. Here's my guide to get YOU through this time. You can download it, save it, and pop it open on your phone during these intense moments as a guide.
Your job? Let them have their feelings.
Make listening sounds: "oh!" "ahhhh" "hmmmm..."
Connect to them - look sad, or worried, or frustrated FOR them.
Say back what they are saying - you don't have to agree, just make them know you've heard them - "Your brother hit you".
Say their feeling - "You are SO angry right now!"
And then let them do their thing. They might show bigger emotions, different emotions... but, at some point, they will burn out. They WILL stop, I promise. And when they do, they will feel calmer - and feel loved and cared for by YOU.
You have showed them that their feelings matter - and, ultimately, that THEY matter.
Only once they are down to a level 1 emotion only THEN do you try to find any solution to the problem.
You can do this - I promise it will help.
What do I do with my kid or teen’s emotions? They are so sensitive! He sobs uncontrollably! She screams and screams! Nothing stops them!
I hear this from parents all the time.
Sometimes these feelings exist because they are going through bullying or other traumatic issues. But, sometimes it's just because of every-day emotional lives of children and teens.
In my next 3 blog posts, I'm going to teach you how I handle my own kids emotions, and, how I coach my clients to make it through these stormy times.
Typically I first ask: What DO you do when their emotions are high?
Take a moment and think about your response to this question.
Often I hear these answers: I tell them to stop, I yell, I walk away, I tell them to stop crying, I distract them, I make a joke, I hug them but give up, I punish them, I try to problem solve, I put them in their room.
Fair. These times are SUPER hard. And, if we don't know how to handle these feelings, our go-to response is to shut them down ASAP so we can all breathe again.
But here's the thing: your child or teen is raging, because their stress hormone (cortisol) is super high. The only way to decrease their stress? Let them cry, scream, rage, bawl, yell, freak out.
But, the good news, is after these episodes - they are CALM. They are re-calibrated. They are happier... healthier... AND ready to problem solve.
Isn't that the goal? To try to ensure that this doesn't happen many more times?
Check my blog tomorrow for what to DO when you are in the midst of a meltdown, and, to get a nice visual guide you can download and have on hand when the next storm comes.
PS - If your child or teen is angry and hurting people or breaking things, that's NOT okay! Re-direct them to a safer place, and, allow them to continue to hit, but find something safe (like a pillow or couch cushion).
When I get a new client, it's typically because their child is getting bullied. So, our sessions start by looking at the bullying and stopping that problem. Then, if the family is open to it, I shift the focus to the family. We explore how their child can be best supported at home - especially now that they need to be practicing their new strong & kind voice.
The family that wrote this testimonial has been a joy to work with - not only did their daughter's bullying end, but, the family was so committed to shifting the way that they talked to each other...
When we met, it was so clear that there was SO much love between them, they just weren't totally sure how to untangle the messes that the HARD times brought.
Everyone wanted to be loving and supportive - they just weren't sure how to do that.
If you are interested in this kind of work too, know that I can be hired when there isn't bullying, but, there might be some conflict management issues that seem unsolvable between family members.
It's work I love doing - it feels important and impactful.
Send me a message to set up a Discovery Call to find out more!
You know your child or teen is being bullied, or is bullying. You know that school is a scary place for them.
I want you to ask yourself: "What has been holding me back from making a change?"
Take a moment and search for an answer.
Has the school promised they will handle things?
Did the same thing happen to you and it's hard to watch your child go through it too?
Is your child pleading with you to say nothing?
Are you afraid of doing something that will make things worse?
Have you tried many things and nothing is working?
I know you have already been through a lot - your heart has broken so many times about this issue... Can you find it in yourself to reach out to me and see if I might be able to help you and your child?
Booking a 20 minute Discovery Call will cost you nothing more than your time. It is free, and there is no need to hire me after. I'll give you a chance to share what you've been going through and then I can explain how I might help.
Then, you decide if I'm a good fit for your family or not.
Many things can get in the way of reaching out for help - I get it. But the truth: your child is hurting, and it needs to end.
Send me a quick message so we can find out if I might be the answer to your problem.
Whether flight PS752 was shot down by mistake, or on purpose, we need to take note of the fact that when war happens, senseless deaths like these occur.
For those of us in Canada, this war hits close to our home. But, for citizens of war torn countries, innocent citizens are killed daily.
How does this relate to bullying? Choosing violence to end conflict results in unnecessary pain. Whether that violence is missiles or using words, the creation of pain only creates more pain.
It doesn't end there. That violence can create more violence, or, it silences the other side.
Either way keeps a cycle of aggression and victimization alive and well.
It is not the solution, as Michael Franti so eloquently says: "you can't bomb the world to peace".
Peace comes through dialogue, through compassion, through finding the root of problems and looking for creative solutions.
To all of the families and friends who are struggling with these senseless deaths - my heart is with you.
To all the families and friends who are struggling with cycles of bullying - my heart is with you too.
Nervous to call me?
Fair. Bullying can be terrifying - and many people are frozen in fear - scared to make the wrong next step. You don't want to be hurt more than you already are.
I get it.
You might be asking "What is an anti-bullying specialist anyways?" Most people have never heard of this term.
I am a teacher by trade, and have moonlighted as a conflict coach through my career - I'm now doing this work full time. I help kids and adults step out of cycles of bullying, and, I can work with both the person bullying and the person being bullied. I also help people who are struggling just generally with conflict - sometimes it's a whole family, and sometimes just an individual.
My goal is to help you find new ways to handle conflict. What I have found after over 10 years of doing this work is that most people struggle to find a strong and kind voice... Once we find YOUR unique voice, your issues will start to unravel, until they to dissolve away.
A session can look just like this one. If you are a parent calling for your child, I often include the parents in the sessions. If you are an adult, you are always welcome to bring a supportive friend or family member if that makes you feel more comfortable. If you aren't local, we meet virtually on a computer.
I'll want to learn more about your situation, teach you some things, and then spend some time problem solving.
Booking a session can be scary - but, the outcome can be transformative.
Imagine your bullying ending... How might life change for you? Take a moment to FEEL how life could be different.
Use THOSE feelings to find the courage to pick up the phone.
An easy first step might be to book a Discovery Call. We'd have 15 or 20 minutes together to chat. I'd want to learn a little more about you and share with you my methods. The ultimate goal is to give you enough information to decide whether I might be a good fit for you or your child.
Does this help?
If it does, send me an email and we can talk about booking a Discovery Call: email@example.com
Looking forward to chatting soon!
What does this look like when it comes to bullying?
It looks like developing confidence, and love, and compassion, and boundaries.
It looks like parents, teachers, and other caregivers teaching and modelling conflict management skills to their young people.
It looks like someone bullying, and their targets choosing not to pick up the pain that they are trying to give away.
It looks like a classroom, a school, a workplace, and a family that does not give power to people hurting others.
It looks like adults and friends, parents and teachers, managers and administrators looking beyond the behaviour and trying to find the root of the problem.
It looks like putting our judgements aside and choosing to find the reason for someone's aggression. It could be pain that someone is feeling - or, a conflict management tool that they are lacking. It looks like healing that pain.
We don't have to play this bullying game. There are "outs" all around us. It's up to us to pick them up and believe that they can work.
Only THEN will we no longer be participating.
My family is in a stormy season.
I have almost 2 year old twins and a 4 year old.
My children are big balls of emotions. Many points in the day feel like I am standing in the eye of a storm while three unreasonable little creatures whip around me.: crying, screaming, falling…
And these are, undoubtedly, the hardest part of being a mom for me.
Do I lose my temper? Sometimes, for sure. How could I not?
Do I try really really hard not to - YES. And I’ll tell you why.
If we want to teach our children to not bully and not to be bullied, we have to model what it is to POWER WITH people, ESPECIALLY during the hard moments.
When we “power with” in parenting, we observe our kids feelings, we sit with them as they rage. We empathize, we keep our boundries, but, we’re kind about it. “Ah, you really wanted more TV. And mum said no. That must feel so hard for you.”
And then, when the storm has passed, we problem solve. We look to see if there are environmental factors creating the emotions (hungry, tired, overstimulated). We explore different schedules, rhythms, behaviour management techniques to help them transition more smoothly.
For older kids, “power with” looks like having family discussions about rules where all members get to share their thoughts and feelings. It looks like letting them make mistakes and talking them through their disappointments. It looks like guiding our children rather than forcing them to comply.
The benefit of this hard work? We create kids who can:
THESE are the kind of responses that stop bullying. Most importantly, these are the responses that lead to creating a more just and kind world.
This book - The Watermelon Shield - is gold! If you are looking for something to help those targeted by bullies, this is the book for you!
It was sent to me by the authors - Rose and Hope McCallum, and is their real-life story of solving their bullying problem and finding peace again.
It does an excellent job of teaching how to stay strong and kind... And gives a creative way for our kids to shield themselves from all hurtful comments.
When Hope was 8, she decided to write this book so that other kids could ward of bullies too.
My 4 year old has been reading it on repeat for 2 weeks - but it would be an effective book to read for kids up to grade 7.
The little peanut reading in the photo is my 2 year old daughter. Although she and her twin brother didn't understand the concept, the images are so realistic that they both have been pointing out the characters emotions (which is excellent to develop their compassion!)
You can get a copy at: www.thewatermelonshield.ca
Remember with kindness also needs to come strength.
Some of us (ahem, finger pointing towards myself) believe that true kindness comes at the expense of our own needs.
But, we know how this plays out: building resentments, exhaustion, compassion fatigue.
True kindness is boundaried, and honest, and gentle with all those around us (and it HAS to include ourselves too!)
So, get out there, be a little kinder than you were yesterday. And, if that means looping yourself into some kindness, throw in some self-care or self-compassion so that you receive too!
This is what strong and kind looks like.
Why does this matter? Feeling "strong and kind" is what my clients embody to stop cycles of bullying and abuse in their lives.
Abuse and bullying obviously makes us scared. When afraid - many people fight, or flight... But, there is a Third Way. People who can stand tall and act in a compassionate manner shows strength. And when we're strong, abusive relationships crumble away.
Why? When we are boundaried and still compassionate, we give nothing to someone who is bullying. The "fix" of power they feel when we show fear doesn't exist any more. So, the bullying ends.
The amazing news is that from this perspective - any person can get out toxic relationships because at our core, we are ALL strong and kind.
If you are stuck - try finding that side of yourself. You might have a way to get there - through physical activity, meditation, prayer, time in nature, by doing some form of art...
When you find it - then, take a pen and paper and brainstorm some actions or responses you could choose when that person harms you. Don't filter yourself.
You'll know when you have the answer. You will laugh, or sit up taller, and, generally feel great!
Double check that your action isn't weak or vindictive in any way... These responses continue the abuse. You want the answer to be STRONG and KIND.
Then, practice! Make sure that your answer flows easily!
And, if you try all of this and can't get there - reach out to me. This is the process that I use to help people step out of bullying cycles, and would love to help you feel calmer, happier, and more in control of your life!
Kathleen is an anti-bullying specialist, a conflict coach, a teacher, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend...