Reaching out for help can feel so hard. Many people who are bullied, or who are bullying, are frozen in fear. I know that you are likely terrified that doing ANYTHING will make the situation worse. The good news about my methods? Unless I'm worried about your safety, YOU are 100% in charge. You brainstorm solutions. You pick the right one. We then create a detailed plan - and only you decide if we will take any actions.
The goal? To help you find you again... I want you to be strong, but I want you to remain deeply kind. Why? Because this will not only end your bullying abuse, but, help you return back to yourself again.
Maybe a safe first step might be to send me a message to set up a quick Discovery Call. We'll chat for 20 minutes - you can learn more about me, and I can learn a bit more about you. Then, you can take some time to decide whether it's time to act.
I'm here for you!
I don't hide my sadness from my children.
Can that make them feel uncomfortable? Sure. It is off-putting when anyone is emoting - especially parents who are often stable and calm.
To help them through this discomfort, my husband and I teach them how to soothe someone who is feeling low.
The messaging is clear "it's not your job to make mummy feel better, but, we can soothe her while her emotions make their way through". We then ask them if they would like to give a hug, have a snuggle, or give a soft a blanket or stuffy.
Doing this gives them tools to handle not only our emotions, but their friends, classmates, and other adults that they encounter.
It also teaches them that feelings are normal, and the method of handling them is to feel them, and take care of yourself through the process.
Today? Well, I was feeling sad because my father-in-law had died, and I just really wanted to see him. My eldest brought me a stuffy, and the twins followed suit with every plush animal in the house.
But also such a relief. It is easier NOT to pretend to be calm and strong all the time.
And for my kids? They learn that emotions are normal. They learn how to react lovingly to other people when they are low. This type of response is then normalized, and, hopefully played out in the schoolyard.
If this isn't an antidote to bullying, I'm not sure what is!
Judgement just enflames bullying - it clouds us so we stop searching for the root issues. It closes us off to one another, it shuts down our hearts.
The truth? Within a cycle of bullying, there is intense pain and paralyzing fear.
It is what fuels the person bullying. It is placed into the person they are harming. It seeps into their teachers, their administrators... and deeply into their parents.
The solution can be complex... sure. But, to get there, we need to start caring.
Until we shift out of a place of judgement and into a curious and caring mindset, we will never solve the issue.
It is SO easy to snap, to punish, to get angry when our kids are unkind... We were raised to believe that punishment will teach our kids "the lesson" to not bully again.
But, it doesn't seem to work.
Instead, I suggest to parents and educators to get themselves into the mindset of the 4C's when they have to talk with their children or students when there has been an issue.
The 4C's are: coach, calm, caring & curious.
If we can stay loving and non-judgemental, the TRUE story can come out. And when it does - we can solve it.
Usually, when the root issue is resolved, bullying ends.
Let's remember our little people need to learn how to BE, and that includes how to be KIND. It is up to us to help them learn those lessons.
I give this poster to clients to figure out how they handle conflict. When we are stuck within a power struggle (which, in it's extreme form is bullying), we choose to Power Over, or Power Under. We can also think about it as choosing "violence" or "silence".
They key to snap out of these power-plays (and even get out of bullying or abusive relationships!) is to use a Third Way - that is to Power With! There are other words for it - assertive, strong & kind voice, standing up, etc.
Everyone's strong and kind voice sounds different. It's important to find your own so that you will use it!
Send me a message if you want to learn more, or, if you want me to send you a copy of this poster to print!
In the midst of life - of the mess, the clutter, the rushing and accomplishing, I always take time every night to write 5 things I am grateful for.
Choosing this practice gives me a moment every day to focus on what went RIGHT.
The moment in this picture, encapsulates something I’m always grateful for - my son’s relationship with his Grampa.
They delight in each other’s presence, and, in my hurried and harried state, Grampa’s giggle about something my son has done brings ME back to the reality of the moment… When I shift my focus from my whirring mental state into the present, I have a chance to see something adorable or hilarious, and my mind eases.
The expectation of writing 5 things down every day forces me to be more mindful DURING the day of the great things - the birds flying south, a hug between my kids, a kind nod of a passerby. So, I don’t always have to rely on Grampa to shift my focus, I can do it myself too.
Being tapped into what IS helps me to lighten the load of my anxieties about the future.
And, as we take on whatever important tasks we have chosen - for me it’s helping families to get to sleep, and, to help stop cycles of bullying, I can ALSO find ways to ground myself into the exceptional little moments that happen all around me every day.
I know it's so easy (and understandable!) to be mad when bullying happens; To be mad at the principal, or the teacher, or the parents, or the kid... But, can I, just for a second, place another option in your mind:
Maybe, we deal with bullying so badly because society is lacking conflict management skills.
- the principal felt confident that they had an answer.
- the teacher felt like they had all the tools to handle every behaviour in their classroom.
- the parent had all the wisdom to handle their kid with aggressive behaviour.
- the child or teen bullying knew how to regulate their emotions and feelings and handle their pain.
Now think about how conversations might go when bullying did occur from a place of confidence. I can imagine everyone would feel much calmer. There would be more listening, more collaboration, and cooler heads.
I know that this isn't a popular thought, but it's one we need to start pondering.
It could be that ONE answer is to help students, teachers, administrators and parents handle conflict better.
If we made this a priority, I believe we'd start to move the needle towards much safer schools for everyone.
The blog speaks to our deepest humanity - and many of you will feel relieved at the message that we need to be more gentle with each other - because most people are walking around with deep pain.
There is so much judgement in our society right now, and so little curiosity. People are so quick to make decisions on people's intentions when they don't have the whole story.
12 years ago, I lost my dad and a good friend Mimi in an accident. It was surreal experience - one that shook me to my core, but, irregardless of MY emotions, the world just kept spinning.
I know I tried hard to keep things together in public. I wasn't the person who was going to lash out - but, I was someone who might break down. I remember one day, after a fleeting memory of a moment I shared with my dad and friend Mimi, I fell to the side of a sidewalk and just wept. People walked by me... and I cried and cried. I'm sure some of those people walking by judged my meltdown - they likely rolled their eyes - and then got on with their day.
Had they known the story, they might have helped, or said a kind word, or scooped me up in a hug.
So many of you can resonate with that kind of moment - the moment that you snap, or flip, or crumble. And YES, sometimes those things happen in public.
What this article reminds us is that we need to be gentle with each other. We need to remember that most people have significant challenges - and, instead of making judgements on other's when they show big emotions, we could lean forward with compassion instead.
Please, read this article. And, when you do, ask yourself who you are judging... Think about what information you are missing. Decide whether your judgements are fair, and if they are not, or not informed, please drop them.
Instead, you could consider opening your heart - try saying a kind word or give a gentle hug. Isn't that what we all deserve in those moments?
A friend of mine from camp showed me this years ago. Since then, it s been on my mind quite a bit... It helps me to decide whether I need to share something or not. (Or, helps me see why I feel badly about sharing something I just shouldn't have, and, gives me some guidelines on what to apologize for!)
This is an excellent tool to show with your older children and teens so that they learn another method to stay kind even though they are in conflict.
Remember though, if you want them to live this, you need to emulate it too. Our best (or worst!) lessons in conflict management are from those closest to us.
Before you share this with them, think about whether YOU are following these rules. (And, if you want to be super vulnerable, show this to them AND share with them what YOU want to work on too!)
Tell me how it goes
I spoke at the Ontario School Counsellor's Association conference a week ago. My husband Joel has presented there too for years, so, many of my participants have gotten to know us well.
After my presentation on conflict skills, a man approached me. He said "Can I ask kind of a personal question? Do you and Joel ever, like YELL at each other? Or, when you are solving problems, do you just hold hands and gaze lovingly in each others eyes?"
"Oh no, we yell sometimes."
The man laughed "Darn! You crushed my vision of you two!"
"No, I said, you just learned that we were humans."
I know that I teach this stuff - to parents, to targets of bullying, and to people bullying... I know that I have SO many answers, but, you need to know that I am far from perfect.
Staying calm in a storm of feelings is HARD WORK. It takes practice, and messing up, and then more practice.
What I do know is that the only way I can do my work AND try to stay curious and kind in conflict with my family is to look after myself too.
This is a picture of the end of my run today.
I started to run in the summer, and have continued to do so for 20 minutes almost every day. It gives me a chance to let off steam, to think, to breathe, and to let go of the day's tension.
The result? I am about 700% calmer with my family.
So, if you are like me and want to do conflict better, but, are ALSO a human with real-deal emotions, what daily practice can you start? Think of an activity that shifts your emotions for about 24 hour hours.
Got it? Now go do it!!!
This is my eldest reading Carol McCloud's book: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
If anyone out there is looking for an exceptional book to teach the core concept of kindness and why we shouldn't bully, look no further!
I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that we try to teach kindness in our family. But, this book solidified the concept completely... even with this little guy who is only 4!
Friends recommended this book to me this week. It teaches us that when we are kind (bucket fillers) we fill other people's buckets and our own too. But, the flip side is if we are unkind (bucket dippers) we empty others' buckets along with our own.
The book is simple, joyful, and brilliant. It led to about 4 different conversations today alone - and helped him see the impact of his actions (both positive and negative) in every situation.
The friends who recommended it work with people of all ages - from primary school to top C execs in multinational corporations - and find it useful everywhere!
So, my guess is that you'll love it too!
I wish you could be there to watch what happens when I coach a person who has been targeted in a bullying incident. It would change your view of humanity.
My Third Way process allows the person targeted to choose a solution to their problem.
Why? Well, most importantly, because their solutions work to stop the bullying.
You also need to understand that these people feel powerless. Giving them choice gives them back their power.
Try to imagine: I am sitting and talking to a child, or teen, or adult. They have been verbally harassed, or sexually assaulted, or physically beaten, or their reputations ruined online. Scary stories.
It comes time to pick a solutions. Do you know what they choose time and time again?
It is beautiful, and awe inspiring, and humbling.
They use their heart to reach someone who seems heartless…. Because they know - their abuser’s is just hurting, and all they needs is to be seen and to connect to someone else.
In that moment of connection, you wouldn’t believe what happens:
The person bullying backs down, chooses to end the harassing, cries, asks for forgiveness…
And the person targeted?
A new leader is born. One with a big heart and strong voice. The kind of leader that this world needs.
As a recovering people pleaser, this quote from Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Stop Apologizing really resonated with me.
It made me think: How is it possible to stop pleasing when we’ve been taught that our very WORTH is connected to other people’s happiness?
You are a good child if your parents are happy.
You are a good wife if your partner is happy.
You are a good mother if your children are happy.
You are a good worker if your boss is happy.
And so so tiring.
This moving target makes us shift and change our personalities, our schedules, our inner desires - ALL to make someone else happy… so that we can be worthy of love.
They key to change this is to realize that when you choose YOU others might be mildly uncomfortable.
But, making someone uncomfortable does NOT mean that we are bad: a bad mom, a bad wife, a bad daughter.
And it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve love.
It simply means that we matter too. That we shouldn’t always be the one compromising for other people’s comfort. It means that we have a right to choose our comfort too.
Feeling grateful for this big guy today.
A year ago, he was transitioning into a pretty tough role - big brother. We know this can be rough for first-borns, but, he had double the challenge because we gave birth to TWINS. He used to get all the attention, and these shiny cute babies were getting in the way of that, big time. Life was hard.
But now, he has embraced his big brother status like a champ. In this photo, he set up a "bed" on the floor so he and his little brother could pretend to nap, and then pop their heads up and giggle to each other. He loves teaching them skills, words, making them laugh, and starting some sort of loud sound that the other two will join in on. He doesn't always like his big-bro-role, but, more often than not asks for help when he needs it.
Today, I took a break from work and peeked out at the 3 kids playing in our courtyard. His little brother threw his hat on the ground. He ran over, picked it up, and put it back onto his head and said "you need to keep this on, you will get a sunburn!" and took off to play.
Imagine if we ALL transitioned into less-than-optimal situations this way? He has shown us that we SHOULD scream, yell, and cry about the things that make us sad and angry. He let it all out - felt all the feels - and processed what was hard. And then, he had the space to flex, change, and find his purpose in this new situation. The result? A pretty joyful little guy who gets to feel important (because he is!) as a big brother. So cool eh?
This is shame.
Shame makes us feel like there is something wrong, or dark, or bad inside us.
When we are bullied, we feel shame.
What most people don't know, is that it is almost impossible for someone who is abused in this way to just "get over it".
The pain doesn't end when school is over, or when we switch jobs. We don't feel free when we leave the family member who was hurting us. It's just not how it works.
Many people feel the shame of bullying throughout their lives. But, the good news, is that it doesn't have to be this way.
Shame can be released and let go. We just need to start telling our stories.
First, you can start with someone you trust. Someone who listens well, and won't try to fix the problem.
Then, you can find a good therapist, or any health practitioner who can help release trauma. Consider energy healers like reiki practitioners or some osteopaths.
Once you can make sense of the trauma (by using your head) and releasing the feelings about it (cry, run, yell, do energy work), THEN you will have the ability to "get over it".
If you aren't sure which path is right for you, send me a PM and I can help guide you in the right direction. Because really, deep down, you know that there is nothing wrong with you, and, that you deserve so much love...
Kathleen is an anti-bullying specialist, a conflict coach, a teacher, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend...