Monday, July 20, 2009

Old Friends Welcoming New

I'd like to join Jack in welcoming Lynne Kenney! Without knowing more than the barest details about me, she accepted my request to write an article for Jack's blog. She trusted me, took me at face value, and donated her time and effort to helping parents and children learn to cope in a world that can be frightening. Bullying is a problem, and it is a BIG problem. It's not going to go away over night. If we are to be realistic, we know that some forms of bullying will always be around. And so, it is important that we teach our children (and learn, for ourselves) how to exist in a social setting. Better yet, how to thrive! What follows are some words of advice from Lynne, followed by links to some excellent resources on this serious subject. In a day or two, others will be contributing their input on the issue of bullying, from slightly different perspectives. Look for Kara Tamanini, Children's Psychotherapist from http://www.kidsawarenessseries/, and Vanessa Van Petten, teenage advocate from http://www.onteenstoday/.


Making and keeping friends is a central part of entering school. Teaching your child prosocial friendship skills is a valuable part of your relationship with your children. When you teach your children friendship skills early on you can help prevent social isolation, bullying and social cruelty.

Where do you begin?

A. A few great books have been written on friendship skills. Ones from the American Girls library include: Friends: Making them and keeping them; The Feelings Book, and Stand Up For Yourself and Your Friends. For middle school children and teens, Queen Bees and Wanna Bees is a good read for parents. For parents who wish to coach their teens to health and wellness, The Parent as Coach by Diana Sterling is great for parents of teens. Michele Borba's Building Moral Intelligence is a must-read for all parents and teachers.
B. Healthy friendship skills begin with confidence and self-respect. Children who have self-esteem are able to be kind, share, and include others in their friendship circles.
C. Knowing your child's social style and what is unique about your child is another fine starting point. Emphasizing that everyone is different and we are all special in our own ways enhances acceptance and tolerance among children. Celebrate the differences!

Here are a few, little discussed, tips on helping your children develop their friendship skills.
1. As young as age four you can begin to help your child discover his or her personal style. What kind of child is yours? Help her see that she is bright, funny, articulate, caring or thoughtful. Teach her how to recognize positive social skills in others so she chooses skillful friends who are likely to share her values.
2. In order to help your child see when she is using prosocial friendship skills, comment specifically on what your child does in her friendships that shows she cares.
“When Jose hurt his arm and you offered to sit with when he could not play, that was a kind thing to do.”
“Offering your sister your sweater at the skating rink when she was cold was a thoughtful thing to do.”
3. Teach your child to observe the behavior of others non-judgmentally in a manner that helps her to see how other people behave. Talk with her about how other people respond to that behavior.
"I heard you trying to help Jane and Macy work together after they had an argument, that was loving of you."
4. As your child gets older help her develop the ability to observe the impact of her behavior on others.
How does what your child says or does impact how other respond to them. Look at it, talk about it, notice it, be kind about it. Help your child develop the skill to make choices about what they say or do.
5. Giving your children the words and actions to: a. enter into and exit social groups, b. include other people in their group and c. recognize what characteristics your child wants in his or her friends is invaluable.

Talk with your children about what makes a good friend. Write a short story or a book on what one does to show respect, integrity and honesty. If there is a school-mate who criticizes others or mocks others, that is not a friend you wish for your child to choose as a close mate. Draw distinctions between kids who are willing to lift one another up and those who desire to feel powerful by cutting others down.

Here are some sample social skills you might wish to introduce to your children one skill as a time. Role-play with your children, create positive conversations with your children and teach them the importance of learning these skills.

Sample List of Skills
• Accepting "No"
• Accepting Consequences
• Apologizing
• Arguing Respectfully
• Asking a Favor
• Asking Questions
• Being a Good Listener
• Being in a Group Discussion
• Conversational Skills
• Declining an Invitation
• Expressing Empathy
• Following Rules
• Good Sportsmanship
Developing friendship skills can be fun. So practice, play and enjoy with your children. Friendship will follow.

Lynne Kenney, PsyD
Author of the forthcoming book The Family Coach Method: Raising Good Kind Ethical Kids in a Complicated World, St Lynn's Press.

-- Lynne Kenney, PsyD
The Family CoachNorth Scottsdale Pediatrics
Author of The Family Coach Method, Oct 2009
St Lynn's Press

Other helpful links:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Warm Welcome

A few weeks ago, my good friend Karen Bessey Pease let me read her magnificent YA novel, Grumble Bluff. The messages and themes in Karen's novel really struck a chord with me, and after searching within myself I came to realise that Karen and I share a common view on the subject of bullying.

My loathing for that type of behaviour stems from personal experience as a youngster in school, but also from stories my mother related to me, of what life was like growing up in a small village in Perthshire during the Second World War. Times were tough, thanks to food rationing and the influx of school children from Glasgow and Edinburgh. But for my mother things were even tougher. She was the eldest of a fairly large family, and two of her younger sisters were born with learning difficulties. That made them 'different' and they soon became targets for the school's bullies. Of course, as the eldest, my mother had to stick up for her little sisters.

So, having established a common bond, Karen suggested that she, and some of her friends who also have an interest in the subject, should write a column or two for the Down Under Dunder, and I'm delighted to say that very soon I'll be extending a warm welcome to Karen, to Lynne Kenney, PsyD - author of the forthcoming book The Family Coach Method - and (hopefully) many other writers who can offer support or links to online resources.

If we can ease the pain of being bullied for even just one child, it's a start.