Fearless Parenting

Strategies to Coach Your Student in Managing Challenging Peer Conflicts and Social Cruelty (aka Jim Biscenius’ Bully-Proofing Your Youth presentation overview)
Dr. Tammy Fisher

Highlights by Dr. Fisher (link to full outline inserted)

On Thursday, November 15, St. Thomas School and Open Window hosted speaker Jim Biscenius to speak to both parents and students about managing peer aggression and cruelty.  Not a fan of the word “bully” either, he taught 4-8th Graders and parents specific strategies to respond to social and peer cruelty.

After debriefing and reviewing the ideas shared with my students, I was inordinately impressed with how much they remember from a lecture ten days ago. When I asked a Fifth Grader why they thought they remembered so much, he answered, “Because it had value to us.”

As a school counselor for nearly 24 years, I have coached a fair share of parents and students with some of Jim’s strategies. I believe that all kids want to connect and belong and some just don’t have the skills yet. In a world of leaders and followers, helping our children to become leaders of character, also includes coaching them to take their power back from others who are misguided in how positive relationships are made and kept. Not by fear, but by respect and kindness.

Jim suggests that those who are habitually cruel can benefit from the coaching gift of kindness as much as the target. His lengthy outline and suggestions can be found here. My own Reader’s Digest version of his ideas are below:

  • Bullying is about power. It is repeated and targeted.
  • Students should not give or show: Fear, Attention, or Things to bullies.
  • Verbal bullying can be stopped most effectively by the target in how they respond (or actually DO NOT respond) with their body language and manners.
  • Adults can make situations worse by: calling the parents of the bully or talking directly to the bully. Bullies will just get sneakier – and students will stop reporting to trusted adults.
  • Adults SHOULD validate feelings and redirect the student to adult at school so that they can be on high alert (as much of the social cruelty occurs out of eyesight and earshot of adults).
  • Adults CAN make it better by coaching the student in powerful non-energetic body language: head up, eye gaze above, stand tall, act nonchalant (yawn!), do not engage or appear to have heard by reacting in any way.  Role-play!
  • Friends can help by being allies and doing the same: coaching friends to not engage.
  • Life can be uncomfortable. Part of growing up is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable: but not doing it alone (okay, that may be just Dr. Fisher’s nugget).

Finally, come to our parenting connect meetings Coffee with Kirk, and Teaming with Tammy. We are working together to build a community of high expectation and strong character and integrity. One relationship at a time. Thank you for sharing your children with us.