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Bullying Solutions Articles

Articles About Working with Kids

How Can We Respond When Bullying Happens in the Adult World at School?

by Steve Osterhage September 8, 2014

In working with kids, we inadvertently work also with adults.

Do only kids bully?

No, adults bully each other as much

or more than kids do.

How do we respond when adults

bully us at school?

What form does adult bullying take

in the adult world?

Arguing, conflict, teasing & harsh joking, exclusion, gossip and sometimes even physical bullying all happen in the adult world.

How can we manage arguing between teacher and parent, administrator and staff, district and principal, and all the other adult combinations in a school?


First consider what you can control

before relating to others:

I control my world

I allow you to control yours

When we can arrive here, and we are willing to maintain this mindset pretty much regardless of circumstances, we will find great peace in life regarding relationships.

The happiest people focus on what they can control.

But, that is easier said than done, right?

How about some skills to make this happen on the fly when we are feeling the urge to initiate arguing or argue back at someone?

Three Ways to Respond

First there are probably three basic

ways you can respond to arguing:

Manipulative & Reactive Way

Get mad, lose control, react from brainstem

Become defensive, retaliate, blame shift, criticize

Giving In & Avoidance Way

Avoid conflict at all costs, hold emotions inside

Allow others to control you, indirect communication

Healthy Boundary & Responsive Way

Guard yourself by neutralizing arguing and empathy

Set boundaries and enforce them

Which style do you fit into most often?

From Potential Argument to Solution

Here’s a potential pathway from

potential argument into creating a

better space for a solution

to emerge.

It’s not the only pathway that is

healthy and won’t fit all


The idea behind this is to compare these ideas to what is currently happening in your interactions with others and see if there is room for a healthy upgrade.

Resist the urge to argue & defend by taking good

care of yourself and others by setting boundaries

How can we do this in a practical step by step way?

1. Stop!  Rather than saying or doing anything

If you allow your words and actions to come out while in brain stem, you have allowed others’ actions to control you

  1. 2.Look.  Notice where you are & what’s happening

What are the body language, tone of voice and facial expressions of the other person?

  1. 3.Listen.  What triggered your emotions?

What may be behind their words and actions?

Did they push a button in you that is your issue?

  1. 4.Breathe.  Pause and create some distance

Literally take a deep breath

Take note of your body, voice and facial expressions

  1. 5.Boundary. Neutral one-liner response exit strategy

“I respect you too much to argue...

...and I’ll get back to you”

  1. 6.Process.  Think over a plan and prepare

Consider and own your bad behavior

Take inventory of your situation

  1. 7.Return.  Continue when you are calm

Emotions are contagious

Listen to them and share what you would like to see

  1. 8.New Boundary.  With a plan to enforce it

Set boundaries on things that you can enforce,

humble yet firm enforceable statements

“I’m willing to meet with you to plan

as long as there is no harsh criticism.”

Instead of “Stop criticizing!”

     ...and then...

“I’ll politely leave if I hear criticism.”

Family Fuel has a new training for

educators to help bridge gaps in

communication around school.

Click on the link, “Educator Classes”

below to schedule one for your


A big thanks to:

Jim Fay and Dr. David B. Hawkins

and their book,

Love and Logic Magic for Lasting Relationships,

for the basic philosophy of the content of this article.

How can we help? Educator Classes  Parent Classes

Is Your Bullying Prevention Program Actually Perpetuating Bullying? 

by Steve Osterhage September 8, 2014

1. Traditional Ideas - No Tolerance Policy

When your school declares a “no tolerance for bullying” policy you are trying to control things you can't.

We cannot control whether kids bully, but we can control what we do when there is bullying.

That is... only if we know about it.

My guess in the average school, 90% or

more of bullying incidents are not reported.

Kids reactions to a “no tolerance policy” are

not usually a sense of fear (in the bully)

or safety (in the victim).

The bully likely does not think, “Oh no, now I

know about the no tolerance policy, I’d better be nice, because I know they will catch me every time that I’m not.”

More likely, “Let’s see them try and catch me.”

The victim likely does not think, “I’m so glad this school does not tolerate bullying, that means I’ll never be bullied.”

More likely, “No tolerance policy, just another thing adults say that means nothing, because I see bullying everyday.”

Unless the district requires having a no tolerance policy for bullying, those policies challenge the bully to do it and get away with it, or state an empty promise to the victim.

Thus, adults reinforce the idea of saying they will do something and then don't (threat & warning mindset).

1. More Effective Ways - Education

What you can control is education.

It’s more effective to declare what bullying is what it's not (setting limits) and then doing something when it happens (enforcing limits).

The school staff gets a reputation of follow through and becomes not worth it to bullies to bully.

When the school spends more time talking about positives (skills), than threatening the negatives (punishments), there is a better chance of positive culture change.

A well educated student body is a more powerful tool than all the empty threats and warnings in the world.

2. Traditional Ideas - “Stop Bullying!”

Never do we utter that phrase to kids.    Why?

Do you think that by now kids have been

told not to bully?  

And yet, do we still see it happening? 

Can we control kids?  

No. We can only control ourselves.

When we try to control kids by saying 

“stop bullying” do they stop?

No. In fact, it probably makes them want to

do it more.

Orders and demands send most strong willed kids into fight or flight defensive mode enacted by the brain stem.  

Love and Logic calls orders & demands like “stop bullying” fighting words because they start unwinnable battles.

2. More Effective Ways - Declare Vision

The best that you or I can do is to focus on what we can control - US, not bullying!

Declare positive statements about the school continuously.

“We don’t value bullying at _________ School.”

“We believe in peace at ____________ School.”

“Bullying isn’t cool.”

Why not spend more time in prevention than in detention?

3. Traditional Ideas - Punishing the Bully

The least effective way of preventing

bullying is punishing a bully. 

When we use anger, frustration and

punishment to attempt to change a

bully’s behavior, we are actually just

doing what they do, bullying.

Trying to force bullies to change is another form of bullying.

Controlling others with fear based methods is bullying.

Old school strategies with bullies simply model bullying.

Kids watch adults and do what they do.

And the cycle continues...

3. More Effective Ways - Actions More Than Words

Giving bullies the opportunity to change or face the consequences of their poor decisions is more effective.  When we talk about a child’s bullying to them, we are calm and resist the urge to threaten, get angry, lecture or punish.

Remember, most bullies are just hurt kids who used to be bullied and have made some bad decisions about how to handle it - revenge.

Instead, we use empathy first and then a consequence.

The bully has a hard time blaming the adult who empathizes with their situation.

That strong adult then delivers a consequence that makes sense to the kid.

Many times it involves restitution, like doing something nice for the person you have hurt.

4. Traditional Ideas - “There's no Bullying Here”

Many schools are lulled into believing that

there is no bullying at their school.

Whether you are a small rural school,

charter school, private school, religious

school, or a public school in an affluent

neighborhood, you will have bullying at

your school.  Maybe not a lot of physical bullying, but bullying exists in every social group, child or adult.

You might hope that it doesn't happen, but all the hope in the world cannot change basic human nature.

Sadly, bullying is here to stay, it is a part of human nature.

4. More Effective Ways - Practice a Proactive Posture

Bullying is going to happen, so why not take a preventive stance setting and enforcing limits and showing each person how to handle their role with skills. 

By building up the victims with skills and bystanders with strategies to report bullying, you can shift peer pressure of the school to favor kindness and standing up for others.

Not addressing bullying is just an invitation for it to take a greater foothold.

How can we help?  Student Solutions Adult Solutions

How Important is Using Questions in the Classroom and Home?

by Steve Osterhage July 27, 2014

See, I got you already!

Your brain probably just answered the question I just posed to you and thought, “Hmm, I don’t know” or “Probably very important” or “Eh, no big deal” depending on what you thought was your answer to the question.

I could have made the title,

The Importance of Using Questions in the Classroom and Home.    <<crickets chirping>>

Then it would have been just a title. 

But, instead, I wanted to hook you

in and get you thinking. 

Do I have the power to do that? 

Me, no.

Questions? YES!

The Brain Always Seeks Closure

I can prove it to you.

You just worked out, you are thirsty, you grab an ice cold beverage, you down about half of what you wanted and suddenly the phone rings. You get caught up in the conversation for a few minutes and move to the other room.  The call is completing, but you notice the bed is unmade in the new room and you start to make it up.  How long is it before you get that little picture in your mind of that half empty glass?  (See, I did it again!)  Or, the voice in your head says, “Drink, drink, drink.”  Your brain did not have closure on the beverage because you got interrupted and didn’t finish it, so it tells you to go have closure.

Or another example would be those TV season finales that leave you hanging for 3 months.  Do you seem to need closure on the main character who has been shot?

So What?

Questions pose a closure problem for the brain.

It’s like they have to be answered in order for us to move on with life.  The part of the brain that answers questions is the frontal lobe or the thinking part

of the brain.  When the thinking

mode is on, the fighting part is off.

Statements do not stimulate

thinking.  They are just there,

hanging out.  Little pieces of data.

Commands, orders, demands

and threats all stimulate the brain

stem that send us into fight or flight defensive mode.

When we work with kids, or other people, we want to keep their brains in the thinking mode, not the fighting mode.

They are way more fun to deal with in thinking mode.

A Classroom Example

“Go back to your seat.”

Is it a reasonable request (if said nicely)?


Is it actually an order or demand?

Yes, also.

So what part of the brain does that


Brain stem, the fighting part.

Will every kid fight you on it?

No, but some do.

Does the fact that using orders and

demands doesn’t always go poorly lull us into thinking it’s effective?  Maybe so.

You could use a statement instead:

“Your seat is over there.”

But, they already know that, so it’s condescending.

What if you used a question?  (See, there I go again!)

“Where are you supposed to be right now?”

Now the kid’s frontal lobe is stimulated and is faced with a question - a closure problem - and in order to move on with life, they have to answer it in the thinking part of their brain.  You take the fight out of the words and kids are more compliant.  They spend more time in thinking mode and learning and less time in fighting mode when adults use questions instead of orders as much as possible.

How can we help? Educator Classes  Parent Classes

What are 5 Problems that STARS Bullying Solutions Address?

by Steve Osterhage July 27, 2014

Back to Basics

When you talk about bullying with your student body, you also are talking about character, cooperation and kindness.

Setting expectations at the beginning of the year paves the way for greater success for the entire year.  Bullying presents problems for every school, especially if you don’t talk about it.  Raising awareness is important, but even more important are solutions to the problems that bullying creates.  Here are 5 solutions to 5 problems, one for every role in bullying.

Victims Untrained to Respond

Victims of bullying typically are coached to fight back or plead by saying, “That hurts my feelings.”  The ones who

retaliate escalate conflicts and those who

disclose their fear paint a target on their

backs.  Instead, we like to train kids to

see the bully as a hurt kid and respond

in a healthy, neutral or humorous ways.

One example of many options:

Bully:  “You’re ugly.”

Victim: “Thanks for letting me know!” as he smiles and walks away.

Parents Overprotect & Accuse

Ever hear this?

“My kid is getting bullied at your school and you need to stop it!”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just tell

kids, “Be nice.” and they instantly were

nice forever more?  Instead, we show

parents how to train their kids to

respond to bullies by problem solving

and role playing.  The more we focus on

empowering our kids, the more likely they will be prepared

for their next encounter.  Mom can’t always be there...

Educators Reactive not Proactive

When we only react to individual bullying instances, we lose the opportunity to be prevention-oriented and it feels like we are always playing catch-up.

Instead, we like to show educators how

small changes that take very small

amounts of time can really change the

school climate and prevent bullying.

What’s the key?

Relationship!  Tough kids do things for adults that they have a good relationship with.  With some specific bonding and positive attention skills, teachers can reduce referrals.

Bullies Punished by Adult Bullies

“We do not hit in this school (or family) and you better not do it again or else!  Now you say you’re sorry!”

Have we not changed much since WWII?

Anger, frustration and punishment by

adults actually causes them to fit the

profile of bully.  Since kids do what

adults do...  Instead of fear-based

compliance, we treat hurt kids (bullies)

with dignity and provide them with opportunities to redeem themselves and take responsibility.  Empathy always precedes consequences that involve restitution.

Bystanders Too Afraid to Act

“I didn’t know what to do and I was afraid the bully would pick on me too.”

All too common in conflict situations is

that nobody knows how to respond

and/or they are too afraid.  Bullying

thrives in an environment of secrecy

and fear.  Instead of giving into fear,

we show kids that they can DO

SOMETHING!  The thing they choose to do matches their age, size and personality.  Kids can help victims, tell adults, or say something to break the spell of a bullying episode.

How can we help?  Student Solutions Adult Solutions


Changing The World Around Us


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