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8 Kidpower Skills We Can Use Right Away

Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director


 

Most harm caused by bullying is preventable! This article is from Bullying – What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe, our bullying solutions book used by many families, schools, and youth organizations to protect and empower their kids.

Unfortunately, bullying is a major problem in many schools and communities. Bullying prevention skills can protect kids from most bullying, increase their confidence, and help them to develop positive peer relationships. Here are some practices you can work on with the young people in your life now.

1. Walking with Awareness, Calm, Respect, and Confidence

People are less likely to be picked on if they walk and sit with awareness, calm, respect, and confidence. Projecting a positive, assertive attitude means keeping one’s head up, back straight, walking briskly, looking around, having a peaceful face and body, and moving away from people who might cause trouble.

Show your child the difference between being passive, aggressive, and assertive in body language, tone of voice and choice of words. Have your child walk across the floor, coaching her or him to be successful, by saying for example; “That’s great!” “Now take bigger steps”, “Look around you” “Straighten your back.” etc.

2. Leaving in a Powerful, Positive Way

The best self-defense tactic is called “target denial,” which means “don’t be there.” Act out a scenario where maybe your child is walking in the school corridor (or any other place where he or she might bullied). You can pretend to be a bully standing by the wall saying mean things. Ask your child what these mean things might be because what is considered insulting or upsetting is different for different people, times, and places.

Coach your child to veer around the bully in order to move out of reach. Remind your child to leave with awareness, calm and confidence, glancing back to see where the bully is. Let your child practicing saying something neutral in a normal tone of voice like “See you later!” or “Have a nice day!” while calmly and confidently moving away. Point out that stepping out of line or changing seats is often the safest choice.

3. Setting a Boundary

If a bully is following or threatening your child in a situation where she or he cannot just leave, your child needs to be able to set a clear boundary.

Pretend to poke your child in the back (do this very gently; the idea is not to be hurtful). Coach your child to turn, stand up tall, put his or her hands up in front of the body like a fence, palms out and open, and say “Stop!”.

Coach your child to have a calm but clear voice and polite firm words- not whiney and not aggressive. Show how to do it and praise your child for trying -even though she or he does not get it right to begin with. Realize that this might be very hard and triggering for your child (and maybe for you too).

Children need support to learn these skills. The idea is that your child takes charge of his or her space by moving away and, if need be, setting boundaries as soon as a problem is about to start – so that your child doesn’t wait until the bullying is already happening.

4. Using Your Voice

If your child does get into a situation where somebody is trying to push or hit or knuckle her or his head, you could practice by holding your child gently and acting as if you are going to do the action gently. Coach your child to pull away and yell NO! really loudly. Coach him or her to say “STOP! I don’t like that!” Coach your child to look the bully in the eyes and speak in a firm voice with both hands up and in front like a fence. Teach your child to leave and go to an adult for help.

5. Protecting Your Feelings From Name-Calling

Schools, youth groups, and families should create harassment-free zones just as workplaces should. However, you can teach children how to protect themselves from insults. Tell your child that saying something mean back makes the problem bigger, not better.

One way to take the power out of hurting words by is saying them out loud and imagining throwing them away. Doing this physically and out loud at home will help a child to do this in his or her imagination at school.

Help your child practice throwing the mean things that other people are saying into a trash can. Have your child then say something positive out loud to himself or herself to take in. For example, if someone says, “I don’t like you, ” you can throw those words away and say, “I like myself.” If someone says, “You are stupid” you can throw those words away and say, “I’m smart.” If someone says, “I don’t want to play with you” then you can throw those words away and say, “I will find another friend.”

6. Speaking Up for Inclusion

Being left out is a major form of bullying. Exclusion should be clearly against the rules at school. A child can practice persisting in asking to join a game.

Pretend to be a bully who wants to exclude.

Have your child walk up and say, “I want to play.” Coach your child to sound and look positive and friendly, not whiny or aggressive.

Ask your child the reasons that kids give for excluding him or her. Use those reasons so your child can practice persisting. For example, if the reason is, “You’re not good enough,” your child can practice saying “I’ll get better if I practice!” If the reason is, “There are too many already,” your child might practice saying, “There’s always room for one more.” If the reason is, “You cheated last time,” your child might practice saying, “I did not understand the rules. Let’s make sure we agree on the rules this time.”

7. Being Persistent in Getting Help

Children who are being bullied need to be able to tell teachers, parents, and other adults in charge what is happening in the moment clearly and calmly and persistently even if these adults are very distracted or rude – and even if asking for help has not worked before. Learning how to have polite firm words, body language and tone of voice even under pressure and to not give up when asking for help is a life-long skill.

We have found that practice is helpful for both children and adults in learning how to persist and get help when you need it. Here is one you can do with your child.

Pretend to be a teacher or someone else who your child might expect help and support from. Tell your child who you are pretending to be and where you might be at school. Have your child start saying in a clear calm voice, “Excuse me I have a safety problem.”

You pretend to be busy and just ignore your child! Coach him or her to keep going and say: “Excuse me, I really need your help.”

Act irritated and impatient and say, “Yes. what is it now?” and keep being busy.

Coach your child to say something specific like, “The girls over there are calling me names and not letting me play with them. I have told them I don’t like being called names and that I want to play but they won’t listen. ” or “Those boys keep coming up and pushing me. I have tried to stay away from them but they keep coming up to me and won’t leave me alone.” At school, teachers want children to try to solve their problems first. However, adult intervention is needed if this does not work.

You say: “That’s nice!” as if you heard but did not actually listen. This is very common for busy adults.

Coach your child to touch your arm and keep going “Please, to listen to me this is important”. Now you get irritated and say “Can’t you see I’m busy!?”

Tell your child that sometimes adults get angry and don’t understand but not to give up in asking for help and to say the specific problem again: “I do not feel safe here because (state specific problem again) ______________.”

You minimize and say: “What’s the big deal? Just stay away from them.”

Coach your child to persistent and say again, “Having this happen is making me feel bad about going to school. Please, I really need you to listen.”

Now change your demeanor so that your child can see you are listening and understanding and say “Oh! I am sorry I yelled at you and I am glad you are telling me. Tell me more and we will figure out what to do.”

Remind your child that, if the adult still does not listen, it is not his or her fault, but to keep asking until someone does something to fix the problem. Tell your child to please always tell you whenever she or he has a problem with anyone anywhere anytime. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of adults to create safe environments for the children in their lives and to be good role-models for our children by acting as their advocates in powerful respectful ways.

8. Using Physical Self-Defense as a Last Resort

Children need to know when they have the right to hurt someone to stop that person from hurting them. At Kidpower, we teach that fighting is a last resort – when you are about to be harmed and you cannot leave or get help.

However, bullying problems are often not as clear-cut as other personal safety issues. Families have different rules about where they draw the line. Schools will often punish a child who fights back unless parents warn the school in writing ahead of time that, since the school has not protected their children, they will back their children up if they have to fight.

Learning physical self defense helps most children become more confident, even if they never have to use these skills in a real-life situation. Just being more confident helps children to avoid being chosen as a victim most of the time. There are different self defense techniques for bullying than for more dangerous situations — let your child practice a self defense move like kicking someone in the shins, pinching someone’s leg or upper arm, or hitting someone in the chest. You can practice in the air or by holding a sofa cushion. Consider sending your child to a class like Kidpower.

– About the Author

Kidpower Founder Irene van der Zande has been featured as a child safety expert by USA Today, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young PeopleBullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safeand the Kidpower Safety Comics series. Kidpower is a non-profit organization established in 1989 that has protected over two million people of all ages and abilities from bullying, abuse, kidnapping, and other violence locally and around the world. Services include in-person workshops in California and other locations, an extensive free on-line Library, affordable publications, and consulting. Please contact safety@kidpower.org for more information.

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eating xxxx

Don’t underestimate the importance of good manners. Your children will grow up to be kinder and more considerate of others if you teach them how to be that way when they’re young. You can do that by setting a good example. You must always say “please” and “thank you” to your kids. Even when you are saying, “Please get your bicycle off my foot,” or “Thank you for the dead slug.”

And don’t forget good table manners. Everyone tends to be a little too relaxed at the dinner table when it comes to proper behavior. Maybe you think it’s funny when Daddy balances a spoon on the end of his nose or one of the kids makes a hat out of his napkin and wears it on his head all during dinner. If you don’t mind this kind of monkeying around, even when you’re dining out, ignore this advice. But, if you don’t think it’s appropriate to do this kind of stuff in public, then teach your kids what you think is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable, and then make sure that you’re consistent about the rules.

Kids have a hard enough time remembering household rules. They have an even harder time remembering rules for dinner at home and rules for dinner out, when those sets of rules aren’t the same. Some general table manners include no gross jokes, no throwing food, no leaning back while sitting in the chairs, no talking with food in your mouth (including no “see food” jokes) — and definitely no loud belching or passing wind.

Yes, in some cultures belching after a meal is acceptable and even encouraged. However, don’t let someone’s excuse about practicing multiculturalism sway you. If belching isn’t allowed in your family’s culture, don’t allow it at the table. And if you do happen to burp (and who doesn’t?), say, “Excuse me.” If you laugh about burping, you’ve created a family precedent, and your kids will belch and laugh about it the first time they have dinner at a friend’s house.

Good manners that you can teach your children include not interrupting people while they talk and not shoving their way in front of others to always be first, two things that kids are infamous for doing.

Other manners you can teach your children include how to

  • Write thank-you notes
  • Make get-well cards for sick relatives
  • Say please and thank you
  • Acknowledge when someone is talking
  • Say good-bye to someone who is leaving
  • Share cookies with a friend
  • Always give their parents the green M&Ms

A growing problem in schools is the lack of good manners from children. Children don’t treat teachers, staff, or classmates with respect. So schools now are teaching good manners and respect in addition to conflict management. And yet, good manners still begin at home and should be taught by parents.

Here are some guidelines that you can use at home:

  • Be kind to others. Telling kids, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” doesn’t really mean anything to them. Instead, stress the importance of treating others the same way they’d like to be treated, especially when you see them doing something that you know they themselves don’t like. For example, if your son hates to be interrupted and yet he interrupts people, then remind him, “Jonah, you really don’t like it when people interrupt you, so please don’t do that to Jeremiah.”
  • Understand their actions. Help your children understand the harm they can cause by doing or saying thoughtless and unkind things. Ask them, “How would you feel if someone pointed at you, and started to laugh?” In the beginning, you may simply be doing damage control, but eventually you’ll be helping them to avoid harmful words or actions.
  • Show them the way. Children do whatever they have to do to express themselves. Sometimes that comes off looking and sounding pretty bad. Playing a role reversal game with your child can help show them how to handle situations. Let them ask the question or behave a certain way, and you respond by showing them how their behavior should appear.
  • Be a good role model. “Do as I say, but not as I do” is a joke. Your kids probably want to respond with, “Yeah, like you’d catch me playing bridge with a bunch of 50-year-old women!” When you want your child to show good manners and respect, you must also practice good manners and respect. Say please and thank you, admit your mistakes, apologize, and treat people, in general, with kindness and respect. The reward of this behavior is that your children will grow up having many friends and a family that loves being around her.
  • Share. Share with your children so they understand the importance of sharing with others. Compliment them when you see them sharing with others.
  • Keep kids healthy. Children tend to behave badly when they’re tired or hungry. Kids need sleep and nutritious foods to survive. It’s that simple.
  • Practice family politeness. Everyone in the family must practice “please” and “thank-you” policy in which, for example, no request is considered unless the person asking says “please.” When one of your children forgets, just give him or her a look that says, “I’m waiting.” They soon catch on. Use the same approach for saying “thank you.”
  • Thank-you notes. Teach your children the importance of thanking people for gifts. Show them how to write notes and make sure that they are sent promptly after receiving gifts.
  • Praise good behavior. Praise is a wonderful teacher. Tell your children how proud you are when you notice them being polite and following the “please” and “thank-you” guidelines that you’ve set.

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IT’S dinnertime, and 6-year-old Joaquin Hurtado is staying in his seat. He hasn’t stood up, run around the table or wrestled with his little brother. Good thing. It wouldn’t take much unruly behavior to shatter the dishware or the mood in this upscale restaurant.

“This is a place where you come to eat,” the boy says softly, explaining nice manners. “It’s not a place to play.”

The place is Chenery Park, a restaurant with low lights, cloth napkins, $24 grilled salmon and “family night” every Tuesday. Children are welcome, with a catch: They are expected to behave — and to watch their manners, or learn them. Think upscale dining with training wheels.

Chenery Park has many allies in the fight to teach manners to a new generation of children. Around the country, there are classes taught by self-appointed etiquette counselors — Emily Posts for a new age — delivering a more decentralized and less formal approach to teaching manners than in years past. A few restaurants, like Chenery Park, and high-end hotels set aside space and time for families.

These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners. Dinnertime has become a free-for-all in many households, with packed family schedules, the television on in the background and a modern-day belief of many parents that they should simply let children be children.

Some of these manners-minders acknowledge that they can sound like curmudgeons, just another generation of older folks mourning the lost habits of more refined times. But they also say that parents welcome their efforts as a way of outsourcing the hard work of teaching youngsters to follow rules.

During a recent family night at Chenery Park, Joseph Kowal, an owner, roamed among the regulars and newcomers, saying hello and occasionally playing parental ally. He’s got a twinkle in his eye but a steely commitment to having children — even if they’re not etiquette role models — at least sit politely and not scream or throw food.

“Some parents will say, ‘Uncle Joe’s going to come up here, and he’s going to be cross with you,’ ” Mr. Kowal said. “They use that to their advantage.” He recalled one child who wouldn’t settle down, and he threatened to tape the child’s mouth. The child told him to go ahead and try.

“I went to my office, got some blue painter’s tape, came back and ripped a piece off,” he said. The kid piped down. “The parents looked at me like, ‘We’re going to try that at home.’ ”

All of which raises some intriguing questions: Is it Joe who brings out the best in his young patrons? Or something else? And what are the best strategies for training children to be polite, to pay attention to the world around them, whether they are in dim lighting with fragile dishware or at home?

ETIQUETTE teachers, other parents and people who spend time thinking about how and why we mind our manners have some interesting ideas about new strategies.

“These days, you have to teach kids about return on investment,” said Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla., which holds classes on etiquette for adults and children. When it comes to children, she said, long gone are the days when you could tell them that they have to behave a certain way “just because.”

So, even as she imparts lessons about using forks and the importance of looking the waiter in the eye, she does so by framing the lessons in a constructively selfish way for the children. She often exhorts her young students: be polite to your mother because she’ll be happier, and if she’s happier, you’re happier.

On the first day of her five one-hour sessions, which cost $285, she tells the children to go home and do one unexpectedly kind thing so that they can see how wide-eyed and impressed their parents will be. “It’s almost manipulation at its finest,” she said.

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