By Melissa Ford
If you attended The Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education’s Eighth Annual Symposium, “We Can Work It Out,” you probably acquired loads of new approaches and strategies to ease your job of parenting. I know I did, but I was surprised.
Initially, I signed up for the symposium as a way to meet other professionals, support a worthwhile event and frankly, as a parent coach, I’m always hungry for new ideas that empower parents. By the end of the morning workshop, my toolbox was chock-full of practical ideas to support my own parenting efforts and I still had the keynote and afternoon workshop to attend.
For my morning workshop, I selected “STAND Up Against Bullying: An Empowerment Approach.” As I entered the room, I was excited to see three presenters, Susan Mura, Kila Bell-Bey and Lori Janu-Chossek, all social workers in Oak Park elementary schools. These three knowledgable women discussed the various programs implemented in District #97 to educate kids on how to stop bullying and start learning and growing a new culture of inclusion in their schools. They also offered strategies to help kids handle bullies.
They explained that “ignoring” the bully almost never works. Why? Because the act of ignoring is passive and victims of bullying, that employ this technique, still experience low self-esteem. They recommended another approach: Support the victim to confront the bully. Have the child develop a script as to what s/he wants to say to the bully, practice these remarks and then, stand up to the bully. Lo and behold, I didn’t have to wait for a parent coaching session to recommend this empowering approach; the opportunity came sooner than I expected.
During a break, I received a phone call from my daughter, who is away at college, wanting to discuss a troubled relationship with a friend. As my daughter’s story unfolded, she explained she felt bad, stuck and a little hopeless because her friend was verbally attacking her. I asked her a couple of questions about what had she done to handle the situation and she replied, “Nothing at this point. I’m just trying to avoid a fight.”
I listened a little longer and inquired, “What do you think about getting clear about what you want to say to your friend, practicing your comments and then talking to her in private?” There was a pause, and my daughter thoughtfully responded, “I can do that. Let me me think about what I want to say and then I’ll talk to her. It’s not going to get any better if I just try to ignore her!”
As our conversation concluded, my daughter’s warm words filled my heart, “Thank you, Mom. I feel a lot better just making a plan to do something. I love you.” Ahh, synchronicity - tools I had acquired minutes before had empowered my daughter miles away.
Did you attend the symposium? Any great ideas you’d like to pass on to other readers? Or have you ever had to help your child deal with bullies? Tips, strategies or advice that works?