Posted tagged ‘bullying advice for parents’

She’s Not Actually A “Doctor” Doctor….

April 6, 2010

"I think I'd like a second opinion"

From an article posted on Suite 101:

“Bullying At School- Tips For Helping A Child Dealing With Bullies”

Okay… I’m on-board, maybe there’s something new or useful I can learn. The article establishes that bullying is a problem (we’re all agreed)  and it can be ‘vexing’ for parents (yea – got it).

The article then goes on to provide some specific strategies that a parent can use to help their kid.  (Getting to the good stuff now!) The ‘expert’ they cite is Dr. Michelle Borba,  described as a “child expert, educational consultant and author”. The lady is clearly well educated, and she’s been on TV, so you know she’s got some mojo, right?

Her tips are as follows:

  • Encouraging the child to stay with groups of friends as much as possible
  • Building the child’s self esteem
  • Explain to the child that fighting back is not a sensible option (aggression tends to feed more aggression from the bully)
  • Ensure the child understands it is not his fault

Now I’m thinking, “come on, you’re kidding, right?” So I do some research. Ms. Borba isn’t a doctor, she holds a “Ed.D” degree. I don’t know if she’s intentionally trying to mislead people by pumping up her credentials, or if she’s just really that full of herself, but I find it irritating and less than truthful.

Yes, technically a PhD is a doctorate degree.  To every PhD who introduces themselves as “doctor”‘…. let me clue you in.  It’s meaningless outside of your organization.  Everyone thinks you’re a pompous tool. When I answer the phone or make a dinner reservation or meet someone socially, I don’t refer to myself as “Sensei”.  (To my fellow martial arts brothers and sisters – when you step out of your academy, drop the “sensei”  bit. Seriously.  No one cares. And if you go around calling yourself “Master” or “Grand Master”, you need a reality check)

Let’s apply the light of logic and common sense to her suggestions and see how well they hold up.

*  “stay with friends” – a large component of bullying is social isolation and exclusion… so we can strike that one.
*  “build a child’s self-esteem” – contrary to pop psych cliches, self-esteem is not a magic bullet. Bullies themselves have high self-esteem. (strike 2)
*  “fighting back is not a sensible option” – passively taking a beating IS  a sensible option? Would she personally allow an attacker to batter her and just wait until they get bored and stop? Of course not.  So why would she advise a vulnerable child to do it? (strike 3)
* “its not his or her fault”.  It may not be that child’s fault, but it certainly IS their responsibility to handle it. Not the responsibility of a friend, or bystander, or teacher or lawmaker. And its a parent’s responsibility to ensure their son or daughter is equipped to cope with life as it happens.

To paraphrase Maxwell Smart – There’s a doctor who can instantly solve all your child’s bullying problems. Okay, would you believe there’s a Ph.D of education with some practical advice?  No? How about a Girl Scout selling cookies?


Bullies and Self-Esteem

March 22, 2010

There’s a widely held belief that all bullies are insecure cowards who use aggression to cover their anemic self-image. Recently, psychologists have questioned their assumptions about self-esteem and reviewed decades of studies. Their findings?  Feeling great about yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Baumeister, R., Smart, L., & Boden, J. (1996). Relations of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5-33.

For ages, pop psychologists have promoted the idea that developing your child’s self-esteem was a magic bullet that ensured mental health and future success.  And to be sure, it does have its up-side.  Kids with healthy self-esteem are more resistant to peer pressure, recover from failure and trauma faster, and are generally happier.  Note:  the operative word was “healthy” – not “high”.

Other benefits of healthy self-esteem include:

* Independence
* Responsibility
* Pride in accomplishments
* Openness  to challenges
* Willingness to help others
* Ability to  manage emotions

Beware the far end of that spectrum,though.  Loading a child up with undeserved praise, withholding appropriate criticism,  and avoiding difficult tasks that carry the possibility of failure in order to make a kid feel good are counter-productive strategies.  Feeding kids a diet of validation actually decreases their drive to work harder and improve themselves!

An inflated self-esteem is a key component of  narcissism and egotism. Those traits are decidedly unhealthy- for the person who exhibits them and for the people around them. While these kids think they’re smarter, better looking, more competent and more popular than their peers, they often alienate others with their their superior attitude. True confidence is achieved by demonstrating hard earned aptitude.  It is the effect, not the cause. (High self-esteem does not enhance performance).

High self-esteem is not an antidote to making destructive choices, either. Kids who believe they can do no wrong are actually more likely to steal, cheat and experiment with drugs than their counterparts.

Criminals are frequently brimming with self-esteem.  Their amplified sense of importance lets them feel justified in ripping-off or hurting other people.  And to get violent if they don’t get the respect they feel they deserve.

Not surprisingly, children who’ve been targeted for social cruelty  do not feel very good about themselves, and the longer they endure abuse, the worse they feel.  As a group, the kids who do the bullying feel just fine about themselves.