bully Jen and John Speak

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Survival Instincts

By John

I grew up in some pretty tough neighborhoods in New York City. By the time I graduated Elementary school I had dodged a bank robber, gotten away from muggers, lived through a riot during a blackout, and learned how to avoid drug dealers.

When I was ready to start a family, I wanted my kids to have the perfect suburban life. And they do. From time to time, like a kid again, I share in their wonderful, safe, carefree childhood that I didn’t have. It’s a wonderful feeling to laugh, be silly and live innocently in their world.

But now, as my oldest son is about to graduate from elementary school, I wonder what kind of survival instincts he possesses. Is he ready for middle school? Still to this day, I have my spider sense to alert me to danger. I’m really good at avoiding all kinds of trouble. I know how to walk down the street and not look like an easy target, and know when and how to puff up my chest when I’m confronted by a bully. My kids are peacemakers, something that the schools have taught them and a theme that’s reinforced at home. I don’t think my kids have the spider sense to warn them of danger.

So I decided to help my kids develop some survival skills. Yet as I began to develop my plan, I couldn’t stop smiling as I visualized my kids having fun and enjoying life. I realized that my kids have many friends, possess great social skills, have good manners, are very happy and love the world. They have their own set of survival skills.

• They may not know how to get away from muggers, but they know how to make friends and respect others.

• They may not know how to dodge a bank robber, but they know how to deal with a school bully and be involved in school.

• They may not know how to puff up their chest when confronted by a bully, but they know how to do well in their classes and help with the food bank.

• They may not have a spider sense to warn them of danger, but they’re kind, caring, helpful, and as one teacher described my oldest, he’s really comfortable in his own skin.

Yes, I learned how to survive in the big bad city, but my kids are developing instincts beyond fear that give them a future to engage in a world of hope, peace and justice. And even though usually I still have a plan, its much water-downed.

What kind of survival instincts do your kids possess? And what kind of survival skills are you teaching your kids? Please share your tips and thoughts. As a parent you know you’re always looking for a better way to help your family.

Helping Our Kids Handle Bullies

Recently, one of my children experienced an episode of bullying. It was minor and my child handled it, but we felt it was important for the teacher to know (she wasn’t present at the time) so that no one got hurt if it happened again. So we sent in a note.

What surprised me was how seriously the school took it. Both children were called down to the principal (separately) to discuss the incident, the teacher called us, and the school actually had to prepare a report. Apparently there is a lot of legislation in our state now related to bullying, and how schools are expected to handle it.

And I have to say I’m glad to see it. As a child, I dealt with a lot of bullying. I didn’t have the world’s best social skills, and as a result, there were times I was tormented by the other kids. My mother would try to get the school to do something, but at the end of the day it continued. I finally just sucked it up, because there wasn’t a lot that could be done.

And yet my kids are growing up in a different world. At Back to School Night, I saw posters in every classroom that talked about bullying, what it is, and the rules against it. I know they talk about it in their classes as a group, to make sure no one experiences it, and if they do, what they should do about it. Kids in our school district fully understand what a bully is, and they know they have protection. What confidence this can give our kids!

We’ve also taught our kids at home how to defend themselves. They know that the first thing they should do is to get out of the situation if they can, handle it with their words, and tell a teacher. But if someone is physically doing something to them, they know how to protect themselves. We practice at home.

And we also talk about why the bully might be acting that way. Perhaps something is unhappy at home. Perhaps they don’t know how to make friends except to be physical. We encourage our kids to extend a hand of friendship when it’s possible. It might just change the bully.

Can we fully protect them forever from others who may be mean to them? Of course not. But we can make them aware of the behaviors that constitute bullying, so they know it when they see it. They’ll know what to do to get themselves out of the situation, because they’re being taught about it. And my kids also know how to step up and help other kids who may find themselves in bullying situations. We’ve taught them this at home, and they’re learning it in school.

It makes the playground a happier place for all kids.

How does your school handle bullying? What do you do to teach your kids about bullying at home? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.