Seeing the best in life's challenges

School Discipline Gone Wrong: Bullying or Not?

Here’s another real life example of how our schools approach our kids.  This is from a different local school.  If you read the article at the bottom, you will see this is just an example of something that happens a lot.  Unless you have experienced this, you are probably unaware that it happens.  You probably find it hard to believe that it really does, and I don’t blame you.  I do believe it is unintentional, or at the very least, not thought through.

When it’s your child who is involved (or potentially involved) in these situations, most of the time you just want to avoid involvement if possible, or at least minimize it.  Parents might tell their good friends (which is how I know about this one), but mostly we don’t want to be vocal about it, because then our kids get targeted, or we get labeled “a problem” or our dirty laundry gets aired for all to see.

But unless SOMEBODY gets us talking about it, these problems will continue and fester.

One of the saddest aspects of this, to me, is that the kids get used to this, they accept it as “just the way it is.”

So my question is, Is this really how we want our kids to be treated at school?

I originally posted this story here.

A Bullying Story from Real Life

on February 22, 2013

I want to share a story I heard yesterday, about a situation where a girl was bullied in a high school.  I know from experience that this is not an unusual situation, but it might surprise you.

Let me set the stage.  This situation occurs at a small, independent (read “parents are paying a good chunk of money for their kids to go here”) school in an affluent suburb.

OK, so here it is:  a girl finds sticky notes in her locker that call her bad names.

So, the usual suspects (consisting of about a half dozen boys) are rounded up and questioned about this.  Their parents are called and told about the situation.

One boy gets home and his father asks about what happened.  The boy says he knows absolutely nothing about it.  This father takes this kind of thing very seriously, and he tells the principal at the school this.   The father asks some questions to get a better sense of what is going on.

Father:  My son says he knows nothing about this.  Can you show me the sticky notes?  I can tell right away if it is his handwriting.

School:  Oh, we haven’t seen the sticky notes.

Father:  You haven’t?  Well, what did the girl say to make you think my son had something to do with this?

School:  Oh, we haven’t talked to her, we didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was.

Father:  Then how do you know about what happened?

School:  Another girl told us about it.

Based on no solid information, this group of boys has been singled out and accused of bullying a girl.  They were not accused by the “victim” of the bullying, and probably not even accused by the tattle-tale girl.  The administration concluded that these boys are up to no good and assumed it must be one of them.

But here’s the kicker:

It turns out that the “victim” is the one who put the sticky notes in her locker – she was unhappy at the school and wanted her parents to take her out.

There is a very real problem here.

It seems that we unconsciously label kids as either “victim”-types or “bully”-types.  The vulnerable, insecure, unable-to-speak-up types are automatically victims, unable to speak about their troubles, unable to stick up for themselves.  We treat them with kid-gloves.  There is a lot of fear and angst and drama surrounding our view of these kids.

My question is: are we serving these kids’ best interests by treating them like this?  I think they deserve our support – we need to help them gain self-confidence, feel good about themselves, maybe get them some counseling.  Learning how to speak up for themselves and be self-advocates would be of huge benefit to them.

On the other side, we view the kids who are reasonably confident, who are not afraid to speak up, who are louder, as automatically being bullies.  We are way overly suspicious, even when there is absolutely no evidence or reason to believe they have done anything wrong.  A kid who speaks up or who (God forbid) doesn’t cower with fear at confrontation or at an authority figure, is automatically the bad kid, the one to be feared.

This culture rewards victim behavior and punishes confidence.

We are discouraging kids from being confident.

I happen to know these boys personally, and they are not bad or mean, or bored enough to plan out this kind of scheme.  Sure, teenage boys do some dumb stuff without thinking it through, but that is not the same thing as intentionally aggressive, mean behavior.

Yes, there are real bullies in Real Life. 

I do not mean to diminish that fact. 

But our definition of bullies seems to have gotten way out of whack.

And I find it SO interesting that these incidents are not even reported by the supposed victim of the crime.  We have fostered the behavior of the tattle-tale who likes to stir up drama.  Anyone else have a teenage girl? – then you know how this works.  Rewarding drama-provoking behavior can lead to no good.

If we become so afraid of and obsessed with bullying and assume it’s everywhere, we will find it everywhere even when it doesn’t exist.  Is this really the atmosphere we want for our kids?

Izzy Kalman wrote a great article on just this kind of thing, A New Kind of Bullying:  Bearing False Witness.

Because I know you might not click on that link to read the article, I am copying it below :) :

A New Kind of Bullying: Bearing False Witness

by Izzy Kalman (November 2005)

Are you concerned about kids being bullies? Do you wish these evil children would stop their immoral behavior?

Parents, along with just about everyone else, unanimously favor anti-bullying policies. But how would these parents feel – especially those who believe in the Bible – if they discovered that their schools’ anti-bullying policies are leading children to widespread violation of one of the Ten Commandments – one that is no less serious than not stealing nor committing adultery?

A New Kind of Bullying

The kinds of bullying we commonly hear about are insults, threats, shoves in the hallway, rumors, exclusion from cliques. However, there is another kind of bullying that is far more pernicious and is becoming increasingly common. In the following stories from my casework the names have been changed, but the deeds remain real.

Ten-year-old Billy enters the school bathroom and sees a classmate, Jason, calling his friend Vinny “gay.” Vinny laughs and playfully punches Jason in the arm. Neither Vinny nor Jason is angry, and they are laughing as they leave. Billy informs his teacher that Jason and Vinny had a fight in the bathroom. Vinny’s mom gets a call from the teacher informing her that he is getting detention and risks being sent to a special school for delinquent students if he engages in such violence again. (This was a second incident for Vinny; a few weeks earlier, after a kid took his book, Vinny poked him with the eraser end of his pencil. The current incident was a first-timer for Jason, so he wasn’t being suspended.)

Brandon, a gentle, socially naïve seventh grader, has long been picked on by a group of tough kids. Theresa, an eighth grader who hangs out with them, decides to be clever and tells the school principal that Brandon made a sexual remark to her. A policeman shows up that evening at Brandon’s house and arrests him for sexual harassment.

Roland, a black fifth grader in a predominantly white school, tells school staff that Scott called him the “n” word. Scott gets detention though he didn’t say any such a thing. This is the third time Roland has pulled off this trick on Scott.

These are not isolated cases. Do your own investigation and you’ll find they happen frequently in schools that encourage students to report incidents of bullying.

What does this have to do with the Ten Commandments?

Most people, including secularists, accept that the Ten Commandments, particularly the last six, are basic principles for living a moral and civilized life. One of those Commandments, however, is different from all the others because it relates to behavior in a specific place: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” This relates to lying in a court of law. We’re not commanded “Thou shalt not steal in the marketplace,” or, “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife in the Temple.” Why have a Commandment specifically about lying on the witness stand?

This Commandment is widely misunderstood. Most commentators believe forbids all lying, which is why so many adults treat their children like major criminals when they don’t tell the truth. However, it would have been very simple for the Bible to say, “Thou shalt not lie.” But the Bible didn’t do that because lying is not always the wrong thing to do. Sometimes a “white lie” like, “No, you look fine in that dress,” or “Hey, it happens to the best of us!” is the proper thing to say. And sometimes it is definitely immoral to tell the truth. For instance, a hate-filled person asks you the location of a person he is seeking to kill. Telling him the truth would make you an accomplice to murder.

Courts: The Foundation of Civilization

The reason for the difficulty understanding this Commandment is that we don’t realize that courts of law are the foundation of civilization. Having been born into civilization, we all take the legal system for granted. We can’t fathom why a special Commandment would be required for lying in court. However, from the beginning of time until the advent of modern civilization, we lived tribally in nature, where “might makes right.” We handled our problems with each other ourselves, meting out justice much like a Mafia family. But with the crowding and complexity of civilization, we can no longer take justice into our own hands. If we were to continue resolving our disputes by “might makes right,” there would be rampant violence and pandemonium. So we appoint courts with (hopefully) wise and principled judges to determine if a crime has been committed and what the punishment should be. Without a legal justice system, therefore, civilization literally could not exist.

Using the Courts to Bully

While Civilization establishes courts to replace personal vengeance, it becomes possible for citizens to use the courts as a weapon of violence. All you need to do is testify to the court that someone committed a crime, and the court will make that person suffer. Why risk hurting someone with your own fists when you can get the legal system to do it for you?

A legal justice system can function only if it’s based on witnesses telling the truth. Since it’s so easy to abuse the legal justice system, lying under oath must be deemed an unpardonable crime. The Commandment against bearing false witness, therefore, is a pillar of civilization.

Punishing the Liars

What then, are we to do to a witness who lies under oath to get someone else punished?

The Talmud, a collection of ancient Jewish law that interprets the Bible, provides the perfect solution: We do to the false witness what he planned to get the court to do to his victim. For instance, if the false witness plotted to have the defendant receive lashes, the false witness is to receive lashes.

Punishing false testimony in this way makes witnesses reluctant to lie. And since the punishment perfectly fits the crime, it makes the liar understand the gravity of his evil intentions.

How schools encourage kids to give false testimony

Now that anti-bullying policies are requiring schools to function as courts of law, investigating and punishing all acts of bullying between students, kids have discovered how easy it is to manipulate the system to get other students in trouble. And the adults eagerly invite this behavior! We instruct our students that they must tell when they’re bullied or witness bullying. Some schools even punish kids for not telling!

More and more schools are adopting an anonymity policy allowing students to report bullying without identifying themselves. This enables kids to get others in trouble at absolutely no danger to themselves. Just put a note in the “bully box” and watch the adults torment other students and their families! This is much more fun than punching kids or threatening to beat them up after school, and carries none of the risk.

Of course schools don’t instruct kids to lie about bullying, but what do they do to discourage it? Do they say, “You must tell on bullies. But if you lie, you will be punished as badly as you wanted us to punish the bully.”? Of course they don’t! Who would dare to report bullying under such circumstances?

No, schools are not instructing kids to lie. But when you reward a crime while doing nothing to punish it, you are in effect encouraging it. And you become morally responsible for that crime. As an old Jewish saying goes, “The hole [in the wall] – not the mouse – is the thief.”

To Teach Children to Act Morally, We Have to Act Morally

If we want our kids to be moral, then we have to start with ourselves. Recognize what our ancestors understood thousands of years ago, that bearing false witness is the worst kind of bullying. It’s time to get rid of the slogan, “Telling is not tattling,” and teach kids the gravity of trying to get others in trouble. If you have a problem with someone, talk to them directly; don’t involve the authorities unless it is absolutely necessary.

1 Comment »

How to Diffuse Hate and Anger: Can it really be THAT simple??

There is so much hate and anger in the world.  Hate and anger result in a lot of pain.  But we think we are powerless to stop the cycle.

When we encounter bad situations, mean people, things that shouldn’t have happened, things that don’t make sense, we feel sad.  But what do we do with that sadness?  So many of us automatically get angry or want revenge.  We want to fight it to make sure it never happens again, or never happens to anyone else.

When someone says to respond with love, that can seem really naive.  Doesn’t everyone know you have to fight the good fight??

So I challenge you to watch this really simple video.  Watch how these kids respond.  This is basic human nature, and it’s really simple to get the result you want.  The question to ask yourself is, which response do you really want?  Do you really want to diffuse the negativity, or are you subconsciously enjoying the drama of the fight?

Not convinced?  Check out this one:



Responding to Criticism: This is How It’s Done

BULLY ALERT!!!  There are a couple of situations in the news recently that are examples of how hurtful criticism can be. We call this kind of behavior Bullying and it’s easy to just label it wrong and get angry and want to punish the bullies to stop it from happening again.  But the focus on punishment isn’t working in the quest to stop bullying.  Here’s an article about why.

Following are two situations where “fighting back” was handled in a different way.

The first situation involves Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman.  As the article says, the situation  “started with a sneaky and ill-advised online potshot, but it ended with an apology and a positively heartwarming lesson in tolerance and kindness.”  The story is here and I’ve copied the article from HuffPost below.

Over the weekend, a Redditor with the username “european_douchebag” posted a photo of a college student named Balpreet Kaur to Reddit. Kaur, an Ohio State student and observant Sikh, does not trim her facial hair in accordance with her religion’s beliefs.

Kaur discovered her newfound fame, when a friend showed her the picture. Despite having her privacy violated and her picture posted to the supposedly humorous r/funny subreddit for the world to discuss, the young woman’s response was dignified, graceful and generous.

“When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away,” Kaur wrote. “However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.”

The Internet, too, rallied in Kaur’s defense, with Redditors like “MisterMT” adding their own messages of support. “This is overall a great story – and Balpreet is about to become a global icon. Even better, she is someone who genuinely deserves her recognition. Wonderful stuff.”

Many took note of Kaur’s true inner beauty, while others hailed her as a role model.

“I had tears in my eyes, reading this post,” wrote “singhza”. “Balpreet you are an inspiration to everyone and esp the Sikh youth who think they are a misfit in the society if they conform to our religious symbols.”

What happened next, however, was in many ways more surprising: european_douchebag himself apologized.

In a response entitled “I posted the picture of a Sikh woman on here and I’d like to apologize” that popped up on Reddit yesterday, the man behind the furor issued a complete mea culpa:

I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.

Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am

Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.

Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.

Sometimes humanity surprises us for the better. This is simply one of those times.

The second situation involves Jennifer Livingston, a TV news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin who responded to a viewer’s outrageous attack on her appearance on Tuesday morning.  The article (again on HuffPost) can be found here.

Livingston recently received an email from a male viewer criticizing her weight. Her husband and fellow news anchor Mike Thompson posted the text to the Facebook page for “WKBT News 8 This Morning.”

“I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years,” wrote the viewer, who said Livingston was not a “suitable example” for young girls. “I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Livingston addressed her bully on-air Tuesday, prefacing her message by saying that she has received words of support from “hundreds” of people and that the response has been “truly inspiring.”

“The truth is, I am overweight,” she said. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me… so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.”

Livingston continued, “That man’s words mean nothing to me, but really angers me about this is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”

She said that bullying scared her as the mother of three daughters. “If you are at home and you are talking about the fat newslady, guess what?” she said. “Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”

Livingston thanked the viewers, friends and colleagues who have stood up for her, and ended with these words:

“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

The video of Livingston’s response is here also.

We would all agree that this kind of criticism, this kind of bullying is “bad.”  But we are each able to choose our reaction to it.  We can focus on the condemnation, but that just escalates the negativity and empowers the critic, placing the bully at the center of attention.  We can react as a victim, but then the bully wins, gets a satisfying reaction, and is empowered to create this kind of drama over again.  We can hide and hope the bully doesn’t notice us, but what kind of a life is that?

OR, we can be secure in who we are and refuse to be defined by the criticism of the bully.  We can understand the bully or the critic for who they are, someone who is insecure and who only feels powerful when they can manipulate others and get a reaction.

Which leads to the most important part of the lesson here.  How do we teach our kids to react to criticism?  How do we empower them?

Both of these women are secure in themselves.  Each personality shines in the face of her situation.  They reacted differently, but neither one focused on revenge.  Neither one acted like a victim.  And neither one ran and hid from their attacker.

Most of the anti-bullying strategies out there focus on punishment and how “wrong” the bully is.  This leads to an underlying lesson:  when someone criticizes you, you are victimized.  WE ARE INADVERTANTLY TEACHING OUR KIDS TO ACT LIKE VICTIMS, the OPPOSITE of what we really need to do – to EMPOWER our kids.

Izzy Kalman is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who is working tirelessly to get this message out.  His website,, has a wealth of information about how to handle bullying and how to empower our kids.  The truth is, we all encounter criticism throughout life, and knowing how to handle it is huge.  Izzy has written many articles that are insightful and helpful in understanding the psychology of the dynamics of bullies and “victims.”  In this article, Izzy says:

Consider what kids have been taught about bullying for over a decade. They have attended assemblies presented by highly paid ‘bullying experts’ who tell them about the horrible effects of bullying. They have been presented with school bullying policies outlining all the kinds of bullying that they should not tolerate. They have been told that words can scar them forever or even kill them. They have seen No Bully Zone posters plastered in school corridors. They have watched movies and read books about the pain of being bullied. They have participated in antibullying rallies and wear antibullying bracelets. They have been told that they are not capable of dealing with bullies on their own because the bullies are too strong, so their classmates and teachers must stand up for them against their bullies. Their favorite celebrities have embarked on highly publicized antibullying campaigns and assured them “It gets better.” They have been promised that tough new laws will protect them from bullying.

Then they are confronted with reality. Despite society’s promises of protection and the comforting “It gets better” declarations, they continue to get bullied–and it’s only getting worse. The ever-present No Bully Zone posters are nothing but a lie to them. When the school authorities get involved against their bullies, their peers despise them even more, call them ‘snitches’ and want revenge.

Having been told year after year how destructive bullying is, they become even more upset when they are bullied. And when they get upset, they get picked on even more, because emotional upset is what fuels bullying. So the bullying gets worse, they become more desperate, and they are more likely to feel that the only way to end their misery is to end life itself.

We will never reduce bullying by continuing our current antibullying efforts.

We need to realize that kids who commit bullycide, as much as we sympathize with their misery and grieve for them, are not heroes and the last thing we want is for them to be role models. They are the kids who lacked the resilience and the wisdom to deal with their problem. We cannot continue to glorify them with magazine covers and laws in their name and expect bullycide to decrease.

The most reliable way to prevent kids from taking their own lives is to teach them how to deal with bullying on their own. It is not hard to stop being bullied, and our kids deserve to be taught how to do it.

And on a lighter note:  I have to add this video.  We can never underestimate the power of humor in the “fight” against hate.  Enjoy!!


Planned Parenthood: Just Sayin’ No

Yesterday’s blog post by Ryan Holiday, regarding Planned Parenthood’s rejection of a $500,000 donation by Tucker Max, provides a great example of the way the “Old Energy” paradigm is clashing with the “New Energy” paradigm.  The situation illustrates a lot of the concepts I’ve been reading and writing about.

For anyone who hasn’t been in “my loop,” let me get you up to speed briefly.  I’ve been writing about how the world is shifting, how the masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves and our society are balancing, how we can move away from judgment and the mentality of “right” and “wrong”, how each person has their own unique perspective on the world that “just is”, and how some of the crazy behavior we are seeing “out there” might be explained by this shift.

I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with me on this stuff.  I write primarily as an outlet for myself, and I share knowing that some might find concepts here that they find interesting to think about, and others might find nothing at all.  I have no ego attached to either case.

I’m not going to repeat too many basic ideas here, so if you want to dig, feel free to read some previous posts.  Whatever works for you.

So, here’s the basic story:

Ryan Holiday, a publicist/marketing guy, works for Tucker Max.  Tucker has a big tax liability, and asks Ryan if he has any ideas.  Ryan suggests Tucker make a big contribution to Planned Parenthood, get a clinic named after him, generate lots of good PR.  The guys figure that since PP in Texas is having a rough time financially, they win, too.  The problem is, Tucker has made some not-so-nice references to PP and their clients, and PP decides to refuse his offer.  Ryan and Tucker are not happy about this, and make a fuss about how stupid Planned Parenthood is (which, aha! brings them more publicity).

And here’s my perspective:

The Old Energy paradigm, which is weighted toward power, materialism, and control, totally explains this scenario.  This paradigm is dominated by masculine energy.  Money talks, especially when the target is poor and vulnerable, and the fear of scarcity rules.  Judgments are made about who should do what, and the approach is competitive.  There is an attitude of “I know what’s good for YOU.”  When power does not get its way, it has a temper tantrum, intended to create doubt and fear.  Marketing = Manipulation.  There’s lots of discussion about who should have done what, and who is right or wrong.  Drama is created, and the Old Energy LOVES drama.  (Some refer to this as the third dimension.)

In the New Energy paradigm, masculine and feminine approaches are balanced.  No choice is right or wrong.  Each person or group is allowed to make its own choices and those choices are respected.  (One is ALLOWED to say “no.”)  Sure, they may have to deal with consequences of those choices, but that’s the concern of the one making the choice. It’s the ultimate in personal responsibility.  There is acceptance of “what is”, no fighting reality.   (This is how a fifth dimensional world operates.)

This shift from Old to New is subtle, but it’s happening.  Just look at how the world has changed in the last decades.  And 2012 is the tipping point for the shift.  It’s going to get harder and harder for those who play by the Old Paradigm rules to navigate their way through the world.  It’s going to be increasingly frustrating, and we’re going to see a lot of kicking and screaming.

And (hooray!!) it’s finally going to “work” for those who approach the world the New way.  Those whose intentions are for the Greater Good.  Those who operate from Love and Compassion.  Those who respect others without trying to control or manipulate them.  The Old Guard will still regard us as weak and naive, and they will continue to convince themselves that they are “right”.

Our time has come, finally.

Ryan and Tucker, you should know that the New Energy will not make you “wrong”.  It will respect your right to make your own decisions, to ask for what you want, and to conduct yourselves in any way you desire.  It’s all good.  The New Energy will not judge you.  Just don’t be surprised when the New Energy neglects to get involved in the drama and ignores you, or when you don’t get the kind of reaction and cooperation you expected.  When you encounter the same roadblocks over and over again, when you get stuck and you start asking yourselves “Why isn’t this working?” just remember that you will be presented with the same lesson over and over, as many times as you like, until you learn whatever it is that life is trying to teach you.  Hey, it’s all part of the adventure of life.

To the reader:  Do you want to be successful going forward?  If what I am saying has any truth to it, it might be a good idea to learn about how this New Paradigm is going to work.  Here are some people who are talking about this stuff – do a little research and decide for yourself what YOU think:


Tom Shadyac – writer/director of Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Patch Adams, etc.

Lynne McTaggart – author of The Field and The Intention Experiment, about the science of connectedness and consciousness

Lenore Skenazy – author of Free Range Kids, who writes about parenting without fear

Lee Carroll – author and channeler of Kryon’s messages about the shift

Ernie Fitzpatrick – LRC Houston, a spiritual community with Christian roots

Izzy Kalman – expert on handling bullying