What to do when sibling teasing goes too far

On a recent morning, Heli Wiener had a minor crisis on her hands. Her 3-year-old daughter was playing with an old cell phone and her 5-year-old son wanted it all for himself.

“He was getting in her face about it, so she was hitting him because she wanted him to leave her alone,” Wiener, of Deerfield, Ill., told TODAY Moms.

“My daughter is extremely sweet and kind (but) she developed some of those bad habits of teasing and hitting because she sees it works for him,” Wiener says.

The story of siblings not getting along is as old as Cain and Abel, but there’s real reason to worry when the kid hostility goes too far. Research published Monday found that being picked on by a brother or sister can be harmful to a child’s mental health.

Michele Borba, a parenting expert and TODAY contributor, travels around the country to educate parents about bullying and whenever the subject of sibling intimidation comes up, there’s a visible reaction.

“You see nodding, you see concern,” Borba says. “It’s clearly an issue.”

Many parents have been told to stay out of routine kid squabbles so the children can work out their conflicts by themselves and Borba agrees with that approach. Wiener, who writes the Mommy’s Two Cents blog, follows it as well.

“When we’re removed from it, there seem to be closer and more tender moments shared, but when we’re involved, frequently their interaction is tattling, fighting, and arguing,” she said.

But moms and dads shouldn’t ignore bullying, which is different from teasing and goes beyond normal sibling fighting or rivalry, Borba said.

She advises parents to look for the three classic signs of bullying: an imbalance of power, where one child cannot stand up to the other kid because of size, age or other factors; intentional cruelty, and mistreatment that keeps repeating, rather than being a one-time offense.

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Another Marysville parent makes school abuse allegations

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — One week after a Marysville mother came forward with allegations that her special-needs daughter was put in a storage closet for punishment, another local parent is speaking out about similar claims.

Michelle Olson said she broke down last week when she heard the story of second-grader Katie Wilson, who was allegedly put in a small “isolation room” as punishment.

“I cried, because it’s like I know what she’s going through,” Olson said. “You find out your child is locked in a room.”

Olson said the allegations immediately brought her back to the worst day of her life,.

“They called me and said, ‘Your son is on the way to the hospital because he tried to hang himself in the quiet room,'” Olson said.

While in a quiet room in 2009, Olson said her son, a special needs fourth grader named Sam, unraveled his sock and tied it around his neck and the door handle in a suicide attempt. The boy survived.

“He felt so belittled and ashamed and he said, ‘Mom, they keep telling me I’m bad,'” Olson said.

Internal school documents show that Sam had been placed in the quiet room prior to the day of the suicide attempt. He was put there for what his mother calls one of his “meltdowns.”

Olson said Sam claims the teacher wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom, so he wet his pants. Police documents reveal the teacher put Sam’s face an inch from the urine puddle.

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On the Job: How to battle bullying at work

If it worked in school, some adults think antagonizing others can make their jobs easier.

In the documentary Bully, filmmakers followed the lives of five students who were bullied on a daily basis.

Many people identified with the kids who were taunted and called names at school, and the film often evoked unpleasant memories for adults who recalled being bullied.

Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t end on the playground, Bully producer and writer Cynthia Lowen, says.

COLUMN: Workplace becomes new schoolyard

MORE: Anita Bruzzese’s column index

Many adults are victims of bullying bosses or co-workers. And, just as in school, many peers stand by and watch it happen without intervening.

“There needs to be a lot more education about this issue in the workplace,” she says. “We can’t just put zero-tolerance policies in place — in school or the workplace — without having a comprehensive understanding about bullying.”

For example, many people may believe that only the bullying target is made to suffer, but a recent government study of bullying in Swedish workplaces shows that that bullying also harmed witnesses. Specifically, women who were witnesses to the bullying saw an increase of about 33% in clinical depression while male witnesses experienced about a 16% increase.

“Bystanders and the whole organization are involved in the process of bullying behavior, and, in turn, intervention programs should be focused on the whole workplace system,” researchers from Sweden’s Institute of Environmental Medicine say .

Lowen says most of us as children tried bullying. Those who felt badly about their behavior stopped.

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Parents of bullies in Wisconsin town to be fined for their kids’ bad behavior

Police in Monona, Wisc., have thought of a unique way to tackle the problem of bullying by going straight to the parents. Adults whose children intimidate others will be ticketed and fined for failing to properly respond to the behavior.

Raising a bully in Monona, Wisc., can cost parents a pretty penny.

Police in the town are now holding parents liable for failing to address their kids’ bad behavior. Bullying fines start at $114 and repeat offenses can cost parents up to $177 every time.

RELATED: BULLY PUNISHED WITH WEARING THRIFT STORE CLOTHES

The new municipal ordinance is a response to an uptick in school shootings, teen suicides and cyber bullying. Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga believes that solutions to this “global” problem start at home. He’s hoping that the citations will push parents to take responsibility for their children’s actions.

But Ostrenga said tickets will be handed out only in extreme cases. Parents who are making an effort to address their child’s behavior would not be ticketed, he said. The fines are only meant for uncooperative parents — the ones who think their kids are perfect and don’t do anything wrong.

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WHEN BULLYING OCCURS IN CHURCHES

Bullying is using force to compel a person to do something against their will or to punish rather than correct. It does not aim for the good of the person. It aims to control or to harm.

Despite recent attention on bullying and developing strategies to address it – in schools and in the workplace – very little is being said about bullying in churches. But bullying in churches is very real. Attention to the dynamics of bullying will raise awareness of its prevalence in communal life and help guard against it.

1. The Abusive Use of Knowledge

Bullying cannot occur without the use of force or the exercise of power. In Christian circles such force or power is often expressed as knowledge. Those who are ‘right’ are those with influence within the church group.

Certain characteristics of our theological tradition feed this dynamic. Our faith is grounded in history; we believe on the basis of revelation and we experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. These characteristics of our faith bring us certainty and confidence. How do we express our convictions? Usually with vigour!

The difficulty with possessing knowledge is not the knowledge itself but the way it is communicated to others. When knowledge is used to dominate people it is a form of bullying. The church bully is the one for whom the aphorism ‘knowledge is power’ is a working reality.

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Bullying victim wants to stop the violence

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NILES, Mich. — Some victims of bullying lash out in acts of violence. Some take their own life. Some, like Caleb Alkire, speak out about what has happened to him in hopes of getting his message to other victims.

Caleb Alkire is a just a normal twelve-year-old boy. He’s got a strong arm and a solid basketball shot.

He’s also a victim of bullying.

“One incident where my head got slammed into the window of the bus, and sometimes everyday people will trip me. Another incident where they kept on kicking me,” said Caleb.

Photos from his mother’s cell phone show the physical toll it has taken.

She’s more worried about the emotional one.

“You have either the suicide or you have he’s going to strike out in violence. He’s going to blow. He’s going to have enough. He’s going to snap and I refuse to have my child even close to either one of those things,” said Kassie Alkire, Caleb’s mom.

She and her husband are actively involved in helping Caleb cope.

He attends Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center, a school of 250 kids, all trying to find friends and hold their own in the hallways.

“I feel like I’m the only one getting bullied in my hallway,” said Caleb.

Principal Molly Brawley wants Caleb to know he’s not the only one.

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Bullied Boy Saved from Hurricane Raging Inside

As part of our continuing series “Assignment America,” Steve Hartman takes a look at bullying in America, and speaks to a victim of bullying – and the bullier, who has had a change of heart.

Bullying has become epidemic in this country.

Two out of 10 schoolkids say they’ve been attacked physically. Three out of 10 say the bullying was more taunting or teasing.

Steve Hartman heard from not only from a bullying victim but from the boy who bullied him.

ATLANTA – Like the outside of the private school he attended, Zachary Jamison had an impressive facade. Always smiling in every picture he took even though, for most of junior high, what Jamison really felt was tortured by just about all the kids in his class at the America Heritage Academy outside Atlanta.

Jacob Cordero was one of them.

“Very sad because I had been part of the making fun of him and leaving him out,” Cordero said.

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