Monday, August 19, 2013


I've been asked this twice this week by desperate parents. We think we know our kids really well, but then things can go awry and we begin to wonder where we went wrong. We also think we're probably the only parents going through this distress.

The case I want to share is one of teasing. A teacher, alarmed at one of her female student's emotional state, asked me for help. Another girl had been teasing Caroline relentlessly without the teacher's knowledge. It had reached the point where Caroline would go to the school office and complain about having a sore stomach. She probably had that problem because she was stressed out and was showing signs of anxiety. Caroline told her mother and her teacher she was being teased. I began to receive emails from both of them concerned about this situation. Her mother said that Caroline was coming home crying and not feeling like going to school the next day. Here was a case of bullying, not merely teasing. I asked Caroline to come to my office for a chat.

What a delightful young girl she was! She spilled out everything with great articulation. I gave her some skills for coping with people who, throughout her life, would try the same tactics.

Just in case your children, or even you, get treated badly by others I want to give you the simple steps that I taught Caroline.

  • "Please stop teasing me. It hurts my feelings." If this works that is great. At least you have been able to express your feelings and ask the perpetrator to desist.
  • If the person decides to ignore your request, find an adult to tell whats going on. 
  • If it still continues and you get angry with the person, remember the following simple plan:
1) STOP! By this stage you are angry and need time out to let the anger dissipate. I told Caroline to count to 25. Some research shows that it takes about 19 seconds for a person to reach the peak of their anger. Reacting before 25 seconds will more than likely yield a different result than patiently waiting before taking the next step.

2) THINK! At this point you need to think about the situation, look at the facts, examine your emotions, look at alternatives, then look at the consequences of following each of those alternatives. You cannot do this before the wave of anger passes.

3) ACT! Make a choice about which alternative you will use, fully understanding the related consequences.

I then asked Caroline to go to the light switch and turn the light off. "What happened when you pushed the switch?" There was a reaction. I had her flick the switch again. "See, there was another reaction. The light came on again."

"You see, Caroline, there are people out there who, for whatever reason, want to push your buttons! You go "WHAAAA! So, they push your button again because you reacted." I had fun going "Push. WHAAAA! several times complete with funny gestures. She laughed. "Just remember to let the comments just wash over you. They must have been making those comments to someone behind you."

The session finished and after a little revision I sent a happy girl back to class. It worked, and is still working. Try it and teach it to your children.


Written by Brian Burgess

No comments:

Post a Comment