When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

To some bullying may be thought of as a “natural part of childhood” or as simply as “kids just being kids.” Some may also be under the misguided belief that “bullied kids need to learn how to deal with bullying on their own.” These and other misconceptions minimize and excuse the serious nature of bullying while simultaneously contributing to the creation of a hostile environment where bullying can go unnoticed and uncorrected. Moreover, if we willingly relinquish our responsibility and involvement to stop malicious behavior, in effect we allow it to perpetuate and silently communicate that it’s o.k. As a result, the victim may feel he or she has no viable recourse.

It is important to consider the following myths because bullying does not target certain individuals nor is it confined to certain locations.

  • Bullying Doesn’t Happen at My Child’s School.
  • Bullying is Mostly a Problem in Urban Schools.
  • Bullying is More Likely to Happen on the Bus than at School.
  • Children and Youth Who Are Bullied Will Almost Always Tell an Adult.
  • Children and Youth Who Bully are Mostly Loners with Few Social Skills.
  • Words never hurt.
  • Some people deserve to be bullied.
  • Bullying will make kids tougher.
  • Telling a teacher about bullying is tattling.
  • It’s only teasing.
  • Boys will be boys.
  • Girls don’t bully.
  • Children and youth who are bullied will almost always tell an adult.
  • Bullying is easy to recognize.
  • Ignoring bullying will make it go away.

By acknowledging the conditions and inaccurate thinking that contribute to bullying, we can effectively take steps to remove barriers and to reset the standard for what is considered appropriate behavior. Yet, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, there are occasions when bullying escalates and subsequently becomes a criminal offense. Bullying becomes a crime when the offender:

  • Physically assaults someone
  • Harasses someone especially if the harassment is based on gender or race
  • Makes violent threats
  • Makes death threats
  • Makes obscene and harassing phone calls and texts
  • Engages in sexting
  • Engages in sextortion which is sexual exploitation
  • Is involved in child pornography
  • Is stalking someone
  • Commits hate crimes
  • Takes a photo of someone in a place where they expect privacy
  • Is involved in extortion

Please note: Specific legal consequences, policies, and laws regarding the above offenses may vary by state. For more specific information regarding your state’s governance process access the following nationwide map and click on the state of your choice: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html.

The specific laws for the state of Texas can be found at: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html.

Additional information can be found at the Texas Education agency website: http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Safe_and_Healthy_Schools/Coordinated_School_Health/Coordinated_School_Health_-_Bullying_and_Cyber-bullying/.

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Myths about Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources-files/myths-about-bullying-tipsheet.pdf

Common Views and Myths about Bullying: http://www.pacer.org/publications/bullypdf/BP-1.pdf

When Bullying Escalates and Becomes a Criminal Offense: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/when-bullying-and-cyberbullying-become-crime/

Policies and Laws: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html

Texas Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html 

Stay tuned for… Who is at Risk?

Summer’s Almost Here! Now What?

Alice Cooper’s iconic song “School’s Out” has the tendency to elicit one of a few specific emotions, especially during the months of May and June. For children and teenagers, the song prompts a sense of overwhelming joy and general youthful jubilance. No more school, no more books, no more bedtimes or alarm clocks, and no more homework- who wouldn’t be excited about that? For most parents, on the other hand, that song (along with a strange shift in their child’s behavior right around the end of school) can elicit pure, unadulterated angst. What the heck are you going to do with your kid(s) all summer? Sure, many families will split up the summer with a couple of well-timed vacations to Galveston or some beautiful Texas lake where hopefully the kids will completely wear themselves out and maybe you’ll get a few minutes of peace. But what about those in-between-vacation days when no day camp is scheduled, the overnight camp you signed them up for 3 years ago doesn’t start for another few weeks, and the caffeine your kid had at the end of school party a week ago STILL hasn’t worn off yet? I’ve compiled a list of tips, ideas, and general guidelines to help parents stay at least somewhat focused during these crazy summer months.

First- the general guidelines. Research on brain development has regularly shown that routine matters. For kids, this can apply to nearly every aspect of their lives including having a consistent bedtime, gathering the family for meal times, Saturday morning waffles, or 10 minutes of TV time before bath, book, and bed. Concerning regular bedtimes, researchers at the University of London followed 11,000 children from when they were 3-years old to the age of 7 to measure the effects of bedtimes on cognitive function. The research showed a significant negative impact on test scores in math, reading, and spatial reasoning for those children who had consistently irregular or late bed times. I realize that maintaining a consistent bed time is much easier said than done, but even having lights out at midnight is better than waking up the next morning and realizing your teenager is still on the couch watching the 28th episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix. Let’s be honest- every hour of sleep counts. Speaking of watching TV for hours on end, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than two hours of TV per day after two years of age, and none before that. Can we just take a second to think about that? Studies all over the world have shown that more than 2 hours of television viewing a day is a valid predictor of poor performance in vocabulary, math, and motor skills development later in life. How many hours a day does your child watch TV? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those Baby Einstein videos are less brain-frying than Sponge Bob but allowing your child to watch it all day long? Probably not the best idea. So what are you supposed to do instead?

Here I’ve gathered some fun– and more importantly, time-consuming– ideas for entertaining the kiddos during the summer months. We can go ahead and assume that you know about (or have already tried) simply turning on the sprinkler in the back yard and letting the kids go wild. Depending on the age of your child, pulling out the sprinkler just may do the trick. However, for older children, fighting off boredom may prove to be more difficult. Here’s where a little work can go a long way. No, I’m not suggesting that you try to get your 15 year old a sales internship that you think will prepare them for their future career (unless they are passionate about it, that is). What I’m suggesting is this: does your teenager love animals? How about volunteering at the local animal shelter? Could your garage benefit from a thorough spring-cleaning? Have your teen set up a garage sale- and promise him or her a portion of the cash! Perhaps your hallway bathroom needs a new paint job or maybe you’ve always wanted a small vegetable garden in the backyard. Planning out and building a vegetable garden can teach the kids about agriculture, healthy eating, and the value of getting your hands dirty. Not to mention the satisfaction of literally experiencing the fruits of your own labor! Stuck inside on a rainy day? A disco party (complete with mom or dad flicking on and off the overhead lights), putting on a play or musical (don’t forget the video camera), or a trip to the IMAX at the planetarium are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. This is a perfect time to create life-long memories with your family- so get outside, have fun, relax, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

If you need some more fun ideas, check out this website of 50 summer activities for the kiddos!   http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/13269/50-summer-bucket-list

Psst…….Is it just me or is marriage REALLY HARD????

(Spoiler: It’s not just me)

Do you ever feel like you are the only one out there that is having issues in your marriage? We can all look to other couples and say, “So and so has the PERFECT marriage! They are always happy in front of others and they never have anything negative to say about their marriage when just us girls or guys get together”. We all know that marriage can be hard for others, but…..what does it mean when it turns out that is true for us? Does it mean that we are failing? Does it mean that we married the wrong person? Does it mean that we are the problem? Does it mean we should call it quits? While of course there is no black and white answer to any of those questions, the reality is that we ALL experience hardships in our marriages.

Marriage IS hard, as is life. There is no perfect marriage, as there is no perfect human. We are constantly changing and evolving and as we do so, we are asking the person we are sharing our lives with to come along for the ride and change and evolve with us!! That is NOT a simple process nor is it a simple request of our partner! This request comes with MANY expectations and fantasies of what “should” happen and unfortunately unrealistic expectations often land us in a place of hurt, anger, and resentment. So if it is true that life AND marriage are hard, that we are not perfect, and that we as humans all suffer from setting unrealistic expectations….why don’t we talk more openly about how hard marriage can be? Admitting that marriage is hard does NOT mean that you are not happily married. Admitting you both have things you would like to work on does NOT mean that you do not have a solid foundation. Admitting you are in counseling to seek guidance on how to improve your marriage DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE FAILING!!!! I would counter those explanations with an alternative idea that perhaps it means that you are willing and motivated to claim a stronger, more connected state of being which takes strength, courage, and honesty! So the next time you find yourself beating up on yourself and your marriage because it feels so hard and you feel you cannot communicate this to others, please try to remember a few things:

  • Take it easy on yourself and your marriage. You are not perfect nor is your marriage, and it just frankly wasn’t designed to be that way. Having problems (as we all do!) may create an opportunity for you and your partner to grow.
  • Try not to compare your marriage to others. As grandmother use to say, “We all have dirty laundry, and I don’t want yours and you don’t want mine”. Even though others may appear to have it better than you or claim their marriage to be “better than ever”, that does not mean they are without problems and it does not mean that because you do have problem that you are failing. We are all very reluctant to admit when marriage is hard, perhaps due to the fairytales we all grew up believing or perhaps because we aren’t quite sure what it means when it is hard.
  • Manage your expectations. Because we all did grow up watching the fairytales where marriages end up “happily ever after”, we often have expectations that are not realistic of ourselves and our partners. It can be helpful to identify what expectations you have and look at whether or not these are realistic or just based on some unrealistic “should”, “ought” or “must” that someone somewhere said was what defined marriage and happiness. We can then start to differentiate between fantasy and reality, which can help us to not set ourselves or our partners up for failure.
  • Seek guidance from a trusted source BEFORE you feel you have no alternatives. Asking for help does not mean you have failed. It means you have the courage, strength, and honesty to admit you are not perfect nor is your marriage BUT you would like to learn ways to improve. Too often we wait until we feel like giving up to ask for help. While help certainly can be rendered at this point, why not start BEFORE that so we don’t feel our goal is so far away? Renowned marriage researcher John M. Gottman claims that the average couple entering marriage counseling has experienced marital difficulties for over six years. Experiencing serious problems for an extended period of time without seeking guidance can mean you unintentionally incur and inflict many unnecessary traumas on each other and the marriage. Why not avoid this damage to yourself and your partner? You, your partner, and your marriage are worth it! If we could shift the concept of “marriage counseling” from asking for a life raft to asking for ways to enhance our love and commitment, wouldn’t that make it easier to ask for help?