Tag Archives: discipline

My version of the ‘You’re Grounded’ Points List

Naughty boy2
I recently became enamored with a Points List that a mother used when her kid got grounded. Basically, the mother created a list of things her child could do to get off groundation, each task attached to a certain number of points. Once the child reached 500 points, they were done being grounded.

I think this parenting hack is brilliant, mostly because it puts the length of the grounding into the child’s hands, and they’re learning several things in the process:
– How to strategically rack up the points to finish faster (hint: the larger items aren’t always the best way to get there)
– Motivation to do lots of chores without procrastinating
– That getting in trouble really isn’t worth it

My son has had his Xbox taken away for pretty much the whole school year because his grades slipped past the point of being acceptable. The rule was he could get them back as soon as he brought his grades back up. However, today is the last day of school, and his grades never budged.

I’ll be honest – I hate punishing my kid. And with summertime here and no way of him getting his grades back up until school started, I really wanted a way to give him back his game system. However, he still needed to earn those grades back.

In came the Points List (click to enlarge).

On the list, there are a few items to take note of.

The first is the one 50-point item: deep cleaning his room. My son’s room is a disaster area, and it will probably take him a full day to get the job done. This is why it has so many points attached to it. And while every other item on the list is stuff he can choose between to do, this is the one item I have made mandatory.

The second is “G-rated Lucas.” Like most 13-year-old boys, my son finds humor in some of the grossest or inappropriate things. 24 hours of no potty-talk is totally worth 15 points to me.

Third is the large list of 5-point items, particularly the letter writing items. He can probably whip up every single one of those items in one day, which will add up to a lot in a very short time. But I thought it would be a nice touch for his grandparents to get a nice note from him. Also, Ella is a little girl we know who is working very hard on her reading. How awesome would it be to receive a letter from a 13-year-old friend?

Fourth is the 20 points for reading Forever Thirteen and writing a book report. Yes, I am shamelessly enticing my son to read the book I wrote through a points system.

Fifth are the negative points. While the majority of the list are items that can help him earn his Xbox back, there are a few things that will keep him from earning it back as fast. This was my chance to try and turn around a few of his pesky bad habits – like sneaking food in his room or borrowing without asking.

And there you have it. If you’d like to download a copy of your own Points List, here is a link to mine in a Word Doc so that you can change it as you see fit: Wine Country Mom Chores Points List

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To spank or not to spank

When my kids were younger, I used spanking as one of my forms of discipline. But I never did find it to be an effective way to teach them what they were doing was wrong, and it sometimes felt like a step backwards. Plus there was that inevitable feeling of guilt as the parenting movement steered towards positive discipline and away from using spanking to guide kids.

I began to research different ways to deal with misbehavior.

When the kids were older, I admittedly strayed in my resolve to guide my kids positively. I wasn’t spanking, but I would call my form of discipline anything close to positive. Seriously, if you don’t make a conscious effort to keep things positive, it’s easy to stray from – and it takes a ton of work to not cross the line from positively guiding to totally being taken advantage of by kids who are getting away with everything. Instead of being a guiding force with their future in mind in every action I made with them, I instead screamed like a banshee and took their most cherished items whenever they made me mad.

The result? My son, who was grounded more often than his sister, was constantly in trouble, and would only get in more trouble as he argued against every form of punishment. And I would run out of things to take from him and end up suffering more than he did when he grew bored with nothing to do.

I stumbled on a new form of disciplining him by giving chores for infractions rather than stripping his room of all his favorite things, which I wrote about HERE. It’s funny how some readers took issue with this discipline, especially when this has always proven to be the most effective in stopping the behavior immediately without making things worse. There is less arguing going on, and there are always chores that need to be done. And the anger either of the kids feels is worked out through a little elbow grease in whatever they’re cleaning.

CNN recently wrote an article on the very same subject, citing different mothers’ examples of non-spanking methods in their ways to discipline their children (if you look towards the bottom, you’ll find my own opinion included as well). Some of the recommendations include practicing different scenarios, praising good behavior, giving kids the chance to have the floor in discussions about behavior, keeping your cool, and doing what works best for each of your individual children. You can read their article HERE.

What has been your most effective way to guide your children away from misbehaving? Do you agree that parents should avoid spanking their children? Or is spanking getting a bad rap?

Mom spanks, kids taken away

A mother had her kids taken away from her when she was taken to court for spanking her child.  But was that really fair?  I don’t think so – especially since I spanked my own kids as they were growing up.

Yes, I am one of those parents who spanked their kids. I will probably be totally lambasted by admitting that, but I ask you to keep reading before commenting.

While the majority of the punishments we doled out to our children were along the lines of a time-out or taking a favored belonging away, spanking was on our list of acceptable punishments. Of course, the number one rule was that spanking was not to be done in anger, something that was very challenging to adhere by, and ultimately caused us to avoid spanking as much as possible. We knew that if we spanked in anger, we would be using the punishment as a way to get out our aggression than to turn around the negative behavior they were being punished for. So it was used sparingly and for infractions that needed to be spelt out plain and clear to a child that wouldn’t fully comprehend a long, drawn-out lecture as an alternative. 

And, of course, the only thing we spanked with was our hand.

Both my (ex) husband and I had been spanked as a child, making this form of punishment a familiar choice for discipline. I can’t say I was scarred by the experience of being bent over a knee and given a swift paddling for hurting my sister, saying a bad word, or sassing my parents back. I don’t even consider it abuse. It was just the way things were done in those days. And believe me, it caused all of us to think twice before doing anything wrong that our parents might catch us and then pull out the almighty hand – or worse, the belt or wooden spoon.

There was one time that my sisters and I were bouncing on the bed with one of our friends, making ourselves go higher and higher. We were having so much fun that we never noticed my father rounding the hallway to stand in our doorway. I had just gotten through telling my friend for some reason that spankings never hurt me. I have no idea why I even told her this, but I had to eat my words as my dad yanked me off the bed and had his hand walloping my butt in no time flat. As I cried elephant tears, my unscathed friend innocently pointed out that she thought spankings didn’t hurt me. I kind of liked her less in that moment….

When my ex and I became parents, spanking was well on the way of being considered unacceptable as a punishment. But many were still on the fence. We were one of those families. We didn’t view spanking as the most positive form of discipline, but didn’t completely rule it out (obviously). While I ordered every Positive Discipline book I could lay my hands on when my terrorist son was a toddler, the spanking punishment still hung out as one way to correct misbehavior. But because of society’s view on spanking, we knew not to spank in public. It wasn’t because we were ashamed of spanking, it was more because we didn’t want someone misconstruing our discipline as abuse on our child and taking our kids away from us.

I had a friend with a very rambunctious 3 year old who took off running in a crowded local store while they were shopping, terrifying his mother as she frantically searched for him. When she finally caught up with him, she let him know how scared he had made her, giving him two swats on his diapered butt. Another shopper witnessed this and immediately called the police, and my friend was almost in danger of losing her son.

Rosalina Gonzales, a Texas mom recently in the news, actually did lose her child, along with the child’s siblings. Her mother-in-law had taken the two year old to the hospital when she noticed red marks on the child’s bottom. The action landed Gonzales in court where she not only lost all three of her children, but also faces five years probation, as well as having to pay a $50 fine to the Children’s Advocacy Center and attend a course of parenting classes. Let it be noted that “prosecutors described it as a ‘pretty simple, straightforward spanking case’, and said Gonzales didn’t use a belt nor leave any bruises.” Let it also be noted that Texas does not outlaw spanking as outlined on the website for the state’s attorney: ‘Texas law allows the use of force, but not deadly force, against a child by the child’s parent, guardian, or other person who is acting in loco parentis. Most parents do, in fact, use corporal punishment at least occasionally, and most do not, in fact, consider it abusive.’

But the judge had some very stern words for Gonzales regarding spanking.

‘You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children. You understand?’

In the meantime, all three of her children are now in their grandmother’s care until the judge has deemed Gonzales “capable” of caring for them.

Nancy French, a writer for the National Review, is speaking out against what she deems an unfair sentence for Gonzales, asking those who use spanking as a form of discipline to speak out.  “I’ve spanked all three of my kids, and they aren’t raised yet,”  French says.  “Spanking is far less emotionally manipulative than twenty nagging reprimands, it’s fast, and it’s certainly effective.”

These days, my view on spanking is much different than it was when the kids were younger. It’s possible I have an easier time making that decision since my kids are older and long past the age when I felt spanking was necessary. But I do believe if I were raising young kids today, I would prohibit spanking from entering my house. Truth was, spanking did little for me when I was younger except to make me fear the punishment rather than learn right from wrong. And I know it was the same for my kids.  Spanking may have been a quick way to get the message across, but I don’t really believe it was effective.  I can see now that it’s not impossible to break away from the spanking habit and find another form of punishment that is just as, if not more, effective as a way to discipline and turn around negative behavior.

But I still can’t believe that spanking should put a family in danger of being torn apart.

What’s your take on spanking as a punishment?

Forced to enforce

“What is that?” I asked DQ when I came into her room to wake her up.

“What is what?” she asked, moving the covers slightly to conceal what I was pointing at.

“That,” I said, flipping the covers aside and grapping the lime green cell phone that had been hidden underneath. “I thought you told me that it was put away for the night. You lied to me.”

“I didn’t!” she protested. “It was put away.”

“So when was the last text?” I asked her, flipping it open to reveal an unread message that came in at 12:45 am. She grabbed it away from me before I could read any further.

“I was asleep then,” she said, clutching the phone as if it held top-secret information.

“Uh-huh, right. So when was the last text that you sent?” I inquired, attempting to get the phone back. She stealthily maneuvered it out of my reach, but saw that I wasn’t kidding around. She opened it up and scrolled down.

“12:30,” she said sheepishly.

Dang it. Dang it! Why does she have to do this to me? I mean I set up guidelines, and mostly she obeys them. But this bending of the rules? I had told her in the beginning, on Christmas day when she was presented with the phone, that she had a strict 9pm phone curfew. I told her that if she couldn’t follow that rule, among the other rules I had put in place, I was going to have to take the phone away. Only once before I had caught her bending this rule. I let her off with a warning that if I caught her using her phone again after curfew that the phone would be taken away. And I had done my best to be naïve to the subsequent rule bending that occurred after that, meaning that I had purposely not checked to make sure that she was following the rule – choosing to “trust” that she was putting the phone away at the proper time. But there was no denying it this time. I mean, it was in plain sight. And now she was forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do…

Be the parent and take the dang phone away.

It’s not like I enjoy punishing my kids. I actually hate it. Things are so much easier and more serene when we are all getting along. I like my kids, and I’m pretty sure they like me. But as parents, we run the risk of sometimes NOT being liked when we have to enforce rules to keep them safe, to help them learn how to be responsible, and to allow them to get enough sleep at night instead of staying awake texting until the wee hours of the morning.

And sometimes I wonder if kids purposely break rules to see if their parents are paying attention. I mean, it’s almost like they WANT to be caught with how obvious they are in their monkey business. Either that, or they really believe that parents just won’t notice. For example, remember that one friend of mine with the pothead son? She ended up voicing her displeasure at his habit, and forbade him from letting any of the wacky weed into her home. And he promised her that it never had, and it never would. But when she was collecting laundry from his room, he had left a half-filled pipe right on his dresser table. Either he really thought it was invisible, or he wanted to get caught.

Or there’s the third option, if I remember correctly from my own hijinks as a teenager – rebelling for the sake of rebelling just to prove to parents that they can.

In my purse is one lime green cell phone, buzzing away with questioning texts wondering where my daughter is. And stuck at home is my daughter, her thumbs going through texting withdrawal. And me? I am not exactly jumping for joy about having to enforce punishment that I laid out from the very beginning. But what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t? What kind of message would I be giving her if I set rules and then allowed her to break them? I mean, we’re supposed to enforce the rules as parents.

Right?

Is it mean to punish kids with chores?

A mom/grandmother wrote to me today regarding the article, The Excuse Maker vs. the Howler Monkey. She wasn’t in agreement with using chores as a punishment, and actually found it mean-spirited that I would infringe chores on him as a consequence. In my comments, E wrote the same thing. And I have to say, that I do get what they are saying. But the other impression I received from their feedback is that punishing a child in general is mean. And I seriously question why giving a child chores as a consequence is considered “mean-spirited” when our own parents used to spank us with their hands, a belt, a wooden spoon, a switch… I have to say, giving a child chores, to me, is actually much kinder than the discipline of yesterday.

Not only that, this new consequence has been working out really well for our family.

For one, I’ve been “howling less”. This is good news for both me and my son. For me, I am not getting worked up and agitated when I am howling at my son. I am keeping a lot calmer. And in return, my son is keeping a lot calmer with me. And also, who wants to listen to an out of control howling momma? I know I wouldn’t. And now my son doesn’t have to either.

Secondly, my son has suddenly made the shift to take on his own responsibilities. At 9 years old, and being that the routine of sports and a 2nd home has been in place for years, I do expect my son to follow through on the same things I’ve always expected of him. Before we set these consequences in place, my son would claim he had finished packing up his uniform, or that he did his homework, etc. His father or I would take the time to remind him several times about what he needed to do, and still he’d forget in favor of playing with his friends or with his toys. So the forgetfulness was due to procrastinating and being lazy. Hence, the consequences.

Now these consequences were agreed upon by the two of us. We sat down one morning and discussed a solution for helping him to remember. We came up with other solutions like making a list of things for him to do that he can check off. And we both agreed on the cleaning solution, as taking his items away or keeping him from his friends was not working. I promised him that I would never make him clean more than he could handle, and I’ve made it a point to be right there with him when he does have an extra chore placed on his shoulders. And truth be told, the cleaning consequence has rarely been used. For the first week, he was cleaning every day because he was leaving things at school, at home, at his dad’s house, not doing his homework but saying that he had…. You get the picture. And that week was very hard on the both of us. But after that first week, a shift happened when he suddenly took the time and care to take ownership of his own responsibilities. This morning, for example, I only had to tell him once that he needed to gather his uniform for baseball. Usually he would pack half of it, and then forget the other half. This time he had a clear image of what he needed to pack, and he set forth doing so. And this has become the new norm. Everything is a lot easier now, and a lot calmer.

And I can’t forget to mention how cool this new procedure has been.  My son and I have used this time to spend together as he learns how to do new things.  I have taught him how to do laundry, and he has realized that he actually likes doing dishes (just like his momma).  And sometimes chores can be as simple as helping me prepare dinner.  It all depends on how bad the infraction was (as we use this discipline technique for more than just forgetfulness).

It’s hard, as a parent, to know the right way to guide your child so that they can handle more responsibilities as they age. I am a firm believer in consequences, as they are something we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives. And it helps to cement clear values in them so that they make the right decisions on their own. But I am always open to suggestions from parents who have a different idea on how to raise children and guide them in life.

Do you offer consequences for your children in areas they were struggling with? If so, what kinds of consequences do you utilize?

The Excuse Maker vs the Howler Monkey

Howler MonkeyThere is a certain sound resonating in my household that is akin to fingernails on the chalkboard or a dog howling out of tune in the middle of the night. Without warning, this noise modulates into a higher pitch with each note, getting more frantic if it is left to continue. This annoying clamor, unfortunately, is an epidemic. What starts out as an innocent first becomes a habitual occurrence. They come more frequently as time goes on. And the result of this reverberation to anyone within earshot (mainly those it is directed at), is an elevated heart rate, a clenching of the fists and teeth, an ability to see red, and a sudden burst of mania that comes forth as a string of shrill commands even louder than the original sound.

I am, of course, talking about the “excuse maker”.

It’s funny. I used to view whining as the all-time most annoying sound ever to experience. I would tell the Taz to put his things away, and fight him as he gave me a slow, “But whyyyyyyy……..?” The whining would grate on my nerves, and would usually result in said item to be taken away. But now? I would gladly welcome back the innocent whine to this:

“Pleasemompleasedon’tmakemedothatIjustneedtofinishdoingthisandyou’re
ruiningmylifeandIwilldieifIcan’tfinishdoingthisandIjustwanttofinishthislevel
itwillonlytakeasecondwhyareyoualwaystellingmewhattodoIcan’tstandthis
pleasemompleasepleasepleaseplease…..”

Except, imagine that run-on sentence made in one breath and getting shriller with each syllable until it is barely a squeak by the time it ends. And me? I am clenching and unclenching all parts of my body until I am one big ball of stress ready to unleash. And unleash is what I do.

Mr. W was describing his own mother’s conduct when he and his brother’s would pull some sort of childish action. For many years, she would remain calm, talking in a quiet voice about their misbehavior and what the consequences were. But being that there were three boys in the family, and being that their antics were only getting more mischievous as they got older, Momma W ended up correcting them in a much louder way. Read: she turned from a controlled superior to something that more resembled a screeching howler monkey. And, of course, this would leave her boys in hysterics (on the inside, of course), and unable to take her seriously.

Frankly, she had lost control. And when I look back at how I’ve dealt with the Taz as he’s frustrated me to no end, I wonder what kind of screeching animal he’s comparing me to.

The biggest obstacle I’m struggling with the Taz on right now has to do with responsibility. Our biggest dispute is over his ability to remember important details I have laid out for him. When he goes to his father’s house, he forgets half of his clothes at his dad’s house when he comes back to me. When he goes to school, same deal (it’s amazing he doesn’t come home naked…). Getting ready for baseball games is an interesting ordeal, as he has left his uniform all over the county (his dad’s house, school, his friend’s house, my parent’s house…). He consistently gets late notices from the school library for the books he has failed to turn in despite reminder after reminder from me. Homework that we have meticulously worked on the night before comes back unread in his homework folder because he hasn’t turned it in, or he has left his folder on the kitchen table. When it is time for chores, he will goof off if left to his own devices. I have to stand over him to get him to do anything. And after 10 minutes of that, the “excuse maker” and the tears start.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I can understand the importance of keeping on him to get all of his responsibilities straight when he was younger. But at 9 years old, it is my belief that he should be able to manage his own responsibilities to a degree. At the very least, he should be able to remember to bring home all the articles of clothing from his father’s house or his classroom, turn in his assignments on time, and not have to be reminded constantly to do the same thing that is required of him every single day. And, unfortunately, growing tired of repeating myself, the Howler Monkey comes out in me. I think the Taz has successfully learned how to tune out the Howler Monkey.

When relaying the tug-of-war I’m experiencing with the Taz to one of my friends, and lamenting about my reaction to his irresponsibility, she relayed to me how her grandmother handled it when she was young. Her grandmother rarely raised her voice. Instead, she’d keep her voice in an even tone, alerting them of their screw up. And then she would calmly point them in the direction of the bathroom. For the next few hours the mischievous child would scrub the room from top to bottom. And when they were done, their grandmother had to inspect it and approve. More times than not, she would find one or more things wrong, shake an entire can of Ajax over the whole bathroom, and order them to clean it over again. To this day, my friend cannot stand the smell of Ajax, and will not let it anywhere inside of her home. And she also learned to stay the straight and narrow.

What I got from my conversations with Mr. W and my friend is that a quiet voice and a firm composure is much scarier and more effective than a screeching Howler Monkey.

This weekend we had the chance to test this theory. The Taz left his baseball hat in his desk at school on Friday, meaning that he wouldn’t have it for Saturday’s baseball game. The old me would have howled at him, ranting and raving the whole way to the store as we bought a new one. His punishment would have been ineffective, as the screaming and yelling on my part took up a good majority of the energy I could have used on creating a real consequence. Instead, I kept calm and told him that Saturday morning would be spent cleaning my bathroom top to bottom. And I explained to him that the yelling in the house was going to be kept to a minimum. If he failed to execute the minimum responsibilities required of him, he could expect to do some heavy cleaning as a consequence. This seemed to go over well with the Taz. And the next morning, he woke up before I did to clean the bathroom and get it over with.

cleaning 002

He woke me up to come check his work, and I did with a critical eye. I told him all the things that still needed to be done.

“ButMomIhavebeenworkingsohardonthisallmorningandIjustwanttohavefun
whydon’tyouevencareaboutmethisistoohardyou’reruiningmylifeIjustwantto
goouttoplaywithmyfriendsandI’mhungryandthebathroomlooksfinewhycan’t
Ibedone?”

Instead of clenching and unclenching my hands, hyperventilating with a raised heart beat, or seeing red, I stood there watching him in anticipation. His “excuse maker” tapered off and he waited for my reaction.

“Are you done?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

“Good. Now do what I’ve told you to do. You can eat breakfast only when you have finished.

We went through three more occurrences of failed cleaning attempts until I finally sat cross-legged by the door and pointed out one by one what needed to happen for me to be satisfied. 2 hours of total cleaning time, and he was done.

I’d love to say that this one event has cured him of all irresponsibility altogether. Of course I would. But come on, we’re talking about kids here.

“Mom, I’ve decided I want to quit baseball,” the Taz told me last night as I drove him from the meeting point his dad and I set up halfway between our homes.

“Why?” I asked. I had just finished telling him that we had an extra practice the next day.

“I just want to quit. I’m not enjoying it.”

I told him we weren’t just going to quit like that. And then it occurred to me why he was having a sudden change of heart.

“Did you remember to pack your uniform from your dad’s house?” I asked him.

“Um….no. I have everything except for the jersey.”

Right now I am enjoying a quiet house with a purring kitty, fondly eating some strawberry yogurt. And upstairs, the Taz is plugging away at making sense of the chaos in his room until I deem it acceptable. Maybe it’s going to take some time until he has mastered the art of responsibility. But my house is about to get really, really clean.

Is there a Howler Monkey living in your home? How about an “excuse maker”? Share your horror stories, or how you accomplished getting those two unwelcome guests evicted.

Loving the Bully

Years ago, I was helping out in my daughter’s 3rd grade class. The classroom was a room of organized chaos as the parents and I helped out on the latest project. But the vibe in the class was good as everyone participated in something that was more creative than doing seatwork for hours on end. But in a corner of the room, there was a different vibe. One of the kids, a noticeably larger kid than the rest of his 3rd grade peers, was doing his best to create conflict. He was taking pens from another student to finish his project, and claiming them as his own. And when the student complained, the bigger kid yelled out that they were his. Seeing that he wasn’t going to get away with it, he finally threw his papers and the pens across the room in defiance.

“Outside!” the teacher yelled out. The kid was angry at being called out, and stomped out of the room, slamming the door as hard as he could. The teacher made a quick call to the office, and then went back to her students.

This wasn’t the first time that I had seen this kid act out in the classroom. My daughter had shared a class with him once before, and the story had always been the same. Teachers didn’t know what to do with him, and he didn’t care one bit about school or in behaving properly. But for some reason, I liked the kid. He was funny and had a great smile. And I knew there was something underneath that just wasn’t being reached.

I quietly excused myself from the classroom and joined the kid outside. He was kicking the wall to the classroom in frustration and defiance, determined that if he was already going to get in trouble, he was going to make sure that he got enough of it in. I sat next to him.

“Hey,” I said. He didn’t answer. “Rough day, huh?” He gave me a sideways glance and continued kicking the wall. “You know, your teacher called the office. And they are probably going to call your parents,” I said.

“So,” he said.

“Well, what do you think your mom is going to say?” I asked him.

“I don’t have a mom,” he said.

“Alright, what about your dad?”

“He won’t care,” he said.

The kicking of the wall did finally cease as he finally opened up a tiny bit about his home life. His dad actually got mad at him all the time. And he also lived with his grandmother. We talked about what things he liked about school (nothing, he reported), and what he liked to do for fun. And throughout the conversation I could see that this was a boy who was crying out for attention, somebody to notice him as a good kid and worth something. And he wasn’t getting that at home, at school, anywhere.

Sometimes we, as a community, fail our kids.

It’s not like my family is immune to bullies, or at being angry over victimizing members of our family.  Just this summer, the Taz was involved in a skirmish with a kid that was three times bigger than him.  It was a scary situation for him, and for me that had to then think quickly about how to deal with it.  In the beginning I saw red over a giant of a kid picking on a kid so much smaller than him.  And I was ready to string him up in a mob mentality.  But as I talked with him and his parents, I saw a young boy inside of a big body that was so insecure that he took offense at my little son laughing at him.

“Almost 30% of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. In a recent national survey of students in grades 6-10, 13% reported bullying others, 11% reported being the target of bullies, and another 6% said that they bullied others and were bullied themselves.”  (www.safeyouth.org)

Thing is, it’s hard to show love to a kid who is lashing out. You can’t hug a thrashing wildcat. And let’s face it, if it’s our kid on the receiving end of a bully’s rage, we’d prefer to throttle the kids than to try and help him.  Thing is, this kid had it so ingrained that he was unlovable that he was determined to fit the mold. Focus on a kid’s bad side too much, and that’s all they will see as well.

I was in conversation this weekend with a man who did work with kids who were classified as bullies. He passionately told me about these kids. These were the kids who were picking on smaller kids to feel power. They were the ones who decided that the rules didn’t apply to them. They were the ones being sent out of the classroom so that the rest of the class could actually learn something without disruption. Many of these kids who were trouble in their younger years were the same ones who were joining gangs or causing illegal trouble when they were older. The black and white of it is that they are a problem. They are picking on our kids and making them victims, causing so much fear in some kids that they are afraid to go to school.

But there is a gray side. And that is what their family life looks like at home, and the reaction to them as events escalate. It is very rare for a kid from a loving and attentive family to join a gang. Gangs feed on those kids who aren’t getting love and attention at home. And the kids who join, join up with the desire of being accepted once and for all, to have a FAMILY. And on the outside that is what they feel they are getting. For once, they have a group of people that are there for them through thick and thin. And the loyalty in a gang is strong. So strong that when a kid decides that they can’t be involved in the tumultuous life of a gang, it is near impossible to get out.

How would a bully’s life change if they had someone there to tell them that they matter, that they are worth it, that their talents are great and their possibilities even greater? The program that this man briefly told me about sounded so hopeful and enlightening, it made me wonder if programs like this exist in our community. What are we doing, or what can be done, to help change the direction of bullies who are going down a slippery slope? I hear all the time about programs dedicated for victims of bullying. And that is definitely necessary. But are there any bully prevention programs that help the child that might be reacting to something bigger than just victimization, and to ward off future violence and trouble?