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When Schools Don’t Take Care of Bullies

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Kids have the right to ride school busses without being bullied.

As parents, we’re wired to protect our kids at all times. But what happens when we react without thinking through the consequences?

Last week a dad was arrested for coming onto a school bus and screaming profanities to those who had been bullying his daughter who has cerebral palsy. Once the story hit the media, the man received a lot of support and empathy from other parents, especially after he stated that he felt this was his only recourse when the school and bus driver did nothing to help his child.

I’m with the group who doesn’t think the man should have been arrested for trying to protect his daughter. But I always find myself asking questions when situations are not so clear cut, and several come to mind with this incident:

• Was his daughter actually safer after he went on the bus?
• Since he threatened the kids collectively, could that also be considered a kind of bullying in itself?
• Did the other kids on the bus (who were not involved in the bullying) feel unsafe by the father’s actions?
• If his daughter was not safe on the bus, then why was she still riding on it?

So what might have been a different option when the school was not responsive?

The father could have written the school board that he was keeping his child home from school every day until they could prove that all kids were safe on the bus. He could have also solicited as many parents as possible to do the same, noting that any child on the bus could be the bullies’ next victim. This type of action would have likely caught the media’s attention to do a story, especially since bullying has become a hot topic.

And why might the school have responded to the above solution and not the father’s individual calls? Namely, unexcused absences cost the schools a lot of money that they cannot afford to lose. Also, school board officials are elected, so they try to avoid negative publicity whenever possible.

Sure, we’d all prefer that school officials would act solely out of sheer concern for a child. But we may have to settle for finding other ways to motivate them.

In short, there’s no getting around this truth: Ultimately, we’re the ones who have to ensure that our kids are safe. But to make certain that happens, we may first have to rein in the primitive part of our brain—where we’re wired to react and protect—so that we can then use the better part of our brain to come up with a good, viable solution.

Sensory Friendly Films

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I love an idea that’s great for everyone, and Sensory Friendly Films are just that.

AMC's Sensory Friendly Films could become a model for other businesses, as well.

AMC's Sensory Friendly Films could become a model for other businesses, as well.

AMC Entertainment and the Autism Society sponsor a monthly film day so kids with autism can go to the movies – but in a way that’s tailored to meet their needs.  During these special showings, some lights are left on and the volume is turned down.  Parents are allowed to bring their food since many of their children are on restricted diets.  Kids can also make noises and move up and down the aisles—even touch the big screen—if they want.  Best of all, no one is shooting anyone dirty looks or calling the usher.

This idea is a win-win for all, especially the following:

Families with kids with autism

Now they can go to the movies without worrying what might happen.  If you don’t have a child with special needs, you probably haven’t considered how many places in the community seem off-limits to many families. That’s because parents of such kids are often judged when their child does not behave in a way that’s expected.

AMC Theatres

Without question, Sensory Friendly Films are great for business.  Not only is it good public relations to reach out and acknowledge a special group of kids, but I’m betting that show times for Sensory Friendly Films are not scheduled during peak hours.  So, AMC helps families, and at the same time brings in more revenue.  Brilliant.

Employment for teens and adults with autism

The huge response to Sensory Friendly Films (they are offered at 67 AMC sites in 36 markets) has provided lots of opportunities to AMC employees to get to know this special population of kids. I’m guessing such rich experiences were a catalyst for AMC’s recent announcement of a new employee program. They now have plans to help integrate teens and adults with autism into the theater’s workforce.  How cool is that?

Families without kids with special need

Sensory Friendly Films also addresses these families’ needs. While no one wants to appear unsympathetic to such kids, the truth is  . . .  most of us go to the theater expecting everyone to sit still and be silent throughout the movie.  By offering Sensory Friendly Films, no one has to choose between being supportive of a child who is moving around and making noises or enjoying a movie in a still, quiet environment.

Does this mean that we should always isolate kids with special needs and forgo compassion and tolerance whenever we happen to be in the same place? Absolutely not.  But I do think it’s genius any time businesses and support groups work together to meet everyone’s needs.

So why stop with Sensory Friendly Films?  How many other businesses could use this model to do something similar?

Just seems like the world would be a little kinder if we continue to find ways to help each other.

How to Stop Kids’ Whining – Part 2

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There is a lot more smiling when the whining ends.

There is a lot more smiling when the whining ends.

On a 1:10 scale, how badly do you want to end whining?

If you paused or said anything less than a ten, then the tips below probably won’t be useful to you.  No whining is an all-or-nothing deal.  However, if you’re game, here’s how you can end whining today.

First, we gotta chuck prior advice. How many times have you tried to ignore whining–only to have your child’s endurance outlast yours?  Second, no more telling kids: “Use your words.”  That’s about as effective as telling someone who’s upset to calm down.

Some parents may also need to do something overt. For example, families can bury all their (imaginary) whining in a hole in the backyard, or parents can post Whine-free Zone signs around the house.  Most of all, parents need to tell kids it’s not in their best interest to clutter prime cortical real estate with a whining brain map.

With the above in place, here are three effective ways to respond to whining:

1. Make the situation worse if the child whines.

Suppose a child is told to clear the table, and she responds with:  “Why do I have to do it? It’s not fair. I did it last night.”

The parent responds: “Now you can also sweep the floor. Was there anything else you’d like to add?”  If the child whines yet again, the parent says, “Great. Now you can also take out the trash.”

2. Teach the child to explore options.

Suppose a child complains he’s too tired to get his homework done on days he has soccer practice. Help the child start thinking in terms of solutions by asking questions:

“What are your options? Could you go to bed earlier and do your homework in the morning?  Could you talk to your teacher to see if there’s any flexibility in homework deadlines? What else is possible?”

3. Use humor.

We’re all cranky at times.  When my girls were little and we took long car trips in a jam-packed car, they’d sometimes start to complain about being so cramped.  So my husband and I would start whining with each other over who would end their whining. That made the girls smile, and the whining ended.

If we believe we can eliminate whining, we really can make it go away. And then . . .the  only “whine” in our house is the kind that comes with cheese.

How to Stop Kids’ Whining-Part 1

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We Can End Kids' Whining.

We can end kids' whining.

In Vegas, 30:1 odds are not considered good.  But to a kid who’s known to whine?  Hey, those odds are great.  That kid doesn’t care if 29 out of 30 times his whining falls on deaf ears. It’s that one time when it works—that keeps whining alive on a regular basis.

But there’s a downside to the occasionally effective whining.  It gets registered in the brain as being useful, so the child tries it again and again.

However, I don’t think people aspire to have whiners in their lives. Ever heard of someone looking for a spouse or boss or in-law who whines?

The truth is . . . whining children often evolve into whining adults.

It’s not just the bleak prospect of whining kids becoming whining grown-ups that should make us pause. Whining is the polar opposite of a cortex response, which is the kind of answer that we actually want our children to give.

For example, when our kids perceive something as unfair, we hope they’ll communicate in a way that shows reflection and thought.  When our kids are frustrated by something troublesome, we hope they’ll explore options and creative solutions. That’s a cortex way of looking at a situation or problem.

In contrast, whining skips over all that cortical thinking and leaps right to holding someone else responsible for the present misery.  And when that person doesn’t respond in kind?  Well, more whining (of course).

The good news?  Whining is not related to some neurological underdevelopment of the lower or higher centers of the brain.  Whining only happens because we allow it.

Interested in eliminating whining from your life?

How to Stop Kids’ Whining-Part 2 will appear in the next post.

Sugar-Free Halloween

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The cortex parent takes Halloween candy away  . . . and their kids smile!

The cortex parent takes Halloween candy away . . . and their kids smile!

Can your kids really enjoy a sugar-free Halloween? Yes.

Americans eat an average of 25 pounds of sugar—and much of that is trick-or-treat candy. But sugar consumption can weaken the immune system and increase hyperactivity in kids with and without ADHD.

That’s why the cortex parent doesn’t just cross her fingers and hope there’s no fallout from eating tons of Halloween candy. Here’s a solution that eliminates the candy binge–eating.

Once the kids return home from trick-or-treating, they go shopping at their very own sugar-free Halloween home store.  Everything here can only be purchased with candy.

At the bargain end, your child buys inexpensive non-edible items.  Sugar-free goodies are also for sale here. Such treats can be theme-based, such as eyeballs (peeled grapes with raisins in the holes for pupils) or those bought from companies who specialize in sugar-free candy.

But the bargain aisles won’t put much of a dent in your Halloween shopper’s candy bank.  That’s why there’s always a wrapped, mystery item—one for each child—at the far end of the store.

That item’s sale price? Whatever amount of candy remains in your child’s bag. Of course, the item is something your child has been wanting.   When my girls were young, their friends thought the store was “cool,” and they were never pitied for skipping Halloween’s sugar-fest.

The answer doesn’t have to be a store. Regardless of the solution, the cortex parent accepts the broader challenge of the question: How can we preserve the best of Halloween (trick or treating) without succumbing to the worst of it (eating all the candy)?

Other ideas to share?

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