By: James Burns Two teachers were talking in the hall sharing information about some of their more challenging students. “I don’t know,” said one teacher “I have tried everything with Tom and nothing works.” Behavior modification, extra gym time, phone calls home, parent conferences, restrictions and rewards, it almost seems useless.” The other teacher responded, “Tom, he is one of my better student’s. I have very little difficulty with him at all.”
This sounds like a familiar scenario. But, why is it that some teachers have all kinds of problems with one student while others who have the same student have little or no trouble at all. In order to completely understand this problem it is helpful if we understand the how our brain is wired. If we were to take a cross section of the brain we would discover that the top part of the brain is where we do most of our higher order thinking and where we process information. Understand that I am trying to draw a very basic picture for you. The middle part of the brain called the limbic system is where our emotions are located. Our mind and will is located there. The bottom part of the brain, the stem is where we go for survival. When we are under emotional stress our first response is to survive. The two basic methods for survival are to either attack or to escape. In getting a visual image of what I’m talking about please refer to the diagram of the brain located on page 36 and notice that all incoming information has to pass through the emotions in order to be processed by the neo-cortex where all higher order thinking and learning takes place.
So, if I were to say to you “When are you going to get this information right?” “I am so sick and tired of explaining this to you what are you dense or something?” Your natural tendency is to survive and you emotionally will either escape or attack. Children and adults who escape usually have clinical problems and are your students who are constantly late, sleep at the desk, chronically absent and may have substance problems. These students need to be watched carefully. In education the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We may not even be aware of these students until an event occurs that is catastrophic in nature such as suicide or even worse a violent incidence that could impact lives for generations to come. Students who have the attack mentality are more argumentative, disrespectful, and non-compliant. They are always in school and are looking for a victim that they can take their anger out on. It could be the person in charge or another weaker student. (Bully/Victim) This student spends a lot of time in the Vice-Principal’s office, has problems in the community and with the police.
The key to working with both of these students is to understand what qualities they need to develop in their life that will make them successful adults. The student who escapes needs to develop responsibility, the student who attacks needs to develop respect. In order to achieve the desired behavior from either of these students they must be taught to comply with the rules of the system that they are in.
The one thing that is in common with both of these students is that when a relationship is established with them they will comply at a more frequent rate and will display a respectful and responsible attitude when the person they are working with understands them as individuals. The order of the day is to realize that there are bricks in the wall of the limbic system that were put there by other adults who responded to them in a reactive and angry way. Our goal is to remove the bricks and develop a trusting relationship. Behavior modification is an excellent extrinsic structure but teaches students to behave in an adult’s presence not in their absence. Our aim is to develop an intrinsic mechanism that changes the child’s attitude and helps him/her develop a value system with standards that he/she will be able to sustain as an adult.
DO BULLIES HAVE LOW SELF-ESTEEM?
By: James Burns
Psychologists used to believe that bullies have low self-esteem, and put down other people to feel better about themselves. While many bullies are themselves bullied at home or at school, new research shows that most bullies actually have excellent self-esteem. Bullies usually have a sense of entitlement and superiority over others, and lack compassion, impulse control and social skills. They enjoy being cruel to others and sometimes use bullying as an anger management tool, the way a normally angry person would punch a pillow. Research does support the fact that bullies have low empathy, and don’t know how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes.
A bully is motivated by power. He/she is very clever and can victimize anyone. He likes controlling other students, and sometimes likes controlling his/her parents and teachers as well. As long as the bully is able to manipulate another person or a situation, his/her self-esteem remains high. Once a bully loses control of their victim, or realizes that they can’t manipulate situations to their liking they begin to experience problems with their self esteem and they will then seek out other people to manipulate and control to raise their self-esteem. It almost becomes an emotional fix that they need in order to feel good about themselves.
Intervention programs usually work to help the victim, and rightly so, the victim needs assistance in dealing with the person who is bullying them. In working with the bully we need to help the bully find things that will help him keep a consistent self-esteem index. Everyone has ups and downs in life, and bullies should experience the same ebbs and flows that are associated with becoming an adult. A bully’s self esteem cannot be based on how they treat others. If clear lines are not drawn and the bully is allowed to continue his behavior without consequence we are doing nothing more than prepare him for prison.
A student is accused of posing as a girl on Facebook, tricking at least 31 male classmates into sending him naked photos of themselves and then blackmailing some for sex acts. Anthony Stancl, 18, of New Berlin, west of Milwaukee, was charged with five counts of child enticement, two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault, possession of child pornography, repeated sexual assault of the same child and making a bomb threat. A survey of 1,280 teenagers (users age 13-19) and young adults (age 20-26) conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com has revealed that one out of five (20 percent) teens overall have posted nude photos or video of themselves on the Internet-that number goes up to a third when young adults are included. While 71 percent of teen girls and 67 percent of teen guys who have sent these photos say they've sent them to a boyfriend or girlfriend, 15 percent overall said they've sent nude photos to people they only "knew" online. For women, that percentage stays the same when they turn into young adults, although the percentage of young adult men goes up to 23 percent.
This is just another example of what society developed for good, deviant minds have used for criminal, and immoral purposes. What is the problem? Is it to difficult for individuals to enjoy the tools of convenience without trying to figure out how to use it to satisfy their own immoral appetites? I believe that speed and the lack of impulse control plays a big part in why these acts occur on a regular basis today. The speed of text messaging, and sending emails and pictures from a cell phone, combined with the poor impulse control on the part of deviant individuals creates an environment where people can say and send anything they want to another person, things that they wouldn't say in person like "do you want to screw," or do in person, like getting naked.
I am 60 years old, 40 years ago if I or anyone of my friends wanted to take and send nude pictures of ourselves or anyone else (By the way we never did) we would have to live with the embarrassment of having these pictures developed by a photographer. In order for a picture to be taken it needed two things, a subject and a photographer. No teenage girls were going to take their clothes off for some sex crazed boy and let him take her picture. Any pictures that were taken of anyone, and I mean clothed usually required a five day period for development. Everyone had time to think. It wasn't as easy as hitting the send key.
Once the send key is hit everyone has a record of what was sent, a record that will last a lifetime, and probably create a lifetime of misery. Society's stagnant morality just can't seem to keep up with the rapidly moving technology. We haven't figured out how to use our new toys and are always looking for ways to use these things to self destruct or to ruin the reputation of another person. When I was a kid I was told, never write a letter, and to never threw away a letter. I understand this now better than ever. At least 40 years ago if I wrote a letter I could decide if I wanted to mail it off. If it was written in anger I could think about it and allow my impulses to calm down. If someone sent me a letter that was less than friendly I had a permanent record of that person's thoughts of me.
Today people just don't think, they get a thought, no matter where they are and immediately begin to text someone and begin to berate another person without even giving it a second thought. It is just as easy as hitting the send key. Below is an article I wrote a while back about how this type of selfish and uncontrollable behavior affected an evening that I was spending with my daughter Sarah. It is living proof how texting if not used correctly can ruin and day, and evening, or a life. Thank God things worked out, but remember it all started with an impulsive text message. I left in my advice for those of you who have children who could be impacted by such insensitivity by others.
Many years ago when my oldest daughter Sarah was about 4 years old a good friend of mine told me that girls were easier to raise than boys. Well my oldest daughter is now 20 years old and I still haven't figured it out yet. One thing I do know is that I hate to see my daughter upset. I don't mean mildly upset, that just goes with being a teenager, but upset to the point of tears. This happened to me one night when my daughter was 17. She received a text message from one of her friends. The text message said that she wanted to talk to her about something. Sarah couldn't get in touch with the girl that sent the text so she called another one of the girls in this group. She has been friend with 4 girls for about the last two years. These girls did everything together. Hang out mostly as Sarah calls it. They went to parties together, studied together, drove to school together, and yes, they got into trouble once in a while together.
When she called one of the girls up the girl told Sarah that all four girls were upset with her because they were starting to view her as being selfish, and annoying. My daughter was blindsided by this information and really didn't know what to say. She didn't even know what they were talking about. I asked her if she thought this information was true. She told me no. I then asked her if she thought she might have a couple of blind spots and the girls were possibly seeing something in her that she just didn't see in herself. She said no, and I must say did a pretty convincing job backing up what she told me. The question is this; how do you as a dad offer a teenage daughter advice in situations like these? I am no expert but, I believe that I did a pretty good job based upon the outcome.
Teenage girls always seem to like to be connected to some group outside their family. Teenage boys like the connection also, but a boy's connection is usually with some type of sports team, or club. Girls like to be connected to each other. The longer this connection lasts the greater the chance that their weaknesses will be exposed, and for sure they will start engaging in rumors, and gossiping about one another. Girls also tend to become more jealous in these relationships if a boy becomes involved in this mix. Once one of the girls has an opinion about someone else in their group they will bend over backward to try and convince the other members of the group that it is true. They will even search for the evidence to prove their point. This behavior becomes crushing and emotionally painful to the girl who is being ganged up on, as was the case with my daughter.
What can you do when your daughter confides in you enough to tell you what is going on? First, listen, and I mean listen well. Find out all the facts and please don't react or condemn your daughter. Don't say to her you better change your ways. If you are condemning her it's a good chance that that's the reason why she looking for connections outside the family. The next thing is to love her to death with your actions and words. My comment to my daughter was, I like everything about you. I like how you talk and how you act. Help her understand that you are her biggest fan. Let her know that she doesn't have to apologize for something that she truly believes she is not guilty of. I mean are these girls the only one with an opinion. Of course if she feels as if she has done something to offend someone apologize, and move on.
Tell your daughter that long term relationships give everyone an opportunity to show their true colors. These relationships may be nice at first, but the longer that a person is in them the greater the chance that the true character of someone will pop up. That's when a person has to decide if they want to stay friends with someone who is not a very loyal friend. Tell your daughter to stand tall, hold her head up, and don't let them see you cry, and that you will be there to help her do all of these.
Adolescent relationships are a growth process. There is pain that can come from being hurt by a so called friend. Guess what by the time your daughter is 22 she will have the savvy to manage this type of crap and she won't be emotionally immature when it comes down to relationships. All friendships are not intimate, and by that I mean a relationship that involves a person's heart, mind, and soul. The relationships that your daughter has with someone in high school might be viewed by her as intimate. Relationships have a continuum that go from, acquaintance, friend, close friend, and then intimate friend. An intimate friend is usually someone that is a life long friend.
By the way after I offered my daughter some of my wisdom, which by the way took me two days, she said to me "I really love you dad," and was happier than I have seen her in a long while. When I was alone, I cried, yes I cried again. I am such a big baby.