In this Episode
Bullying can come in many forms, even in subtle ways that we don’t notice at first but can build over time. Kids with learning challenges may be more prone to bullying so we want to make sure that you have the tools to help your child rise above bullying.
This is a hard topic to talk about so I commend you for leaning in.
This week’s podcast guest is Danielle Matthew, LMFT and director of the Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. She shares strategies that will empower your child against bullying, and also benefit the school and community.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- Different forms of bullying
- 3 E’s to empower your child
- Benefits of using a social media contract with your child
"Bullying is not a one-time thing, and just doesn't go away after one conflict resolution.
It can stop and start, and stop and start over years. It's important to check-in regularly with your kid to see if they need help creating another solution."
- Danielle Matthew, LMFT
- The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate and Conquer Bullying - Danielle Matthew's book
- https://empowerment.space - Information for how to contact Danielle and her private practice and consultation
- What guidance can you give teachers and administrators to handle bullying at school?
- What can you do if you find out your child has been bullied for years no?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A with Danielle Matthew for her approach and what she trains parents and educators to do.
[00:00:01.270] - Jill Stowell
If you think back to your childhood, I'm guessing that you can think of a time when you felt teased or maybe even bullied. This is a hard topic to talk about, but as parents, we need to know what to be aware of and how to talk to our children and the schools about bullying. Our guest today is here to give you some very practical tools. This is LD expert Live.
[00:00:40.350] - Jill Stowell
As children are heading back to school in whatever form that takes this year, there are some that are dreading it because of past experiences with a bully. Today, we are going to help you understand what bullying is and what it isn't and what it looks like in today's world.
[00:01:00.810] - Jill Stowell
Our guest, Danielle Matthew is going to give you a concrete strategy for empowering your children and some guidance on managing your own emotions around bullying as you talk to your kids.
[00:01:14.070] - Jill Stowell
This is LD Expert live. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers, where we help children and adults permanently change their learning and attention challenges, including Dyslexia. Our guest today is Danielle Matthew. Danielle is a licensed marriage and family therapist who treats bully victims and their families and educates schools, medical professionals and the community about the bullying epidemic.
[00:01:45.990] - Jill Stowell
Danielle is the author of Amazon parenting bestseller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate and Conquer Bullying. And she is the director of the Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Danielle also has a private practice in Sherman Oaks, California, where she helps adolescents, adults, couples and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self esteem or depression.
[00:02:22.410] - Jill Stowell
Danielle has been featured on Huffington Post, Washington Post and Today.com, and has also appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning shows and Mom Talk radio. Danielle trains consults, and and speaks nationwide. It is a real honor to have you here today, Danielle.
[00:02:45.290] - Danielle Matthew
Thank you. Hi, nice to see you. Thank you for having me, Joe. I appreciate it.
[00:02:49.520] - Jill Stowell
Well, I know you have such important information to share with us today, and I know this topic is very close to your heart. What has caused you to be so passionate about helping young people and families who have been victims of bullying?
[00:03:11.550] - Danielle Matthew
Well, I was bullied as a child, and I remember it so well in my mind. I was bullied in grammar school, in middle school and high school, and I remember feeling horrible about myself and my low self esteem, and I remember I got help. But I know a lot of kids out there who I work with and have seen don't get that help. And so that's what my passion and drive is about, is to really help victims of bullying and so they don't feel so alone, because I get it.
[00:03:40.270] - Danielle Matthew
I'm not just writing a book as an expert or consulting as an expert. I really understand the experience of what kids go through and even young adults who later look at their bullying earlier in history and are like, we need to really address this. So I really understand what bullying victims go through, because I was one of those myself.
[00:04:01.590] - Jill Stowell
Yeah, that's tough, but it really puts you in a place where you really understand and that's really critical. So let's talk a little bit about what bullying is.
[00:04:19.470] - Danielle Matthew
So what bullying is, is the pattern of behavior of someone having more over someone else. So they must have power over them. And it's not a one time thing. Sometimes a one time thing is an issue between two kids, but an actual pattern of behavior of bullying that happens over and over again where someone has power repeatedly over someone else is what I qualify as bullying.
[00:04:44.170] - Danielle Matthew
Sometimes a conflict resolution is like a one-time thing we talk about the kids have with each other, but if someone has power over someone else and it's happening from one grade to the next, one day to the next, whether it's online or in-person or on social media, it is still considered bullying. And it's a repeated pattern of behavior.
[00:05:05.510] - Danielle Matthew
So it's really important to say that because a lot of times people will call bullying behavior that's not really bullying, and it's sometimes just a conflict resolution between kids or one time event. And it's not to say that that's not important or significant, because of course that is, but it's repeated patterns of power over somebody else that is very significant for a bully victim.
[00:05:30.450] - Jill Stowell
And I imagine that can take a lot of different forms.
[00:05:35.740] - Danielle Matthew
Yes. So the different kinds of bullying and the forms that we look at are the physical, which is hitting somebody, which is what we can see, which we don't have a lot of, I don't think, as much anymore.
[00:05:46.510] - Danielle Matthew
And then we have the verbal, which is the name calling, which we can hear people saying to each other.
[00:05:51.310] - Danielle Matthew
But the more recent, I would say 15 to 20 plus years that we're seeing is more the cyber bullying, which is online, on social media, chat rooms, whatever you want to call it, as well as relational bullying, which is really kids being mean to each other and leaving each other out, ostracizing from groups.
[00:06:10.080] - Danielle Matthew
And that's what I'm seeing the most of in my practice, is really the cyberbullying and the relational bullying. That's what's going on. I think, especially right now, if you look at COVID-19 and everything that's happened and we're doing so much more online and we're doing so much more on media, I would say those are even more potentially prominent at this time versus the physical and the verbal because we're not able to connect with people as much as we were before.
[00:06:34.950] - Jill Stowell
And so, thinking about those two in particular, the relational and the social media, what should parents be looking for?
[00:06:47.790] - Danielle Matthew
Well I think one thing that we look for is we talk to kids about social media and how to use it responsibly. Because especially right now. I think in COVID-19. It's really hard to tell our kids. You can't really go online or you can't be talking to people or you can't do meetings or do FaceTime because that's all they have because we're not allowed to see each other except for social distancing. Depending on what everyone feels comfortable with. Right. So some people aren't even able to go out. We can't take that away from them.
[00:07:16.190] - Danielle Matthew
So we want to talk about how to use social media responsibly. So what does that look like? What I always tell groups of kids when I teach it is you're on stage. So if you think about being on a stage, everyone can see you and view you and know what's going on and people know and you can't take it out away from somebody.
[00:07:35.180] - Danielle Matthew
So you want to be really thoughtful about how you use social media. And I think parents talking to kids about it ahead of time and also having a social media contract that they both sign together would also be really helpful, where they work on a contract together about what they're going to watch for, what they're going to be careful about, and what they're not going to be able to look at certain things online and how they represent themselves.
[00:07:58.490] - Danielle Matthew
I think that's the most important thing when we talk to kids about a contract or how to use social media responsibly, especially in relation to bullying, is how do you represent yourself, the whole idea of being on stage, but do you want to represent yourself positively? Do you want to go in on negative activity with other people who are on certain media sites and being mean or calling people names? Really having that chat with kids is really important and having more of almost like a morality discussion, right, about how they want to be viewed and what feels good to them and really talking that through and maybe even role playing certain situations that could actually come up while they're online and how they might want to handle them.
[00:08:39.040] - Danielle Matthew
And I think parents also being open always to change and to shifting of what's being happening online from certain social media sites and really helping their kids as a guide, not telling them what to do, but kind of guiding them and giving them an ability to empower themselves to figure out what would be the best way to represent themselves with guidelines from parents.
[00:09:00.990] - Jill Stowell
Wow, there's a lot there.
[00:09:05.010] - Danielle Matthew
[00:09:07.650] - Jill Stowell
In your book you talk about a strategy that you call The Three E's, and I would love for you to share that with parents because I think it's a really practical tool for how to work with your kids around this area of bullying.
[00:09:29.010] - Danielle Matthew
So I wrote a program called the Empowerment Space and one week of my program is called The Three E's: Empathy, Empowerment and Engagement. And it's how to talk to kids for parents, for educators, for mental health workers about bullying.
[00:09:45.790] - Danielle Matthew
And so the first one is empathy, and it's really teaching. I don't know if you knew this, but I didn't learn empathy also until I was in graduate school. So really teaching what empathy is essentially meaning asking kids how they feel. A lot of times when parents will come see me, they'll say, oh, well, Johnny's been feeling this way. He's really upset about this. Well, we don't want to take that little bit of power away from the kids, right? We want them to be able to say to us, well I feel this way?
[00:10:13.600] - Danielle Matthew
So we ask them how they're feeling, and we can say things like, I'm wondering if you're feeling embarrassed. I'm wondering if you're feeling ashamed about what was there. Asking those kind of questions with maybe putting words to them but don't telling them that's what it is. So that's the first thing we have to establish when we guide kids around bullying, is we have to figure out how they're feeling and what that actually looks like.
[00:10:36.590] - Danielle Matthew
And so that's our first step. It's really asking and being empathic by not telling them, but really listening to them and hearing them and asking, maybe this is how you're feeling, but not telling them. So they have a little power starting this conversation with being able to tell you what is right and what is not without any judgment from a parent.
[00:10:55.500] - Danielle Matthew
The second thing is empowerment. How do we empower our kids? How do we help them solve problems themselves? I am a big proponent, and sometimes parents will look at me and go, really, this is what you should be doing? And I said, yes.
[00:11:07.320] - Danielle Matthew
Kids need to learn how to handle problems themselves. Every bullying victim that I ever talked to never wants their mom or dad to go in and talk to the principal or the kids of the bully or the parents. And they don't want them involved. They're embarrassed a lot of time. They feel bad. They don't want to make their parents feel bad, and they feel ashamed. And the last thing they want to do is have a parent handle the problem. So what I really do is more of a guide.
[00:11:32.030] - Danielle Matthew
So my guide is how to help parents with helping their kids to solve their own problems. So empowering them is, how do you want to handle this problem? If they said something to you on social media that was really hurtful, what do you want to do? Would you like to role play with me ways that you can actually change how your behavior would be and I can be the other person online and we can talk about ways for you more responsibly to respond that feel good to you, what do you want to do?
[00:12:00.250] - Danielle Matthew
But you give them the decision making process. You guide them in suggestions and helping them along the way but they have to decide which way is going to work for them.
[00:12:09.850] - Danielle Matthew
And my final thing is about engagement, because with bullying, it starts and it stops and it starts and it stops again. So I really encourage parents to check in to say, hey, how did that role play go for that specific online incident that happened with Sally? Does that work for you? Do you want to talk it through again? Are there other situations coming up that you feel like you may need some more help?Because if that's the case, I'm here to help you.
[00:12:35.350] - Danielle Matthew
Because one thing I will tell you about bullying is it ebbs and flows. It doesn't just go away and then you never hear about it again. When I was bullied, it started in grammar school, elementary school, and then it went to middle school and to high school. So there were waves of it. It would stop and then it would start again. And that's what I've seen in all the bullying victims I've been working with, is we have stopping and starting.
[00:12:56.500] - Danielle Matthew
So we really want to take them through those three steps of empathy, empowerment, and engagement to help guide our parents. We really want to do that because it's so important. And I know parents need help and guidance because I think bullying is a very triggering topic. And parents may have had their own personal experiences or don't understand because they had a different experience with their peers in high school or junior high or elementary school. So this is a way to help give parents a guide or educators or mental health professionals a guide as well.
[00:13:30.450] - Jill Stowell
I think that is incredibly helpful because as a parent, it is really easy to get our heckles up and just want to go into anger and attack mode over someone hurting our child. And it's hard, we may think if we just say, well, how are you feeling? And the child doesn't know.
[00:14:01.370] - Jill Stowell
So I love those little pieces of guidance there: I wonder if you're feeling embarrassed. Because that is so much less threatening. And then they kind of think about it. And giving parents and kids a way to think about how to solve it, how to practice it is true. You use the word empowerment. It is giving them some power, and of course, you're checking back.
[00:14:37.210] - Danielle Matthew
Yes. And in my book, I have sample dialogue, so it actually can spell out for parents different ways that they can do it for different situations. One for cyber bullying, one for relational bullying, one for physical, one for verbal. So there's different actual physical examples for parents to look at. And what I hear is that parents will look at it with kids and say, well, that dialogue isn't me, but this one does fit. So they can actually visually look at something to help them understand how to talk about the issues in, like, samples.
[00:15:08.110] - Jill Stowell
Yeah. This is LD Expert Live and today we have been talking about bullying. This is a really emotional topic for many people, either for themselves or for their children. And Danielle, again, I just really appreciate all of the practical advice you've given us.
[00:15:28.660] - Danielle Matthew
[00:15:29.580] - Jill Stowell
At Stowell Learning Centers, we work with bright kids with learning and attention challenges. And until those struggles have been addressed and eliminated, these kids' self-esteem can take a real hit because they know they should be able to do it and they just can't. Do you find that kids with learning challenges are more prone to bullying?
[00:15:58.750] - Danielle Matthew
They can be. Again, what I find the kids who bully are when someone's different. So if the learning challenges are very outward and can be seen in this classroom very differently, sometimes they can be kids who are going to be bullied because they look like they're different. And even though as adults we like differences and we're really interested in people who have those differences, kids don't.
[00:16:21.700] - Danielle Matthew
Kids are not always people who like differences. And when something's weird to them or different, whether it's a learning disability or someone who can't do certain things in a classroom or function like everybody else, it feels different to them.
[00:16:34.200] - Danielle Matthew
Now, I would advise maybe instead of kids thinking that's weird or awkward, maybe asking kids, hey, why is this going on for you in a nice way and kind of learning more about what they're learning disability or their educational difficulties or why do you sit up always in the front of the class? Or why do you get more time? I noticed when we take tests or what happened, why is that? Maybe ask the question because kids really like that when they're asked questions versus just assuming and making assumptions are hurting their feelings.
[00:17:04.710] - Danielle Matthew
So why not just go up to them and go, hey, why is this happening very casually? And then maybe they'll feel differently when they have a better understanding, especially for a lot of the learning difficulties that might come in to task.
[00:17:18.550] - Jill Stowell
That is great advice. Very early on, one of my adult students and I used to go into the schools and we would talk to kids about learning challenges and he was very cool because he was actually an actor and he was a stunt man. And so they really loved hearing about those differences. And I think it really built some empathy. And so if we can help our kids to do that, if we know that there are children in their classroom who are struggling or something, kind of help them think of the language to use to approach them and just understand better.
[00:18:06.350] - Danielle Matthew
Yeah, great tool.
[00:18:09.110] - Jill Stowell
So you have mentioned the three Es a number of times, and I feel like they are a great tool for empowering students and really applicable not only to bullying, but to other challenges as well. And I know you've mentioned it a few times, but I just think it's very powerful. So if you would just quickly summarize that for us one more time for talking to kids about bullying and helping them to stop it and regain their self esteem, I think that would be great.
[00:18:46.490] - Danielle Matthew
Sure. So I have a big feeling for me that I always use, which is knowledge is power. And the more knowledge you have, the more power you can make change happen. And so for me, if you have an empathy and empowerment and engagement process, you can really teach kids a lot and you can show them that they're just as good as anyone else by empowering them and believing in them.
[00:19:08.140] - Danielle Matthew
And so you start with empathy and asking, how are you feeling? Or I'm wondering if you're feeling ashamed about this or embarrassed that this was called out to you on the social media. Like, how are you feeling about this?
[00:19:19.540] - Danielle Matthew
And coming from an empathic place in your delivery and tone not coming from an escalated frustrated place. I really encourage that because that's the first step towards giving kids power back and letting them tell you how they feel versus telling them how you think they're feeling.
[00:19:35.060] - Danielle Matthew
The next thing is empowering them. I am a big believer in empowering kids to be their own advocate, because at some point, parents aren't going to be there anymore and kids are going to have to learn how to advocate for themselves.
[00:19:46.100] - Danielle Matthew
So parents need to ask kids, how do you want to handle problems? How do you want to advocate for yourself? If this is going on with social media, what do you want to do to handle this problem? Do you want to role play with me? Maybe I can be this person. You can be that person online. Would that be helpful? Because I really want you to advocate for yourself, but I want us to have a plan of what that's going to look like.
[00:20:06.690] - Danielle Matthew
Not that, don't worry, because sometimes that's what kids will say is, don't worry, I can handle it, mom and dad, I don't need your help. But that's when parents do stay pretty proactive. I understand that you can handle it, and I have all the faith and confidence in the world, but even though that's the case, I still want to talk you through this. Let's just have some dialogue. Whatever you decide to do will be your choice, but let's just run through this and very casually doing that with a plan of action.
[00:20:34.220] - Danielle Matthew
And then you have the engagement, which is a follow up to the plan and what you're going to do and how often you're going to do it, and then checking in later with the kids to see, hey, did that work? What we practiced? Is that something you ended up using with so and so? What happened? Tell me. I'd love to know if you're comfortable telling me what that's about.
[00:20:52.900] - Danielle Matthew
So what you do in this three pronged process is you give them their power back, and you empower them to believe they're amazing. And they have what's important to change things. And kids need to feel like they can change things themselves. They don't want parents doing things for them, and especially if you're a middle or high school, that's even harder for them, and they want to learn to feel good about themselves.
[00:21:13.900] - Danielle Matthew
And so what you're doing is parents, educators, mental health professionals for bullying or anything else that you want to talk about. You're giving them the strength to have their voice again and to feel heard and to feel like what they're saying and doing is important in this world. And that is huge for their self esteem.
[00:21:33.470] - Jill Stowell
That is huge. That was fabulous. Thank you so much, Danielle.
[00:21:39.230] - Danielle Matthew
[00:21:39.750] - Jill Stowell
If your child is dealing with bullying, I encourage you to get Danielle's book The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate and Conquer Bullying. A great resource. She trains and consults around the country, and she has a private practice to work directly with families in California.
[00:22:13.010] - Jill Stowell
Stowell Learning Centers are a part of a network of centers around the country working to permanently change learning and attention challenges. If there is someone in your area, we will definitely connect you. Thank you again, Daniel, for all of the insights and tools for helping parents, kids, and teachers deal with bullying.
[00:00:00.490] - Maddie
So our first question, how would you talk with kids if you found out they're the ones bullying another child? That's a good question.
[00:00:10.310] - Danielle Matthew
I get that a lot. What do you do? How do you handle the bully? What do you do with the bully? And mine, my feeling is with bullies, is that we talk to them about what's going on, and we ask them questions because usually there's a reason they're bullying, and we want to understand where it comes from.
[00:00:26.680] - Danielle Matthew
Sometimes it's role modeling. At home, there's certain ways they're learning to bully and why they're doing it. So if I were to find out that my kid is actually a bully, I would want to hear their side of it first, and I would try to really emulate with them empathy.
[00:00:41.050] - Danielle Matthew
I think that's a really important piece, because do they understand how it really made someone else feel? Do they understand that that's hurtful and really kind of explore with them the idea of empathy and being nice to other people and also what may be getting triggered for them. Because what I often see a lot in my practice is if a bully is bullying, there's a reason for it. There's something they don't understand about the other person. There's something going on that maybe is confusing.
[00:01:09.130] - Danielle Matthew
So I think really open a conversation, the way I would not talk to a kid about them being the bully is I wouldn't be angry at them. That's the worst thing, I think, coming from an angry position or telling them right away, you're in trouble and I'm going to punish you, you cut that conversation so quickly off that you can't really continue and find out what's really going on. Because ultimately that's the goal with even someone who's bullying, why they're bullying, you want to understand their process. And we can only do that if we come from an understanding place ourselves.
[00:01:41.450] - Jill Stowell
Absolutely. Say as we work with our students who have learning and attention challenges, there can be behaviors that can go along with that sometimes. And the thing is, there's always a reason to the behavior, and when we can stop and really figure out what that reason is, then we can help the child address.
[00:02:09.040] - Danielle Matthew
Exactly. And that's ultimately our goal. And so we don't want to shame them either, because that's what we don't want to teach them, which is what they may have done to someone else. We don't want to model that as parents. And I think parents, I understand they feel very frustrated in that moment. And so I urge them to take a deep breath, go for a walk, do some self care before they have that actual conversation. I really encourage that as well.
[00:02:33.330] - Maddie
That's such a good point. I love how it all ties together. It's like there always is that root issue and addressing it there. That's a good point. We have another question. Do you have any advice for parents who might want to be proactive and maybe so far their child hasn't been bullied or anything, but they want to have that kind of relationship where if it did come up, their child felt comfortable. Do you have any tips for kind of laying the groundwork there for parents?
[00:03:08.980] - Danielle Matthew
Yeah, I think depending on the age of your child, I think it's really important to have conversations about issues that may end up coming up at a certain time where if anything comes up or someone you feel is upsetting you or hurting you, I want you to always know I'm here for you and I'm nonjudgmental.
[00:03:24.840] - Danielle Matthew
I think that piece is really important to say is I'm non judgmental. I'm not going to judge you for whatever you come and say to me. I'm going to do and hear you and support you through it because all I want for you is the best. And I think having that upfront conversation and sometimes even with maybe middle school and elementary school kids, I think reading certain books about peer situations and social situations can be really powerful because then I think that brings up dialogue and conversation.
[00:03:51.730] - Danielle Matthew
The other time of day, I think not as much right now in Covid, but that we have talked about that I think can be a good time of day to talk to your kids about issues is the car. I find the car time is really good between going to different events or something.
[00:04:06.620] - Danielle Matthew
Kids aren't as on their social media always all the time and it's a good time to say, hey, put your stuff away for a few minutes. We only have a couple of minutes to drive to "X's" house. Let's just talk. Let's talk about how things are going for you or sometimes maybe at bed time that could also be good.
[00:04:22.030] - Danielle Matthew
But you want to leave an open-ended space for kids to really come back to you where again, they don't feel shame, they don't feel judged and they feel like you're really open to hearing them without giving them a solution either.
[00:04:33.000] - Danielle Matthew
Because you really want to be clear that you don't want to tell them as the parent, "well then I'll take care of it for you. I'll go to the school." Because that's the last thing the kids want. They don't want any parent taking care of it. They're ashamed as it is and they feel bad to burden a parent and they worry about that. So I don't recommend that frame of reference either. I would just leave a really safe, honest space for kids to come and talk about any issues, including bullying.
[00:04:59.530] - Maddie
Yeah, that's a great point. I know that I've had students where they've mentioned things and it sounds like they could be getting bullied and I'm like, hey, do your parents know about what's going on? And they're like, no, they're just going to go to the school or go to their parents.
[00:05:16.220] - Maddie
Yeah, it's so true. That's not what they want. So definitely a good reminder. Well, yeah, keep posting your questions, everyone, and I'll be checking back later in the show. And again, just so everyone feels comfortable posting their questions, I won't be putting them up on the screen.
[00:05:35.050] - Jill Stowell
All right. Thank you, Maddie. This is LD expert Live. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, and we're talking today with Danielle Matthew, who is an author, speaker and trainer on the topic of bullying. So with COVID, our kids have been out of school and pretty isolated from each other for about six months. And I know we talked a little bit about bullying in cyberspace, but has there been a change in that behavior with most of their social life being online?
[00:06:21.080] - Danielle Matthew
That's a great question, Jill, because I think what I've seen is a lot of kids at first, when Covid happened in mid March, some kids who are being bullied and had social situations at school that were high anxiety for them. They were happy not to be at school. They didn't want to be there, and they were okay being at home and being away from social situations.
[00:06:39.230] - Danielle Matthew
And even towards graduation, some kids, even if they got out of their cars, they'd be worried, well, what are other kids going to be thinking of me? Even though they hadn't been in school for a couple of months, but would do the drive by graduation. So there was still a lot of feelings about it.
[00:06:53.190] - Danielle Matthew
But interestingly enough, what I have found more recently as we've gotten six plus months into Covid, and still the online school kids are wanting to go back to school. Even kids who've been bullied and had high social pressures, they're wanting to be back in a school environment again, and they're not wanting to be at home.
[00:07:11.750] - Danielle Matthew
And they miss the routine, and they miss just being in school and not being at home online or doing zoom calls or going into certain documents to find their homework assignments. And so a lot of kids, even bullied kids, miss being in school, and they missed that routine.
[00:07:30.070] - Jill Stowell
Wow. Yeah. And that's so tough right now because it's very up in the air about what that's really going to look like.
[00:07:40.560] - Danielle Matthew
[00:07:42.250] - Jill Stowell
You mentioned something with regard to social media a little bit earlier, but I feel like it bears repeating. You said something about helping kids to understand that they're on stage. I think sometimes when people are on social media, it feels somehow easier to say things that you wouldn't necessarily say in person. And I just think that's a great image for kids to have just know you're on stage when you post stuff out there.
[00:08:23.470] - Danielle Matthew
Yes. And to your point, sometimes when kids are so amped and they're so reactive, they're not thinking in that moment when they're posting something what the after effects will be like. So I really encourage when we talked about earlier, when parents talk about how to responsibly use social media, using different examples ahead of time, like you're going to get really mad sometimes if someone says this to you. What do you want to do about that? How do you think you can respond?
[00:08:47.930] - Danielle Matthew
And having some maybe work ahead of time on it to kind of prepare them for those kinds of situations and how they can responsibly answer so it doesn't make them feel bad later because what I hear 99% of the time is they're upset later with what they ended up saying because they were so engaged in the moment, in feeling so frustrated about things.
[00:09:10.450] - Jill Stowell
Yeah. So as you work with young people in your private practice, well, you talk a little bit about how kids are wanting to go back to school. Are there any particular things that you feel like you're seeing as kids are going back to school? Just with relation kind of a little more broadly, but with covid, with homeschooling, just sort of the fears that kids kind of build up?
[00:09:51.330] - Danielle Matthew
That's a great question, Jill, because one of the things that I'm starting to see is that covid is being handled very differently in different communities and parents have different levels of response to covid. Some parents are really cautious and careful and want the social distancing and kids not to be near each other and masks wearing and all that. And there are other kids whose parents are more lenient about COVID and how they can be with their friends and have sleepovers and whatnot.
[00:10:16.260] - Danielle Matthew
And that can create a significant divide of potential bullying post-COVID. Because what's happening is kids aren't able to participate and be a part of activities that they normally would be and they feel ostracized. Sometimes it's not maybe intentional and other times it may become intentional because they can't. Oh, this is the kid who has to be 6ft apart. This is the kid who always has to wear the mask. She won't be able to come to our sleepover, she can't go out with us on Halloween. Her parent is this.
[00:10:45.330] - Danielle Matthew
And so it really creates a very concerning divide for me with kids in our community and I'm seeing this in some of my clients is that they have a really hard time and feel bad because their parent may be more cautious and careful for something that is very significant and serious, where another parent is viewing it differently.
[00:11:03.480] - Danielle Matthew
And so how do you balance that? Because you can't tell parents to do things differently, that's how they feel. But you have to help the kids find a balance so they don't lose their friends, they don't lose their connections and they can feel somewhat still a part of things, even if it feels very different to what their other friends get to do. You want to not get them to feel more socially isolated and that's when depression and anxiety increase significantly.
[00:11:30.350] - Jill Stowell
So I know you do a lot of training for educators on how to deal with bullying at school. And certainly if it is not on site, it may not be as evident to a teacher. But what would you really like for teachers and school administrators to know about how to handle bullying at their school?
[00:12:00.050] - Danielle Matthew
I think it's really important to handle bullying that you do not bring kids in, if you're, a principal, will start there. I don't suggest you bring kids in together, the bullying, the victim and their parents, because what you do in that situation, even though your intentions are good to address the problem and handle it, it ends up revictimizing the victim again who's been bullied. And then they will just be more secretive and careful.
[00:12:23.950] - Danielle Matthew
And every time I hear this from parents later, when they've gone to a principal's office, and then the one thing I constantly hear later is the whole idea of their kid getting revictimized again and their kid having to now they can't even see it. So a teacher can't call it out. But if a teacher and a principal, let's just say, wants to address bullying, it's okay to talk to a parent. I do suggest that that's still important. Parents have a right to have an idea of how a school is going to handle bullying.
[00:12:53.160] - Danielle Matthew
But when a principal addresses it, what I'm really strongly suggesting is you give a plan of action to a parent that this is what we're going to do. We're going to follow up within this stage. We're going to do our own investigation. Even though you can't really tell the specifics, it's private information about how they're going to address problems. But they can give just an actionable plan to parents and in giving an actionable plan can really help them with, okay, I hear the principal gets it. He's on my side. He gets it, and he's going to follow up with this amount of days. And then that principal must follow up because that's what the parents want.
[00:13:29.440] - Danielle Matthew
They don't want to hear the specifics of what you're going to do to John or how you're going to handle John's family or what you're going to tell the teachers. They want to know that they have an advocate. They want to know that there's someone there that has their voice, and they want to know that by the follow through and the plan that's put forth to them.
[00:13:45.250] - Danielle Matthew
And if teachers are confronted with this, I really think their schools, every school, should have education on bullying, what bullying is, what it's not, and how to intervene and what to do, because it's really important to understand how kids feel and how to help them respond to bullying.
[00:14:03.320] - Danielle Matthew
One of the things that I hear a lot, I will just add this in, is about the bystander and being that positive bystander who's really positive and stands up for the victim. The reality is, a lot of kids, as wonderful as it is when they can do it, and I think it's wonderful. I don't think we can ask that of our kids, especially in, I think, middle school and high school. I think kids don't want to get bullied themselves, and so they don't want to be put in the position always to have to do that, but they still have a voice.
[00:14:31.320] - Danielle Matthew
And I want teachers and educators to know and teach kids how to still have their voice. If there's a situation where there's a neutral bystander and there's a kid in the middle not engaging one way or the other, they can go back to the bullied victim later and go, are you okay? Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about something? So it doesn't get them in trouble with their other friend who may be the bully, but they can still use their voice to support them? So I would encourage educators to also use their voice to teach kids how to be an advocate in other ways that can still be really powerful and helpful.
[00:15:05.550] - Danielle Matthew
It's that whole empathy idea, right, about checking and asking kids how they feel and really understanding their situation and letting them know that, in their words.
[00:15:17.450] - Jill Stowell
That's a really great point about the bystander and being careful not to force them into a position that now they're having to choose between two friends or put themselves in a vulnerable position.
[00:15:34.560] - Danielle Matthew
[00:15:35.290] - Jill Stowell
Yeah. So what should parents be aware of as they approach the school about a particular incident involving their child?
[00:15:47.420] - Danielle Matthew
So what I always suggest to parents is go directly to the teacher and to the principal first. Go in the proper channels if you're not feeling like you're getting the follow through that I was just talking about. Where they have a plan of action and a timeframe to follow up with you and you've given them time. I would document all of this.
[00:16:04.280] - Danielle Matthew
And then what I would do is I would go to the superintendent of the school. Because I go through the channels. Because the superintendent, rightfully so, is going to say to you: did you go through the proper channels? And what was the response? And I would have something documented at that point, if you're still feeling like you're not getting your point across.
[00:16:22.090] - Danielle Matthew
I really don't want to see parents and I see this a lot and have kids leave schools because the kids can't handle any more. There's escalating depression. It's just too much socially. I would like us to get to things before that point, because really what I teach kids and I teach parents in my trainings and my presentation is that kids have to get used to being in difficult situations and not situations that put them at risk for suicide or depression.
[00:16:48.330] - Danielle Matthew
Then of course, we don't want kids in those situations, but we want to learn how to work with other people because at some point they're going to be working in an environment they may not like their co-workers or their boss and they have to learn coping skills. And so I would rather kids not have to get to a point where they're so badly damaged that they have to leave the school and the school superintendent or the principal or teachers can assist if that doesn't work.
[00:17:12.490] - Danielle Matthew
My last resort. And I think this can be very powerful and effective if you go through the right channels. Is you can also go to a special education attorney and special education attorneys are very well educated on school policies and procedures and usually we'll have really good connections with school districts and that can also be a really positive channel between a parent and a school to really try to work things out in a positive way before having to pull them out of a school. I really recommend that as a last resort because I do believe that educators do have a responsibility to do what they can to keep every child safe and happy and productive in school.
[00:17:55.830] - Jill Stowell
In the long term, if we can even take really challenging incidences like that and help our kids become more empathetic and learn how to solve the problems, it's going to serve them so much better. And there's a lot of trauma in changing schools and probably a lot of shame and questioning. I mean, kids are so much deeper than we sometimes realize that they are and so they bury these feelings of I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't good enough, I had to go. And we just never know how they're going to internalize that and then carry it around.
[00:18:50.790] - Danielle Matthew
Yeah, that's a really good point. And so what I will say to that is that if kids don't get help, they will carry it around and somewhere else in their life, even as young adults I see this in my practice, they get traumatized and they have a hard time and intimate relationship. They had a hard time in their careers because they're still stuck in that bullying place and the self esteem that was attached to it.
[00:19:11.880] - Danielle Matthew
So I really encourage people to get help and to process through what happens because it's pretty traumatic. And even I can tell you as somebody who has been bullied, that I will still have times that I get triggered and it happens and you don't always know it and it's in a slap stick of a moment and it's like, oh, I'm getting triggered from my old stuff of being bullied "x" amount 30, 40 years ago. It's really coming up again for me and I have to know that and really get that that's what's going on for me because it's still the trauma last.
[00:19:43.830] - Jill Stowell
Well, I think that is actually a really critical piece that we need to talk about and that is the parent's own feelings about bullying because that comes into this too, and just kind of understanding that idea of triggers.
[00:20:01.650] - Danielle Matthew
Yeah, so what I really suggested, it's such a triggering topic because some parents I'll see will get so upset and triggered because of course you want to protect your kids and you don't want to see them upset, you don't want to see them hurt. Of course, no one does. But you want to sometimes get angry at them.
[00:20:17.710] - Danielle Matthew
I've had parents say, well, they're on a baseball team and they'll say, well, I'm going to go talk to that coach and I'm going to handle the problem and my kid is not going to be treated this way anymore.
[00:20:27.700] - Danielle Matthew
And then I'll say to them, So then what? And they'll say, well, what do you mean by that, Danielle? What do you mean then what? Well, how is that going to transcribe to the kids later, to your child? Because you're getting involved and you're really angry, of course, and frustrated. Do you see that it's going to hurt your child later because it's going to come back and they're going to be revictimized. And then as you take them through the steps, the parents go, oh, you're right.
[00:20:48.220] - Danielle Matthew
So it's really your actions have impact on your kids and you have to be really self reflective, do a lot of self care around triggers for yourself. You may not understand because you may have not felt like a bullying victim before and you don't understand what it's like.
[00:21:02.120] - Danielle Matthew
You could have been very popular growing up, had no social situations that caused you problems, or you could be someone who was bullied and you understand and you can almost over identify with your child to the point where there's not as much distance to be helpful to them.
[00:21:17.230] - Danielle Matthew
So it's really important. I encourage parents to check in, in this very sensitive topic with how they're feeling and how they handle things. Because remember, you want to help guide children and your kids to feeling better. You don't want to do that for them because they need to learn how to cope.
[00:21:33.270] - Danielle Matthew
Because we all know, as we've learned with Covid, the world isn't always a great place, it's not always a safe place. And we have to learn to help them cope and be strong even in difficult situations. And so I encourage parents to do a lot of their own self care when they talk about this topic. Maybe it's not after they had a fight with their partner or with their boss that day or had a really hard day at work.
[00:21:55.680] - Danielle Matthew
Maybe that's not the time to approach such a sensitive topic. You want to feel in a good space so you're ready to have and tackle that deep conversation about bullying.
[00:22:08.730] - Jill Stowell
Great advice. Wow, thank you so much. This is LD Expert Live, your place for answers and solutions, for learning and attention challenges and the struggling student in your life. Let's check in one more time with our viewers before we wrap up for today. Hey, Maddie.
[00:22:29.580] - Maddie
Hi. So I know it sounds like for what you've expressed, that you advise against changing schools. If possible, if you can kind of prevent it, what would you advise for a family who they're just finding out that their child has been bullied on and off for the last two years by the same person? Should they consider removing their child from the school?
[00:22:56.370] - Danielle Matthew
Well, that's a really good question. I've had that happen in my office before. Well, I have parents in my office, and then one parent is learning that their other kid is still being bullied, and they were best friends with the parents. So there can even be those dynamics, too, where the parents are also friends.
[00:23:10.090] - Danielle Matthew
And so what I suggest when you're just learning is take some deep breaths. That's the first thing, because it's a really upsetting thing to learn about your kid. And then I think the parent is probably saying to themselves, well, why didn't they talk about it with me sooner? Why am I finding this out two years later?
[00:23:25.020] - Danielle Matthew
And to my point, it's because kids are ashamed. They don't want to burden their parents. They don't want to bother their parents. So I think the parents first need to do some self care for themselves, do some processing, talk to their own friends and family to really share their own feelings. And then when they're in a calm place, go back to the kids and go, hey, this is what I've just learned. Can we talk about this? I really want to be there for you, but I would do it in a very calm tone.
[00:23:52.560] - Danielle Matthew
Your delivery is key to how they're going to respond to you. So if you are very careful and you're casual with them and you're not coming from an escalated frustrated place, which I understand you would be when it first happened, then I would really encourage an open dialogue. Again, that safe space that I talked about earlier in the show, I think that's really important for us to get back to that safe place that the kids can come and really talk to you.
[00:24:18.060] - Danielle Matthew
And I would also then practice the three E's of empathy, empowerment, and engagement. I would start with empathizing with them and saying, wow, I'm wondering how this must be feeling for you since it's been going on for two years. Can you tell me how you're feeling? And let them tell you? And maybe that can begin the dialogue of letting you know why they didn't tell you or what was going on. They didn't want other kids to know. They felt ashamed, and that can start the dialogue within empowering them, well, how do you want to handle things? Forget it's been two years, but what do you want to do moving forward?
[00:24:51.530] - Danielle Matthew
How can I be supportive of you and in your court and then the follow through with the engagement of that and really checking in over and over again, just not overbearing, but enough to know that you're there for them. But your manner and tone and how you approach is everything. And I've worked with a lot of teenagers over the years, and the more casual I am with them and the less judgmental and open to hearing them, I learn a lot more and I'm able to really work with them.
[00:25:18.310] - Danielle Matthew
And sometimes it's hard topics and yes, I'm not their parent, but I'm still sitting inside with, wow, this is really concerning. But I can't show that. I have to show that I'm more open to hearing them because I do have to hear their whole perspective on something.
[00:25:35.010] - Jill Stowell
You have said something a few times that I think is just really important is that idea of taking a little bit of time to separate for self care so that you're in the right place to do it. Because when we are angry and upset and ready to fight, we're not in our rational brain. And so we're just not going to be really available to reduce the intensity and let them say what they need to say.
[00:26:17.870] - Maddie
It's so true. I can definitely testify to that. I like I'm picturing conversations I had growing up with my parents and whenever it was escalated, it's just not productive and when they were calm, and it's just a world of difference. So there you have a question. How would I know if my child is being bullied if they don't talk about it? Are there certain signs I should watch out for?
[00:26:42.690] - Danielle Matthew
That's a great question. So the signs that you need to look for are patterns of change in behavior. I'm a big person, a believer of patterns of change. So when you see something one time, it's not that it's not concerning, but I don't think it's the whole I think you have to look at a pattern of change. So change in behavior grades is a big one that I see a lot. When there's a decline in grades, then that's something to be concerned about.
[00:27:04.400] - Danielle Matthew
They were really good students for a long time, and all of a sudden their grades are dropping off and there's no clear understanding of teachers or struggles that are going on in classes. I would say that's one of the really big ones. Another one is more social isolation. If you're seeing them being in their room more and not around friends and having people over that they're used to seeing, then absolutely that's a concern as well.
[00:27:25.300] - Danielle Matthew
And I think just an overall change in behavior. Are they more depressed? Are they wanting to be alone? Are you not seeing them with friends? And so it's really important when you see the decline in grades, the change in behavior, the social isolation that you really talk about in a casual way with them, hey, I don't see so and so anymore. What's going on? How are things?
[00:27:45.090] - Danielle Matthew
But I wouldn't do it in a real detective manner, where you're trying to get at them, because teenagers are very smart and so are kids. They know when parents are trying to ask them questions because they want an answer, and then that annoys them. So they want it to be more free flowing and natural in order to feel like they're being listened to and they're being heard. And then you can figure out why this might be going on. But just I would change really looking at patterns of behavior in your child declining grades is always the first one I see.
[00:28:16.670] - Maddie
Those are great tips. Thank you. We actually have a few just, I guess, words of appreciation for some of our listeners. I'll just put them up real quick. So we have Tom saying hello, and he really appreciates your passion and work around this important topic. So thank you so much. And then Kristen saying that as a speech pathologist, she specializes license and stuttering, and so many of your ideas are going to be really helpful for her and her clients. So thank you so much for all that great information.
- Episode 64: Brain Training for Self-Care, Focus, and Productivity – Alex Doman
- Episode 63: Dear Moms of Neurodiverse Learners… – Megan Champion
- Episode 62: 2E and Misunderstood – Lauren Ma
- Episode 61: School Refusal, Digital Media, and Medication and ADHD – Dr. Keeban Nam
- Episode 60: Mental Flexibility Tools for Neurodiverse Learners – Jill Stowell
Listen, Watch and Subscribe
Subscribe to the LD Expert podcast in your preferred player and sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get the answers and proven solutions for dyslexia, learning differences and attention challenges sent directly to your inbox.