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Interview with Trudy Ludwig, Author of My Secret Bully

Bullying. I’ve read about it, I’ve written about…I’ve lived it.

Nothing quite prepares you for the moment, though, when your own little one comes home crying with her own stories of exclusion and heartbreak.

And although I know what it feels like to hear the words, see your classmates turn away, and feel the deep ache to belong again, it does not help me find a way to comfort and to bolster my own child.

Please join me tonight as we chat with Trudy Ludwig about the complex world of children’s relationships.

Trudy wrote her first book, My Secret Bully, after her own daughter was bullied by some friends. Since then, she has become a sought-after speaker, presenting at schools and conferences around the country and educating students, parents, and teachers on the topic.

Please join the chat, below, or click here to visit the Random House Read & Play Community.

UPDATED: Trudy Ludwig was so informative and I wanted to share a few of her remarks from the chat. You can see the full transcript at the links but here are a few highlights:

Candace :
Trudy, I see from the information here that “Trudy wrote her first book, My Secret Bully, after her own daughter was bullied by some friends”. How closely did her experience mirror what happened in the book?

Trudy:
The on again, off again friendships my daughter experienced with her friends was something I wanted to capture in MY SECRET BULLY.. but the story itself is fiction. I wanted to express what most kids seem to go through with friends.

Sili (of My Mamihood):
Bullying is such a big topic these days. I think with technology moving forward the way it has, social interactions are different from when we were kids (did I just say that? I feel like I’m ancient suddenly).

Trudy:
Yes, but the media makes it out to be an epidemic, when, in fact, research shows that bullying has actually decreased in the past 10 years. It’s still a big problem because we now have all this evidence on how devastating bullying is –not only for the targets, but also for the bystanders, and the kids who do the bullying!

Technology is another tool for kids to emotionally bully others. It’s also a powerful tool to empower kids to do great things in life. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t show stories where kids are doing wonderful things by reaching out to others.

PragmaticMom :
Do you think bullying incidences seem like it’s increasing because there is more awareness? More people are talking about it and not ignoring it?

Trudy :
I think we’re finally realizing how harmful bullying is in communities and we can no longer write it off as boys being boys or “that’s just the way girls are” type of behavior. We’ve normalized this abnormal behavior far too long!

PragmaticMom :
Do you think bullying is easier over the internet via social media because it can be anonymous?

Trudy :
Yes, PragmaticMom–I do–which is why experts are now trying to focus on how we adults can help kids create more of a digital citizenship kind of world. When kids –and adults for that matter–think they’re anonymous, they’re cruel and thoughtless. But when kids know they have an identity in a community–they’re much more responsible in their communications. Same with adults

Candace :
Trudy, How can we prevent bullying and its damaging effects on our children and community?

Trudy :
There’s this amazing new survey out on www.youthvoiceproject.com that asked over 14,000 kids in the USA, “What advice are you getting from adults when it comes to bullying? From your peers? What advice is working and what advice isn’t?” Fascinating findings!

Bullying is a learned behavior. It’s learned at home, at school or in the neighborhood. But it can be “unlearned” by teaching and fostering empathy in children. It’s easier to do, obviously, when kids are younger, but doable nonetheless. It takes a community to address and prevent bullying, starting with education. It’s a four-tiered approach: education, prevention, intervention and then following up with the kids to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue.

Addressing bullying isn’t about “punishing” the bully. It’s about natural immediate consequences when a person chooses to be intentionally cruel to another. Those consequences need to escalate if the bullying continues. And it’s also about restorative justice–having the bullying kid/adult make up for the hurt he/she has caused others–that’s where you can build empathy

I tell parents and teachers in my talks around the country that we adults are really great at giving advice, but how often do we check in to find out if our advice is actually working. If it isn’t, we sure as heck need to come up with more effective strategies to help our kids…

Restorative justice can be trying to repair the damage done with sincere apologies, giving back to the community. Often, the kid being bullied doesn’t want to have anything to do with the kid bullying him/her–and adults need to respect that. So they can give back in other ways by helping others in need–the target can recommend causes he/she believes in that the bullying kid needs to serve as a volunteer.

On defining bullying:

I think it’s important for adults and kids in the community to understand what bullying is. I love the terms a school in WI uses to help folks understand:

Is it Rude: when someone says something or does something unintentionally hurtful once, that’s rude.

Is it Mean: When someone says something or does something intentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s mean.

Is it bullying: When someone does something or says something intentionally hurtful and they keep doing it, that’s Bullying. It’s an imbalance of power, an attempt to harm, and repeated.

Let’s face it: Kids make mistakes. But it’s our job as parents to make sure they don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again, by turning those mistakes into teachable moments, you know?

Sili :
I think that’s where the whole “bullying is learned at home” issue comes in. Adults sometimes are bullying and not even realizing it until their child is mirroring that same behavior.

Trudy :

Yes, Sili- I agree. We all come into this world with our own emotional baggage or filters, so to speak. So if we’re gossiping about our neighbors in front of our kids or saying deriding racist remarks, that normalizes and legitimizes kids into thinking it’s okay to do as well.

I think there are a lot of reasons you could refer to for why a kid bullies, but the bottom line is that it’s a conscious choice to be cruel. Some kids who bully have very low self-esteem, others have very high self esteem. Again, it’s a conscious choice to be cruel and a lack of empathy and disregard for others’ feelings.

Candace :
I think this also connects to another issue…while adults MUST get involved, I think part of that involvement (beyond building confidence/esteem) is really helping targets to find peer allies.

Trudy :
Candace–I wholeheartedly agree about getting peers to step up. Big movement going on internationally about empowering bystanders to help kids who are being bullied and what they can do to prevent it–without risking counter aggression.

I love the term “ally”. The interesting thing experts are finding that kids across the country in middle school and high school are telling us that one of the best things someone (either a peer or an adult ally) can do is to COMFORT them–listen to their problems and take them seriously. Let them know that they don’t deserve it. and include them in their group–there’s safety in numbers.

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Candace Lindemann, Yale, BA, Harvard Graduate School of Education, EdM, is an educational consultant and published writer. She enjoys new learning experiences with her children, ages 6 and 4 and 1.5.

Filed under: Bullying

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