Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5

When your toddler uses bullying behavior

I followed my daughter outside as she went to put my grandson in his car seat to go home.  I love this time when I get to interact with him as he is saying goodbye.  As she was strapping him into the car seat, he was very excited, and he grabbed a toy that was in the car seat tray, and he threw it at me, hitting me in the face with the toy.

I immediately said that it was “not a nice thing to do.”  Now my daughter was grown up with me working as a bullying prevention specialist.  She was in 7th grade when I first began my work as a bullying prevention coach in the local elementary school where we lived.  I was always proud of the fact that as a middle schooler she was always happy to have me at school and was never embarrassed when I would come up to her in the schoolyard.  Even when I had to talk with her or her friends about bullying behavior she was never embarrassed or mad at me, we have always had a great relationship.

One of the reasons why I started this blog was ever since she had my grandson, I have been coaching her on how to deal with bullying behavior either my grandson’s or other kids I saw him interacting with.  I am a preventionist at heart; I enjoy tremendously teaching kids coping skills and educating them on how to stand up to bullying behavior or how to get their needs met without using bullying behavior.

So, without missing a beat, she very firmly told him that was not a nice thing to do and that he had to say he was sorry to grandma.  At the time my grandson was about 16 months old, he was not verbal yet.  But he understood immediately that the throwing the toy was wrong and that somehow, he needed to make restitution for the aggressive, hurting behavior.  A lot of parts do not understand that even at this age children are fully aware of what is being said to them and that it is very important at this age to begin to set boundaries of behavior that is aggressive and mean.  Do I believe that he meant to hurt me, of course not.  He was hyped up because he was getting ready to leave and he impulsively grabbed a toy and threw it.  But the result of the action was that he hurt someone, and he needed to know that this kind of behavior was not going to be tolerated by Mom.  Laying a foundation of teaching your child how not to use bullying behavior is to let them know when they have used behavior that is unacceptable and enforce consequences, consistently.

In this instance, after Mom had told him he needed to say sorry, he picked up a pretty toy and handed it to me in a gentle, and conciliatory manner.  I knew immediately that this was his way of saying that he was sorry for having hurt me.  I took the toy, said “thank-you” and the episode was over and done with.  Lesson learned.  This may have to be done over and over as he begins to understand that aggressive behavior will not be put up with and if he “hurts” someone then he needs to make restitution.

As a preventionist, I believe that it is imperative that parents begin to teach their children at this critical age of 0-5.  This stage of their life will be the building blocks of future behavior and boundaries.

Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5

Empathy the building block of a healthy human

Empathy:    The ability to walk in another’s shoes, to see their point of view over your own experience, or as part of your experience.

I have been working in bullying prevention going on my seventh year.  I work in the trenches with the kids, looking for bullying behavior and calling attention to it.  I work with the child to find a more positive and healthier way of coping with conflict.

Bullying behavior and I emphasize behavior because we do not want to label people bullies, it implies that they cannot change.  I chose to focus on action, what kind of conduct constitutes bullying?  The obvious choices of pushing, shoving, but also yelling at a person, excluding them from joining a group, any type of behavior that seeks to demean or devalue another human being.  When you focus on behavior, then that becomes the game changer with the kids.  I have conversations with the kids about their behavior, and we discuss alternate choices for their behavior.  Sometimes this is a 30-second conversation, sometimes depending on the age of the child, it can go longer.

Always as part of my conversation with kids about the choices that they make about their behavior towards another person is a conversation about empathy.  The conversation goes something like this, “Why did you hit Tommy in the shoulder?”  “He pushed me because he wanted his toy back.”  “Do you think that it was right that he pushed you?”  “No, it wasn’t right, that’s why I hit him.”  “Do you think that hitting is a good way of solving problems?”  “Well, he pushed me.”  “Do you think that it was right that he pushed you to solve his problem.”  “No, but I was mad.”  “Do you like to be pushed or hit?”  “No, I do not.”  “Then we should not be pushing or hitting another person if we do not like it to happen to us.”  You want to humanize the other person, get the child to think of the other person regarding their own experience; I do not like it when I get hit. Therefore I should not hit another person.

Being mean on purpose, that is what bullying behavior is on the surface.  Helping a child to have empathy for a person who is being mean on purpose should help them to understand that the behavior is not about them.  That’s why bullying behavior can be so devastating to a child; they make the mistake of taking the mean behavior as a reflection of who they are.  “I must be a bad person for my friend to treat me so horribly.”  As a caregiver to children, we should be guiding our child with our words to help them process correctly what is happening to them.  We, adults, have a bigger perspective, we have lived many years and have gone through much and hopefully have gained lots of healthy wisdom from the experiences.   Having empathy for another person’s situation should never overshadow the fact that that person uses mean behavior to cope, and this aspect needs to be part of the conversation with your child.  “Why do you think that Tommy was mean to you?”   “Probably because someone is mean to them at home.”  “You are probably right, but what they did to you is wrong, so you must decide on how you are going to handle it.  Do you want to talk with him about it, do you want to ignore it and play with someone else and stay away from Tommy?  What do you think is the best way to handle this?”  Giving the child choices helps them to pick the course of action that is most comfortable to them.  They must know that while they can forgive the behavior because of someone’s circumstances, but they can also choose to stay away from that person because of the choices they make.

As a caregiver, it is essential to understand that the most effective way of teaching your child anything is to model the behavior, consistently.  If you want a child that is kind, then you need to show the child what kind looks like.  If you want a child that is empathetic, you must model empathy.  If you want a child that will not use mean behavior, then you must not use mean behavior.  “Do as I say, not as I do,” is hypocritical, and children can spot hypocritical behavior in an instance.  This requires a level of honesty with us as adults.  Self-reflection is critical to making sure that we are modeling behavior that we want our children to copy.  Do not beat yourself up if you have behavior that needs to change; the first step is acknowledging it.  Be honest with your child, “Mommy gets angry and yells sometimes, this is not the way you want to handle getting angry.”  Let them see you trying to do better, you are modeling that not everyone is perfect, but we must take responsibility for our behavior and change what is not desirable.  Effective parenting is not easy, but it is a growing experience and your children, and the world will benefit the process.


Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5, Coping Skills, Resiliency

Resiliency: Helping your child build healthy coping skills


I have worked as a  violence preventionist for about 9 years and I have formulated a lot of opinions on how to educate a child that will rarely use violence as a means of solving conflicts.

When I use the word violence, I mean it as a word in a  broader context than most people realize.  Words can be used as violence; when someone is yelling and using obscenities this can make people afraid, especially children.  When the words and the anger are directed towards a child, the child may shut down as a means of coping with the feeling of being unsafe.

I cringe inside when I hear caregivers tell their children to “shut up,” or add a few swear words. By doing this you have the makings of a violent encounter for the child.  If a child is exposed to this kind of behavior by the caregiver day in and day out, the child will begin to use anger and swear words as a means of controlling a situation or as an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Yelling and swearing is a way that people can cope with the feelings of frustration that is going on inside of them.  This type of behavior is what is called an unhealthy coping skill.

From the time we are born we respond to negative experiences in an unhealthy, or healthy way.  For instance, some people will use alcohol as a way of coping with the difficulties in life.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if alcohol is used in moderation.  I myself have come home after a difficult day at work and have had some drinks to “take the edge off.”  This can be a way of dealing with the feelings of frustration, anger, and hurt that has happened throughout the day.

The drinking becomes unhealthy when it negatively impacts you or those that surround you as you drink.  Children learn the most from what they see rather than what is “told” to them.  If as a caregiver your main coping strategy is to drink until you pass out, then the child will learn that coping strategy also.  It may not be alcohol that they child uses as they get older.  It could be any substance: cigarettes, marijuana, pills.

The same thing goes for physical violence if the child witnesses or is the receiver of the violent behavior, then they learn that kind of behavior is a way to cope with the frustrations of life.  Violence can also be used as a way of controlling a situation.  If I do not like the way you talk to me, I can hit you to stop you from talking to me that way.  Of course, this happens over a long period of time, but this kind of behavior becomes a part of the child’s coping strategy.

How do you help your child learn healthy copings skills?  By making sure that you as the caregiver have a large selection of healthy coping strategies to offset the unhealthy ones.  Everyone has unhealthy coping skills, biting your nails, overspending, yelling, you name it.  The goal is to have more healthy coping skills that you use then unhealthy ones.  It is important that your child see you use your healthy coping skills and that you educate your child in skills that they can use that they are comfortable with.

You can go to my first post in my blog and there should be a list of over 50 different ways that you can use to cope with the ups and downs of life.  The major healthy coping skills:

  1.  Exercise, this one is especially important if you or your child suffer from depression.  When you begin to exercise the body will release all of the “feel good” chemicals, like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin.  Exercise has a way of distracting our thoughts, instead of thinking about all the bad things that happened in the day, exercise can clear your mind and give you a fresh new outlook on what is happening in the day.
  2. Meditation/Prayer is like exercise, it gives you the chance to clear your mind and think of good things rather than focusing on the negative things that happen to us in life.
  3. Reading for me was a way that coped with my childhood.  I had the ability to transport myself into the story and away from the dysfunctional events that were happening in my home.  I could literally be transported for hours at a time, enjoying the events of the book and forgetting about the things that made me sad inside.
  4. Spending time with healthy friends, people that you can trust to tell your innermost secrets and know that they will be kept in confidence.
  5. Spending time by yourself, and enjoying the solitude.

All of the above items are things that you can easily model for your children and help to give them ways that they can cope with the negative aspects of life.


Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5, Uncategorized

Welcome to the Journey for The Bullying Prevention Specialist Blog

My journey in becoming a bullying prevention specialist was not something that I expected to happen.  In fact, it took my life in a whole different direction, a direction that I had never envisioned for myself.

I was one of those people that never had a career choice in mind ever since I was little, so when I graduated from high school, and San Jose State University excepted me, I went in undeclared.  I took a variety of courses; psychology was one of the classes that I enjoyed tremendously, understanding by people behave the way that they do intrigue me.  I remember the day that I told my Dad that I wanted to become a Psychologist, he very seriously told me that he thought that would not be a good career choice because he saw that I tended to take on people’s problem as my own.

He was spot on, I was 20 years old, and I did not know how to set healthy boundaries, it was not a skill that I learned in my family, in fact growing up in a dysfunctional home the boundaries changed all the time.  Looking back now I understand what my Dad was trying to do; he was afraid that I would end up in a job that would take a toll on me emotionally.  So, I tucked my love of psychology away and decided to major in Business, after all, “you make a ton of money with a degree in Business,” well it didn’t turn out that way for me.

I ended up dropping out of college when I applied for a management job and was promoted to the position.  Who needs a degree when you have the management job, lololololol, I was so young.  Fast forward about 20 years and my family, and I moved to a beautiful town of Don Pedro, and I had the opportunity to quit my job and take a break from the career grind.

I took my kids to the back to school night at the elementary school that they were attending, and I saw a young woman with the most beautiful smile, she was manning a table and looking for someone to fill a job of Bullying Prevention Coach.  The thing that drew me most to the job was that it paid $15.00 an hour, it was part-time, and it was 10 minutes from my home.

I was hired for the job, and it changed my life and the direction of my career.  When I started to work with the kids and implement the program, it was like the heavens opened and this realization that this is what I was put on earth for.  Everything that I had done in life and been through gave me all the skills needed for the job.

I made the decision a few months ago that I wanted to share the knowledge that I had gained over the years in bullying prevention.  So here I am starting this blog and hopefully empowering parents to raise children that can deal effectively with bullying behavior.  I have decided that I will concentrate on information geared towards parents that have kids 0-5.  Laying the foundation for raising resilient kids is where I want to zero in on.

I hope that you will find the information that I provide informative and empowering.  I find that so many parents are resigned to the fact that there is nothing that they can do about their child getting bullied except homeschooling or camping out at the school so that they can provide protection.  I am here to assure you that as a parent you have all the power; information, education, and persistence is the key.  Oh yeah and courage, parents, and educators will tell you that there is nothing you can do, it is hopeless and just surviving is the way.  I hope that with my blog you will find that this is not the truth, there is plenty that you can do.  I am so glad that you have decided to take this journey with me, it should be an interesting ride.

Aloha, Kim



Bullying Prevention, Coping Skills

A List of Safe Coping Skills

One of the essential foundations of bullying prevention is ensuring that your child has a toolbox filled with safe coping skills.

So what are coping skills and what is the difference between safe and unsafe coping skills?

Coping skills are those behaviors that we use to help us get through significant moments of stress or fear in our lives.  For instance, some of us use food to cope with stress when life seems to be getting out of hand.  This coping behavior can be both a safe or unsafe way of dealing with the pressures of life.  Sitting down and eating a whole bag of potato chips day after day will begin to take a toll on your weight and pocketbook.  After many years of using food to get through the situations in life, we may find that we have gained forty or fifty pounds of unwanted fat.  This would be an example of unhealthy coping behavior.

What we as adults and children need is a list of coping skills that are termed safe or healthy to get us through the stresses of life.  Having a long list of healthy coping skills helps to ensure that we will not have to turn to unsafe coping skills to get through difficult moments in life.

Instead of eating or drinking too much try using one or more of these behaviors:

  • Ask for help- Reach out to someone safe.
  • Inspire yourself- Carry something positive (poem) or negative (photo of a friend who overdosed).
  • Leave a bad scene- When things go wrong get out.
  • Persist- Never, never, never, never, never, never give up.
  • Honesty- Secrets, and lying are at the core of PTSD and substance abuse; honesty heals them.
  • Cry- Let yourself cry; it will not last forever.
  • Choose self-respect- Choose whatever will make you like yourself tomorrow.
  • Take good care of your body- Eat right, exercise, sleep, safe sex.
  • List your options- In ant situation your have choices.
  • Creating meaning- Remind yourself what you are living for: Your children?  Love? Truth? Justice? God?
  • Do the best you can with what you have- Make the most of available opportunities.
  • Set a boundary- Say “no” to protect yourself.
  • Compassion- Listen to yourself with respect and care.
  • When in doubt do what is hardest- The most difficult path is invariably the right one.
  • Talk yourself through it- Positive self-talk helps in difficult times.
  • Imagine- Create a mental picture that helps you feel different (Remember a safe place).
  • Notice the choice point- In slow motion, notice the exact moment when you chose a substance.
  • Pace yourself- If overwhelmed, go slower; if stagnant go faster.
  • Stay safe- Do whatever you need to put safety above all.
  • Seek understanding, not blame- Listen to your behavior, blaming prevents growth.
  • If one way does not work try another- As if in a maze, turn a corner and try a new path.
  • Link PTSD and substance abuse- Recognize substances as an attempt to self-medicate.
  • Alone is better than a bad relationship- If only people who are receiving help are safe for now, that is okay.
  • Create a new story- You are the author of your own life; be the hero who overcomes adversity.
  • Avoid avoidable suffering- Prevent bad situations in advance.
  • Ask others- Ask others if your belief is accurate.
  • Get organized- You will feel more in control with lists, to do’s and a clean house.
  • Watch for danger signs- Face a problem before it becomes huge; notice red flags.
  • Healing above all- Focus on what matters.
  • Try something, anything- A good plan today is better than a perfect tomorrow.
  • Discovery- Find out whether your assumption is true rather than staying “in your head.”
  • Attend treatment- AA, self-help, therapy, medications, groups- anything that keeps you going.
  • Create a buffer- Put something between you and danger (time, distance)
  • Say what you really think- You will feel closer to others ( but only do this with safe people).
  • Listen to your needs- No more neglect- really hear what you need.
  • Move toward your opposite- For example, if you are dependent, try becoming more independant.
  • Replay the scene- Review a negative event; what can you do differently next time?
  • Notice the cost- What is the price of substance abuse in your life.
  • Structure your day- A productive schedule keeps you on track and connected to the world.
  • Set an action plan- Be specific, set a deadline, and let others know about it.
  • Protect yourself- Put up a shield against destructive people, bad environments, and substances.
  • Soothing talk- Talk to yourself very gently (as if to a friend or small child).

From Seeking Safety: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa Najavits, Ph.D.

Bullying Prevention, Bullying Prevention for Kids 0-5, Coping Skills, Uncategorized

Being the Change Requires Courage

Thanks for joining me in my quest to change the world, one person at a time, starting with me.

Being the change in the world is not an easy task, in fact, it requires great courage to go against the status quo.  Being the change means learning patience at times when patience is the last thing you want to deal with.  When getting angry and blowing up feels so good at the moment, and you want to justify that that person deserves it.

I stumbled into bullying prevention as a career when our counties domestic violence agency received a grant to implement a bullying prevention program at our local elementary school.  My family had moved to the small rural county of Mariposa, California, fleeing from the influx of people moving into the Central Valley due to the housing boom.

I was hired to implement a bullying prevention awareness program and it changed my life forever.  It was like the heavens opened up and I finally realized this is what I had been looking for all my life.  It started me on the path of non-profit work and specifically working with youth, teaching them how to advocate for themselves.

Here I am almost nine years later and I want to share my knowledge with all those looking for answers.  Dealing with violence is deeply traumatic and complex, there are little fast and hard rules.  But there is hope, you can effectively navigate the terrifying waters of unsafe behaviors and teach yourself or your children how to stand against violence.

I’m glad you have landed here, you are safe and I welcome you to my site.


“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” Steve Maraboli