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Author: James Lehman, MSW

The Truth About Bullies

The public perception of bullying is that bullies are acting out to cover their own fears. They may indeed be afraid, but accepting this as a reason makes bullies sound like victims of their fears — like we’re supposed to feel sorry for them and not hold them responsible for their abusive actions. The issue is not whether bullies are afraid. Bullies bully other people to feel powerful around them and to feel power over them. Bullies start out feeling like zeroes, like nobodies. When they intimidate, threaten or hurt someone else, then they feel like somebody. The key...

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10 Rules For Dealing with Angry Children

Mikayla, age 13, has just been told she can’t go to her friend’s house. “You need to clean your room first,” says her mom, “You promised to do that, remember?” Mikayla gets in her mother’s face and screams, “You’re the meanest mom in the world! I hate you!” She turns and runs into her bedroom, slamming the door. “That’s it! You’re grounded, young lady,” her mom shouts back. She’s left feeling exhausted and defeated, and unsure if she’s done the right thing. If you’re a parent, odds are you’ve been there. Why do we often engage in shouting matches...

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Effective Tools to Help You Handle Anger in Teens

EP: James, you’ve explained where anger and hostility come from in teens and how they use it to get out of meeting their responsibilities, but how do you get your child to comply without starting a fight every time? JL: I think compliance is a good goal to have when talking about hostile kids and teens. Remember, you’re not looking for friendship, love and affection. It may be there—and I think these kids love their parents—but it really has more to do with getting your child to comply with the rules at home and at school. What are the weapons...

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How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children

“I’m not allowed to bring Ben to play group anymore,” said Sarah, whose son is now five years old. “The last time we went, he bit another boy who was playing with a truck Ben wanted. And the time before that, he hit a little girl across the face. I try to tell him ‘no’ but he just doesn’t listen, so I just end up apologizing for him. I’m starting to feel like the world’s worst parent because I can’t control him when he acts out.” As parents, few situations are more difficult to deal with than having a...

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How to Deal with Lying in Children and Teens

When you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and frustrated. But here’s the truth: lying is normal. It’s wrong, but it’s normal. In fact, we all do it to some degree. Consider how adults use lies in their daily lives: When we’re stopped for speeding, we often minimize what we’ve done wrong, if not out–and–out lie about it. Why? We’re hoping to get out of something, even if we know better. I believe that with kids, lying is a faulty problem–solving skill. It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to solve those problems in more constructive ways. Here are a few of the reasons why kids lie. (Later, I’ll explain how to handle it when they do.) Why Kids Lie To establish identity: One of the ways kids use lying is to establish an identity and to connect with peers, even if that identity is false. Lying can also be a response to peer pressure. Your child might be lying to his peers about things he says he’s done that he really hasn’t to make him sound more impressive. To individuate from parents: Sometimes teens use lying to keep parts of their lives separate from their parents. At times it may even seem that they make up small lies about things that don’t even seem terribly important. Another reason...

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