Anti-Bullying seminar: Don’t Stand By, Stand UP!

As I mentioned in a previous post about Parent-Teacher Conferences, I am in charge of Parent Education for the parent-teacher association (PTA) of my kids’ elementary school. And any time I share with the parents something of interest – whether it be a speaker, reading material or an Internet site – my goal is to share that information here.

I have already covered the importance of parent-teacher conferences and another on learning about the apps your kids are using. This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk about bullying and how to empower your child to Stand UP.

The presentation was called “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up!” and it was presented through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Dr. Sylvia Reyna, a retired Texas teacher, principal and superintendent.

Bullying

The first thing was to define bullying and address that conflict is not necessarily bullying. To define bullying, they use the abbreviation RIP.

RRepeated over time

I Intentional – behavior intends to cause harm or distress.

P – There is a real or perceived imbalance of power.

So a child accidentally bumping into another (not intentional) is not bullying. A child kicks another once while in the lunch line (not repeated) is not bullying. And for the imbalance of power, you are looking at someone who is larger than the victim or has “power” over them. This could be a fifth grader or crossing guard intimidating a first grader.

One of her facts that concerned me as Jase is about to enter 6th grade is that bullying most often happens in middle school. I guess this is all the more reason to learn about the signs your child is being bullied and what to do to help them not to be a victim.

Signs your child is being bullied

Now this is not an exclusive list. There can be other signs and these signs can be other problems besides bullying.

  • Unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed clothing, books, belongings
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking an illness
  • Changes in eating habits like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves

Signs your child is bullying others

bullyChildren who bully are more likely to get in fights, steal, vandalize property, drink alcohol, or drop out of school. And research shows 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least on conviction by the age of 24.

  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

It would be naïve to assume your child is never going to be bullied. So the best thing to do is prepare them (and yourself) for when it happens.

What Students can do

One of the best tools to prepare your child is to practice or role play what to do when they are confronted by a bully.

  • Learn to be assertive (rather than aggressive)
    • Ask the bully to stop and then walk away
    • Ignore the behavior/leave the situation
    • Use social skills, humor or agree with the bully (You aren’t agreeing with that bullying is correct but more of a sarcastic “yeah, right” type attitude)
    • Avoid escalating the situation with anger, retaliation or encouraging others to gang up on the bully
  • Do not cry or act hurt in front of the bully.
  • Report bullying to an adult

Reporting bullying can be hard as many children fear a backlash from the kid who bullied them, or they may feel they are seen as weak or a tattletale. They may think no one will believe them. They can fear rejection from their peers or that no one can understand.

If your child witnesses bullying, they should make sure they aren’t giving the bully the audience they crave. They should tell the bully to stop or seek immediate help. Basically, they need to Stand UP and Not Stand by.

Parent Support

The way a parent reacts to bullying is also important. If you dismiss the situation or tell them to “suck it up,” you are giving your child all the more reason not to come to you when they have a problem. Bullying can hurt and you should never tell them their feelings or crying are unacceptable (except don’t cry in front of the bully). You, as a parent, need to work on teaching them the social skills of being assertive and self-confident. And most of all you should be an advocate for your child at the school and with the police, if needed.

Now there is even more to her lecture, so I think I will tackle the information on cyber bullying in a separate post. But before I sign off for today, I wanted to provide these links for students, parent and teachers to become more informed about bullying and how to prevent it.

Students

“R” Time

Olweus bullying prevention program

STRYVE – Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere

Connect for Respect

Parents/Teachers

StopBullying.gov

Pacer.org

Netsmartz.org

Be sure to check next Thursday’s blog for information on cyber-bullying.

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Today’s Featured Author – Chinadu Enechi

Today, author Chinadu Enechi stops by my blog. His debut novel, Ifechidere, came out in November.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a social person, very determined and ambitious.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Nsukka and I grew up in Onitsha. They’re both in Nigeria. Anywhere I have family, including my brothers and sister, is home to me.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

My late mother Mrs Josephine Nebechi Enechi was my inspiration.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After I wrote my first novel titled “Wise ones never Loose”, my father then gave it to a friend who was then an English Lecturer in their school to edit but then said man disappeared with the book because of that, my mum swore to promote my writing career and she was there till she died.

How much of yourself, your personality or experience, is in your books.

A couple of the characters in my books have my personality. What I write mostly contains my experiences of experiences of those around me. In fact, the story of “Ifechidere” is mainly based on my mother’s life.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes, I actually have two projects I am currently working on.

One is about a young man who married an older woman and how he was antagonized for it, by his father, his family and even her family. A man marrying an older woman is frowned upon in Nigeria and this story offers view points of why it is so, and how some people navigate that problem.

The second story is about a young man whose love turned sour, after his poor parents visited his girlfriend’s family. The girlfriend was pregnant …

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
The best is that I can let people know my thoughts and feelings on some things, as well as inform them about some current events or facts.

The worst is the criticism from people who get upset that I am writing a particular thing, because of their bias.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

My family, friends and my dream of being a successful writer whose work is enjoyed by fans.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

My plot ideas are a combination of my experiences, experiences of people around me, stories heard and sometimes figment of my imagination.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Sometimes, I do; sometimes, I don’t.

Book Blurb

ifechidere-coverThe loss of both her parents, even before she is old enough to speak, appears to pre-determine Ifechidere’s life. She is made to toil from dusk to dawn.

Yet, Ifechidere is no modern-day Cinderella, as she finds that faith in the will to survive, which is stronger than any absentee fairy godmother, will propel her to find herself. And it’ll lead her to the thing that was always meant to be

About the Author

Chinedu Enechi is a Philosophy graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and an MA student of Political and Social Philosophy at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. His hobbies include cooking, reading, watching movies and hanging out with friends.

You can purchase Ifechidere on Amazon US, Amazon UK (and all other Amazon affiliates – simply search by author name or book), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, ITunes, Kobo and Okadabooks.

Outlining your Novel

One of my very first posts was about whether as an author you outline your novel before you write or do you just sent down and write. Basically are you a plotter (outliner) or a pantser (someone who flies by the seat of their pants).

I have never been one to plot out my whole novel in advance. I tend to have an idea what the novel is about and maybe some ideas for some scenes. As I begin to write, I generally plot out what will happen in the next scenes. Since this is a very loose outline, I am free to let the characters drive the story.

Now there are many benefits to have an outline of your novel before you begin. It helps to create a well-developed plot and there is less rewriting involved. If you write just whatever comes to mind, you will most likely have a lot of editing and pruning during subsequent drafts than if you had it planned out in advance.

So let’s say you don’t want to do that extra work, and you want to do all the work upfront (along with your world and character building). You want to know what is going to happen and where your characters will go. You want an outline. How do you go about doing that?

Outlining methods

snowflakeSnowflake method (aka Expanding Outline) – Here you start with a basic premise. (I found this example on another website.)

Jack and Jill get injured while climbing a hill trying to get water.

Then you expand on it.

Jack, the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water. Jill comes with him. They get injured while trying to climb the hill where the well is located.

Then you expand on it some more.

Jack, who is the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water for the town. His girlfriend Jill comes with him. At the top of the hill, where the well is located, the two are attacked. They attempt to escape but trip and fall down the hill. They are both injured.

You continue this process until every part of the story has the level of detail you want. This method can be very labor intensive. You can find out more about the method here.

Pure Summary/Narrative – On this method you write the story from beginning to end but in summary form. There are no descriptions or dialogues. You can pretty much do this one by bullet point or you can just write it out almost as a synopsis.

  • Susan lives in the jungle.
  • She is struggling to survive with very few supplies.
  • Susan receives an unexpected visit from her daughter.
  • Susan decides to leave the jungle and live with her daughter in the city.

flashlightHeadlight (or Flashlight) Outline – With this method, you plan out a few scenes or chapter. You plan just enough to get you writing. Once you have written that and reread it to see if you like where your story is going, then you do the next few chapters.

(Now as I write this, I realize this is my method of writing though I don’t do it in chapters. I write down ideas for a few scenes (never full chapters) and then usually write and connect them while keeping the big picture somewhere in the back of my mind. I like that I can change directions as things develop, and I am not restricted to having the whole novel planned.)

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown – Some writers do a quick summary of what will happen in each chapter. Again, it can be almost like bullet points, but if you add a little more information, you can plan out cliffhangers for the end of your chapters.

These are really just a few of the methods, and as you can see some of the methods are very similar to others. Outlining had its benefits and if one of these methods doesn’t tickle your fancy, simple use Google and find other outlining methods that do.

And remember, if outlining a novel doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. There is nothing wrong with being a panster. There are many authors that plan and many who don’t. You just need to do what works for you. The most important thing is getting a comprehensive well written novel done.

What to do when your kid “tattles”

“Mom, Jase is being mean. He won’t let me…”

“Lexie hit me!”

As parents, we are all too familiar with our kids coming to tell us what another sibling/friend/classmate did wrong. And too often, I hear parents telling their kids not to “tattle.” I have even said that to my own kids but then wondered later if I am doing the right thing.

I mean after all we want our children to come to us when something is wrong. We need to know if someone is hurting them or doing something dangerous.

My friend, Sara, had an issue with her daughter’s teacher telling her eight-year-old daughter Madeline not to “tattle” when a boy was hitting her. She was asking for help after having already told the boy to stop doing it. The teacher wasn’t hearing her plea for help. She assumed, as too many of us parents and teachers do, that Madeline was just seeking attention or attempting to get the other kid in trouble.

Sometimes adults assume tattling is an outright lie but research has shown that nine out of 10 times, a tattler is telling the truth.

I recently read an article online about tattling, and it confirmed my concern about telling my child not to “tattle” is a mistake. We are not encouraging kids to work it out or “tough it out.” We are basically dismissing their concern. There is a distinct difference between reporting and tattling.

reportingvstattlingAccording to the article, research suggests that by the time a child comes to tell you something is wrong the child has already endured or witnessed the kid’s offense multiple times. By the time they come to you, they have run out of options. They are asking for help.

As parents, we often tell our kids we want them to tell us when something is wrong. We want them to tell us the truth. But then we contradict ourselves when we tell them not to tattle.

The article suggested we stress to the children that it is important to report other’s harmful behavior – such as the case with Madeline’s classmate who was hitting her and wouldn’t stop when asked. In this case, it really isn’t tattling. And ignoring the child’s plea for help can make them less likely to report harmful behavior in the future and can teach them to be silent when they observe bullying and abuse later.

So what should you do next time your child comes to you with what sounds like a tattle?

  • Ask – “Are you OK?”
  • Ask – “Did you tell him/her to stop?”
  • If your child did not tell them to stop, then part of the problem solving would be to work on this. It can be hard for a child to assert themselves.
  • Listen attentively to your child as they tell you their side of the story. This will let them know that you are taking their concern seriously (even if you don’t agree with their perspective.)
  • End by asking your child what you can do to help. He or she may not need anything other than to be heard. Or he or she may request that you intervene on their behalf. Or this might be a time to brainstorm solution for next time this becomes an issue.

So next time Lexie or Jase comes in to tell me of some offense the other one has done, I am going to stop and listen to them instead of dismissing their claims as an attempt to get the other one in trouble. Not only will this encourage them to reach out to me but hopefully, I can help them decide what issues are important enough to bring forward and which ones they should be able to handle on their own.

Today’s Featured Author – John Ukah

Please welcome author John Ukah to my blog. His book, Murder at Midnight, was released in November.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is John Ukah. I am a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Benin, Benin City. I am a banker and an Associate of the Institute of Capital Market Registrars (ACMR).

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Delta State of Nigeria. But I have always considered Benin City in Edo State home because that’s where I grew up. That’s where my parents live.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I have always kept a personal journal. Writing is exhilarating and therapeutic. The books I grew up reading, influenced my writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When people asked me to write stories or essays for them and were willing to pay for it.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

My writing is usually inspired by conversations with others and personal experiences. I am also blessed with a fertile imagination, which gives wings to such experiences or conversations.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

It is a detective thriller that affirms the point of duty on young men and women to make the right choices with their eyes open. It contains love, pitiful criminalities, investigations, assumptions and deceits.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I work in a bank. It is challenging finding time to write with a banking job. However, we do find a way though to do the things we love.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Best advice is that writing is an evolving process. We get better at what we do constantly. Worst advice is that a writer has to sit and wait for inspiration. Writing is work and a commitment to get the task done.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing is the fun in doing what you love. Living the life you dream about. The worst or hardest thing is that you don’t get to spend as much time with friends and family as desired. You have to make time for your writing.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Writing is cathartic and some stories demand to be told.

 

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

An outline helps in developing the plot. I prepare broad outlines and chapter plans. I write a few chapters at a time and not necessarily in a sequential order.

Book Blurb

murder-at-midnightAlex Simpson, an ex-police officer, decides after a bout of typhoid fever to take a break in a serene and therapeutic environment. The last thing he expects is to be called upon to solve a murder at the Kinging Guest Lodge. But that is what happens, when the delectable and vivacious Maria Marshall is found dead in her bedroom at midnight.

The gallery of characters living at the guest-house and thrown into the mix, does not make his task of solving this chilling and brutal murder any easier …

 

About the Author

john-ukalaJohn Ukah is a seasoned banker and Associate of the Institute of Capital Market Registrars (ACMR). He is a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Benin, where he was listed as University Scholar. He also holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA).

You can purchase Murder at Midnight from Amazon, Amazon UK (and the other Amazon affiliates by searching his name), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the Kobo Store, Apple, and Okadabooks.

 

Pen Names: when you might want to consider one

Last week, I wrote about fantasy character names. Sometimes fantasy authors come up with some hard to pronounce names which can really turn off readers. You want the character name to be memorable. Even more so, you want your name to be memorable. You want readers to be able to recommend your books to others.

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you? How are readers going to be able to search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens. Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell(real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot(real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll(real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  • Anne Rice (real name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brain Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check out to make sure there isn’t already an author by that name by using Amazon. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.