A Kid’s Perspective: Choosing Bullying; Choosing Kindness


Guest blog by Heather Leah, preschool and school-age teacher in Raleigh, NC.

As a teacher, I have the benefit of seeing the “Bullying Conversation” from both sides. Yes, I read the articles about the bullying pandemic, but I also see the children who exhibit bullying behaviors and see the damage that labeling them does to their self-image.

As adults, we can see what kinds of self-esteem problems or personal hardships cause children to act out in angry ways that cause society to label them. However, I also see that adults can become far too self-important in their analysis of the issues, assuming we know everything about what causes children to choose bullying, kindness, and all the things in between. The truth of the matter is this: All children, at some point in their life, will bully another child.

So I find it most interesting to talk with my students about their own perspectives on what causes personal choices between kindness and harshness (let’s just throw the word “bullying” out with the garbage. It’s a pointless negative word that promotes destruction more than understanding).

When we listen to what our youngest, brightest minds have to say, maybe we adults can come to a point of really comprehending how we can help promote kindness in our classrooms.

In fact, a child in my class, a wiser-than-his-ten-years poet, wrote this prize-winning poem in the lyrical style of Dr. Seuss as a class project. I was surprised by the subject matter he chose, which gave deep insight into catalysts that push a child towards choosing harshness or kindness — and how a kid might decide between the two. Read it, and maybe you’ll learn something:

There were three Todasis.sneetches2
One was the dummy.
One was the guy named Shrummy.
Then there was a gummy.
He was not nice, nor funny,
but the opposite of nice.
What was that?
straight old mean
–he was lean.
He steals and he eats a lot.
He said:
“No! I will never be nice!
I will not tell you once or twice!”
“Please. Oh, please! Be nice!”
“NO! I will never, NEVER be nice!
I tell you not once or twice!”
“Oh please, Oh please! I want you nice!”
Simply no! I tell you not once more!”
“Why? Why will you never be nice?
Why? Just tell me.
I can’t understand…
…If we show you kindness, will you be nice?”
“–OKAY! Fine.
…What is kindness?”
“Well, for one thing: Don’t yell.
Start off by hugging.
Say hi.”
“Okay,” Gummy replied. “Here. Have a smile!
Wow! This really is better than being mean.”
“See?” said Shrummy and the dummy.
And together they all walked away.

This guest post, written by Heather Leah, originally appeared on Candid Slice.

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Ask Dr. Wynns Give-A-Way Contest!


You want to be a No Wimpy Parent, but you need some guidance. Never fear! Dr. Wynns is here to put you back on the path to better parenting.  Get expert advice, as she answers your burning questions—no parenting issue is too small, no tale too strange.  In “Dear Abby” fashion, winning questions, stories, and answers will be featured anonymously on our No Wimpy Parenting Blog and in future editions of the NWP Newsletter. So keep checking back in to find new parenting questions and tips.

Plus, each month’s winner will receive a very special prize from No Wimpy Parenting and Wynns Family Psychology: This month, we’re giving away our decorative, steaming liquid consumption vessel. This grand caffeine chalice will not only provide a burst of energy in the morning, but remind your children that you’re no parenting pushover!  The No Wimpy Parenting Coffee Mug—because the first step to good parenting is being awake!

To enter this contest, simply email Dr. Wynns at Info@NoWimpyParenting.com with an interesting story or parenting question with the headline “ASK DR. WYNNS CONTEST.”

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Is There a Difference Between Teasing and Bullying?


When you hear the word “bully,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? A scene from The Karate Kid where Johnny and his merciless gang of Cobra Kai’s pummel the vulnerable “new kid,” Daniel?  Or do you think about tweens being emotionally and psychologically degraded through verbal put-downs and social exclusions?  The latter example can be more difficult to address, because this more subtle form of bullying is often harder to identify.

A teen client was recently depressed because a classmate was teasing him and making fun of his football team. This went on for days. Because it was a friend, it made the situation especially confusing.  The teen was embarrassed and upset, and he had no idea how to handle the situation.  As a self-admitted “jokester” and “prankster,” I know that a little good-natured teasing is a normal part of friendship.  But I’ve also found that the fine line between humor and hurt feelings can be a precarious one to walk.  And sorting through those subtle nuances can be as tricky as untangling a kindergartener’s shoelaces.

This complicated grey area begs the question, “Where is that official line between harmless teasing and outright bullying?

Unfortunately, this is not only a tricky question to answer, but is perhaps the wrong question to ask in the first place. Rather than viewing these situations through our adult lenses (which can result in us being overly dismissive or too eager to get involved), I submit that it’s more important to consider how your child is being affected.  If he’s happy and comfortable with the teasing, it can probably be interpreted as good-natured ribbing. However, if he feels anxious, angry, or sad, then maybe things have crossed the line. And if your child is confused about how he feels, advise him to pay attention to his “gut instinct.”

So what can you do as a parent to help and educate your child on bullying and teasing?  Firstly, encourage conversations about this topic.  It’s especially important that you’re the initiator since many kids don’t want to talk about being bullied–because they’re ashamed or feel as if it’s their fault.  Asking direct questions like, “Are there any kids at school who tease you?” or “Do kids leave you out?” is a good way to get things started.

If you suspect your child or teen may be getting teased or bullied, here are some ways you can foster and maintain open communication:

  • Ask subtle questions like “Who do you normally hang out with?” or “Are there any kids at school you don’t like?  Why?”
  • Maintain close communication with teachers at school and through parent-teacher conferences.  Don’t exclusively focus on academics!  Ask your teachers questions about how well your child gets along with his peers, with whom does he spend the majority of his time, and if they’ve ever seen examples of your child being excluded or bullied. Even if his teachers haven’t noticed anything concerning, if you suspect problems, raising these question should promote future awareness.
  • Get your child involved in a social skills group to learn how to be more assertive, better read social cues, recognize annoying behaviors, and make friends
  • Teach your child to hang out in crowds – bullies like to target kids who are typically alone
  • Have your child practice ahead of time how she’ll respond to bullying—with assertive words, steady voice, eye contact, and strong body posture.  Your child can learn to visualize what she wants to happen—walking tall, shoulders back, strong voice saying, “I’m not going to listen to you talking to me that way.”
  • If your child is being teased by a friend, encourage him to say in an assertive voice, “That’s not funny. Please don’t say that anymore.”
  • Do not encourage physical retaliation – it will likely result in your child being disciplined at school.  Despite the prevalent notion that you should “fight back” to stop bullying, your child’s retaliation is just as likely to escalate a situation into something more violent or dangerous.
  • Work with your child’s school. It’s their responsibility to coordinate the response to bullying in school.
  • While your emotions are bound to run high, try to keep them under control. Stay rational and stick to the facts when working with school officials to remedy the situation.
  • Never tell your child to simply ignore the bullying. Giving this advice may make him feel as if you’re ignoring the situation and trivializing his problems. If he walks away feeling as if he shouldn’t have wasted his time, he may not open up the next time he encounters a problem.  You can also encourage him to use a sense of humor to throw off the teasers – acting as if the received verbal jabs are compliments, or responding to teasing with compliments.
  • Ask your teen to let you know about cyber-bullying ASAP, and never tell them to respond to it online.  If it gets too malicious, your Internet Service Provider may be able to help track anonymous cyber-bullies. You can also contact your ISP or web forum administrator to see if it’s possible to block future texts, emails, or posts from known cyber-bullies. If the bullying behavior gets really extreme or has threats of violence, extortion, child pornography, or hate crimes, contact the police immediately.
  • If your child has trouble opening up to you or you need additional help, seek professional assistance from an experienced child psychologist.
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No Wimpy Parenting™: 5 Steps To Taking Back Your Power

No_Wimpy_Parenting_Website_More_053011It’s time to start a revolution in America – a parenting revolution! Bit by bit, day by day, parents are slowly giving away their power. To whom you ask? To their children! There seems to be an epidemic of kids and teens running their households. Parents are left like deflated balloons, shrugging and wondering, “Where did I go wrong? How did this Happen? Or “Why don’t my kids respect me?” After seeing this issue sweeping through my private practice as a child psychologist, as well as witnessing it first hand as a mother myself, I got inspired to create “No Wimpy Parenting.” No Wimpy Parenting is a philosophy, as well as a set of resources to help parents take back their power. So if you’re ready to join the revolution, here are five easy steps to take your power back.

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Have I given away my power?”

Some parents may not be aware they’ve given away their power. It can be a slow and subtle process–and kids are so darn clever–that many parents don’t realize it until it’s too late. Here are some signs you’ve given (or are giving away) away your power.

  • When you ask your kids to do something, they frequently respond, “No because…” or “First I’m going to…” or “I can’t because…
  • Your kids throw tantrums or get furious if you won’t take them where they want to go, buy them what they want, or help them with something. Yes, teens can throw tantrums too, it just looks a little more ridiculous. “But Mom! I NEED my phone!”
  • You often find yourself threatening and warning over and over again until you’re so frustrated you lose your temper.
  • Your kids make decisions about what they’ll attend and not attend, when they’ll go to bed, or when they’ll turn off the television or computer at night.
  • Your kids ignore or laugh at your rules – even if you say there’s a curfew or a bedtime, it’s not really enforced and the kids know it.
  • You often feel frustrated at the lack of respect you get from your kids and feel like, “My kids do what they want to do and don’t ever listen to me.”

Step 2: Reflect on “How did this happen?”

Some of the current popular philosophies of raising and educating children are disastrous for our families. We allow the child too much freedom and put the child in control. We are encouraging our children to be free and outspoken, to be empowered. But we are not helping them build their character. We are not teaching them enough about limits and discipline, about empathy and respect. It’s good to give your child choices, but we’ve taken that mentality and gone to an extreme.

Step 3: Redistribute the power appropriately (i.e., fill up your water gun!)

There are small things parents do every day that allow their children and teens to take the power.  I call these “power suckers.” Imagine parenting as a big water gun fight. Every time you give away your power to your children, a little water dribbles out of your water gun. If this happens enough, you will have an empty water gun. Then guess what happens when you come face to face with your child or teen with your water guns raised, and you are trying to enforce a really important issue (curfew, dating, drugs and alcohol, etc.)? Your child looks at your empty water gun and laughs, saying, “What are you going to do?” They know you don’t have any ammo left.


Bwa ha ha!
  • Many parents argue too much. They go on explaining the same thing dozens of times. If you have said something twice, then that’s enough. After the second time, you should act and not talk.
  • Follow through. If you say, “If I find your shoes in the living room again, I’m going to donate them to Goodwill,” donate them to Goodwill if you find them again! Once your children know that you will do as you say, then you won’t have to do it. They will respect your word! Kids are natural gamblers and will roll the dice every time if they think there’s a slim chance you’ll give in, change your mind, or forget the punishment.
  • Too many choices! Yes it’s good to give kids choices. But you shouldn’t ask them: Do you want to go to bed now? or Do you want to go to church today? If it’s something you want your kids to do, make it a statement: Time for bed or We leave for church in 10 minutes.

Step 4: Maintain the new power structure and be consistent!

  • Follow through with consequences. If you ground your child from his phone for a week, don’t let him have it back in two days because he’s harassing you for it. If you put your child in time out for 4 minutes, and she giggles and runs away in 2 minutes, bring her back again. See punishments through!
  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to focus on too many behaviors and issues. It will overwhelm you, and you won’t end up following through on anything. Choose the top 3-5 behaviors you struggle with, and try your best to correct and discipline those behaviors every single time.
  • Keep a look out for sneaky power suckers – small things like kids ignoring you when you make small requests, refusing to cooperate, or telling you what they are willing to do. Small things eventually add up. You’re filling their water guns and depleting yours.

Step 5: Watch out for regression to the “old ways.”

Many parents enthusiastically embrace new parenting strategies and do a great job–for about 1-2 days. Then reality hits: Long days at work + tired parents + smart kids = parents who lose their resolve and get sucked into the bad habits again.

  • Find an accountability partner – whether it’s your spouse, your parent, or your best friend, you need someone who will ask you daily – “How are you doing with Billy? Are you still following through? Are you still being consistent? Are you correcting his behavior every time he misbehaves?”
  • Keep a parenting log. At the end of the day, take 5 minutes to write a summary of the day’s events. Example: Sent Suzy to time-out twice for noncompliance, but she was great the rest of the day. I verbally corrected Tommy a few times for disrespect and enforced grounding from television, which was taken from him yesterday.

young-girl-kisses-momFinally, remember these things aren’t to give your ego a boost and wear your kids down. Kids need and want boundaries and limits. It makes them feel safe, secure, and loved. So know that embracing No Wimpy Parenting isn’t just going to make you feel good, it will ultimately bring peace, stability, and happiness to your kids too! Ready to join the revolution? Visit NoWimpyParenting.com or WynnsFamilyPsychology to schedule your parent consult, get resources, and learn more!

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Halloween For Kids: Tips For A Simple, Healthy October


Guest blogger: Heather Leah

Here it comes—the magical night of wacky costumes, mountains of sugar, and spooky stories that are all sure to make your kid go wild. Halloween is upon us.

But what if Halloween could be a little different? What if, instead of processed sugar, we celebrated with baked apples and spiced pumpkin seeds? What if, instead ofseeking ghosts and goblins, we practiced random acts of kindness? And rather than pounding on every door in the neighborhood, we got some fresh air in a vast corn maze the whole family could enjoy?

After all, Autumn was always about celebrating the bounty of the harvest and the simple farm life—not dropping fifty bucks on a costume and consuming pounds of sugar.

So here are your 5 tips for a simple, healthy, and amazing Halloween with your kids—right here in the Raleigh area.

1.     Go BOO!

A new fad has taken over our neighborhoods, and it’s just the right amount of “Trick” to be fun for kids, but still a fantastic random act of kindness. Basically, you and your child create “BOO Bags.” Just fill the bag with a little treat, attach your anonymous note, reading:

You’ve Been Boo-ed!6a00e54ee632ab88330133f543f4d9970b

The phantom ghost has come to town

To leave some goodies… I see you’ve found.

If you wish to make this a happier fall

Continue this greeting, this phantom call.

Now, here’s the fun part. Hang it on a neighbor’s door, ring the bell, then run away as fast as you can! It’s a thrilling random act of kindness, as mysterious as a ghost.

2.     Night At The Museum

There are some risks associated with door-to-door Trick-or-Treating, such as:

  • Razor blades in candy
  • Getting gross candy, like Reeses (sorry, Reeses, lovers!)
  • Overloading with sugar
  • Upsetting grumpy neighbors
  • The “one more house, please! Just one more!” whine after the fiftieth house.

Fortunately, our very own North Carolina Museum of History has the simple solution to all of this: Halloween Safe Night at the Museum. Kids get a cultural outing and sugar, as they walk along the Trick or Treat Trail. Friday, October 31, 6–9 p.m.

 3.     Pumpkin Carving

This is a time-honored classic, but what parents may not realize it just how beneficial it is for kids. Of course the parent should always control the knife; however, kids can practice art and fine motor skills drawing faces and helping “pop out” the pieces parents loosen. Also, it’s a tactile and science wonderland, touching the stringy goop, picking seeds loose, and learning about the insides of food and how it grows. It provides family bonding time and a proud piece of art to show off on your door step. Even better, it leads into number four on this list….

4.     Satchels of Spiced Seeds

Instead of passing out tons of candy this year, consider sweet-scented cinnamon pumpkin seed satchels or their salty counterparts. Bake them as a family, and make it your tradition. While you’re at it, bake a few cinnamon apples, roast some corn, and have a true harvest feast! Plus, these goodie bags make great treats to hand out to neighborhood kids or attach to your BOO Bags!

5.     Corn Mazes

North Carolina has plenty of room for corn mazes, and they’re a seasonal way to enjoy fresh air and nature with your family. In fact, there’s the fantastic Green Acres Corn Maze, which also has tractors, ponies, cows, and mounds of hay just waiting to be explored–right here in Cary!


A wide open maze, waiting for exploration! Photo Courtesy of greenacrescary.com and Preston Development Company.

Get away from the computer, video games, and Netflix. Explore a farm. It’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about healthyfood. Plus, it’s amazing exercise, which is so valuable for healthy minds and bodies—especially when all that Halloween candy is on sale.

See Also: Teens, Tweens, and Screens: The Risks Of Too Much Screen Time

So there you have it, folks! Healthy food, science and education, exercise, random acts of kindness, and spooky thrills! Have the best Halloween ever, kids!

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10 Commandments of Parenting

Okay that’s probably a little overstated.  But I don’t know about you, I am overwhelmed by all of the parenting advice that exists in the world today.  I once heard that today’s parents have read as much information about parenting as pediatricians used to know back in the day.  I’m a child psychologist and I’m overwhelmed by all of the Do’s and Don’ts.  So I thought, why not, I can’t make it worse right?  Here’s my list of what I consider to be the 10 most important things you should do in a day as a parent.  To be followed by the top 10 things you should not do (in a future post).

1) Hug and kiss your kids.

In addition to this, squeeze their hands, pat their backs, tickle them, scratch their backs…you get the idea, touch them.  It’s amazing all the research that’s been done to show how powerful touch is for a person’s mental, psychological, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

2) This should be a no-brainer, but tell your kids you love them.

And not just at bedtime or in the carpool lane.  But spontaneously when you’re playing with them, say, “You know, I really love you.” Look them in the eyes when you say this too, so many parents say it out of habit, and kids want to hear the real deal.


3) Spend a minimum of 20 minutes of one-on-one “quality time” every day.

This means the child picks the activity, the child leads the activity (they get to tell you what to do), and it is dedicated to having fun and enjoying each other’s company.  Obviously, it doesn’t count if you’re helping him do his homework…the child picks the activity.

4) If you are married or living in the same house with your child’s other parent…

…show some affection and kind words to that person in front of your child.  It’s amazing how secure that makes a child feel, and as a bonus, you’re showing your child how to treat a wife/husband/partner.

5) Have your kids do some kind of chore every day and start young.

Even a two year old can put toys back in a toy box.  A five year old can feed the cat, make her bed, and put dirty clothes in a hamper.  Children feel secure and reassured when they live in a tidy house and when there is order to their world.  They also have a boost in self-confidence from being contributing members of the family.

6) Follow through, follow through, follow through with consequences.

If you threaten to put him in time out if he sasses you one more time, and he sasses you, put him in time out.  If you tell the kids to quiet down or you’re turning off the t.v., and they continue screaming, turn off the t.v.  You are establishing your power as a parent and teaching them to respect you because you mean what you say.  I can’t emphasize this point enough.

7) Consistency is key.

If today your kids are allowed to eat in the living room because you’re exhausted and don’t feel like enforcing the rule, but tomorrow you are back to enforcing the “no eating in the living room” rule, guess what?  Your kids will be less likely to follow any rules because they know they are negotiable or fickle.

8) Only create rules that really matter to you.

Related to rule seven–if you have hundreds of rules in your house, you certainly won’t remember them all and neither will your kids.  Make sure you actually care about your rules.  For example, lots of parents have the no jumping on the bed rule, but in my house, I don’t care.  It’s never made sense to me.  As long as you are supervising, it’s a blast for you and the kids.  Now that’s just an example, the point is, only pick the rules that are the “biggies.”

9) Take care of yourself. 

If you are eating poorly, sleeping poorly, and stressed out, you will not be the best parent.  Many times we put ourselves last as parents. Make sure you give yourself the same attention you give your kids (i.e., eat your veggies, drink your water, get your exercise, turn off the t.v. and go to sleep.)

10) Laugh every day!

Laugh at your own silly parenting mistakes. Laugh at your silly kids.  Laugh at your “to do list” and how it’s not humanly possible to get it done. Laugh at the ever growing hole in your sofa because the stuffing is coming out – but laugh because you know you can’t buy a new one because the silly cats keep peeing on it ….oh oops, I’m not sure where those examples came from. Laugh!

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Teens, Tweens, and Screens

kids-teens-tv-video-games-710x190 Times have changed since we were kids.  Screens are everywhere.  Teens not only have access to televisions; many of them have their own.  But that’s old news.  Given Hulu, Netflix, and online reruns, computers are the new, just-for-me TV’s.  They come in all sizes so we can take them everywhere we go.  We have desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, gaming systems, and all the devices I’m too old to be hip to.  We don’t just watch TV on them.  We game.  We shop.  We “socialize.”  Students are not only required to write papers on a computer, but many need online access to complete homework assignments.  Some students are even given textbooks on tablets.  Video screens are so integrated into our daily lives, it seems there is no getting away from them. Since the dawn of the internet, those who market to individuals using screens of all types have been studying how to keep us watching, playing, or subscribing.  They’ve gotten very good at it, and today’s teens have never known a world without it.  Machines are built to cater to us, and studies show our brains are responding much like they do to other addictive stimuli.  The more we get, the more we want.  More screen time means more food, less exercise, and less time for family, friends, and practicing real life skills.  Kids and teenagers hooked on screens can be irritable, defiant, and sometimes aggressive when a parent tries to limit their access.  Excessive screen time has been linked to a whole host of negative outcomes—including conduct problems, social issues, and decreased school performance, just to name a few. Since kids and teens are just learning how to draw those boundaries, it’s our job as caregivers to set limits for them.  Fortunately, research has also taught us a few things about managing screen time with kids.

Your children may need less screen time if:

  • They plan, think, and talk about gaming when doing other activities.
  • They often game to escape real life problems, anxiety, or depressed moods.
  • They lie to others to hide their screen use.
  • They become irritable when attempting to cut down on screen time.

Setting appropriate limits:

  • Only allow a maximum of 1-2 hours a day of screen time (all screens).
  • No screens in bedrooms, at meals, or bedtime.
  • Keep screens where you can monitor time and content.
  • Watch media with your kids or at least monitor what they watch.
  • Monitor internet history (on all screens), texting, and social media usage.
  • Know who your kids are talking to online.
  • Friend them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and MySpace – make it a requirement for them to friend you if they want to use those sites.
  • Ensure their access is as limited as the technology allows (sometimes this means getting hi-tech helpers involved to lock it down for you).
  • If your children are irresponsible with technology, take it away.

How to make the transition to less screen time easier:

  • Model appropriate use of screens.
  • Engage with your children more and get them moving outside with you.
  • Get them involved with peers and family. Those who need the most practice socializing are the most likely to avoid it with screen time and other things, which only prevents them from learning those real world skills.

Though screens often give parents a needed break, every time we say “yes” to more screen time, we say “no” to healthier alternatives. Don’t be afraid to let your child be bored. The skills they learn and practice in response to boredom will surprise you (making friends, playing sports, developing projects, being creative, reflecting on themselves and the world around them, and so much more.)

Tweens, Teens & Screens Parenting Workshop kids-teens-tv-video-games


Do your kids spend too much time watching TV, playing video games, surfing online, or piddling on their phones? Does misbehavior tend to correlate with separating them from their beloved “screens?” Could you use some more ideas about how to successfully disengage from these activities and reconnect your children with family and friends? If you’re struggling with how much time your tweens and teens spend in front of a screen, come join our Tweens, Teens & Screens Parenting Workshop. Learn how to tell if your child is addicted to gaming, what types of influences screens have on your child’s behavior, reasonable time limits, building reward systems, and more! Workshop held Wednesday, October 22nd.

Learn more about our Tweens, Teens & Screens Parenting Workshop.

Click here for our complete list of groups, camps, and workshops.

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