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Hello from an almost 2 month hiatus.  This is a great read!  I also agree that too much information can be a bad thing.  I hope you enjoy it and that it gives you some piece of mind if you don’t believe everything you read.

By Lyz Lenz (taken from
When my daughter was 6 weeks old, she wasn’t smiling. All the information I read in books and on websites said that she should be smiling. As a new mom, I was very worried. I posted on discussion boards and received a host of suggestions ranging from failure to thrive and autism. I Googled, “autism in infants,” “autism at six weeks,” “my child is not smiling” and “my baby doesn’t like me.”

The doctor told me my baby was fine. My husband told me she was fine. My family told me she was fine, but with the overwhelming information superhighway contradicting their reasoned counsel, I couldn’t help but worry, fret and Google. Until one day, without warning, my daughter just smiled and she hasn’t stopped smiling since.

But it’s not just the Internet introducing anxiety. A new slate of technology allows parents to spy on their children in ways never before imagined. The AngelCare baby monitor detects signs of breathing and sounds an alarm if your baby stops moving. Some friends of mine watch their children on their phones through a live-video feed available via Skype. “Why not just stick computer chips in them?” I joked. “We’d consider it,” the father seriously retorted.

New parents worry. It’s a given that all new moms will anxiously check their snoozing infant for signs of breathing. We buckle. Innoculate. Sanitize. But does this wealth of information feed into our deepest fears and actually make us worse parents? Or when it comes to your children can you never have enough knowledge?

Dr. John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, argues that the glut of product and Internet-induced knowledge is not just hurting parents, it’s hurting kids. “In my opinion, we definitely have far too much information these days, and it can be crippling for parents. From focusing on the baby monitors with our infants, to GPS on cell phones for our teenagers, I think parents inundate themselves with more information than they can manage, and more than they need to. We need enough data to keep our kids as reasonably safe as possible. But beyond that, we just create reasons for fear. And we know that we rarely make our best parenting decisions from a point of fear. We become controlling and, effectively, unavailable to our kids. This benefits no-one.”

And he’s not the only one. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Family Physician and a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, believes that this wealth of information is creating a generation of defensive parenting. She argues, “Too much news exposure can lead us down the path of anxiety and can create a whole family dynamic based on the expectation of bad things happening. Living life defensively, trying to protect our children from every possible bad outcome, increases stress and physical illness in parents, and can increase anxiety in kids. It does not, past a certain common sense level, decrease the number of tough experiences that our children encounter. Also, there is a lot of good to come out of difficult experiences, including raising kids who are practical, self-reliant and resilient.”More on Parenting: 

Can’t quite relax into new parenthood? Try music!Babble’s Best Albums for Babies

Running out of ideas for a fussy infant? 9 Great Ways to Calm a Baby

Fran Young, a mother and teacher, thinks all this anxiety and parental hovering is inhibiting our children’s ability to mature into confident and independent adults. “No longer can a child learn independence by walking alone to school or the nearby store to get some groceries. No more will children light up and smile when a stranger says ‘hello’ — even if mom is right there pushing the cart at the store. Gone are the days when a retired neighbor (missing her grandchildren, perhaps) can show a child how to fix her bicycle or make a birdhouse or learn to speak French or twirl a baton or bake a cake. Parents have become fearful and have become so protective of their children that learning independence as a child has become impossible.”

But not everyone agrees that too much information is, well, too much. Candi Wingate, President of Nannies4Hire, a nannying and babysitting service, argues that what we call “over-protective parents” are just parents sensitive to the dangers and needs of their children. She notes that swimming in pools without lifeguards and not wearing a seatbelt were all common activities for kids 40 years ago. Today, however, parents would be considered negligent for not enforcing those activities. “What seems reasonable to parents today would have seemed over-protective to the parents of 40 years ago.”

“I think that too much information doesn’t make people bad parents,” argues Tina Feigal, a teacher, mom and the owner of a parent coaching business, “but it certainly makes them a lot more anxious than they need to be to do their jobs as parents. That can result in overreaction to every little thing, which drives the children crazy. Parents think they are just doing their jobs, but all this information keeps them trapped in feeling they are always doing it wrong. Guilt rules the show.”

The Internet and technology, have given parents a glut of knowledge and with it the sense of more control. But that control is just an illusion. And, while watching our infant on a video monitor or frantically Googling symptoms may seem to ease our worried minds, in the end, we can’t control whether our baby has a common cold or pneumonia.

After a month of waking up to every snore, wheeze and grunt broadcast via the baby monitor, I finally listened to my father and turned the “damn thing” off. Despite my sleep-training efforts, I couldn’t control whether my daughter slept or not, but I could try and get a good night’s sleep for myself. And I’ve been a better, well-rested parent because of it.


or on a simple notecard…

I will be the first to admit that I’m a writer a heart.  If there is an excuse to write, I’ll take it.  As a former middle school Language Arts teacher, I also field frequent questions from parents regarding how they can get their child excited about writing.  I have long contended that the ability to write well is not just a natural gift.  It is a craft that takes time, dedication & patience. When I was writing my book, I distinctly remember bouts of serious writer’s block where I grappled with scrapping the project all together.  Along with the encouragement of my co-writers, it was the discipline I had developed through years of consistent writing that propelled me through the rough patches.

Many of you may be wondering what I’ve been writing about all these years.  It’s only recently that my book was released, that I began writing for publications and that I began my own blog.  The one consistent piece I’ve been writing throughout the years, however, has been thank you notes/gratitude letters.  And, I truly believe engaging in the creation of both will help your child become a better, more impassioned writer.

Thank you notes/gratitude letters accomplish the following:

  1. They allow children to practice the craft/art of writing on a small scale (i.e. short).  This gives them opportunities to write without the pressure of creating the next Moby Dick.
  2. They allow children to write about something important, relevant and usually something children like and/or appreciate (gifts, money, a great time at an event, etc.).
  3. They allow children to write in a low-stakes environment.  Everyone loves to receive a thank you note or gratitude letter.  The child almost always comes out looking good after sending a note of appreciation or gratitude.
  4. They allow parents to see how children write on the fly and in a somewhat unscripted atmosphere.  This can allow parents to assess a child’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer. (spelling skills, creative vocabulary, general creativity).
  5. They allow children to think about the kindness of others and learn to appreciate gifts on a greater level.
  6. Thank you notes/gratitude letters are a form of “paying it forward” and leave a smile on the recipient’s face.
  7. Practice, practice and practice makes perfect.  The more one practices her craft, the better she becomes at it.

While I’m in the midst of admitting things, I will also admit that writing thank you notes and gratitude letters makes me feel great.  I know people enjoy receiving something in the mail (NOT email) that recognizes their kindness, generosity, etc.  I write notes to people on pretty much a daily basis.  It is part of my writing ritual and supports my overall emotional health.  I didn’t always enjoy the craft, but through practice and witnessing the reaction of some who have received my pieces of written correspondence, I have grown to love and look forward to writing thank you notes and gratitude letters.  In fact, I’m bubbling with excitement now knowing that my next writing assignment is a thank you note, and it’s going to be a doozy!

Happy Writing!






A wonderful commentary about the heart of education- children.  Until educators and politicians begin to make decisions that are truly in the best interest of children, our education system doesn’t stand a chance.

June 5, 2011 12:50 am  Author: Julia Steiny Columnist

Jesse James explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” I obsess about schools because that’s where the kids are.

For those who’ve known me over my 16 years as the education columnist for the Providence Journal, welcome to my column’s new home here at Big thanks to Jimmy Kilpatrick for this opportunity.

My journey into the landscape of kids and education began when a friend recruited me into a city-wide parents group working on improving our local schools. My own twin boys had only just started kindergarten, so my attitude was fresh and eager compared with the other battle-scared parents whose kids were older. Because the people seemed interesting, I joined a sub-group that was studying the Providence teachers contract. A parent who also was a labor lawyer helped the us understand the arcane meanings encrypted in that long, daunting, and terrible document.

In the early 1990s, I got appointed to the Providence School Board as a representative of that group.

At my first Board meeting, I was greeted with flaccid handshakes and overt disdain. The long-time Chair introduced me to each member, dramatically broadcasting his distaste for the task. An official of Rhode Island’s youth prison offered his thick hand and a freezing-cold stare. Ignoring the introductions altogether, two women talked in what seemed to me like staged over-animation, as they leaned against the easy-wipe plastic wallpaper, decor that made the School Department look like a corporate insurance company. Together, we would shape education policy for our students. Oy.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I hadn’t been appointed because of my animated interview with the Mayor and knowledge of the teachers contract. It took a while, but I finally realized that the lame-duck Mayor had only chosen me as a way of sticking it to the new guy.

On my way into that first meeting, the seen-it-all School Board secretary pulled me aside and told me that if I were smart – “smaht” – I would shut up for six months and figure things out before making a fool of myself. She said that new Board members always think they have the answers when they first arrive (I did), but solutions are not so obvious (right again).

But I did know some things. At Rhode Island College where I was then teaching, most of my students were woefully ill-educated. From all over the state high-school graduates in my History of Theater class came to me thinking that the ancient Greeks were, maybe, a baseball team? They had trouble constructing sentences. They had zero curiosity about the subject. For the most part their educational goals were to get a job that would get them good money, with which to be a good consumer.

What was going on? How’d they graduate high school with only the vaguest idea of the function of a verb?

The School Board offered depressing answers to that. Most notably, the Board’s work had little to do with kids. Budget battles, adult personnel issues, and the paralyzing labor contracts ate up most of our attention. The only students we discussed were those being considered for expulsion. Kids were just the excuse for grown-ups to collect tax revenue and pass it around to each other.

Each week I read the education trade paper, Education Week, cover to cover. In time I developed the nerve to suggest, in a winning, positive voice, that we could solve a certain problem the way some other community had, as reported by EdWeek. But beware. Pointing out problems to educators can unleash wicked defensiveness, often accompanied by a shower of fingers pointing to the parents, government officials, electronic distractions or under-funding as the source of all problems. It was as if there were nothing we could actually do for the benefit of students.

Soon after leaving the Board I started writing for the Journal. Education was my focus, but okay, what about the parents, the funding, the officials and the like? What about all the things that affect kids, since what affects kids affects education?

During the summers, when no one wants to hear about math, I began running long series on big issues like premature pregnancy, parenting, children’s mental health, the disappearance of imaginative play from childhood, the alienation from nature. One summer I wrote about all the kids no one wants to bother with: juvenile offenders, victims of neglect or sexual abuse, foster and group home children. I got no e-mail response all summer. Not interested.

My take: in America, kids in general are not cherished. The public wants high academic performance from them, but resents how much support they need to reach high standards. Other-people’s children are inconvenient, rude and expensive.

So all too the focus on helping kids gets drowned by adult concerns. The adults have tons of needs, don’t get me wrong. Parenting skills have fallen on hard times, and teachers are ill-equipped to deal with kids’ challenges. Still, getting kids’ real issues front and center, first, before the adult issues, shouldn’t be a major battle.

Jesse James explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” I obsess about schools because that’s where the kids are. But we’ll never improve education until we nourish and value kids, in and out of schools.

So, while regular beat reporters write about the blood in the water – the conflicts and combatants – I write about the water.

I’m delighted to be able to continue to do so.

Julia Steiny wrote the education column for the Providence Journal for 16 years. She is a freelance writer and consultant on data projects such as , RI’s school-accountability site and , an innovative data-analysis tool. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative. She blogs and can be reached for questions or comments at .


I have yet to see this documentary, but I do hope it screens in the Los Angeles area.

May 26, 2011 9:31 am- taken from
Conceived by two girls who were victims of bullying, it encourages girls to find kindness and treat their peers with respect and dignity.

Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson have channeled their experience of being bullied in school into a documentary called “Finding Kind” to bring attention to the problem of girl-on-girl bullying, The Seattle Times reports. Now the filmmakers are setting up viewings around the country, including 6 scheduled showings in Seattle-area schools.

The film documents the stories of girls who have been bullied and those who have bullied others. Thompson said she was surprised by how many girls end up playing both roles. Both filmmakers say that they see their film as a mission and a way to motivate students to take up the cause of kindness.

On Tuesday, Thompson and Parsekian screened the film at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. After the viewing, children were given an opportunity to write apology cards to those they’ve bullied, or use those cards to write down their own experience being bullied.

Parsekian says that the movie echoes her own experience as one of the popular kids who was subsequently ostracized by her friends. At the beginning of middle school, she became a victim of a lie made up by a boy and spread by other girls in her class. She said the lie ended up costing her friends and made her a target of threatening phone calls and theft. People threw things at her in the hall, and her homework was often stolen and ripped up.

Thompson had her own experiences with bullying during her school years. When she was 12, she was punched in the face by another girl and was abandoned by her friends who wouldn’t stand up for her.

She says that she made the movie to remind those who are going through similar experiences that it does get better and there are people out there who can help.


I could not agree more w/the article below.  We have spent decades promoting girls and trying to make certain professions more attainable and attractive to females.  While this has been a noble pursuit, we need to pay attention to our boys too.  I want my son to grow to believe he can be anything he wants to be, regardless of typical gender stereotypes.

Go Beyond Gender Stereotypes for Boys, Experts Conclude

Originally printed in Education News online- May 20, 2011
 As traditionally female-dominated fields like healthcare and education grow, boys need education and encouragement to succeed in those sectors, say experts.
Tom Mortenson, Senior Scholar at The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education

Education Week asks if schools are doing enough to get boys interested in careers in female-dominated fields. Now that some traditionally female job sectors like education and healthcare are booming while industries such as construction and manufacturing are stagnating, should boys be encouraged to broaden their horizons?

That’s the question being discussed at a forum held Tuesday by the Washington-based Boys Initiative, where speakers called for a creation of a White House Council on Boys to Men, to mimic the White House Council of Women and Girls. Reports released at the forum show that men lag women in both high school and college enrollment. A research done by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity In Higher Education found that in 2006, women received the majority of U.S. college degrees, both overall, and in all racial groups. Thomas Mortenson, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote that while gaps vary between the races — with Asian men earning 44.7% of degrees relative to Asian women, while African-American men only earning one for every two earned by African-American women — the overall downward trend has been ongoing since 1977.

Mortenson points out that while girls are being encouraged to enter professions like engineering and science, there’s still no push for equilibrium in fields like elementary education, which is dominated by women:

“My perception over the last 40 years is we’ve provided a lot of support and encouragement for girls to try and take on new things, but I’ve also seen no special effort to encourage boys to take on different subjects. I’ve tried to say to boys, ‘If you want a good job, think about becoming a nurse’ … but nobody ever introduces boys to entering these traditionally female occupations, and someone needs to do that.”

Although, in early childhood, the biological difference between sexes is quite small, educators and parents tend to exaggerate their importance. In the classroom, gender stereotypes are reinforced when misbehaving boys are punished more harshly and enjoined to behave more like girls. Tanya Belz Rauzi, a mother of three boys and a girl, who is lobbying the Marin County School District to promote better engagement for boys, says:

“I see teachers calling the boys in class disruptive and saying, ‘Why can’t you be more like the girls?’ But if there was a male teacher coming in and saying something like that to the girls, he’d be out of there.”


I was wearily overpaying for a pair of girl’s dress shoes at Nordstrom (Target was out) when I spied a sign for a shoelace-tying class.  Out of curiosity I casually inquired with the young lady helping me as to the target age of the children who attend these classes.  She leaned in close and checked over both shoulders as if she were going spill her darkest secrets, so I leaned in a tad too.  “You’d be surprised, ma’am (that word always stings a bit), but we see tons of ten-year olds who can’t tie their own shoes!  They’ve been wearing velcro their entire lives!”  I was aghast to hear this.  I really was.  Up until this point I was pretty certain shoelace-tying was actually a state standard for California.  I walked away in a bit of a fog, pondering the idea of a fourth, possibly fifth grader, NOT being able to tie his own shoes.  It seemed as ludicrous as it did frightening!

This led me to do a bit more pondering, at which I became increasingly frustrated and angry, about how Helicopter Parents are not only ruining their own children, but slowly dragging the rest of us down with them.  I have always known that I am a free range parent, one that does not cut the crusts off bread, peel grapes, never used a wipe warmer, used rubber bands to baby proof my house and has always held true to the notion that a parent should never begin a habit with her children that she doesn’t plan to keep up for a very, very long time (i.e. peeling grapes).

This doesn’t mean that I shun all forms of child protection…pool gates are a must, helmets are a good thing and allowing young children to watch inappropriate television or movie content is bad.  However, hovering, swooping in, protecting my children from all forms of adversity and keeping them from learning the true meaning of the phrase, “life isn’t fair,” are not part of my parenting plan.

What is the cornerstone of my master plan is teaching my children the following:

  • how to be personally responsible
  • how to be independent
  • how resolve conflict & negotiate
  • how to problem solve
  • how to self-regulate their behavior, emotions and reactions to situations

And this is how I believe the actions of Helicopter Parents are dragging me down and inhibiting my ability to support these attributes in my own children:

  • teaching their child that it isn’t his fault when he makes a bad choice…i.e. bringing a homework assignment to school when the child has left it at home rather than allowing him to suffer the consequences (this goes for lunches too.  None of our kids are going to starve if they miss a meal).
  • doing everything (i.e. projects, cutting food, making beds…and the list goes on) for a child who is clearly old enough and capable enough to do it herself.
  • swooping in every time the child has a problem or argument and taking over before the child has a chance to navigate and negotiate the situation on his own….i.e. calling the parent of a friend when someone isn’t nice, doesn’t get invited to a birthday party or has a playground tiff.  Children need opportunities to resolve conflict with their peers or they will never hone their skills to do so.
  • solving a child’s problems so that she doesn’t have to experience anything negative….i.e. going to the teacher about a grading mistake on a test.  Children need to learn to advocate for themselves, which, in turn, leads to improved problem solving skills.
  • making excuses for inexcusable or inappropriate behavior.  There are standards for behavior in a civilized society.  The younger our children are when they learn to regulate their own emotions and behavior, the better off they will be later on.  Ever heard of delayed gratification?  If not, you are probably a Helicopter Parent.

Am I being a tad harsh?  Probably?  Are Helicopter Parents really bad people?  Probably not.  However, there is a saying I like to use, “The road to Hell was paved with good intentions.”  And to Hell in a handbasket we’re going if we continue to coddle our children with grading policies that do not allow for them to fail, team sports that reward everyone, regardless of whether or not they earned the win, and recess periods that no longer allow for free play.

We’ve lost our common sense people, and I’m on a mission to find it.  So Helicopter Parents beware, you may one day find yourself spinning out of control because you have failed to arm your kids with important life skills, but you are not taking me, or my kids, down with you!


Interesting question to ponder….will highlighting the potential health risks of childhood obesity open children up to a very negative stigma?  I would love to have parents weigh in (pun intended) on this issue.

This image made Thursday, April 21, 2011 shows a page from the website The advertisement, part of a "Stop Child Obesity" AP – This image made Thursday, April 21, 2011 shows a page from the website …
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer David Crary, Ap National Writer Sun May 1, 10:00 am ET

The images are striking: Overweight boys and girls staring somberly from billboards and online videos, real-life embodiments of the blunt messages alongside.

“Chubby kids may not outlive their parents,” for example. Or: “Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.”

The ads — part of a new “Stop Child Obesity” campaign in Georgia — won some enthusiastic praise for their attention-grabbing tactics. But they also have outraged parents, activists and academics who feel the result is more stigma for an already beleaguered and bullied group of children.

“Billboards depicting fat kids are extraordinarily harmful to the very kids they are supposedly trying to help,” said the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which called for the billboards’ removal.

The Georgia Children’s Health Alliance, which created the ads, said they were necessary to jar parents of obese kids out of a state of denial that their children had a problem.

The furor reflects a broader nationwide phenomenon as states, cities and the White House itself — led by first lady Michelle Obama — expand efforts to curb obesity. For all the public support of these efforts, there’s also a vocal and passionate corps of skeptics and critics worried that widespread discrimination toward the overweight and obese will only increase.

“Stigma is not an effective motivator,” said Rebecca Puhl, a Yale University psychologist who is a leading expert on weight discrimination. “Whether children or adults, if they are teased or stigmatized, they’re much more likely to engage in unhealthy eating and avoidance of physical activity.”

Research by Puhl and her colleagues at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity suggests that weight discrimination is pervasive — at schools, in the workplace, in the media, among health care providers. Yet efforts to combat it frequently founder: Only one state, Michigan, outlaws weight discrimination, and the anti-bullying policies proliferating in schools often lack specific content related to teasing of overweight children.

The spotlight on obesity intensified last year when Michelle Obama unveiled her national public awareness campaign, “Let’s Move.” Its goal, she said, was to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation by helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in schools, and encouraging children to exercise more.

Many aspects of “Let’s Move” won near-universal praise. But activists in the fat-acceptance movement and experts who espouse a “health at every size” approach were upset that the campaign encouraged the monitoring of children’s body mass index, or BMI, and thus might contribute to stigmatization of heavier kids.

“The idea of a BMI report card is horrible,” said Paul Ernsberger a professor in the nutrition department at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine in Cleveland.

“To declare we’re going to eliminate childhood obesity — that’s actually a very stigmatizing thing to say,” Ernsberger said. “The overweight child hears that and thinks, `They wish I wasn’t here.'”

Linda Bacon, a nutrition professor at City College of San Francisco, is the author of “Health At Every Size” — a manifesto for a movement stressing a healthy lifestyle rather than weight control. She said the focus by “Let’s Move” on BMI was of dubious medical value and posed potential problems for kids at all weight levels.

“It’s done much more damage than good,” Bacon said. “The larger kids feel bad about themselves, and the thinner kids feel it doesn’t matter whether they exercise or eat well.”

Deb Lemire, president of the Association for Size Diversity and Health, credited Michelle Obama with good intentions and commended various nutrition-related aspects of “Let’s Move.” But she said the emphasis on weight risked worsening the problems of teasing and bullying.

“The message that gets to the kids is, `There really is something wrong with me,'” said Lemire, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “We’re saying we love you, we want you to have wonderful lives and be successful, but right now you’re just not good enough.”

The first lady’s press office declined to respond in detail to the criticism, but defended “Let’s Move.”

“There will always be critics, but our approach is comprehensive, nurturing and working, with success already seen across the country,” the office said in an e-mail.

There’s no question that “Let’s Move” has broad, high-powered backing, from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Its supporters note that one in three American children are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of serious health problems while billions of dollars are spent yearly treating obesity-related conditions.

Dr. Sandra Hassink, who chairs the pediatrics academy’s obesity work group, said she witnesses the toll of weight-based bullying on a daily basis at her clinic at the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

However, she defended the use of BMI as a screening mechanism.

“We know that elevated BMI places you at elevated risk of health problems,” she said. “It’s a screening tool to start a conversation with a child and family about health behavior that will reduce that risk.”

Weight loss doesn’t necessarily need to be the overriding goal in every case, she suggested, but it can be a vital part of countering diabetes, liver disease, sleep apnea and other obesity-related problems.

Critics of “Let’s Move” say it could have struck a more positive tone about the diversity of body sizes and the possibility of being both large and healthy simultaneously.

“Regardless of her intentions, the first lady is making things worse,” said San Francisco attorney Sondra Solovay, who teaches and writes about weight-based discrimination.

“I invite her to talk to fat adults who have experienced the hatred and discrimination firsthand,” Solovay said, “and ask them how this program would have impacted them as kids.”

Several local and state anti-obesity initiatives also have drawn fire from weight-discrimination watchdogs — notably Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recent proposal to levy a $50 fee on state Medicaid recipients who are obese and don’t follow a doctor-supervised slimming regimen.

“This proposal does nothing to improve public health, and only perpetuates further stigma toward thousands of individuals whose quality of life is already reduced because of prejudice,” Puhl wrote in her blog on

One form of such prejudice is harassment at school. Peggy Howell, spokeswoman for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, protested when members of Congress recently introduced a bill that addressed bullying based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation and religion, but made no mention of body size.

“Why are weight and height missing?” Howell asked. “Multiple studies indicate that fat children are the group being most bullied.”

Puhl says too little attention is paid to such bullying.

“Youth who are obese cannot conceal their weight — their stigma is very visible,” she said. “And yet their voices are not being heard. They are so vulnerable to victimization, with such devastating consequences.”

Indeed, weight-related bullying is being cited by family members as a possible factor in the decision of two 14-year-old Minnesota girls to commit suicide together on April 16.

Puhl, who has studied weight discrimination for more than a decade, was lead author of a 2007 study of overweight children that concluded their quality of life, due to stigmatization by peers, was comparable to that of people with cancer.

She also has examined how obese people are portrayed in ads, news reports, movies and TV shows. Too often, says Puhl, they are depicted in needlessly negative ways — slouching on a sofa, eating junk food.

“We need to be sure we are fighting obesity, not obese people,” she says.

Among other initiatives, the Rudd Center has compiled a gallery of photographs portraying obese individuals “in ways that are positive and non-stereotypical” — strolling outdoors, shopping for fresh produce.

Puhl says her research indicates Americans would support legislation to prohibit weight discrimination, particularly in the workplace. Yet only Michigan and a handful of cities, including San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., have such laws in place.

There’s been little serious discussion in Congress or most legislatures about following Michigan’s example by outlawing weight discrimination at the federal or state level. A bill introduced several times in Massachusetts has failed to advance; a similar proposal died in Nevada’s legislature this year after employers objected.

Michigan’s law, enacted in 1976, has resulted in only a handful of weight-related complaints each year, according to Michigan State University human resources professor Mark Roehling. He says many overweight workers may be hesitant to pursue legal remedies even if they do feel discriminated against.

One of the few high-profile lawsuits in Michigan involves two former waitresses who claim Hooters fired them in 2009 because they weren’t sufficiently slim. Hooters officials say the state law shouldn’t apply because the appearance of their waitresses was a legitimate concern. The case remains unresolved.

Meanwhile, fat-acceptance activists continue to struggle against what they perceive as bias — on matters such as airline seating and seatbelt standards that don’t account for extra-large people.

Marilyn Wann, San Francisco-based author of the book “FAT!SO?,” says she’s proud to call herself fat, and objects to the terms “overweight” and “obese.”

She became an activist partly because she was unable to buy affordable health insurance, and is grateful that the Obama-backed health care overhaul now enables her to get coverage. But she wishes the White House would do more to counter weight bias.

“I had a painful childhood, and it would be worse now because weight stigma has increased,” she said. “It would be amazing if federal government took a stand against weight discrimination.”

Hassink, the Delaware pediatrician, said obesity and weight discrimination should both be combatted firmly and compassionately.

“The environment is pretty tough for people struggling with their weight,” Hassink said. “But we need to have the conversation. We’re all in this together.”


Below is an interesting article/interview with renowned anti-bullying expert, Dr. Jackie Humans.  She does a great job of addressing many issues associated with bullying, and I agree with much of what she says.  I have also added my commentary in BOLD to the areas where I either disagree or where I believe the reader needs more information/explanation.  And, for my daily shameless plug, I was the lead teacher on a lesson plan for dealing with bullying in Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting.  I don’t think this makes me an expert, but I have done enough research to have an educated opinion.  I hope you enjoy the article/interview, and, as always, I would also love to hear from readers out there.  Comment below!

April 27, 2011  (taken from


Michael F. Shaughnessy – It goes without saying that parents are responsible for the behavior of their children. Ideally, parents would welcome feedback about when their child is exhibiting bullying behavior…

Dr. Jackie Humans is an “ anti-bullying expert “ who has recently released a new book on 15 specific ways for children and adolescents to deal with bullies. In this interview, she responds to questions regarding this problem and addresses some ways to solve it.

1) First of all, how big a problem is bullying in the United States?

When the White House convenes a conference on bullying, rest assured the problem is huge.
2) Some kids are tall, some are short, some are thin and some are, well, obese, and obviously kids notice these differences. Is this bullying?

That depends on the way these differences are being “noticed.”  If two 6 year olds meet for the first time, and one is wearing a leg brace, it’s going to be noticeable.  If the child without a brace asks the child with the brace, “What’s wrong with your leg?” in a very matter of fact way, it’s not bullying.  It’s an age appropriate lack of social polish.

However, if the first child recoils at the sight of the second child and then runs to get her friends so they can all come back and laugh at the child with the brace, that’s bullying.

I’m not really on board with this example.  This is because I am not sure if laughing alone constitutes bullying.  It constitutes bad behavior that should be dealt with swiftly and harshly, both on a school and home level.  At the same time, however, the true definition of bullying involves more than pointing and laughing.  It involves the habitual degradation and harassment of another individual.  Now, that being said, the behavior outlined above could very well lead to bullying.  This is why the first occurrence needs to be dealt with quickly and needs to include not only consequences, but a teaching element.  Discipline comes from the root word “to teach.”  Children need to then be taught the correct behavior and be given opportunities to develop their ability to empathize with others.

3) Now, some bullies physically punch, hit and strike others- should the police be called?

If the incident occurred at school, the school should absolutely be notified.  Ultimately, the school may decide to notify the police if the injuries incurred were severe enough, or if the level of violence were severe enough (e.g., one child lifts another over his head and then slams him down onto a concrete surface.  Even if the target escaped with only minor injuries, this level of violence could easily have resulted in a catastrophic injury.)

If the incident occurred at a local park or anywhere off campus, then it would not fall under the school’s jurisdiction and would be a matter for the police to handle.

However, before calling out the heavy artillery, it would make sense to ascertain just how much damage has been sustained or was likely to have been sustained.  When targets, or their parents, acquire the reputation of making mountains out of molehills, it can only hurt their credibility down the road.

4) Unfortunately a lot of kids have these cell phones, and often rumors are spread- is this bullying or even something that the schools should be involved in (since much of this cell phone stuff goes on after school or on the weekends?

What you’re referring to is cyberbullying, which is still a new enough phenomenon that some school districts haven’t figured out when or if to intervene.  Schools are more likely to intervene when the end result is that the learning environment of one or more students gets disrupted at school as a result of cyberbullying that happened off campus.

Schools and districts find themselves in very difficult situations when bullying takes place after school hours, off campus or through the use of texting and social media.  Many districts have yet to develop policies that adequately address off campus abuse.  This is where parents are the key to the anti-bullying movement.  Parents need to be consistently communicating with their children about the appropriate use of the internet, cell phones and social media.  Parents need to monitor their child’s access (even for teenagers where cyber bullying is often a big issue) and continually work with their child to become a responsible technology user.  Parents need to keep up to date with what their child is doing online.  I also always recommend that parents arm their home computer with some form of parental control software that will tell them when and how their child is using the internet.  Family acceptable use policies are great too.  I also never recommend that children under the age of 14 (and sometimes even older) ever be allowed online without adult supervision.  This means no internet capable computers in bedrooms!!!
5) Many teachers have indicated to me that they believe some of these bullies are emotionally disturbed and should be put in special education- your reaction?

These teachers may be right in thinking that some bullies are emotionally disturbed.  However, the purpose of special education is to tailor the individual learning environments of students with learning disabilities in order to maximize their learning potential.  What would be most helpful to students with emotional disturbances would be for them to receive psychiatric care and treatment from a licensed therapist.

6) How much responsibility should parents have in this realm? Aren’t they a bit responsible for the behavior of their children?

It goes without saying that parents are responsible for the behavior of their children.  Ideally, parents would welcome feedback about when their child is exhibiting bullying behavior, sit down and discuss the situation with their child in order to get to the bottom of it, and then continue to work closely with the school to make sure their child is no longer bullying others.

Sadly, that’s not often the case.  Many parents tend to be unable or unwilling to see their child as a bully and end up blindly defending their child against accusations of bullying.  If the proof is incontrovertible, such as a printout of a cyberbullying episode, they may downplay the severity of their child’s behavior by claiming that the target needs to toughen up.

This is unacceptable.  Many districts are putting parents in jail if their child misses school.  However, there is no accountability for parents if their child bullies another student on or off of campus.  We must do more to build a bridge between the classroom and the family room so that educators and parents are working together to combat bullying.

7) When I went to school (yes, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth) teachers were ever-present- in the halls, the cafeteria, near the playground and buses. Have things changed- is there less supervision than ever? Or are all the teachers in IEP meetings?

Even back in the days when teachers did bus duty, cafeteria duty, and playground duty, bullying still went on.  This I know not only because I was a student back in the 50’s and 60’s, but because every person I speak with about bullying, even the ones a few decades older than I am, tell me stories about bullying they either saw or experienced when they were kids.

Personally, I don’t think increasing the level of student supervision is the answer. Bullies are smart enough to do their dirty work under the radar of adults, even when the adult is standing only a few feet away.  This is especially true for girl on girl bullying, because when it comes to being subtle, girl bullies can make guy bullies look like Troglodytes.

8) I have been involved in some of these “package“ programs that attempt to bullyproof one’s school- are these programs good, or ineffectual?

When ‘out of shape’ individuals make a commitment to become physically ‘fit’ they are more likely to meet with success if they employ a variety of approaches, rather than relying on a single strategy.  Diet and exercise work best in conjunction, and along with those two it’s a very good idea to get regular physical exams, avoid smoking, use alcohol in moderation, floss, etc.

Bullying is a kind of social ‘ lack of fitness’ that requires more than one approach.  Package programs tend to raise a school’s consciousness about why bullying is bad and often encourages bystanders to stand up for targets of bullying.  That’s great but it’s not sufficient.  It’s also important to focus on why kids are acting like bullies as well as to fortify targets so that they’re not much fun to pick on.  And it’s equally important to educate parents and teachers as to what to look for because bullying can be very subtle.

Education needs to begin at home!  The school is simply putting a band aid on a gunshot wound if parents are not doing their part to bring up children who are personally and morally responsible.  Schools cannot and should not be expected to parent, teach and create a moral compass for children.  No wonder academics are suffering.

9) I have been in some high schools and even middle schools where there are in my humble opinion- simply way too many kids in too small a place- does the school environment lend itself to bullying?

Of course.  Overcrowding makes everyone feel more stressed, and children, in particular, aren’t known for their extreme patience.

10) Your book focuses on ways to help kids deal with bullies- are you planning another book for teachers, counselors and principals?

I would love to write books for adults who work in educational environments as well as adults who work in corporate environments, where bullying in the workplace makes bullying in the schoolyard look like child’s play.

11) What are the five W’s for reporting bullying?

Who did it, What happened, When did it happen, Where did it happen, and Witnesses who saw it happen (i.e., bystanders).  Schools are often between a rock and a hard place when a child reports getting bullied, because bullies almost never own up to their bad behavior.  When a target of bullying can provide the school with a list of kids who saw the bullying, especially if 2, 3 or more incidents are outlined, then the school is in a much stronger position for verifying the truth of the target’s claims.
12) Some children seem to be more of a target for bullies- for example children with special needs- should the schools not be providing more adult supervision for children say with Asberger’s ?

Rather than just making a blanket statement that any child with a disability automatically needs special adult supervision, what I’d rather see happen first is for parents and teachers to try to empower these children, to the best of their collective abilities.  Some students have such severe disabilities that they are unlikely to ever be able to deflect bullying on their own.  Clearly, these children need and deserve our protection.  Others, like my daughter, are potential verbal black belts waiting to be let out of their cages.  The vast majority probably fall in the middle somewhere, but if we don’t first try to help kids solve their own problems, how will we ever find out whether or not they can?

13) Where can interested people get a copy of the book?

Thanks for asking!  Either by visiting my website: and clicking on the icon of the book, which takes you straight to, or by going online to or and typing in “15 Ways to ZAP a Bully!” (Don’t try to type in my name if you’re using Amazon; their set up won’t let you find my book that way.)

14) What have I neglected to ask?

I appreciate your giving me the chance to address something that bothers me a lot, and that is the impact the media has had on the public’s perception of bullying.  A good rule of thumb is that when something makes the news, it’s not a commonplace event.  The fact is that physical bullying makes up a very small fraction of the total amount of bullying that occurs every day.  Yet because it is far more dramatic than other types of bullying, and makes good copy, physical bullying gets way overrepresented in the media.  This promotes confusion about the true nature of bullying.

The truth is that bullying never starts with one kid brutally assaulting another.  It doesn’t start that way in the schoolyard, or the prison yard, or anywhere else in between.  What bullies the world over do is ‘interview’ likely candidates for the role of being their special target.

The way they do this is by saying or doing something provocative as a way of testing the potential target’s reaction, to see whether they’ll react in an emotional way, either by becoming sad or fearful or angry.  Responding in any other way, whether by using humor or appearing bored or simply by saying something silly or nonsensical in response, takes all the fun out of it for the bully.

Physical bullying is what can ultimately happen after the target reacts in an upset way, each and every time the bully escalates the bullying.  Eventually, unless the bullying gets reported or otherwise stopped, a situation like this can progress to a serious level of violence.

The trick to beating the bully at his or her own game is to teach kids that whatever the bully says about them is just an excuse to get them upset because nobody’s perfect and everyone has something about themselves that they wish were different.   So no matter what the bully says, what the bully’s really thinking is, “I’d like you to get upset right now and can’t think of good reason why you should, so I’m going to pretend that what I’m saying is really awful and I sure hope you’re going to forget about common sense and conclude that it’s really awful, too.”

A really good way to teach children how to deflect bullying is by providing them with lots of options for handling bullies.  The best ways of ‘zapping’ a bully aren’t terribly hurtful, won’t get the target in trouble, and actually work.  What underlies every technique in my book (except the last one where I show kids how to report bullying using the 5 W’s) is that the target is not taking the bullying at face value.  Without an upset reaction from the target, it’s ‘game over’ for the bully.