The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “bullying”

Tip of the Week: Being Left Out


Recipe of the Week

They say we can be hurt the most by those we care about the most.  I have vivid memories from my childhood of the times my friends excluded me from a sleep over or refused to sit with me at lunch.  This particularly insidious form of bullying, called ostracism, seems to be more practiced by girls, especially in the middle school years.  It has been over 30 years since I was in middle school and those memories still cause my stomach to hurt; I remember clearly the devastation of being purposely excluded by my friends.

As a parent, I tend to associate bullying with verbal taunting or physical incidents and would not consider someone who bullies my child to be my child’s friend.  Ostracism causes a special kind of injury because it is inflicted by friends.  I can remember many times when my older daughters came home from school crying because their friends were refusing to talk to them or having a birthday party and telling them they weren’t invited.

At the McMillen Center we provide bullying education to thousands of youth every year.  In Indiana, it’s the law; schools are required to train staff and educate students on how to identify and prevent bullying.  The law defines bullying as “overt, unwanted, repeated acts or gestures.”  Ostracism is a “non-behavior” so it is harder to address in school settings.  Purdue University psychologist Kip Williams is one of the nation’s leading researchers on ostracism.  Williams has found that children who are ostracized can feel depressed and feel worthless.  Often, these youth either resign themselves to being lonely or become desperate for attention.  In extreme cases, they can become suicidal or homicidal.  Williams states, “Some people will say, ‘I’d rather be bullied. Then at least I could show my bruises to the police.’”

A new documentary movie, REJECT. explores the profound impact that social rejection has on human life.  The director,  Ruth Thomas-Suh, states that REJECT is for, “parents, doctors, teachers, coaches, school administrators, organizations that train teachers, mental health professionals, clergy, counselors (camp, after-school, academic, etc.), juvenile judges, and many others—in other words, anyone who holds power over others, and holds the power to model acceptance or inflict rejection.”

There is an urgent need to address ostracism: the McMillen Center for Health Education, Great Kids Make Great Communities, and IPFW are collaborating to bring renowned researcher Kip Williams to Fort Wayne on June 19 for a day-long conference on ostracism, which will include a screening of REJECT.  We invite anyone who works with youth to join us in addressing this critical issue.  More information can be found at or by calling (260) 456-4511.


Holli Seabury, CEO and Mom of 7


Tip of the Week: Bullying


Feature Recipe

The CDC estimates that 5.7 million teens in the United States are affected by bullying, either as the target of the bully, as the bully, or as the bystander who happens to be in the area. To help the numbers trend down, the McMillen Center for Health Education has several different programs to address this problem.  Please also mark your calendars for the June 19, 2014 McMillen Health Lecture Series on Bullying and Ostracism, featuring the movie Reject! The event is presented in partnership with Great Kids Make Great Communities at IPFW.

Bullying affects everyone who is part of a community, whether it is a school, a neighborhood or online. Because everyone is affected, it becomes everyone’s job in that community to stop the bullying problem. Unfortunately, bystanders – both students and adults – want to leave it up to the next guy to solve the bullying issue. The assumption is that if the bullying does not affect them directly, then it someone else’s problem.  With this approach the problem does not get resolved.

McMillen Center programs use the “bullying circle” to point out that everyone is affected by bullying and everyone has a role in solving the problem. We teach skills to use whether you are a target, bully, follower, bystander, or upstander, to improve what you can do to stop bullying. When these skills are used, we can have those CDC numbers trending down rather than up.

As I teach these bullying programs, I want the bully to ask themselves some questions before they bully someone else. Why am I going to bully that person again? What will happen if I bully that person?  Will I get into trouble, is it worth it? Does this show respect to the person, if not, what else can I do? We want the bully to think it through before they just act.

We teach being a good communicator includes using body language by standing tall, looking confident, and speaking assertively. Ignoring the bullying and walking away without getting upset will make for a boring target. The bully usually wants the target to get mad, so when youth learn to walk away, they take the power back into their hands.  Encourage the children in your life to get adults involved, to report bullying incidents to adults, and keep reporting until the problem is resolved. The most important thing the target can do is not let the bully get to them.  Discuss these ideas at your next meal and let your children know that you are supporting them.  Encourage them to not believe what the bully says. If they believe what is said, then the bully wins. Help them to find friends who will support them outside of school or the situation in which you are bullied.

Most bullies are smart enough to bully others only when adults are not around, so encourage your children to let adults know what is going on, when it happens, and who is involved. Reporting is NOT tattling; it levels the field so that adults can step in and prevent the bullying.  Bullies can learn friendship skills, if an adult makes time to help them learn other ways to handle their anger. Adults can help by pointing out the positive characteristics of the children involved and encouraging them to consider the long term.  Adults can also help by not allowing bullying, insulting comments to be made within the environment.

Friendly teasing when the comments or jokes go both ways in a relationship is NOT bullying. Nor is bullying an accidental comment or injury. Bullying is when the teasing or comments or physical interaction is on purpose, and only one way, with the intent of hurting, embarrassing or scaring the target. If everyone in the community does their part, we have a greater chance of tackling the bullying that plagues our communities. Bullying can be stopped, but it takes everyone making positive choices.

David Ward, Program Manager

Tip of the Week: Bullying


This Week’s Featured Recipe

Research shows children who have regular family meals are less likely to bully other children and more likely to talk to their parents if they are being bullied themselves. This hit home with us at dinner one day last winter, when I noticed my 8th grade son wasn’t his usual happy self. I asked him how school had gone that day and got the typical teen answer of “fine.” As the conversation progressed, and I asked him specifically about one of his classes and he said, “I really don’t like that class anymore.”

I was surprised, but he revealed that a boy in that class was bullying him; making fun of him in front of the class and calling him names. His opening up gave us a chance to talk about different ways he could respond to this bully, and if the situation was at the point where I needed to talk to the teacher. My son felt, with some of the tips we had given him, that he could handle it. Over the next few weeks we checked in with him regularly to make sure the situation was resolved. We also had conversations about how my son should respond when the bully moved on to bullying another child in front of the class.

One of the best benefits about the family table is that it gives children a safe place to open up. Starting a conversation at the table about bullying can start with questions like, “What’s it like to ride your bus?” or “What do you think parents can do to stop bullying?” or “What’s your lunch time like? Who do you sit with?” To help start the conversation about bullying download conversation cards or for a quick list of tips visit


Holli Seabury, CEO

McMillen Center for Health Education

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