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(Icons/Graphics) Bully_Recess_Queen.jpgWhy is a Bully a Bully,

and a Big Clue to Overcoming Bullying

by Suki Wessling


    One year there was a boy in my son's class who was always bugging the other kids. He would break into conversations, touch kids in ways they didn't like, and generally ignore the usual social conventions that kids follow.  He was also a very large boy, which affects how people view him.


     It occurs to me that in another school, with other teachers and in less controlled situations with other kids, this boy could easily have turned into what we call a bully. He was big, physically intrusive, and unable to listen when other kids told him to back off.


     In the school his mother chose for him, however, his behavior was looked at from a whole different angle. Instead of saying, This boy is behaving badly, which is the traditional view, and then applying the traditional punishments, the teachers questioned, Why does he act this way? What does he need? They talked to his mother. They had class meetings. When clashes arose between him and other kids, there was always a caring adult there to mediate.


     As the year progressed, the other kids came to understand him more. Instead of getting mad at him, they would gently explain what he'd done that was wrong. And because he wasn't being punished and ostracized for the behavior, he listened to them. By the end of the year, he was integrated into the classroom, and though his behavior still wasn't completely within the range we call "normal," he was able to form good relationships with his classmates.


     In a traditional school setting, this is the perfect situation to create what we call a "bully." Here's a boy who is very large. He doesn't understand social cues the way that most kids do in the middle of their elementary school years. He's not a verbally adept child. Other children misunderstand his actions.

In a large, chaotic classroom, the teacher probably doesn't have time to notice him, except when he's making trouble. Because she doesn't have a lot of support, every time a kid complains about his behavior she just sends him to the office for discipline. It's likely that not one adult takes responsbility for him and tries to figure out what's at the root of his problems.


     On the playground, kids don't want to play with him, and he doesn't understand why. With no adults to mediate, their clashes escalate. As the children try to push him further away, he gets more and more intrusive till his behavior starts to fit the definition of bullying.


     His teacher might meet with his mother, but his mother's concerns are dealt with outside of the classroom. The problem is his behavior, the school tells her. What are you going to do about it?

The mother is desperate for help, but no one seems to look at it from her point of view. Here's a boy that she loves, who is so sweet and loving and really wants to have friends. But the more he is pushed away by the staff and students, the more upset and angry he gets. Because the point of view is punitive -- what can we do to discourage the behavior? -- instead of therapeutic -- what does he need that he's not getting? -- the problems just increase.


     Behaviorally different kids have always existed, and do exist in every society. How the society chooses to deal with them greatly influences whether those behaviors set into an anti-social adult, or whether they are channeled into an emotionally healthy adult. By blaming children for their behavior, rather than trying to figure out what the child is expressing with the behavior, we force the child to protect himself in whatever way he can.


     The growing field of Emotional Intelligence is trying to figure out what we need to know in order to become emotionally healthy adults. From Wikipedia: One attempt toward a definition was made by Salovey and Mayer (1990) who defined EI as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions."

Just like with any other pursuit -- reading, basketball, knitting, math -- some kids seem to come into the world better equipped than other kids to develop the skill of emotional intelligence. We don't punish kids for having a hard time learning to read - why should we punish them for not getting social cues without being taught?


(Site Photos) SukiWessling.jpg     Of course, what I'm suggesting here is not cheap, it can't be done on a computer, and its results can't be boiled down into a score. In other words, it's education.


Read more  of Suki's writings right here in her SantaCruzParent Blog


The Recess Queen, by Alexis O'Neill
Mean Jean is the playground bully until a new girl befriends her.



Events for All Ages!


Weekly Library Events for Kids, Tweens & Teens & Adults!

Tweens & TeensChess Instruction with Gjon Feinstein 2pm Central, All levels for students up to 18 years old. Contact or call 425-7835 before attending for the first time.

Tweens & TeensKnitting @ the Library 4pm Scotts Valley, Learn to knit or bring your knitting and enjoy a friendly visit with other knitters. If you are new to knitting, please bring: needles (size 8 10" straight needles or a 24" circular needle) and one skein of worsted weight yarn in your favorite color. Ages 8-108


Business Brownbag 11:45am-1pm Central Search Engine Optimization - Free, however advanced registration required thru
Aptos Youth Chess Club 3:30-4:30pm Aptos, All youth ages 6 and up are invited to play chess and learn the game.
Tweens & TeensHomework Help 4-5pm Garfield Park Improve your grades or just stay ahead of the game! Live homework help in all subjects every Tuesday from 4-5pm. For more info, call Diane at 420-6344.

Russian at Lunch 11:45am-12:45pm Branciforte Practice your conversational Russian. Call 420-6330 for more information.
Tweens & TeensTeen Book Discussion Group 3:30-5pm Garfield Park Meets the first Wednesday of each month. Call Catherine to sign up or for more info, 420-6344.
A Novel at Lunch 12-1pm Branciforte Join us for a lively book discussion. For more information, phone Branciforte Branch at 420-6330
Tweens & TeensTeen Craft 2-3pm Garfield Park Library, Join us the third Wednesday of every month for crafty fun! Ages 12-18.
Tweens & TeensBooktalkin' 4:30-5:30pm La Selva Beach This book discussion group for 10 - 13 year olds meets on Wednesdays. Call Heather at (831) 661-4770 for more information.

Homework Help 4-5pm Garfield Park Improve your grades or just stay ahead of the game! Live homework help in all subjects every Tuesday from 4-5pm. For more info, call Diane at 420-6344.
Adult Book Discussion Group 10:30-11:30am La Selva Beach, Adult book discussion group meets monthly to discuss contemporary fiction, making selections based on the preferences of individuals in the book group. Join us by dropping by, or call (831) 661-4770 for more information.

TeensYoung Adult Book Discussion Group Branciforte 3:45-4:45pm Join us to discuss a Young Adult book. Call Branciforte Branch at 420-6330 for this month's title or for more information.

Crafts For All Ages 1-4pm Branciforte Join us for a craft project-all ages welcome.


Events for You!

Fri, 3/27, 7:00 "Greening the Screen", The Mill Gallery, 131 Front St. The Santa Cruz Film Festival Kick-Off "sneak peek" Party and noisy auction, Door $10.



Sat, 3/28, 9am-3pm, Calvary Pre-school Rummage and Bake Sale  Check out the first annual Calvary Pre-school Rummage and Bake Sale! We'll be selling gently used furniture, kids stuff, clothing, books, CDs and more, along with tasty baked goods to raise funds to support the pre-school.


(Special Event Page Graphics) AliceInWonderland.jpgFri & Sat, 3/27 & 28 and 4/4 & 5, Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr., Kids On Broadway


Sat, /28, 9:30am, "Mindfulness and Money" is an all-day workshop for women presented by LezCruz, an affiliate of the Diversity Center. Four workshops will help motivate women to take charge of their lives, sharpen their tools to tune up their financial affairs and help them weather the current economic storm.


3/28 & 29, 10am-5pm, Home & Garden Expo, Cocoanut Grove, Adults $3.00 Kids 12 and under free with an adult, Home & Garden Expo, Home & Garden Gifts, Fabulous Door Prizes, The Gardening Stage, The Culinary Stage, The Alternative Living

Tweens & Teens3/28, 7:28, Star & Moon Viewing, Santa Cruz Astronomy Club, Bonny Doon Airport, Our emphasis is telescope observing, family participation, and public enjoyment of the wonders of the starry night.

3/28, 5:30-9:30pm, Rhythm Within Auction, Soquel Elementary School will hold its second annual auction. Hilltop Hacienda at Kennolyn Camp.


Tweens & TeensSat, 3/28, 2pm, Church Street, Afro Wig Photo Shoot for Guiness World Records Do you own or have an out-of-sight Afro-Wing hiding in the closet? How about a pair of Elvis Presley 70s Mirrored Sun Glasses and Polyester anything? Are you up for setting a new World Record? Then join us for this fantastic, funny, and ultimately silly event. Bring your good humor and all your friends. Slip into something from the 60s, 70s or 80s or not, and put on that Afro-Wig you know you have been wanting to wear. Our goals is to raise enough funds to pay the mortgage for three families, a single mom, single dad and a elderly couple affected by the mortgage crisis. Every little bit helps. Donations optional.

Calendar for details

3/28, 6-11pm, Spring Hill Parent Club Auction, The Spring Hill Parent Club will present "Cabaret Volante: an Evening of Music, Magic & Merriment" in the Georgiana Bruce Kirby Ballroom, 425 Encinal St.

Sun, 3/29, 3-5pm, Bhutan Day at MAH,
East of Mount Everest and bordered by India and Tibet, Bhutan is a remote and mystical kingdom, often referred to as "The Last Shangri-La." Learn about the ancient Buddhist arts of Bhutan at free multi-media lecture presentations on Bhutanese music and sacred arts.

Calendar for details

3/29, 1:30-4pm, Hoot, Central Library, A showing of the film based on the book by Carl Hiaasen. Soon after moving from Montana to Florida, middle schooler Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) befriends Beatrice (Brie Larson), Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) and a colony of endangered owls.


Thurs, 3/19, 8pm, Flashback Flix at Cinema 9,Titanic


Activities in the Parks

3/28, 1pm, "Redwood Baby Treks", Big Basin, Hosted by docents: Jerry and Estrella Bibbey, Join us for a relaxed, easygoing hike with your baby in a front or back carrier. Have fun, exercise, get out of your house, and meet other parents who also love the redwoods. As we explore the redwood forest with our progenies, we will learn how the plants of the redwood forest propagate their own "babies." Bring babies in front or back carries only. This is not a stroller friendly trail. Rain cancels.

Sun, 3/29, 1-3pm, Gardening the Native Way, Join Carrie Wagner, Master Gardener, for an afternoon of gleaning tips, ideas, and information about gardening with native plants. This program is open to gardeners ages 12 and up. Quail Hollow Ranch, Felton
Sat & Sun, 3/14 & 15, 11am, Redwood Loop Walk, Big Basin Redwoods,

Sat, 3/21 11am, Wilder Ranch Coast Nature Walks, Wilder Tweens & Teens

Sat, 3/21, 12pm, Sempervirens Saunter, Big Basin Tweens & Teens

Sun, 3/22, 11am, Living History Demonstrations,Wilder Ranch

Sat & Sun, 3/21 & 22, 11am & 2pm, Tours of the Monarch Grove, Natural Bridges,

Sat & Sun, 3/22, 1-2pm, Tours of the Mission, SC Mission,

Sat & Sun, 3/21 & 22, 10am, Winter Wildflower Walk, Big Basin


If you don't find it here, check the Calendar!

If it's not in the Calendar, tell us about it!

(Icons/Graphics) SchoolHouseRed.jpgSchool Corner


Open House
Santa Cruz Montessori

3/28, 10am-2pm
Montessori Scotts Valley
3/28, 11am-2pm


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Teens & Tweens

Shoe Painting
Workshops $10
Buy a pair of canvas shoes or bring your own and create walking works of art. Art materials will be supplied and there will be an artist on hand to assist you.
Every Saturday

Old Shoes
1017 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz
Reserve your spot!


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Your Backyard Bounty

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Check out
And let us know how we can help your garden grow.



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Spring Programs

Anna Jean Cummings Park



Jim Booth
Swim School
Now also in
Santa Cruz
Harvey West Pool

Gentle encouragement, a lot of little steps, plus high expectations build happy confident swimmers.

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Call Jim 772.3500


Teens & Tweens


Fresh Prep Kitchens

April 13, 20 & 27
Cooking 101 Series

Ages 8-12

  • Surf City Mac & Cheese
  • Everybody Loves Lasagna
  • Chilled Chunky Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

    Order your
    Chicken Pot Pie Today


Better call
For reservations!

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Tyrolean Inn
9600 Hwy 9
Ben Lomond



Santa Cruz
Soccer Inc

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Spring Fun League

Ages 7-9
Thurs 3:30-5:30pm
Sun 12-2pm

DeLaveaga Park


Call Mike



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Katie loves Keen dog food!  Learn more about this nutritious dog food at and then stop in at Allpets, the only place in Santa Cruz where you can get it.  Say "Hi" to Drs. Ken and Jen, vets, parents and dog overs themselves!

1226 B Soquel Ave.

Santa Cruz



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Call to visit!






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