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Moms Talk: What Can Be Done About Bullying?

Area mothers gathered Monday with Patch editors to talk about key parenting issues.

On Monday, Patch held its first ever “Moms Council” meeting, bringing together four mothers from the area to discuss important parenting issues. The goal of the council will be to explore topics of interest to moms — and dads — everywhere, then produce informative features for Patch readers, like you.

Below, we introduce the Moms Council and give a glimpse into what was discussed at the first meeting. If you’re interested in joining the council, please say so in the comments section below, or send an e-mail to your local Patch editor.

Meet Patch’s West Metro Moms Council

Christina Barberot is a fairly new transplant to the area, originally hailing from the Washington, D.C. area. She and her husband live in St. Louis Park with their two children, Kenley, 5, and Reid, 2. Before choosing to stay at home with her children to practice “chaos management,” Barberot worked in the corporate world at Bank of America. Although Barberot is not enthusiastic about Minnesota winters, this being her third, she did say, “I like Minnesota, it’s a great place.”

Laura Davis is an attorney, specializing in labor law. A single mom “by choice” to son Alex, 14, she lives in the Pamela Park neighborhood of Edina. Davis has been involved in state and local politics, saying she follows local news closely and would describe herself as a “moderate Democrat.”

Cindy McQuinn is a busy mom of four who lives in Wayzata. Not only does she orchestrate the schedules of her busy children — Kelan, 17, Jared, 15, Megan, 11 and Aidan, 5 — this mom helps her husband run a family business: Running with Scissors, a media production company headquartered in Wayzata. Before becoming a mom, McQuinn spent several years in the advertising field working as an art director and a graphic designer. But today she says she “sit(s) in my car all the time” as she transports her kids to one event or another. McQuinn drives a hunter green Honda Odyssey, for the record.

Jodi Quam-Johnson is not new to Patch. As the writer of the Minnetonka Patch column Patch Profiles, Quam-Johnson has had the opportunity to blend a love of writing with her inquisitive nature. Quam-Johnson currently lives in the Lake Minnetonka area, and except for 10 years of her childhood spent in Brazil and Rochester, NY, Quam-Johnson has always called Minnesota home. A graduate of Orono High School, Quam-Johnson was a middle school English teacher before deciding to stay home with her two children, Kip, 5, and Johanna, 6.

* * *

Gathered together, the conversation started with a subject that every parent at the table seemed passionate about — bullying. Barberot and McQuinn both shared details of bullying that their children had encountered.

“There is a ‘mean girl’ phenomenon, even in preschool,” Barberot said. “There is a ringleader and she has her lackey … in a class of nine, there are tears … I’ve talked to every other mom in the class.”

McQuinn added: “Some kids are so disrespectful.” She said she told her son to be confidant and to keep his head up, but expressed her frustration that schools are limited in the punishment they can dole out to bullies.

“The school has a ‘no bullying’ policy as a rule — but they can’t punish the kids,” she said.

Davis suggested looking into a local group, Youth Frontiers, which partners with schools to create more positive school communities.

In between bites of cheeseburgers and sips of soda, every parent at the table agreed that bullying, from preschool to high school, needed to be taken more seriously by school authorities.

The conversation then moved onto the topic of social networking and the new realm of cyber-bullying. While the moms generally agreed that Facebook is OK for kids to use — with proper parental supervision — they did express concern with a new site called Formspring, which allows users to anonymously post and answer questions about each other. Because of the anonymity provided by the site, it has received some criticism nationally for encouraging bullying among teenagers.

It was a conversation that admittedly frightened the preschooler parents at the table.

“I’m going to take my kids and move to Montana,” Quam-Johnson said jokingly.

“Oh, they have Formspring in Montana,” Davis said, with a smile.

Ultimately, the moms said the key is to be aware of what your children are doing online. 

“You have to stay on your toes,” McQuinn said. 

Added Davis: “As a mom, you have to be in their business.”

Check back next Wednesday for an article from Laura Davis about how kids and parents can safely coexist in the Facebook universe.

Janet Swiecichowski February 10, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Minnetonka Elementary Schools have been impressed by the Youth Frontier Programs; great suggestion. We are also kicking off a new bullying prevention program that is research-based. Each of our schools are holding trainings with staff and parents around the Olewus Bullying prevention program (http://www.olweus.org/public/index.page) Here is a link to a podcast with Minnewashta Elementary Principal Cindy Andress talking about bullying prevention: http://www.minnetonka.k12.mn.us/newsroom/Principal%20Podcasts/Bullying.mp3
Carla Nelson February 11, 2011 at 02:09 AM
I am a preschool director in Minnetonka, and one of the most important things children are learning in preschool is how to make friends and be friends. A good teacher can jump in and help children work through problems, but parents need to be strong supporters of the process, too. We want to empower young children to advocate for themselves when they are being mistreated. Coaching them through difficult challenges during play dates at home and even rehearsing potential tough spots with mom and dad can build confidence. Using puppets to act our different scenarios and reading stories that teach friendship skills can help, too. We want to teach children to try solving the problem first and if that doesn't work, ask a grown up for help.
Jean Mankamyer September 17, 2011 at 12:58 AM
I am pleased to see that people are finally taking the issue of bullying seriously. It is certainly not a new phenomenon. My daughter was an eighth grader at Richfield Middle School in 1979, after moving there from Ohio. She was continually harassed by a group of boys who would push her to the floor in the hall and put their hands up her blouse and down her pants. While on her way home on the bus after school, one of the boys slapped her hard enough to leave a red welt on her cheek. She tried to enlist the help of her shop teacher, but he blamed HER for the "attention" the boys were giving her. When my husband and I finally found out, we went to the Asst. Principal to explain what had been going on and to ask for his help in ensuring a safe environment for not only our daughter, but all the kids at school. He abdicated any and all responsibility in the matter, saying the school's position was that it was up to the kids to deal with these issues. My husband then called the parents of the individual kids involved in the harassment to explain what had been going on. All but one set of parents was horrified and said they would speak to their sons about it. (comment continues below)
Jean Mankamyer September 17, 2011 at 01:01 AM
A couple of weeks later, one of those same boys pushed our daughter while she was walking down the stairs at school. She jumped to avoid falling and landed on her knees. The ball of her femur joint subluxed - popped out of her hip socket. She underwent a 12 hour orthopaedic surgery to repair the damage and ended up in a body cast for 6 months. We refused to send her back to Richfield and transferred her to another school, Edina, instead. There, she was able to finish her high school years in safety. However, the emotional and physical scars remain to this day. This October 10, she will be experiencing more pain as she faces a hip replacement. In addition, she is dealing with PTSD resulting from her experience at the hands of the bullies, and indifference from the shop teacher and Asst. Principal at Richfield Middle School, both of whom share equal responsibility, as far as we are concerned, for what happened to our daughter. (comment continues below)
Jean Mankamyer September 17, 2011 at 01:02 AM
I hope those people are still around and will read this comment. The adults should have to face what they allowed to go on right under their noses, and the fact that they chose to look the other way, causing a 15 year old girl to live a life of pain and trauma. Shame on each and every one of them! I will never forget them - nor will I ever forgive them. I sincerely hope no other child will ever have to live with scars, both physical and emotional, due to weak and ineffective school officials and administrations. Bravo to the parents who are willing to get involved! I hope this marks the beginning of the end to school bullying.

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