Thoughts From Dr. Joe: Becoming a knight

The other day while checking my e-mails one pops up from Carol Cormaci, managing editor of the Valley Sun. Carol is responsible for the content of the paper. She's a bright lady and a good friend. It's rare when a writer and an editor are friends. The only time she's ever wrong is when she disagrees with something I've written. Hmm!

So I'm opening her e-mail and thinking, "She's probably going to ding me for using profanity in my column." Instead, Carol says, "I expect a follow-up to your column on bullying. Give some solid suggestions of what parents can do."

Damn! I wasn't ready for this. She's pushing me to think and delve deep into the labyrinth of this psychosocial malady. But that's what a good editor does. She entices you to go beyond your comfort level.

I'm not an expert on the subject of bullying, but I'm going to give you my unabridged opinion straight from the gut. Google is full of do's and don't regarding this subject. However, I will follow my natural inclination and look within.

My mother taught me a valuable lesson: to always respect the dignity of others, and accept nothing less from another. I learned the importance of standing up for myself regardless of circumstance and that there are times when one must never back down.

She did this by empowering me to believe in the sanctity of others and of myself. She showed me reflections of myself as important and valuable, but insisted that my power meld with others. There is nothing more empowering that to feel rooted in your home and significant in your community!

It is my natural inclination to break the face of a bully but my thoughts today ask you to look at yourself. Pay close attention to what you're teaching your children. Children learn to be bullies!

Do you value rational thought but feel uncomfortable with emotions? Are you aware that children often tease others for their emotional expression, and that common put-downs seem of little consequence but hurt deeply? They are words that promote an order of dominance enforcing behavioral norms and should not be tolerated.

Do you value only excellence and success? Are you aware that when children have no room to fail they become impatient and critical of others?

Do you foster a culture that values the diverse nature of individuals? Do you allow and encourage a diversity of opinion and thought?

Do you help your children use their talents for the good of all or just encourage them to dominate and excel in the world in which they feel most comfortable? Are you an adult who is complicit in bullying by either turning the other way, or tacitly approving the victimization?

La Cañada seeps with a pervasive undertone of entitlement. Some parents obsess with their rights with little thought of their responsibilities. They bully teachers, administrators and policy. Don't you think there's a causal relationship?

Join me. Become a vocal advocate for the rights of children who exist on the periphery, who are different, and don't fit in. Empower them; help them find their voice.

Teach your children to respect difference, to befriend a child who has no friends, and to stand up to those who would bully another. Be willing to defend and fight for these children. Last week I described this advocacy as though one were a knight.

I want teachers, librarians, administrators, volunteers, parents, kids and everybody to be resolute and committed to stop bullying. Be a knight; stand up to those who would steal the soul of a child. If everybody has the courage of conviction to do the right thing then it's done.

Yeah, I still believe in taking on a bully face-to-face. But it's complicated. I'm not going to solve the problem. You are!

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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