January-Bullying Behavior

We hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season!  We’re excited for a new year!  Our Family Night this month will be on Thursday, January 26th.  We hope to see you there!

Our topic this month is bulling behavior, which is a difficult one.  It is painful as a parent if your child is being bullied and it’s also painful if your child is doing the bullying.  No one wants their child to be hurt or their child to be hurting others.

As adults, there is ultimately only so much we can do to try to control a child’s behavior.  It is in the best interests of everyone involved to help guide children to both handle a peer who bullies them and to help a child self-regulate  and make better choices by themselves.  Adults cannot eliminate all negative interactions their children have with others.  As a matter of fact, it is important that kids face some age-appropriate conflict and difficulties on their own.  It helps them develop social and conflict resolution skills, as well as building self-esteem.  These early, smaller problems help prepare them to handle bigger problems later in life.

However, if you child is the target of repeated bullying behavior or is displaying them, then it is the job of adults to intervene and help.

Help kids understand emotions.  Talking to children, even infants and toddlers, about their feelings can help them understand and manage their emotions.  Provide children with the right words when they can’t do it for themselves  (“I can see by the way you’re kicking the chair that you’re angry.  Are you angry because you can’t watch TV right now?”).  It’s important for children to know that anything they are feeling is okay, but they cannot act however they want.  When children are better able to regulate their emotions, they can problem-solve in ways that don’t involve bullying.  Come up with appropriate ways for children to express their emotions so that you can offer a replacement for the negative behavior.  All the classrooms here at the Midway YMCA ECLC have a solution wall or poster that staff will look at with children to help them chose a better way to handle a conflict or to calm down.  Some calming down options include taking deep breaths, playing with play dough, and reading a book.

Check out the bottom of this post for some books about  understanding emotions for kids..

Bringing other adults into the situation

Teachers:  If your child is having problems at school that you feel they cannot manage on their own, join forces with their teacher.  While you may be angry and upset, try to approach the situation calmly.  Keep in mind that there are many children in a classroom and it is impossible for any teacher to see everything that is going on, especially if the bullying behavior is being done secretly.  Bring up your concerns with your child’s teacher and see what they have noticed.  If they haven’t noticed anything, they can now be on alert for such behavior and are much more likely to see it.  They can also give you insight into relationships in the classroom.  Sometimes certain children just don’t get along (just like some adults) so your teacher might already be aware of a personality conflict and can work to keep them apart, if appropriate.  You and the teacher can come up with a plan of action together and ensure that there is consistency at home and school. You teacher can also help reinforce in your child the idea that they can go to an adult for help.

Other Parents: If you don’t already have a relationship with the parents of the child who is bullying, tread lightly.  Understand that they may be defensive and unresponsive and you might not get the results you want.  If your children are classmates or teammates, it might be best to let the teacher or coach deal with the situation.  If you and the other parents already have a positive relationship, still approach the topic carefully and without accusing their child.  Arrange a time you can talk without interruptions and avoid using the word “bully”.  Try not to make judgments–remember, they love their child as much as you love yours and are doing their best to raise them, just like you are.  Check out WebMD for some more tips.

Develop skills and provide opportunities to practice problem solving.  If your child is doing some bullying, don’t panic!   With patience and persistence, you can help your child interact more positively with other kids.

Help your child develop empathy by talking about it.  Use books or tv shows to point out examples and provide opportunities to discuss other people’s feelings.  You can also use real-life situations when you child has bullied (“How do you think Maddie felt when you pushed her?”) or when you child has been on the receiving end (“How did you feel when your cousin called you ‘stupid’?”).

Help them develop better conflict resolution skills by talking about it and providing examples (“Sadie was mad when Jose tried to take her truck, so she went to the teacher to get help.”) and by helping them think of solutions.  Do not do this in the heat of the moment after an incident has occurred, but during conversations with your child or after there has been an incident and your child has had time to cool off (“I know you were really mad when Peyton wouldn’t let you have that crayon, but when you hit her, it hurt.  It is never okay to hurt people. What could you have done differently?”).  If characters in a book you are reading with your child have a conflict, talk to your child about how they think the characters can solve it.


Look at how your children act towards each other.  There is evidence to suggest that bullying and aggressive behaviors towards siblings can be a predictor of bullying behavior outside of the home.  Bullying at home between siblings should not be tolerated any more than bullying outside of the home.


Set appropriate limits and stick to them. If a certain behavior is getting a child what they want, they have no reason to change.  Set reasonable, age appropriate expectations, make sure your child understands them and stick to them.  For example, if you’re going to another child’s house for a play date, talk about the rules on your way there:  “It’s going to be a lot of fun going to Amal’s house to play.  You’ve been working really hard on using your words when you are upset .  Let’s remember that at Amal’s house.  It’s okay if something makes you mad, but it is not okay to hit your friend.  If you hit, we will have to leave.  Do you understand?  If you get mad, what are some things you can do?”.  Discuss safe and appropriate ways to handle conflict or anger.

During the playdate, help your child be successful if you see a situation is potentially about to go south  (“Oh, let’s take a quick break from blocks. I see that you guys are getting upset with each other.  Why don’t we all get some water and talk about it together?”). If your child does use bullying behavior, stick the limits you talked about together.  “We have to leave now.  You hit Amal and we talked about how it’s not okay to hit.  I said if you hit, we had to leave, so we’re going.”  On the ride home, you can talk to your child about what happened, what they could have done differently and how your child can make things right with his friend.

Remember that bullying behavior towards adults is not any more acceptable than bulling behavior towards other children.  Children should not be allowed to hit adults or say mean things to them, either.

Reinforce success.  When your child handles conflict appropriately, let them know you are proud of them!  Be specific if you can (“I know you were really upset when Suzie wanted to play with your doll, but you decided to take turns instead of fight about it.  That was really smart of you! Good job!”).

Don’t force your child to say “I’m sorry”.  They very likely don’t mean it and are only doing it because an adult is telling them they have to.  They don’t learn anything and the bullied child will likely not feel  better.  And as adults know from their own lives, sometimes “sorry” doesn’t fix things.  Instead (once everyone has calmed down), have your child ask the person they hurt how they can make them feel better.  If the other child doesn’t know, you can suggest a few options such as a hug, a high-five, a picture being drawn for them, or a compliment from the bullying child.  This puts the attention and focus on the hurt child and helps the bullying child think about others.

Teach your child to be assertive.  Your child can learn some skills that will help them stand up to bullying behavior.  Practice being assertive and speaking loudly (“I don’t like it when you take my truck! STOP!”).  Let them know that they don’t have to play with someone who isn’t being nice to them and teach them to say it (“I don’t want to play with you if you keep calling me names!”).  Remind them that they can always go to an adult for help if the other child continues to bully them.

Know when to get more help

If you have a child who is exhibiting bullying or aggressive behavior and the above suggestions are not improving things, it could be time to get some extra help.  If your child:

  • Won’t take responsibility for their actions or consistently blames others for their problems
  • Threatens to do physical harm to themselves of others
  • Actually causes physical harm to self or others
  • Gets angry quickly and frequently
  • Has difficulty or takes a very long time to calm down when they are angry
  • Breaks or throw things in anger

that could be a sign that your child needs some extra help dealing with their emotions. Teachers and other caregivers who spend a lot of time with your child can also provide insight into if your child’s behavior is developmentally appropriate.  While their opinion should not be the final word on the matter, they might be able to give you an idea of if, in their experience, something else might be going on that is worth addressing at the next level.  Here at the Midway YMCA ECLE, we are very lucky to have Colleen Dockendorf, a social worker, who is an excellent resource for families that could use a little guidance.  She can help strategize with families as well as suggest other resources that may be of use.

Talk to your pediatrician about other strategies or resources to help your child and family.  Remember, the younger your child is, the easier it will be to address these problems.  A five year old with anger problems that are not dealt with can grow into a twenty-five year old with anger problems.  A twenty-five year old that cannot manage their anger can cause a lot of damage to themselves and others.


Books about feelings  (Midway YMCA ECLE tested and approved!)

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban

Mouse is angry and his  animals friends suggest many different ways to show it, which just makes Mouse more angry.  In the end, Mouse has to find the way that works best for him.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

A beautifully illustrated book that explores a rainbow of emotions.

Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emeberly and Anne Miranda

A fun book with interactive masks for checking out all sorts of feelings for monsters and children alike

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

Wacky illustrations that help kids talk about their feelings














December–Holiday Fun and Family Resources

Can you believe that it’s December all ready?  The holiday season is upon us!  There’s so much fun stuff to do this time of year that it can be hard to pack it all in!   We hope to see you all at our annual Holiday Program on December 15th! Watch for signs at the center with more information.   Here are a few other family-friendly events going on this month that are worth checking out:

Rice Park Holiday Display: Downtown St. Paul’s Rice Park is all decked out for the holidays.  Come see the beautiful, GIANT tree covered in lights.  Runs November 19th through January 1st. Located at 109 W. 4th Street, St. Paul.   Cost: FREE!

Winter Skate: While you’re downtown checking out the lights, why not go skating?  Landmark Plaza/Rice Park has an ice skating rink where you practice your triple axel, or make slow, unsteady circles around the rink. Bring your own skates or rent some on site.  Open now through Feb. 5th.  Cost: No cost to use the rink.  Free skate rental with each WellsFargo  credit or debit card you have on you, otherwise, $4 per skate rental.  Check out their website for hours and other information.

Dinner with Santa: Meet Santa and eat some spaghetti!  December 6th, 6-7:30.  Located at: Dayton’s Bluff Recreation Center, 800 Conway St., St. Paul.  Cost: FREE to registered families Check out the website to register.

Santa’s Workshop: If you would like to give your child the opportunity to give presents as well as get presents, take them to Santa’s Workshop.  Children will be able to shop for their friends and family.  All gifts will be under $2, with each child able to spend up to $10 dollars.  Gifts will be purchased and wrapped without parents being able to see, so make sure your child has a list!  A fun, affordable way for your child to experience the pleasure of giving.  December 13th, 6pm-8pm.  Call (651) 298-5709 for more information.  Located at Hazel Park Recreation Center, 945 Hazel Street N, St. Paul.

Or Emet Pre-Hanukkah Party: Enjoy a potluck meal, candle-lighting, dreidels, music and special entertainment.  December 17th, 5pm-6pm.  Located at: Wellstone Center at Neighborhood House, 179 Robie St E, St. Paul.  Cost: FREE, but register in advance by emailing signup@oremet.org.

Winter Beach Party: Get out of the cold and enjoy some live music from the Teddy Bear Band and Sons of the Beach, meet Santa, eat some goodies and enjoy some fun pool activities.  This event is free, but open swim is $2.   Call 651-642-0650 for more information and schedule.  December 17th, 1pm-5pm.  Located at Oxford Recreation Center, 270 Lexington Pkwy N, St. Paul 

Global Games Youth Holiday Event: Give your kids ages 5-12 an opportunity to experience toys from other cultures.  Children will hear stories, learn a little history and get to try each toy they have learned about.  December 21st, 6pm-7:30pm.  Located at West Minnehaha Recreation Center, 685 W Minnehaha Ave, St. Paul. Cost: FREE!

Kwanzaa Celebration: Enjoy light refreshments at this Kwanzaa celebration.  December 30th, 1pm-3pm.  Located at Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 271 Mackubin St, St. Paul. Call (651)290-8695 for more information.


Family Assistance

If you or someone you know could use a little help this holiday season, the following resources might be useful:

The Salvation Army offers year-round as well as seasonal assistance.  Some local chapters include:

Minneapolis E. Lake Street

St. Paul, Payne Avenue

Downtown Minneapolis

Toy Shop Registrations (ENDS DECEMBER 2ND at 4:00pm!)

Toys for Tots distributes toys to children every Christmas. Check out their website for local centers.

Neighbors, Inc. offers toys and clothing for children and seniors. Registration information on their website.


We hope your holiday season is a wonderful one!


November Family Night: A Grateful Family and Community Resources

Thanksgiving is a wonderful, delicious holiday.  There is no pressure of gift-giving, just a time set aside to eat a little too much, be with our loved ones and reflect on what we are thankful for.  Taking time to consider the good things that we have in our lives can give us that warm fuzzy feeling inside.   That feeling can (and should!) last all year long.  If your family doesn’t practice gratitude regularly, Thanksgiving can be a great time to kick-off making an attitude of gratitude part of your everyday life.

There is a lot of science behind the idea that expressing gratitude is good for you.  It can . . .

Strengthen your relationship with your partner

Help you feel better about yourself

Improve your physical and mental health

It’s good for your heart!

It’s worth-while to make gratitude a part of our family life and to teach it to children.  Studies show that while we can teach younger children children (under 7) to say “thank you”,  older children (over 7) are better able to make connections between gratitude and happiness.  This doesn’t mean that we should not work to raise grateful children.  It reinforces good manners and lays a framework for better understanding, appreciating, and reaping the benefits of gratitude as they get older.

Take time this November to say thanks and make practicing gratitude a part of your ever-day life!


Thanksgiving Resources In the Community:

Volunteering can be a great way to give back to your community and can teach children a lot about empathy and thankfulness.  Click here to see a volunteer opportunities in the Twin Cities to donate your time.


If you or someone you know needs a little help with Thanksgiving this year, the following resources are available.

The Union Gospel Mission of the Twin Cities helps those looking for assistance. 

The Marie Sandvik Center offers annual sit-down Thanksgiving meals

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church offers a free Thanksgiving dinner from 11:00-2:30.

Cherokee Tavern Annual Thanksgiving Dinner


Central Baptist Church offers a community Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.

The Heights Church is offering a community Thanksgiving Feast on November 20th at 5:00 pm.  RSVP by contacting the church office.

The Fellowship Church is offering a community Thanksgiving dinner from 3:00-6:00 on Thanksgiving Day.  Register here at the website.

Happy Halloween!


It’s getting to be that spooky time of year again!  The kids are all talking about what they are going to be for Halloween and getting very excited.  Here are some tips for having a safe and fun Halloween!


  • Choose costumes that fit your child properly to prevent tripping
  • If their costume is darkly colored, add reflective tape to it to make them more visible to drivers
  • Be sure they can see well through masks and use face paint if possible
  • If you don’t want to spend money on a generic store-bought costume, consider a DIY costume!


  • Children should be accompanied by an adult when trick-or-treating
  • Help young children remember to say “please” and “thank you”.  You can practice at home by having your child pretend to trick-or-treat at your own door
  • People handing out poison candy is not a thingHowever, there have been a few rare cases of terrible people putting pins or needles in candyIt’s best to look through your child’s goodies at the end of the night to make sure nothing has been tampered with
  • Be sure to use sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Carry flashlights and/or glow sticks to make yourself more visible
  • If you are driving, remember there are lots of kiddos running around!  Drive slowly and be extra alert

There are lots of fun games and activities to really get in the Halloween spirit!  Here’s a link to some simple and fun ideas to share with your child.

The Midway YMCA will be hosting their Spooktacular party for our October Family Night.

Friday, October 28th from 5:30-8:00 pm at the Branch.

There will be Family “Thriller ” Zumba at 7:00 and a costume parade at 7:15.

There will also be:

  • Games and Bingo
  • Face Painting
  • Bounce House
  • Haunted kitchen
  • Crafts and prizes
  • Snacks

This event is FREE and open to the public, so bring your friends!  A photo ID is required to enter the Y.

Have a safe and spoooooooky Halloween!



September 2016 Family Night-Picky Eaters


We hope you and your family enjoyed this month’s family night!  Here are some more ideas for dealing with those picky eaters at your table:

New Foods Sticker Chart

If your child is motivated by stickers, this printable sticker chart could be a fun way to encourage your kiddo to try new foods.   They could even use the sticker that comes on fruits and vegetables.

Age Appropriate Kitchen Activities

Being involved in the process of buying food and helping with meals can make children feel more invested in the food being served and more likely to try it.  The USDA has lots of information on their website about the health and nutritional needs of children.  Here are lots of ideas to keep kiddos of various ages busy in the kitchen.


Talk specifically about how food is good for us

Many children have a vague idea that food (especially fruits and vegetables) help them grow, but being more specific can get them more interested. “Did you know that carrots have vitamin A in them and that gives us healthy, strong eyes?”  “Broccoli has lots of fiber in it!  Fiber helps our tummies work well and makes our blood healthy!”

Use kid pop culture

Make Paw Patrol and Disney work for you.  Everyone wants to be like their heroes.  “Oh man, the Hulk is so strong!  He has to eat a lot of vegetables to be big and strong like that!”  “What do you think the Flash eats to be so fast?”


In our meals and snacks here at the Midway, we get celery from our caterer in two ways: sticks and “smiles”.  The smiles are celery stalks chopped width-wise, resulting in small curved “smile” shapes.  The kids are way more likely to try the celery smiles as opposed to the more intimidating stalks.  Try cutting foods in different ways or serving them in different ways.  You child might not like a baked sweet potato, but maybe they would like sweet potato fries.  Or mashed sweet potatoesOr maybe sweet potato quesadillas.  And keep in mind that pretty much any vegetable tastes better when it’s been roasted.

Read books about food and picky eating with your child

There are tons of books on picky eating out there (An Alligator Class favorite is I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat at Tomato).  Kids can relate to characters in stories and might even be inspired to follow in their footsteps.  Here is a list of some other books that you and your child might enjoy.