Bullying can take many forms -- and we’re all too aware of the damage it can cause. In this episode, hot Carmelita Tiu chats with coach, mentor, Youth Diversity Advisor, writer and speaker, Aime Hutton about how she survived being bullied, her current work, and more.
To learn more about Aime Hutton and her work, including her 1:1 mentoring with tween/teen girls:
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[00:00:00] Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:Hi, everyone! This is Know Them, Be Them, Raise Them, a show to help busy, mindful, growth-oriented moms stay informed and inspired as they navigate their daughter's tween and teen years with most episodes running 20 minutes or less. I'm your host Carmelita Tiu, join me each week as I talk to experts, moms who've been there and read a curated selection of articles with the author's permission of course.
[00:00:29]This week's guest is Amy Hutton from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Amy is a mentor youth diversity advisor, award-winning writer, speaker, and advocate. She sits on the gender and sexual diversity advisory board with the Calgary police service, and she represents Alberta on the National Network for Mental Health Alliance Board.
[00:00:49]Amy founded inch by inch empowerment in 2016 to help empower young female students to feel safe, included, and connected, at school and beyond. Through educator trainings and one-on-one mentorship with girls aged 11 to 14, Amy supports the growth of education initiatives and provides spaces where the students can build courage, find their voice, and trust in themselves.
[00:01:14]Her interest in this area is personal. Amy suffered years of bullying at school when she was growing up. In our chat, she shares her story, her learnings, as well as some thoughtful advice for parents. Here's our conversation.
[00:01:32]So I love to start by having my guests tell us a little about themselves.
[00:01:38] Julia Hogan:Yeah, thank you. I would love to share. The story you want to share with you, you and your listeners today is about growing up in elementary school. And grade three was really hard for me. I struggled academically with all my core subjects and the teachers even I pulled me out of class for extra help and I was still struggling. And at the end of grade three, the teachers had a meeting with my parents and wanted to put me with a special education. And my parents decided and convinced the school that no, can we maybe put her into grade three again, like redo grade three and still give her extra homework, extra help, and support for some, a wonderful reason the teachers decided that, yes– we can do that! But that's when the name calling started. And that's when the bullying started because I was seen as the new kid and I was called names like stupid and ugly and dumb and retarded and a loser. And it was constant and it lasted from grade three all the way to grade eight.
[00:02:45]When I graduated high school into grade nine, I thought I was those things because I was told them every day by my peers. I was laughed at when I opened my mouth to try and answer a question. I was picked last for all the teams or all the group activities. And then when I thought it wouldn't get any worse than it did in grade seven, I was grabbed on my bra strap in the change room, in the gym locker room.
[00:03:11]And I was flung around in circles. And when the girl let go, I went flying into the bench and hanger area and battered and bruised. I didn't know who did it. And I couldn't tell the teacher who did it when the teacher finally came into the room. And all I remember is this laughing and shrieking and yelling.
[00:03:34]And I was scared. And, you know, from that day forward, and even before then a little bit, I was walking on eggshells because I was always looking over my shoulder, wondering what's going to happen. Am I going to get like grabbed again?
[00:03:48] Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:Yeah, because it went from verbal to physical. Yeah.
[00:03:48] Julia Hogan:Yeah. Grade seven, I was 12 and no child should be that numb to that kind of abuse by the age of 12.
[00:04:01]And I was, I looked back at that 12 year old young girl and I feel sad, and I feel angry, and I feel like where was the teacher? It was those things, right. So with developing my business Inch by Inch Empowerment. That's the driving force behind it. That's the why, of why I do what I do is I don't want girls to feel scared at school.
[00:04:26]I want them to feel safe and know that they can. Learn and make friends and then go into high school and feel really confident about herself.
[00:04:36] Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:That's so important and so wonderful that you've taken your experiences that I think largely were negative in this context, but really used it to do something positive for the people after you. As you were telling the story, I was wondering, what do you think parents and teachers, what do you wish they would have done for you then?
[00:05:01]Julia Hogan:So I really don't remember telling my parents what was going on. I might've here in there, but I don't remember telling them that, you know, I was just grabbed in the locker room. But I have a funny feeling they knew something was going on, but they just weren't sure how to help or what to do.
[00:05:27]Because, and granted, this is back in–I graduated into grade nine in. Well, I started grade nine in September of 1992. So it was, you know, late eighties, early nineties when this was all happening and it was a different time period back then. No, I know my parents were doing the best they could. And what got me through it though was actually being involved in Girl Guides or Girl Scouts for the United States. And I was very active there and it was actually of my Pathfinder Leaders when I was 12, that was like every talk, like I'm here kind of thing. And she made us feel safe. And that leads into the question about the teachers and parents too, of what could they do?
[00:06:22]What can they do? To help their daughter or the young girls in their school. And that one part about creating this safe space and letting her know that, you can come and talk to me about anything. I'm a safe person, I will not judge. And I'm just showing that there's leadership and you've been–you as the parent or the teacher are both recognizing and also identifying that this young girl maybe need help and recognize that she needs safe space and a safe person to come to. And then it's all linked in with communication and knowing your communication style and also your leadership style and how that all welds into a beautiful container. So the things that parents can do now, the most important thing it sounds like is making sure there's a safe space, so that an open line of communication–your daughter can share experiences and feelings.
[00:07:38]In your, maybe in your shoes or maybe in your experience now dealing with girls that might be struggling with this as well. Um, what are kind of next steps that, you know, I think that there's the talking about it part, are there things that you wish, for instance the teachers would have done or that your ways that you're a parent now might be able to step in if they find out that their daughter has experienced something like, like you went to.
[00:08:06]Yeah. The one thing I really wish teachers and I know teachers are amazing and you know, I know that they have lots on their plate, especially the past since, well, we'll say since March, 2020 with everything going on in the way the world is, um, But I really wish that they would slow down and really like within the limits of, of their school, like get to know their students a little bit more and, you know, ask those questions and ask those open-ended questions and Hey, what's going on?
[00:08:47]Or I see, you know, do you want to just chat, like getting interested in what they're doing? Yeah. Quite possibly the young person, any age will start to talk. I wouldn't come out right away and just ask, are you being bullied because the, your daughter or the student may like whoop what goes up? Like, no, I'm not this, I don't trust them right now.
[00:09:13]And, um, uh, I took a. Suicide prevention course for youth under the age of 14, something they told me in the workshop was that children choose their safe person to talk to. And it might be you mom. And on the other hand, that might not be for whatever the reason, whatever the young person, your daughter.
[00:09:38]Feels that she can't talk to you. Like I know, as I said, I remember I'm pretty sure I didn't tell my parents that I was being believed for whatever reason and whatever that I couldn't. For some reason I felt that I couldn't talk to them. I don't think that's. Unique, you know, I know that I definitely kept things from my parents and I was speaking with someone just the other day and she was referencing the fact that that's actually.
[00:10:08]Kids age, um, kind of the normal process of things that we, we should expect our kids to turn to others because that's just part of maturation and the self-identification processes, kids grow up. So yeah, for, like you said, for whatever reason, and it doesn't mean any sort of indictment necessarily on the parent.
[00:10:31]No. So please go there you're the stairs like your mom's and your dad put snake, please know. And so you've done nothing. It's just your daughter or whatever. The reason just doesn't want to talk to you and share with you. And if you've done nothing wrong as a parent. Yeah. Is there more, you'd like to share about tips and tools that you might suggest for parents or educators?
[00:10:58]Um, so thinking about, uh, parents, and I've heard this from other parents that. And it works. It's about getting, um, the communication journal. Cause your daughter may not want to talk to you, but she may put something down on paper. And I know the kids are all into technology and onto their phones, but there is something magical about paper and pencil or paper and a pen like writing something by hand and, you know, just writing a little.
[00:11:36]Like love note to your, your daughter. And you may find that one day your daughter will actually open up a little bit writing you back something. Uh, so, so is this a journal that goes between two people? Ah, yes. I've heard of these. Okay. It was back and forth between you and your daughter or you and your children.
[00:11:56]And, uh, as I said, I've heard it works. And the other piece with parents is. If your daughter is showing interest in something, follow her, follow her lead and engage with her and, you know, get curious with her. Like, I dunno, say for example, your daughter wants to learn chess and in your house, you've never played chess.
[00:12:17]Okay. Her go with her and play with her and learn with her and, and do with her. Um, because again, that builds that relationship of trust, that communication and. Yeah. It's I think it'd be a beautiful thing to see. It's like parents are more engaged, you know, there's um, a beautiful quote and I want to say Tony Morris is an author.
[00:12:44]Uh, all I remember is Oprah many, many years ago now Oprah interviewed her
[00:12:54]and, uh, Tony said this quote, and I've never forgotten it. It's like, do your eyes light up when your child that,
[00:13:04]you know, your daughter, isn't looking to see if you're critiquing that her hair is not rushed or her shirt's messy or whatever, it's more or less mum. Do you see me? Am I here? Like, do I matter to you or it's mater? Yeah. And it's funny, you can say. Things you can say good morning or say, I love you, but if your body language isn't authentic, isn't kind of in alignment.
[00:13:35]Kids are smart. You know, they can sense that they can sense if you're distracted or you're, um, irritated. And there may even be parents that aren't necessarily verbal or they don't, maybe they aren't. Weren't raised to kind of be super affectionate in that, in a spoken or physical way. But I love that something as simple as how you, your face responds to a child, your eyes light up.
[00:14:01]I that's, everyone can do that. Co-teachers same thing actually. Like, are you happy when you see your students come into your classroom or are you in a grumpy mood? Like, and I know teachers and parents can have bad days or life situations going on as stressful for them. And I acknowledged that. And do your eyes light up?
[00:14:26]When every student enters the room, even the kids who are the more troubled kids, there's a lot of the time too, the kids who are acting out or are being a bully or, you know, whatever in the classroom. Are actually the ones that need the help. I totally agree. And it's actually something I'm I hope that kids learn as well is everyone has the things that affect them and it might not be you that's the it's probably not.
[00:14:58]You that's triggering something. Person it's um, something else that you just happen to be there, to be the, uh, kind of the receptacle or their anger or their sadness or their, yeah, it reminds me of, I guess there's a movie called wonder and yeah, but like, you sort of understand a little bit of. Why a kid is acting out and bullying another kid and, and ultimately what can help fully facilitate positive outcomes.
[00:15:29]I love anything that adds insight to the parenting journey, as well as to you. Hopefully I remember watching that. I think I actually took myself to the movies to see it. And I remember crying through the whole thing. I know a lot of what a lot of it I could totally relate to though. I didn't have any physical, you know, Like the young boy in the movie.
[00:15:52]Everything else. I'm like, yeah. All of it. Yeah. As you've been listening and you're like, yeah, maybe my daughter does need someone to talk to because I might not be that safe person that they're choosing. I actually offer one-on-one private mentorship and it's a weekly zoom call that she can talk about anything.
[00:16:16]No topic is off limits. It's I create a safe container, a safe. For your daughter just talk and I do more listening than talking. All I do is I just steer her to safety. I always like to invite my guests to share kind of a positive affirmation or a favorite quote or something like. Yeah. Uh, there's one that I always love to say after the end of all the Facebook lives that I do, and it's the brave people and be yourself, um, simple, direct to the point.
[00:16:54]Love it. Yes.
[00:17:02]I'm always inspired by those who use their negative experiences to create positive change. Here are my key takeaways for my chat with Amy. Number one, communication is key. Give your teen or tween a safe space. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything. And you won't judge. Number two. Kids choose their safe person to talk to, and it may not be you.
[00:17:27]And that's okay. We should expect our kids to want to turn to others as part of the growing up process. And here's some tips for parents. Number three, tackling an activity together, like taking a walk, cooking, or doing a puzzle can sometimes open up a space for deep conversations. I know the conversation flows freely when my daughters and I are baking or when I'm cooking with my.
[00:17:49]Number four, try a mother daughter journal that goes back and forth between you and your daughter. She may be more comfortable sharing her thoughts through writing number five. If your tween or teen shows an interest in something, even if it's obscure or not something you choose, encourage her and follow her lead.
[00:18:08]This engagement will make her feel supported and creates an atmosphere of trust numbers. Do your eyes light up when your daughter walks in the room, kids can tell when words are empty or you're distracted, be present and genuinely show joy and love in your facial expressions. Number seven, if your child is the target of bullying or aggression, remind them that the bullying speaks to the character and mental and emotional state of the aggressor, help them avoid internalizing the behavior or seeing themselves as at fault, or somehow responding.
[00:18:43]And lastly, this is my own personal ad-on post interview, but I think it's a good idea to report bullying and acts of aggression to the proper channels or authorities, whether it's the school administration, teachers, coaches, police, et cetera, check to see if there are protocols to follow and hold others accountable to them.
[00:19:03]Reporting is important for you and your child. It creates a record of the behavior and validates your child's experience. And it's important to the communities since accurate information can help keep everyone safer to learn more about Amy, you can visit her website inch by inch empowerment.com or follow her at inch by inch.
[00:19:25]Empower on Instagram. She also has a Facebook group, the inch by inch empowerment community. These links are in the show notes. So if you're interested, please check them out there. Thanks for listening. I know you get to choose how you spend your time and I'm honored and humbled to share a portion of your day with you and kudos to you for putting in the effort to show up for yourself and your dog.
[00:19:49]If you found something helpful or insightful, remember to subscribe or follow, tell a friend and leave a review on apple podcasts. Many of you have done that already, and I'm so grateful reviews impact a show's visibility. So even though it only takes a few moments, it really does make a difference. And if you're on Instagram, follow at Noby raise them for quotes and reminders to keep you grounded, informed, and inspired.
[00:20:14]Again. I appreciate you and applaud you for listening. And here's to strong women. May we know them? May we be them? And may we raise them?