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Jay McGraw's Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies [Hardcover]

Jay McGraw , Steve Bjorkman , Phillip C. McGraw
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks; 1 edition (28 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416974733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416974734
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,807,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Jay McGraw's Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies Dr. Phil McGraw's eldest son Jay helps kids identify potentially harmful situations and deal with bullies through tips, techniques, and examples that apply to real-life situations. He takes a no-nonsense approach to bullying and even speaks to the bullies themselves to help them change their ways. Full description

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It Takes a Lot of People to Stop a Bully 24 Dec 2008
This book is more about making the bullied child feel better than in stopping a bully. The book's main weakness comes from Jay McGraw neither being an expert who has done original research on the subject nor someone who was bullied as a youngster. As a result, what he has to share isn't much different from what any other undergraduate major in psychology would say.

I thought about the four worst bullying situations that my children ran into and applied the advice here: My conclusion is that it wouldn't have helped much.

Why? This book is focused around the traditional school-yard and bus-riding bullying. The bad bullying that my children ran into came from teachers (and I had a teacher or two like that as well when I was young), toughs on the street who had nothing to do with that school, and circumstances encouraged by administrators who wanted a certain atmosphere at their schools. I just don't see how the advice in this book would have been very applicable to those situations.

What I found most interesting was in the Internet bullying context. That was new, and the advice seemed pretty solid in that arena.

I picked this book up because I liked the way that Jay McGraw had used his own teenage experiences to make Life Strategies for Teens very relevant and vital for younger people compared to what his father had written for adults. That strong connection to the subject just doesn't seem to be in this book.

I would only recommend this book to young people who feel bad because they are picked on and who need some self-esteem help and cannot or don't want to see a therapist.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  62 reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Appreciate the Attempt but It's Over-Simplified and Incomplete 11 Dec 2008
By ChristineMM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Summary of my thoughts: This is a very important topic and I'm happy the book was written. However the book is incomplete and over-simplified. This book outlines a plan for the weakest person to take the biggest leadership role and to stand up to their bully as well as reform the school--a huge undertaking that seems unrealistic to me. The book's strong point is trying to boost the self-confidence of the victim. This book is a start, so I do think those interested in the topic should buy it and read it, but we need more information and other kinds of information if bullying really going to be stopped.

Read on to hear the details of why I feel this way about this book.


Author Jay McGraw (son of Dr. Phil McGraw, the talk show host) wants to stop bullying and he doesn't want the victims of bullying to suffer. He states he wrote this book for children. The advice is for the parents to read the book first, then give it to their children aged 9-13 (fourth through eighth grade) to read to themselves. The information in the book is to set the stage for parents and children to communicate and take action on these issues. If the child is the victim of bullying the idea is the parents will partner with their child to stop the child from being bullied. Ultimately the goal is for the victim to take action to get all bullying stopped in their school, with help from the bystander-students.

I had high hopes for this book as I too would like bullying to stop. We need more books on the topic for all ages: more adult books for parents, more books for school teachers and administrators, more books for middle school and high school students, and more picture books for elementary grade aged kids.

In November 2008 Jay McGraw was on the Dr. Phil show talking about modern bullying to promote this book. The show didn't outline strategies that are in this book though, so if you caught the show, you didn't catch all the content of this book. The focus of the show was more on how bullying happens today using modern technology: staging beatings that are video recorded and broadcasted on the Internet on YouTube, cyber-bullying through chat rooms or MySpace or creating fake MySpace accounts pretending to be a classmate with false information to slander the person.

A major flaw in the book is that after outlining these types of modern technology bullying techniques (in the book and also on that one TV show); the book DOES NOT ADDRESS how parents can solve those issues. The book gives no solutions to two of those bullying methods and the third bullying method of being slandered on MySpace has only the advice of "ignore it, don't read it, don't respond to it" which is weak advice. There is no information about slandering on social networking sites and whether posting fake MySpace accounts legally constitutes identity theft is not mentioned. (From my personal experience with identity theft I think those actions might constitute as being the crime of identity theft but I have not researched the laws to confirm it.)

One flaw is that the book ignores the known psychological issue of how kids react to being bullied, and the different types of aggression: proactive aggression and reactive aggression. The tactics McGraw recommends that victims to use will be very hard for kids with a reactive aggression brain. (Studies have been published on this brain issue if you want to learn more about it.)

The psychology of groupthink is not addressed, and I feel that is a major contributor to the bystander mindset. The hardest group of people to get to buy in to this anti-bullying plan is the bystanders. I don't think the book provides enough inspiration or actionable ideas to get the bystanders to join in the rally to stop bullying. The truth is the bystander kids are just so relieved that they are not the ones being picked on and in a self-protection mode they will seldom step in to help another person lest the bully turn on them.

Most bullying starts or is conceived in school or the child's relationship with the bully is begun in school, and this book puts little blame on the adults running the school. The child readers of this book, aged 9-13 are inspired to try to work to change the adults running the schools they attend. Just think about that for a minute and contemplate the complexity of this idea of the child-victim who is already in a negative mindset due to being verbally or physically abused to suddenly become a leader and champion bully reformer in their family, in other families, and in their school.

I think that McGraw's model of bully-reform is a bit over-arching and idealistic. In no other area of abuse in America do we recommend this type of action from the bottom-up, where the weak victim is advised or expected to reform the dominant, abuser and the authority figures who are overseeing them (in this case, the bully's parents , the teachers and school administrators). In America, adult victims of domestic violence are guided to get away from their abuser and live apart from them. But the adult-victims are never told they should champion an effort to reform the abuser or the abuser's family all the while staying in the relationship (akin to the student continuing to stay in school or to keep taking the school bus with their bully every day). In fact this idea that an adult can change their partner or spouse from being an abuser, or reform them from their problems such as alcohol or drug abuse is often stated (even by Dr. Phil McGraw) to be futile and is not recommended. Psychologists and therapists say change must come from within the person (from within the abuser, the bully) so with that logic, how can this model work at all? Is it realistic to expect that a child-victim of bullying has enough power (even after reading this book) to get full cooperation from their own parents to take action, then to stop the abuse by the bully and to hopefully reform the bully to stop them from every bullying anyone again, plus get buy-in from the bully's parents? And to get the school staff to turn around and try to stop all the bullying in the school? Sorry, but I don't think so.

I was disappointed with the author regarding holding school teachers, school bus drivers and school administrators more accountable for keeping kids safe by being aware of bullying and by doing so little to address it. I feel that all teachers and school administrators, as adults in charge of the care and education of minors, including many teachers who want all children to have `good self-esteem' have failed to provide a safe environment for school children. The adult school employees should be the ones championing this anti-bullying effort. They should be the ones setting the standard for safety and right conduct in their schools. Change might happen quicker if it comes from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up and if led by mature adults rather than by kids aged 9-13.

Also, the school bus is never mentioned in the book, and it is usually the prime place where victims are bullied as it has the least adult supervision and highest number of kids to adult ratio, think about it, forty something kids with just one adult who is busy driving, what a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps McGraw could write a book just for teachers and school administrators to get them to `get real' and to take responsibility and action.

There is also not enough actionable information for parents to use to urge or demand that schools take more action to stop bullying. An entire other book should be written for what parents can do to demand that the schools be made safer for all students.

Lastly trying to write a book to kids ages 9-13 is tricky. I feel the language and reading comprehension may be a bit too difficult for a 9 year old (a fourth grader). Perhaps the kids on the younger side should have their parent read the book aloud to them (stopping along the way to discuss things) or those kids should listen to the audio book version.

Each group must take responsibility, the victim, the parent, the school teachers and school administrator and the bystanders might, if all united and working in tangent, be enough to squash out the actions of the bullies. Maybe.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars - good primer but I wanted more actionable solutions 4 Dec 2008
By Joe'sMom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not particularly a fan of Dr Phil, and parts of this book (written by his son) had the same kind of hokey feel to it that remind me of his father. But, having said that, I think this is an important subject and applaud Mr. McGraw for attempting to tackle it and doing so in a way that engages pre-teens/teens.

The age range noted is 9-12. The book reads a little younger than that... maybe middle school age. Some of the issues I had with writing style were probably due to the fact that I was reading the book as a parent. So where I found the message a little repetitive, and the "get real" phrases and terminology a little forced, kids may relate to it. The book seems to address a wide spectrum of readers. It addresses not only kids who are being bullied, but bullies themselves, and even a chapter on kids in the background who are watching bullying go on around them. While it is nice that the author tries to include everyone, I do think the book could have done a better job if the focus was a little more narrowed.

WHAT I LIKED: the book clearly defines the many different forms of bullying and specifically points out that bullying is not limited to the big tough kid on the playground; sometimes even kids who you think of as your "friends" may do things that tease or make you feel uncomfortable and that can be a form of bullying too. I LOVED the section on how to talk to your parents. I think this is a huge barrier for many kids and felt like Mr. McGraw gave some good examples to break the ice. Similarly, I liked the section on how to get your school involved (and what they can do to help). And I thought the "What Kids Can Do" section, was by far the most helpful chapter in the book because it gave actual action steps that kids can take towards resolving their situation.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I thought it focused too much on the "feelings" behind bullying. How does being bullied make you feel? How does the bully feel? What motivates a bully? While I did like the journaling suggestions at the end of each chapter, I felt like there was way too much talk about feelings. I wanted more action. If I'm being bullied, I know how it feels. Crappy and degrading. What I want help with is how to make it stop.

I think the message to walk away and never fight back is wrong. I know many people may disagree. It's a personal opinion. And that's fine. But while Mr. McGraw talks a lot about walking away and ignoring the bullying behavior I didn't see him give too many alternatives.

The craziest tip was about befriending your bully. Do you really think a child being terrorized should really say to their attacker "I'm an ok person if you get to know me and I'll bet you are too"? Do we expect the bully to get all teary and have an emotional breakthrough? Really?

Finally, I thought there was too much self promotion in the book. I get it. He wrote another book about life strategies for teens. Enough.

WHAT I WISHED THERE WERE MORE OF: The section on cyber bullying was great and pointed out several things kids do online to harass and intimidate. I would have loved to see some tips on what to do about it. I think if Mr. McGraw spent more time giving more actual action steps that kids can take, the book would have been fantastic.

Overall, the book is not bad. The first 100 or so pages really just identify the different kinds of bullying, how to determine if you are being bullied, and understanding your feelings about it. It's not until page 100 that any solutions are suggested. I think this book is worth reading, and is a good jumping off point for parents and teens/pre-teens to begin to open the lines of communication. I'd give it 3.5 stars.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Resource For Kids, Parents and Educators 5 Nov 2008
By A. Ward - Published on Amazon.com
I purchsed this book out of frustration to try and help my Asperger's child who has been the victim of bullying for many years. Even though this book doesen't even mention Aspergers, I must say, Jay McGraw has written a wonderful resource for kids, parents and educators. This book spends a lot of time identifying the different types of bullying, which I personally found to be extremely valuable for talking about the bullying and rude behavior that goes on at school. Jay correctly states that you need to "Get Real", that is, to admit to yourself that there is a problem before you can do anything about it. You do not know the relief my daughter felt when she recognized the behaviors of many of her "friends". For years she could not say that a way someone treated her was bullying. Having a book that spells it out in black and white is exactly what an Aspergers child needs. This book is not the magic solution to cure all the problems of adolescence, but it is a great starting point. I have purchased several copies of this book for her teachers because I feel it is that important. I also need to tell you that the writing style is very easy to understand. It is written specificly for kids ages 9 - 13. You will not feel overwhelmed reading it and neither will your child.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Childhood strategies, not life 5 Aug 2010
By lrosap - Published on Amazon.com
There is little information in here that may be very useful to someone who is not already well-adjusted, which is funny, since those are the kids who get picked on in school and on into their adult lives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frames the Discussion, but Parents & Kids Need Action Items 26 Jun 2009
By PeaTee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Written in simple language this book is geared to young teens, and even tweeners, who want to understand bullying and what they can do about it.

The author, Jay McGraw, does a good job of defining bullying, varieties of bullying, and the psychology behind bullies, victims, and bystanders.

Here's the chapter headings which will give you a good idea of what material is covered:

Table of Contents

Introduction (by father Phil)

1. What is Bullying
2. E-Bullying
3. Why Do Kids Bully Others?
4. The Damage Bullies Can Do
5. Are You Being Bullied?
6. Are You a Bully?
7. Taking on Bullies: What Kids Can Do
8. No Innocent Bystanders
9. Educating Parents
10. What Kids Can Ask Schools to Do
11. Forgiving a Bully

I have to say that the introductory chapters were covered so well that I was really expecting a stupendous conclusion, complete with a list of action items that kids and adults could implement. Unfortunately, the book let me down in that regards. While there were some general suggestions, like staring your bully down, and enlisting the help of friends, there was nothing I would consider new, or even untraditional.

The book, for example, didn't even suggest using a lawyer, even though McGraw has a law degree, and even though there have been examples in the press that demonstrate that school systems will bend over backwards after receiving a legal notification that there is a problem. The book also doesn't suggest contacting ISP providers with evidence of cyber-bullying. Instead it suggests children tell their parents. Which, of course, assumes THEY/WE know what to do.

Wrap Up:::
On the plus side, I think Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies would be a good book for guidance counselors to have on their shelves as it provides a good basis for discussion. I also like that McGraw's approach is positive and that he seeks to empower and reassure kids.

On the negative side, the book doesn't present any really concrete solutions, but rather has some suggestions that 'might' work. It would have been nice, for example, to have had some real life success stories, but there weren't any. Further more, it seems a tad disingenuous to advise children to make friends and "act" confident. One assumes that they would already be doing that, if they could.

Ultimately, I have to say that this is a book that is generally not going to solve most people's bullying problems, although it will help frame discussions.

Adults should note that there are some very good anti-bullying programs available for schools. And that most states have anti-bullying laws.

I could find no Accelerated Reading designation for this book.

Pam T~
Mom and Reviewer for BooksforKids-reviews
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