About Kelly Karius
Kelly Karius (@KellyKarius) is an award winning Social Worker, Mediator and Author who is committed to her mission of improving the lives she is able to affect.
Her books include “This is Out of Control! A Practical Guide to Managing Life’s Conflicts”, “The Brief Book of Bullying”, “Burgerslinger”, and “No Such Thing as a Bully; Shred the Label, Save a Child.”
Kelly is well versed in First Nations issues in Canada, and is working with elders at Maskwacis, Alberta, to create a Grandfather’s Lessons version of The No Such Thing as a Bully System.
Kelly is also a founder of The Moment of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit foundation, which uses numbered cards and a data base system to promote a program of random acts of kindness meets technology. Kelly drives around in the #kindnesscar a bright green car that people sign with a sharpie marker to pledge kindness.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest was recommended by another past guest, and if you are listening to this and there’s someone in your mind, maybe it’s you or someone you know that you think should come on this show, please reach out to me because I will reach out to that person.
Sam Demma (00:53):
Even if it’s you or someone you know, and interview them. I would love for you to reach out to me and let me know who you’d like to hear on this podcast. You can shoot me an firstname.lastname@example.org. That is the reason today’s guest is on the show. Her name is Kelly Karius. She’s an award-winning social worker, mediator and author, who is committed to her mission of improving the lives she’s able to affect. Her books include “This is Out of Control! A Practical Guide to Managing Life’s Conflicts”, “The Brief Book of Bullying”, “Burgerslinger”, and “No Such Thing as a Bully; Shred the Label, Save a Child.”. Kelly is well versed in first nations issues in Canada and is working with elders at Maskwacis, Alberta, and I’m sorry if I mispronounced this, to create a grandfather’s lessons version of the no such thing as a bully system.
Sam Demma (01:38):
She’s also the founder of The Moment of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit which uses numbered cards and a database system to promote a program of random act of kindness meets technology. Kelly drives around in the kindness car; a bright green car that people sign with a Sharpie marker to pledge kindness. I know you’re gonna enjoy this interview. We talk a lot about bullying. You know, what’s, what bullying really is and how to address it in a school. You know, Kelly is a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and I know you’ll enjoy this as much as I enjoyed learning about it myself. I’ll see you on the other side of the interview, talk soon. Kelly, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and, you know, sharing a little bit behind what brought you to where you are today working in education?
Kelly Karius (02:24):
Well, first of all, I’m so glad that you’re having me on your show. So thank you so much for that. My name is Kelly Karius. I’m a social worker from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, and I, I started with No Such Thing As a Bully imagine about 20 years ago. Really recognizing that the way that we are currently dealing with bullying and have been dealing with bullying is not really effective and, and looking at a little, you know, six/seven year old and saying, “hey kid, you’re a bully “creates a box for them that, that they may never actually get out of. And, and so I, I had some really extreme experiences that got me looking at this and, and, and created No Such Thing As a Bully so that we could say we all use bully actions. We all use victim responses, one set of skills solves both, and the labels don’t help and, and really create a whole different format for us to start looking at this.
Sam Demma (03:31):
Can you share a little bit of insight into those experiences you had? And if there’re very extreme ones, you can change their names so that you’re not really, you know, sharing that information, but what are those experiences that led you to create this?
Kelly Karius (03:44):
Yeah, so I was bullied myself kindergarten to grade six, and then when I, when I came back in grade seven to a, to a different school, to a junior high, I I came wearing a Jean jacket with a pack of smokes and my fists clenched and beat up a boy in the boy’s bathroom. Whose name I won’t mention and and, you know, looking back on that, that kind of really displayed how that pendulum swings. Yep. So, you know, grade seven, I would be called a bully, but why? And then as I started my private practice, I, I was just a, a year into my private practice, just with a bachelor’s degree which was a bit of a jump. And, and I was hired as an advocate for 20 sets of parents whose teacher was mistreating the, their Stu the students class.
Kelly Karius (04:41):
And I, I mean, I’m sure when I look back on it, that I did a, a pile of things wrong. But you know, we went through the whole system, the school board, the, the ministry of education children’s advocate, the ombudsman nothing happened. And then at the end of that year, the teacher just moved on to a different school. And then in the summer I had a, a client teen client diagnosed with PTSD from bullying and a letter from a chief psychiatrist saying the bullying in this community is outrageous. Someone has to do something. So I put in a, this was about 20 years ago, 2001, I put in the proposal to do peer mediation. That was kind of all I knew at the time, but I didn’t realize how much I, I made people angry the year before and before I knew it, there was an article in the paper saying that I was being investigated by my ethics committee, that I was banned from all the schools in Melville that I wasn’t qualified to do the work that I was doing.
Kelly Karius (05:41):
And so I spent the next year fighting that. And at the end of it, I, I ended up suing the director of education and, and settling that out of court and then started looking at holy cow, why would we expect our kids not to bully when this is what’s going on with adults? Mm. And again, I’m not saying that my behavior was, was perfect in the situation in any way either. But just that every human being depending on what’s happening for them has the potential to use bully actions and has the, the potential to use victim responses to say, oh, this is a terrible situation. And I can’t do anything about it. Mm-Hmm . And so that, that is the experience that really got me looking at this and, and saying, we need a whole different system. We need a whole different way of, of, of doing this.
Sam Demma (06:38):
And what do you mean when you say one skillset solves both? And can you explain both the bully actions and victim results and how people tend to use them?
Kelly Karius (06:47):
Yeah, absolutely. So bully actions, if you picture if you picture one person in the middle of a circle of 10 people, and each of those 10 people saying one negative thing to that person in the middle we have on the outside of that circle, 10 people that each used one bully action. They’re not gonna say that they’re a bully. They, I just said, this one thing, I’m not a bully. That’s not who I am, but yet there’s a person in the middle who’s bullied.
Sam Demma (07:20):
Kelly Karius (07:21):
And, and so those, you know, once we each start paying attention to those smaller bully actions that we use, that’s when we can really get a grip on this. And then victim responses is that person in the middle saying, there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can learn. That’s gonna make this better. There’s nothing I can do to get out of this situation. This is, this is a problem of other people. I don’t have to do anything. You know, and, and sort of living in that space that says, I, I, I can’t do anything. And so the set of skills, whether it’s somebody using bully actions or somebody using a victim response, the set of skills are strengthening. Being able to look at those automatic thoughts that pop into your mind and go, you know what, what’s true about this. What’s not true about this. What’s another way of thinking about it. Mm. Being able to set and have goals and to feel good within ourselves, we don’t use bully actions when we’re feeling real good. Yeah. Ourselves. and that is the strengthening. And we are also not, not feeling that victim response when we are feeling really good within ourselves.
Sam Demma (08:38):
Yeah. It’s so true. That’s awesome. It’s funny. I’m writing a spoken word album right now. I’m one of the poems is called empty backpack. And the premise is that people’s words, don’t define your route. You bet on you since day one, you define yourself, it’s time you grab your backpack and empty it out and stop carrying the opinions of everyone else. And it really relates to some of the ideas you’re sharing right now. And I’m actually writing a chapter about it as well. And I was trying to break down why I thought people push their limiting beliefs on you, or would, you know, share or spew negativity at you. And the ideas that came to mind were things that you’re saying, things like low self-confidence superiority complexes or, you know, trauma that they’re personally going through. You know, when you don’t feel good about yourself, you hurt people. And that’s such an interesting thing. So what does the program or curriculum look like? So if, you know, if I was interested in learning more about no such thing as a bully, how could I do that? And if I wanted to engage with you, if I was a school and I wanted to engage with you, what would that look like?
Kelly Karius (09:42):
All right. So the actual curriculum has 25 lessons, things like fight or flight response friendship skills, how to know if you have a good friend, how to be a good friend things like inaccurate thoughts and balancing balancing inaccurate thoughts, and getting a, a grip on automatic thinking. There’s goal setting in there. There is emotions and being able to name how you’re feeling there is looking at the difference between just conflict and bullying and then assault. Because sometimes we call too many things bullying that really are not to engage I’ve got on the website, no such thing as a bully.com for $47 programs that people can grab and just see if it’s for them. And, and the programs are all five lessons to your inbox and then a zoom meeting each week fully proof your home fully that one’s for parents, fully proof your, your classroom that one is for teachers and bully proof, your school for administrators.
Kelly Karius (10:52):
Hmm. When a school wants to get involved, we offer to train five of their staff members and certify them in teaching this material. And it’s, it’s five, not one because the load is too heavy to carry for one. So over a two year period we, we have a school membership. We keep five people in your school trained for two years, if somebody leaves and you wanna put somebody else in under that same contract, you absolutely can. And then we do some meetings with with administrators as well. There’s a whole different policy for schools to use if they, if they join with no such thing as a bully and actually a whole different definition of bullying for schools to use as well. One that has nine points. And you, you have to mindfully look at the situation and see how things fit into those nine points. And that will help you determine is this bullying, is this just everyday conflict? Or is this something even more serious than, than bullying? And, and so it’s really a, a mindful way to look at it. If somebody just says, I want this, and I don’t need those $47 programs to see if, if it’s what we need. Then I would say, just give me an email Kelly, no such thing as a bully.com or a phone call, (403) 447-4404.
Sam Demma (12:22):
I love that. And you mentioned earlier as well, and something that peaked my curiosity, you mentioned that labeling a student as a bully could place him in the box that they never escape. Can you tell me more about that? What did, what did you mean when you, when you said that?
Kelly Karius (12:37):
Yeah. You know what I have, and I have an amazing story that goes with that. And, and this was like the moment that this was right in my face and I went, whoa. So I had started going school to school with no such thing as a bully. And, and often when I enter a classroom, the first question I ask is who in here is a bully. And usually there’ll be some Snickers, you know, maybe one person might put up their hand or, or often they’ll point at somebody else. And and, and then what what’s supposed to happen in my little mind script is then I say, okay, well, who has ever kicked somebody hit, somebody left somebody out on purpose called somebody a name, all these smaller bully actions. And then of course the hound go up and up because we’ve all done that in this case, this was a grade two classroom.
Kelly Karius (13:31):
And so that, so the kids are, you know, seven years old. In this case I asked that question, who in here is a bully and this boy put his hand up, hi, hi. And I said, well, you know what, I bet you have used some bully action, but I don’t think that you’re a bully. And he stands up out of his desk and he said, very firmly, I am a bully. And I was like, Hmm. Okay. And then later on that evening, I was in, so I would, at that time, I was in schools for five days. And so I was just kind of in this little community, I’m in the grocery store, getting, getting some things for supper. And, and I see a little girl in her mom and this little girl is pulling her mom’s hand and saying, mom, mom, look, it’s the bully lady, lady. And, and the mom turns around and she just like, so aggressively says, I’m so glad you’re here because there’s a kid in this school. That’s such a big bully that my kid doesn’t even wanna go to school. And I thought to myself, I bet that that’s that little bully. Mm.
Kelly Karius (14:38):
And then that really got me thinking about the power that he took. First of all, how many times has he been called that? And then, and then now a kid goes, well, that’s who I am. I know, I know because all these growns told me, so that’s who I am. And now I’m gonna hold on tight to that. And all of the qualities that it involves, because clearly I am very, very strong because look at how all of these adults are responding to me.
Sam Demma (15:10):
Kelly Karius (15:11):
Now, if we put that kid in a school and we just say, no, there’s no such thing as a bully. You’re you are, you are a little boy that learned how to use bully actions to get what you want, and we’re gonna teach you some other ways.
Sam Demma (15:26):
Kelly Karius (15:27):
All the power of that label is gone for, for that little one. And he is put in a position where, okay, I guess I’m, you know, I guess I’m gonna learn these, these other things. And, and so you, you know, you, not only in those small ages, it’s easy to see in those small ages because they’re just little ones, right? Mm. But now that kid grows up to be 12, 13, 14, 15, and is still an adult and is still taking his power from using those bully actions. This is how I get what I want.
Sam Demma (16:03):
Kelly Karius (16:03):
This is one way to eliminate that.
Sam Demma (16:06):
And you, you know, you did mention the difference between bully actions and a bully. And I know it’s a part of the package, so we won’t get into it too deep, but what are some of the nine principles or points that a school could use to identify if this is a bully action, or if this is the characteristics of a full blown full blown bully.
Kelly Karius (16:24):
so here’s what I say is that there’s no such thing as a bully. Yeah. But there is bullying.
Sam Demma (16:30):
Kelly Karius (16:31):
And so when a school is, is using this definition to look at that, or a parent what they’re looking at is, is what are the qualities in this situation? Mm. And is this something that we need to call bullying? So we’re still never actually saying the kid visibly.
Sam Demma (16:49):
Got it. Yeah.
Kelly Karius (16:51):
So, okay. So here’s how it works. In order for bullying to exist, there needs to be someone with a high bullying value frame of reference. So this is somebody who has the desire to hurt who has the, the takes superior power and enjoyment from what they’re doing. And they have a desire for control and contempt for the other person. So we’re looking at the qualities in the situation, do those exist. Mm. There needs to be an action that is hurtful, and that is repeated. And then there needs to be someone with a high victim response frame of reference. So this is somebody who feels vulnerable, who feels a sense of oppression, who feels unjust treatment. So what this lets us do is change any of those dynamics to change those, the situations. So if we look at the high victim response frame of reference, and we take that person, and we say, you know what, let’s work on some stuff. So you’re not feeling vulnerable. So you’re not feeling oppressed so that if this happens again, you can just walk away and not take any of it home with you.
Sam Demma (17:59):
Kelly Karius (18:01):
Now we’re solving bullying by changing that dynamic. Or we work with the, the, the person who has the high bullying frame of re and, and we start working on, you know, why, why do you feel like you need to have this control? Tell me about how you’re contempt for other people, you know, let’s work at changing that. And, and so it gives, it gives a whole bunch of options or solutions when you break it down like this, and the way you define a problem leads to how you’re gonna resolve it. Mm. So we can define problems in ways that we, that really don’t have good resolutions and, and this, and that’s what we’ve done with bullying in the past. And this reverses that
Sam Demma (18:48):
Got it. And, you know, you mentioned that it happens not only with students, but also adults mm-hmm is this a program that you would engage with or potentially consider engaging with in workplaces in the future?
Kelly Karius (19:04):
Absolutely. In my private practice, I did a ton of corporate conflict management work with my first book that came out in 2006 called this is outta control of practical guide to managing life’s conflicts. And, and a lot of those things have made their way over into no such thing as a bully. This is stuff for everyone. And, and even when I’m teaching it my goal is to teach it to adults so that they can teach it to their important kids, to, to have somebody that kids don’t know, come in and stand on a stage and, you know give some tips that is important. And that reaches a certain number of kids in that audience. And I wanna make sure that, you know, when those kids go home, that their parents have that same material and those same ideas to be, to be working with. And so with this, with this system, there is of course the material for schools, but there’s also a book and a membership for parents. You know, so that a school can coordinate, this is what we’re doing at school. This is what we’re doing at home.
Sam Demma (20:19):
And where is Kelly in five years? And what does this program look like then?
Kelly Karius (20:24):
Oh, I’m so excited. So I’m, so I’m starting work on a project. That my goal is to get myself into a bright green motor home that people sign with a Sharpie marker to pledge kindness. Nice. Right, right now I have a kindness car, but it’s a little Honda civic. So I wanna go big and I wanna hit the road with no such thing as a bully and just you know, kind of be going school to school, community, to community and letting people know these ideas and, and what is available. And, and also with the goal of like directing people to other resources, you know, your valuable podcast and other other people that I know that are offering amazing things. Yeah, there’s so much out there and, and the more people know and can educate themselves about communication strategies and emotion strategies, the better off the world’s gonna be.
Sam Demma (21:26):
Love it. And if you could go back in time, I think you said 25 years, you’ve been doing this or 20 years. If you could go back to year one, knowing what, you know now and give your younger self advice, what would you share?
Kelly Karius (21:40):
Oh my goodness. You know what, some, sometimes it’s really good that you don’t know. Mm. Because you know, now I would say, just keep on going and, and, and go through that terrible situation few years after. And I might have said just avoid that whole thing, you know, don’t even take that job. That’s crazy. I think that, that the difference, the difference now in how I would handle it would just straight up be maturity. Mm. You know, understanding human reactions and responses better. Probably not getting, so I can remember times during that, that two year period where my anxiety was just so high anticipating things that never happened, you know? And, and so that would be some of my advice, like just live in the moment and don’t, even though a situation seems like it may be negative. The outcome of that might not be. Mm. And, and so to reserve that judgment and, and be able to just be like, okay, I’m gonna live in this moment and see what happens next. Yeah. That would be good. That would definitely be good advice for me at that time.
Sam Demma (23:00):
And you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast as well, some places where people could find you, but if someone is listening to this and they love the ideas and the content you’re sharing, what would be the easiest way for them to get in touch?
Sam Demma (23:26):
Love that. Kelly, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was so cool hearing this unique perspective on bullying. I can’t wait to see you on the road in your green motor home and hopefully be able to sign it and pledge some kindness to it, but until then keep up the awesome work. And we’ll talk soon.
Kelly Karius (23:40):
Thank you. And thank you for the work that you’re doing with youth. And I appreciate everything you do, Sam.
Sam Demma (23:46):
Thanks, Kelly. And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; if you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode. to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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