NORTH CANTON Brooks Gibbs stood on the stage at the Hoover High School auditorium with just a microphone to deliver a message of empowering students to solve their social problems. It was the only technology he used in his 40-minute presentation.
The audience listened, laughed and engaged. Gibbs was at Hoover to talk to students and their parents about Raise Them Strong, a presentation he has been giving at more than 2,500 schools, where he has reached more than two million students.
The evening presentation on Feb. 13 was for adults and kids. Earlier in the day, he spoke to students at Greentown and Orchard Hill intermediate schools, North Canton Middle School and Hoover High School. He also had lunch at the high school with more than a dozen middle and high school students.
"We decided back in September to schedule Brooks to speak to our students and the community, the message was relevant then and is even more so today," Assistant Superintendent Dave Pilati said. "Fairless Local Schools had asked if any districts in the area wanted to collaborate with them to bring the speaker in to the area. We did some research on Brooks and decided we liked his message and partnered with Fairless to bring him here."
Pilati said the message the district liked is one of building resilience and "teaching kids how to make friends and how to manage their enemies."
Gibbs shared some of his personal stories of being made fun of and how students and others called him names when he was young. His message to parents included the three reasons why people are mean to others including:
- Those that are being mean are trying to be funny. He said that all humor is violent and to be funny, it has to be extreme.
- If a person is being mean to another, he or she could be feeling victimized in some way by the person they are being mean to, because aggression comes from those who feel like victims.
- The mean person behaves that way because they want to have power over another person.
Gibbs focused on growing emotional resilience and psychological growth where kids learn to appreciate the diversity in their lives. He told students in the audience that the meaner someone is to them, the more upset they get and that makes the mean person get even meaner, which makes them get more upset and it all creates a never ending circle. He related the vicious cycle to a dog chasing its tail and never catching it.
"You can’t fight with someone who doesn’t fight back, if someone chases you or pushes you or calls you names, control your emotions and don’t fight back," Gibbs said. "If you fight back, then the other person fights back, then you fight back, and you get into the dog chasing its tail situation. If you can learn to control your emotions and don’t let anything provoke you now as a student, you’ll have the same self-control as an adult and will be more successful in getting a job."
Gibbs said he hates the word bullying. He told the audience that people need to start calling it what it is, name calling and insults. He also said sibling rivalry at home is one of the most common and most often performed acts of bullying.
"Evoking a reaction is the giving the mean person power over your kids. Then the kids end up in the catastrophic thinking trap. Physical pain is real pain. Emotional pain is 100 percent dependent on what I think or believe about myself," Gibbs said.
Some of the other messages he delivered included: If your child believes the name calling, parents need to tell the child the truth. They need to educate them and give them context for the name calling. He stressed to teach kids to have some "grit" when it comes to thinking about themselves in a positive manner and not giving into name calling.