According to retired NBA basketball star, family man, father, philanthropist and author Theo Ratliff, bullying has become a norm. Bullying hurts millions of young people every year: 17% of American students reporting being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more within a school semester.  Ratliff says today we live in an environment that is filled with anger, hostility and various forms of bullying and that we are missing empathy and consideration of each other’s needs. Whether it is “cyber-bullying”, physical or verbal abuse, bullying in our society is at an all- time high, and is the greatest cause of youth suicide and now, murder. Ratliff personally overcame bullying and addresses the issue in his wonderful new children’s book Theo The Hero.

Ratliff shares the story of his childhood experience with bullying, and most significantly, the positive lessons he learned when dealing with bullies and the advice his mother, Camilia Ratliff-Eatman gave him. Written by Author Michael Harris and illustrated by Jonathan Ellis, Theo The Hero has been, and continues to be, an ideal teaching tool for school staff, parents and children who want to build and share communities that will not tolerate this destructive behavior and instead, supply youth with the tools they need to be productive in life.

Industry Rules interviewed Theo about Theo The Hero and talked to the author about how parents and family members can help prevent and reverse the trend of bullying.

 GR:  This book is very personal and about the bullying you experienced as a child. Why did you feel it was important to write this book now? 

TR: There are millions of kids being bullied around the country! When I hear year after year of the count of kids being isolated by bullying it makes me sad and angry that it is not being addressed by more influential people around the country. I took an inventory of what I was doing and decided that I wasn’t doing enough. At that time, my publicist Michael Harris and I decided to tell my story on how I overcame bullying, with teamwork and empathy, in a book. Now is the right time and climate given what is going on daily with suicide, teen mass murders and so on, to do this tour to empower young girls and boys to stand up and learn how speak out about being bullied and be heard nationally! Creating a global No Bully Zone! Learning how to communicate without hate.

GR: Was it easy for you to confide in your mother about the bullying?

TR: It was very easy to confide in my mother! She is and has always been the backbone to my family. Strong and resilient. Raising three boys by yourself can make you that way. My mother would always talk to us as if we were men, and gave us the open door policy to discuss any situation that presented itself as a challenge to our capabilities. So, me telling her about what was going on with bullies had reached a boiling point.  She provided me with a different thought process (perspective) on the bullies. Like, perhaps they were being bullied by other kids and brought the behavior to school. She said, “If you all as a group confront the bully he would be hesitant to bully other kids”.

GR: What are some of the signs of bullying parents should look out for?

TR: Kids hesitant to attend school, or wanting to skip class, could be a sign of a child being uncomfortable in that environment. Isolating themselves from everyone because they feel misunderstood or different. Or, if you see a sudden change in a child’s normal patterns or behavior.

GR: How can parents encourage children to stand up to bullying without succumbing to negative or even violent behavior? 

TR: One of the things the parents can do is to encourage children to stand up to bullies without engaging in negative and violent behavior. The child can tell the parent about what is going on. The child can get with his friends and tell the teacher or principle that he is being bullied. The parents can intervene by having a conference with the principle or dean. Just talking with you children and listening daily builds confidence and better decision skills.

GR: You have six children; have any of them been bullied? If so what did you tell them?

TR: Some of my girls have definitely experienced bullying. I immediately addressed the parents of the bullies and the coach that was in charge of the team.

GR: What do you hope young readers will take away from your book?

TR: I hope that my young readers understand at a young age that being a bully is NOT cool! I hope they understand that when you say hurtful things to someone they might be the first or the hundreth person to bully that individual. That could result in depression or even suicide by the victim of the bullying. I want young people to understand the “No Bullying Zone” is a movement that kids across the country will be taking part in for “Theo The Hero Antibullying Tour” and become Ambassadors against bullying to begin to encourage each other and learn to deal with an antagonist in a way that has a positive outcome. Or to not feel inferior or threatened by anyone and have confidence no matter what anyone says or thinks about you.

The Theo Ratliff Anti-Bully Literacy Program is being implemented in elementary and middle schools in New York with accompanying anti-bully tours. Fortunately, victims of bullying like Ratliff are finding ways to build on their own life experiences and empower young children to overcome bullying in their lives. The book can be purchased on Amazon and through their website, Learn how you can support the movement by becoming a sponsor, or get your school on the tour and the book in your schools!

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