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How Mike Rice can help you talk to your kids about bullying

I’m frequently asked by parents how to encourage kids to talk about important things that are going on in their lives. “How was your day at school?” typically elicits a shrug and “it was okay” from most kids. The problem is that parents are asking the wrong questions. Kids will talk about stuff if they are approached in the right way.

The key is to bring up subjects that matter to them, and contemporary events provide an endless number of things that engage kids’ attention. The recent firing of Rutgers’ basketball coach, Mike Rice, is one such topic.

It doesn’t matter if neither you nor your children are interested in sports, because this incident raises all kinds of interesting questions.  For the past few years, Rice has been coaching in a style characterized as “old school” by some and abusive by others. Last December, officials at Rutgers University were given a tape of two hours of Rice’s coaching, which involved yelling and swearing at the kids, throwing basketballs at their heads, calling them homophobic slurs, and  pushing and shoving them during practice. Take a look at the video below with your kids, and talk about the following.

  • Is this just aggressive coaching or abusive and bullying behavior?
  • Coach Rice was suspended for 3 games and fined $50,000 after an investigation by Rutger’s University.  Was this punishment appropriate?
  • How do you explain the apparently passive behavior of the players in tolerating such behavior by their coach?  One former player commented that while some players found the coaching style offensive, others “took it as a form of motivation.”  Were the players wrong in putting up with being pushed, shoved, sworn at, and hit?
  • Coach Rice used lots of gay slurs to criticize his players. If it is not acceptable to use derogatory terms to refer to other minorities, why is such homophobic language tolerated?
  • Why did it take an investigation by a news organization to force Rutgers University to take action against Coach Rice? Can the athletic director and others really claim they had no knowledge of these events?  The President of the University stated that he never watched the tape of these incidents last December when this case was being investigated!


Let me warn you about this video. It’s hard to watch this abusive coach and not show disgust at him and officials at Rutgers University for allowing this behavior.  Focus on the question of how and why the players tolerated this behavior. I guarantee a lively discussion around the dinner table.


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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.