There’s been a lot of focus on encouraging kids (and adults) to “hang in there” because it gets better, and the recent encouragement to keep on keeping on is important, as are the calls to end bullying and slurs. But what is a person to do when faced with a bully, right here, right now?
What works, and what doesn’t work to stop bullying in its tracks?
Here are some tips from an opinion piece by Patricia Kelley Criswell, a licensed master social worker, which recently ran in The Christian Science Monitor:
Don’t ‘just ignore them’
Bullying is about power, specifically the imbalance of power. If someone can silence you, that’s pretty powerful.
Don’t mind your own business.
This condones bullying. It assumes the bully has so much power that it’s useless to try to intervene. In fact, the opposite is true.
When bystanders speak up, half of the time the bully backs down. Even when the behavior doesn’t stop, its effect is deflated. As the number of bystanders who speak up increases, the amount of bullying will decrease.
Telling isn’t tattling
We need to repeatedly teach our children the difference between telling and tattling.
Tattling is meant to make someone else look bad; there’s not a victim involved. Telling, or reporting, is done in the service of others; it’s meant to help someone.
‘Just be nice’ doesn’t work
Being kind is important, but what’s crucial is setting boundaries. Doing so, without being mean, helps make a child “bullyproof.”
For example, when a child is the target of a cruel remark, a brief response such as “Why would you say that?” takes the focus off the insult and places it back in the aggressor’s lap, without bullying back. Saying something as simple as “Really?” or “Seriously?” can have the same effect. A bored-sounding “whatever,” a confused “what?,” or humor is often enough to derail an aggressive interaction.
A few more suggestions on how to deal with bullying:
* Tell your parents or other trusted adults. They can help stop the bullying. Keep telling until someone listens and acts.
* If you are bullied at school, tell your teacher, school counselor, or principal. Telling is not tattling. It is their job to protect ALL students, including you. You deserve a safe place to spend your day.
* Don’t fight back. Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
* Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
* Calmly tell the student to stop…or say nothing and then walk away.
* Use humor, if this is easy for you to do. (For example, if a student makes fun of your clothing, laugh and say, “Yeah, I think this shirt is kind of funny-looking, too.”)
* Try to avoid situations in which bullying is likely to happen. You might want to
o Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around.
o Make sure you aren’t alone in the bathroom or locker room.
o Sit near the front of the bus.
o Don’t bring expensive things or lots of money to school.
o Sit with a group of friends at lunch.
o Take a different route through hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes.
Sometimes, bullies need help too. Are you a bully? Here’s a hint: If you are hurting or threatening others in some way and using your size, strength or popularity to do it … you’re probably bullying someone! Making other people feel bad should never make you feel good. If it does, or if you’re not really sure why you bully others, you need to talk to someone about it.
If see a bully in action, speak up for the victim. If you are being bullied, speak up for yourself. If you are doing the bullying, stop for a minute and think about how you would feel if someone was treating you - or your younger sister or brother - the way you are treating those you bully.
Today is as good a day as any to make a change for the better. What’s worked for you?
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