In my ongoing research focusing on Bullying Prevention Strategies for students, parents, teachers and administrators I came across this recent article with the headline: “School District Offers Bullying Prevention Tips”
While certainly offered with good intentions the article is flawed in a few ways.
After offering a few cursory suggestions on how to tell if your child is being bullied, the article focuses, as most of these articles do, on the bully. How to tell if your child is a bully and what to do to help him or her to stop being a bully.
The sad reality is that kids who are bullies either learned it from their parents or are acting out on other kids because they are being bullied at home by their parents or by an older sibling. In this case the parent is not always going to be the best person to help the child stop the bullying behavior.
There is so much focus on preaching and screeching at kids: “don’t be a bully!” But so little is addressing the double issue of
A. Why is Billy a bully in the first place? What can we do to address what’s really going on under the surface with these kids who are acting out agressively?
B. How can we “bully proof” the gentle, sesnitive “easy target” kids so that they can deal with mean, insensitive, pushy people in a way that empowers them?
Two short answers:
1. Billy is a bully because he is hurting and is trying to make him or herself feel better by pushing around someone smaller, weaker, than themselves. Their behavior is unacceptable BUT it is an indication that something is not well with this child. Instead of punishing and preaching at them, we need to find out whats really going on and help them to address it.
2. The kid who is being bullied needs to be coached on how to stand up for him or herself in appropriate ways so that the Bully can’t get satisfaction from attacking them. These tend to be kids who like myself, as a child, are different, creative, sensitive, highly imaginative. These kids also need to be taught how to shrink the bully down in their minds so that they aren’t unconsciously suffering even when the bully is not around. They need to be taught techniques to relieve anxiety. They also need to really “get” that they can go to teachers, principals, parents etc. for help. Telling does not make them a “Tattle tale”.
We will never eliminate mean people from the world. We will never eliminate negative outside forces that we have no immediate control over. We can learn how to not take negative people or negative events personally. We can learn how to change our own minds and respond resourcefully.
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