Bullies: Helping Children Cope
What Is A Bully?
Bullying is a self-esteem issue at its core. These kids feel so low and bad about themselves that the only way they know how to feel better is by making someone else feel worse. (There are adults with similar issues, but here, we're just discussing the schoolyard variety.)
Teach your child that verbal "bullying" is not real bullying. The term has come into general use to describe any kind of harassment, whether verbal or physical. However, verbals assaults are more properly called 'taunts.'
Verbal threats of physical harm, while they may be alarming, are nothing as long as they are not acted upon. As long as the bully is only saying things like "I'm gonna beat you up," it is still only verbal harassment.
True bullying involves real physical action--pushing, shoving, throwing objects at another child, spitting on someone--things of that nature. In many cases, you will notice that these kinds of things involve a group of kids ganging up on a single individual. That right there tells you the true nature of the bully. Without their 'gang,' they are spineless cowards. It is the rare bully that acts alone.
How Do You Deal With Bullies?
Simple. Teach your kids that bullies are to be pitied, because they have low self-esteem. Do everything in your power to offer positive reinforcement to your own kids, to pump up their self-esteem.
If your children are being subjected to verbal taunting, teach them to ignore; ignore; ignore every word. Don't let them internalize the barrage. They are just words. Even if they become threats, they are not to be acknowledged. Play deaf. Do not dignify the taunts with a response. Teach the child that their own self worth is far higher than to allow them to stoop to the bully's level by offering a reply.
If the bullying becomes physical, of course report it to the school authorities.
Don't Look Like A Target
Teach your children to stand tall and proud, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bullies look for those who "look like" victims. People who walk timidly, hunched over, looking down at their feet, are basically screaming out, "pick on me!"
An ounce of prevention goes a long way. Prevent bullying attacks in the first place by enrolling your child in self-defense classes, and it won't be an issue. This alone will help your kid walk tall and with confidence that they are not to be "messed with."
Should an especially stupid bully then actually choose your child as a target, they will quickly find out that they picked the wrong target, and they'll have learned an important lesson.
Karma will kick in at some point for these troublemakers, for no matter how big and bad they THINK they are, they will learn soon enough that there is always someone "bigger and badder."
Examples From Memory Lane
I recall a couple of incidents from my own childhood, and this was before self-defense classes were much touted. I simply reacted on instinct. I was a shy kid, terrified of my own shadow, and more terrified of getting into trouble at school. However, I do have enough pride of being to stand up for myself if I am being physically picked upon.
It was in the 6th grade, and this pesky kid behind me in class kept reaching over his desk, and trying to pull down the zipper on the back of my skirt with his pencil. It was in the middle of a lesson, and I did my best to ignore it. However, when he scooted his desk forward to get a better angle and tried it again, nearly succeeding, I acted without thought, and upon instinct: I turned in my chair and slapped him across the face.
I was immeditately cognizant of what I had done, and I was scared I would be sent to the principal's office when the kid started crying and tattled. Imagine my surprise and relief (and a certain amount of internal gloating), when the teacher told him, "I've been watching you, and you had it coming!"
On another occasion, a group of girls from the "in" crowd, of which I was not a member, challenged me at lunchtime to a fight after school. I was so scared I barely got through the rest of the day's lessons. I left the schoolyard as quickly as I could, and by a different exit than I normally used, and I ran all the way home, avoiding the confrontation.
The next day, as I walked into the classroom, they all were chanting at me, "Tore you up, girl, tore you up," which was 1950s slang for chickening out and being a wuss; losing face, as it were. I walked right by it all, head high, pretending I was deaf. And you know what? I never had another bit of trouble from any of those girls all the rest of my school years.
What About Verbal Bullying?
Taunts, teasing, being excluded from a group, being shunned, are also under the general umbrella of bullying behavior. However, the perpetrators only have this kind of power over those who allow them that power.
What?! How and why would anyone allow themselves to be treated in this way? Quite simply, by reacting to it. As mentioned above, ignore it, don't feed into it, pretend you don't hear it, and it will cease to affect you. The tormentors will stop, and search for a target who is easier to provoke.
As for being shunned from a "select group" or circle, by "excluding" a particular child, the snobs are actually doing the kid a favor. No one needs to have those kinds of people in their close circles. A parent would be well-advised to teach their child that a group behaving in that way is not one to which you wish to belong, anyhow.
These are the types of people who will boot you out as fast as they accepted you in the day you show up wearing the "wrong" shoes, or minus the latest hot gadget. They will turn from friend to backstabber in a heartbeat.
Those people are not to be coveted as friends, for they will not be your friend when the chips are down. They will not stand by you, but will scurry away like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship. They have not an ounce of scruples or leadership qualities among them.
Learning to stand on their own, with pride in their achievements and interests, learning leadership skills--be a leader, not a follower--those are the bully-proofing lessons kids need to learn.
Here, I have to draw a hard line in the sand, and borrow some current vernacular, saying, "Really?" "Seriously?" You don't want to get me started on that!
If someone is giving your kid a hard time over the internet, it is as simple as "unfriending" or deleting that person from your social media lists. Again, this is in the same category as verbal taunting, and it can only "get to you" if you allow it.
It is not a matter over which to become all "freaked out." It is at a distance, and in truth, can do you no harm. If the pest is, however, a known local, with whom the kid has contact at school or at extra-curricular activities, then again, it becomes a matter of reporting to the appropriate authorities.
But someone they "met" online who lives in another state? Please! Let's have a reality check, here.
The Final Analysis
So, the solution to bullying of any type is, do not feed into it. Do not acknowledge them; do not give them fodder to work with. Their whole aim is to get a rise out of you, and if they fail, they will stop, and look for a more responsive target.
And if it does come to physically defending yourself at school, don't get into a knock-down drag-out brawl. Just one or two hits to knock the offender off balance, and walk away. Self defense is about giving yourself time to get away, not about beating the other guy senseless.
I think all kids should learn self-defense, for then the bullying would stop: all the would-be bullies would know that anyone they chose to pick on was capable of repelling any attack.
© 2012 Liz Elias
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