After reading "Nineteen Minutes", I read Jay McGraw's "Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies". Like he said in the book, we need to stop thinking of bullying as a "rite of passage", something all kids have to go through. We need to let our children know that it's not okay, and that they shouldn't put up with it.
Does your child know what to do if he/she is bullied or sees someone else being bullied? There are some good tips in Jay's book. I agree with him wholeheartedly that the biggest deterrent to being bullied is looking/being confident. Walking tall, looking people in the eye, knowing you are a good person who doesn't deserve to be bullied - these are all important. I also agree that the way you respond to bullies is key.
I remember in junior high, a girl turned to me in class and loudly asked me, "Why do you wear such baggy jeans? Don't you know the style is to wear tight jeans?" Then, her and her friends laughed. I calmly responded, "I'm comfortable. Are you?" That ended it.
Another time, in elementary school, my mom forced me to get a very short, boyish haircut, (believing it would be easier to care for in the summer). I knew it was bad, and there was a good chance I would be teased, so I planned my comeback. When a boy started making fun of me, I remarked, "My hair will grow back, but you'll always be ugly". There were no more remarks about my hair.
I recently asked my 97 year old grandfather about bullying when he was a kid. His answer? "Well, I was never bullied. Kids knew better than to mess with me". (It might help to know that his family moved in the middle of one year, which caused him to be held back. He was always a year older and bigger than everyone else. Also, he played sports and was friendly to everyone). He told me that he let the younger kids know that if anyone picked on them, he'd handle it. He would tell the bully, "I heard you're giving x a hard time. If it keeps up, you'll have me to deal with".
Unfortunately, threatening bodily harm is probably not a good way to deal with bullies these days. Now, a fight could involve a knife or a gun, and there is too much potential for your child to get seriously injured. So, what CAN they do?
Tips to avoid being bullied in the first place:
- Speak confidently and clearly and make eye contact.
- Be a part of a larger group of kids. That can mean being in sports, but it doesn't have to. Just belonging to a group is what matters. Just being in a group is a deterrent to bullies. They usually pick on kids who are isolated.
What they can do if they are bullied:
- Try to stay calm.
- Say nothing, but look directly at the bully with an emotionless expression. A quiet stare might show them you aren't interested in escalating the situation, but neither are you impressed by his or her antics.
- Tell them directly to stop. Say in a clear, loud voice, "STOP IT! I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN YOU... THAT'S RUDE!" (When my husband heard this idea, he thought it was ridiculous. Maybe it won't stop a bully, but it might get an adult's attention who will put an end to the situation).
- Think about comebacks that won't escalate the situation. (For example... If someone says, "You've got a big head", say "Thanks for noticing").
- Ask directly "Why are you doing that?" That just might catch them off guard.
- Walk away. They can't really pick on you if you aren't around.
Sometimes the first thing they try won't work, so they'll have to try something else. They need to stay positive about being able to end the bullying. Bullies live for a reaction. Getting mad, showing fear, crying - that is what they want. It is hard sometimes not to do those things, so help your kids practice at home. Have them role-play with you, or talk into a mirror. Let them know that you will help in any way you can. The main thing is to do SOMETHING. Bullying can have short term, and long term effects, and it should not be allowed to continue.