Please note: When I wrote this article about a week ago, I used the word bully to refer to someone who tries to make others feel bad. I have recently tried to stop labeling such people as “bullies,” for a few reasons:
1.) The person can turn around and start treating others better
2.) No one is perfect
3.) (to go along with point 1) I don’t believe a person is branded a bully for life
4.) I feel that calling someone a bully ignores that they are, in fact, a human being, and often in need of a friend.
For clarity I have left the article as I originally wrote it, but please understand that the term “bully” is used loosely here. Happy reading!
Let me start by saying that I used to think that a lot of the recent attention given to bullying was unwarranted. It seems like bullying is all we hear about nowadays, and it has always existed. Nearly all of us have experienced it, and it seemed to me like it should just be accepted as part of life. One day, however, I came across a heartbreaking article on the internet. The article told the story of a 12-year old who was tormented so badly by bullies at school, that in the end he took his own life. What is even more saddening was that at the end of said article were several links to similar stories of bullying with catastrophic results.
I realize now the gravity of these situations. After spending a lot of time thinking and reading about bullying, and talking with students who have been bullied, I’ve asked myself 2 questions:
1.) What is the best way for people to deal with bullying?
2.) How can we best help them to handle bullying if it happens to them?
Perhaps we should also start by listing some goals for dealing with bullying. Unfortunately, I do not believe that we can do a whole lot to prevent our students from being bullied, as we cannot be with them at all times. We can, however, help them to deal with bullying, and to prevent it from damaging their self-esteem. We do not want our students to fight bullying by becoming bullies themselves.
I have thought about this a great deal, and there are few main strategies/points that I feel really help people deal with bullying. This week I want to share one of my favorites: Role-playing.
I believe role-playing is extremely valuable, especially when dealing with the not-so-subtle forms of bullying such as name calling or teasing. The coach (usually a teacher or parent) can play the role of bully, saying things that a bully might say to the child, and together they work on developing an appropriate response.
One thing that we do not do is have the children play the part of the bullies. I have thought about this a great deal, and while I am not sure that it would be harmful to have them play the bullies, I suspect that it could be, for a variety of reasons.
While there are many possible answers, I generally like to respond with some sort of Dangerfield-esque joke, where I am essentially agreeing with the bully but trying to make a joke out of it. For example, if the bully says, “You’re an idiot!” I might respond with, “What are you kidding? I know I’m an idiot, the other day my teacher told me reading was like feeding your mind…so this morning I tried to eat The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” OK so that wasn’t that good, but that is the point. We role-play these situations, discuss what happened, and work towards a response that we are happy with.
Another strategy, which may be appropriate in certain situations, might be to disarm the bully with kindness. For example, if the bully says, “He you, that backpack is hideous!” We might respond with, “Really? I like your backpack, it’s neat.”
The goal with these strategies (making a joke/complimenting the bully) is to respond in a way that does not exacerbate the situation, and allows both parties to walk away with their dignity intact.
Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring more strategies for dealing with bullying, since, as we always say, no one strategy works all the time. OSSSS!