One of my favorite books about bullying is “Just Kidding,” by Trudy Ludwig. In the foreword, anti-bullying expert Stan Davis (founder of stopbullyingnow.com), points out the ineffectiveness of telling bullying victims things like, “Ignore it,” or “Don’t let it bother you.” Davis explains how such words may make the victims feel as though they are at fault for letting bullying bother them (and subsequently make them feel even worse). I’d like to explore this point further.
First of all, if a student tells me they are being bullied and I say, “Just ignore it,” and walk away, the student is likely to feel like I don’t have the time or desire to help them. If, however, after asking them for more details on their situation, I feel like ignoring the bullying may help, I could tell them, “Well, I think that sometimes people who bully others are looking for a reaction. By reacting to them we are rewarding and encouraging them to continue. One strategy that might work is ignoring the bullying. You may want to carry a book or some other prop with you that you can appear to be completely absorbed in to help make this strategy more effective. This may not work, but it is worth a shot. Let me know how it goes. With this approach, I've presented ignoring the bullying as a valid strategy, explained why it might work, and given them an idea on HOW exactly to ignore the bullying. I've also explained to them that this strategy doesn't work 100% of the time.
It seems to me that another problem with giving easy answers like, “Ignore it,” or “Don’t let it bother you,” is that such advice ignores the fact that the person giving said advice is not the one facing the bullying. Allow me to explain. If a student tells me they are being bullied, it is easy for me to say, “Don’t let it get to you,” because I’m not the one being bullied. If I were facing their situation, I would probably be upset as well. Should I really expect such advice to help the student at all?
For the purposes of this article, I would like to group all of our potential methods of helping others deal with bullying into two categories. The exact words will differ greatly, but I believe we can put all of our advice and tips into two groups. If someone tells me that they are being bullied I can either approach it as a.) That’s not my concern or b.) This is my concern, and I will try to help you.