Four and a half years I lived bullying. I cried every day after school when I made it to the respite of my room at home. I often ask myself what I would have done if my bedroom weren’t my solitude? What if I couldn’t get away? Even if bullying “goes away” the scars don’t. How can I be in my forties and still be feeling the aftershock of when I was 14?
In today’s challenge, Cathy Rubin has asked for several real ways I’ve seen bullying reduced.
1 – Learn to Defend Yourself
When bullied between fifth and ninth grades, no one came to my rescue. I came to my rescue. I remember the day it happened. I bounded into homeroom in ninth grade. “Miss Mean Girl” made a cutting remark about my outfit as she did every day. I looked at her and said,
“You know what – I don’t care. I honestly don’t care what you think anymore.”
And I didn’t. And that was it – I was free. I don’t know where the ability to no longer care appeared. Was it the self-confidence my parents instilled in me? Was it prayer? Was it maturity? When dealing with mean taunts – bullies often select people who care what they think. When you stop caring, they may stop bullying you. For me, it stopped when I stopped caring.
We let my son take Tae Kwon Do lessons. His bullying ended the day he stood up for himself. Again, this is controversial and doesn’t work for everyone but it helped him. They stopped hitting him when he hit back one time.
2 – Empower Bystanders
The research-based Olweus Method relies on empowering bystanders. Sadly, telling adults about the bullying often makes it worse.
Once a boy was physically hurting his classmates. He pretended to be joking, but he wouldn’t stop. He left bruises.
The girls talked to adults. The adults told them the behavior was unacceptable.
The girls took it to heart. It happened again. Three of the girls went to the principal and told him what happened. They stood up for their friend. The bullying stopped.
Another time, a student saw bullying on Facebook against a classmate. She took a screenshot. It was stopped.
Empowering bystanders is hard. Because the person being bullied isn’t the one telling, it can help.
3 – Set Expectations
I remember an anti-bullying rally held by a school counselor. It opened up conversations about how children should expect to be treated. Several issues came to light that had been going on that could then be handled. Often rallies, assemblies, or conversations about the treating each other with respect– helps. In this case, a rally started conversations that stopped several instances of bullying before they escalated.
Bullying is Never OK
But even as I share these three things I’ve seen work, scars remain. Even if bullying is “handled” doesn’t make it ok.
Bullying is one of those things that hurts everyone involved. The “victim” must forgive and move on. Those who bully, if not helped, often become criminals.
Every single person matters and deserves respect. That respect starts with having conversations about things that matter. Eradicating bullying matters. Creating a positive school culture free of fear matters. Just because something is hard to handle doesn’t mean we have an excuse to stop making progress.