Children, after all, learn from what they see us do, rather than from what we say. Adults can intervene effectively to reduce bullying. The first step is to Identify Bullying. A lot of young people have a good idea of what bullying is because they see it every day! Bullying happens when someone hurts or scares another person on purpose and the person being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Usually, bullying happens over and over.
These are just a few of the ways adults and young people bully each other, even if they don't realize it at the time.
- Physical bullying: hitting, kicking, pushing, choking, punching, shoving and other acts that hurt people physically
- Verbal bullying: threatening, taunting, teasing, spreading bad rumors about people, hate speech.
- Exclusion from activities: Keeping certain people out of a "group". This does not mean that a child should not have the right to choose to play, or not to play, with another child; it means that children should not be allowed to systematically exclude others: "No one play with Mary;" "No one wants to play with him;" "Don't be her friend."
- Teasing: In way that is hurtful and mean to people.
- Ganging up: Getting certain people to "gang up" on others.
What Doesn't Work?
Interventions that are unlikely to work except as part of a comprehensive intervention. Asking the victim to solve the problem. Just as in our social reaction to other forms of abuse, we have all tried to get the victims of bullying to act differently to solve the problem. We have trained victims to:
- Be assertive
- Blend in
- Ignore bullying
- Pretend they're not bothered by bullying ("Sticks and stones…")
The problem with these approaches used in isolation, no matter how good our intentions in using them, is that they displace responsibility for stopping bullying from us to the victims. If these approaches do not work (and they rarely do), the victim is left with a sense of failure. These interventions can, be effective only if they are part of a comprehensive intervention.
What Works Better.
So you're being bullied, huh? That can feel pretty awful. But, no matter how bad it makes you feel sometimes, you should know you're not alone. That's right ... there are plenty of kids all over the world who go through the same things you do everyday. And, even though you may feel helpless sometimes, there are a lot of things you can do to help yourself out. So listen up and give these tips a try.
Always tell an adult. It's hard to talk about serious things with adults sometimes, but they can help put a stop to bullying. Tell your teacher, your parents, your school counselor - any adult you feel you can talk to. If you've told a grown-up before and they haven't done anything about it, try telling someone else - a teacher or school official who may have noticed the bullying. And if you're afraid to tell an adult that you have been bullied, get someone else to go with you. Having someone else there to support you can make it a lot less scary.
Stay in a group. Kids who bully like to pick on kids who are by themselves a lot - it's easier and they're more likely to get away with their bad behavior. If you spend more time with other kids, you won't be an easy "target" and you'll have others around to help you if you get in a bad situation!
Try to stand up to the person who is bullying you. If the person who is bullying you thinks you won't do anything about it, they are more likely to keep picking on you. This doesn't mean you should fight back. Instead, tell the person bullying you that you don't like it and that they should stop! The person bullying you should know that what they are doing is wrong. If you're afraid to talk to the person who is bullying you by yourself, then try getting someone else to go with you. Kids who bully are more likely to listen, and less likely to bully you, when you're not alone. If you're not comfortable doing this, that's OK. But be sure to tell an adult.
Make a joke. Sometimes it's hard to make a joke in a serious situation, but humor can help! Kids who bully tend to pick on people who are easily upset. If someone is picking on you and you make a joke out of it, you'll show them you aren't easily upset. And, who knows, the person bullying you might think it's pretty funny!
Remember, it is not your fault that you are being bullied. No one deserves to be
Bullying is not just a problem in poor schools, nor is it confined to particular ethnic groups; it is universal. You cannot simply assume that it doesn't happen in your child's school. Even if your child is not a bully or a victim, if she is a witness to bullying, she needs to learn that she is not helpless.