Anonymous said to realsocialskills:this ask is about bullying and being an adult who kids ask for help:i know from experience that it’s important not to teach bullied kids that the way to defend themselves is to mentally place themselves as superior to the bullies,…
I’ve had success with expressing casual disapproval of kids engaging in bullying-prelude behavior (like if they’re gossiping about another behind their back, that sort of thing) and with swiftly and strictly scolding/otherwise punishing for bullying behavior (like laughing at/making fun of another kid, stealing another kid’s stuff, etc), and praising for respecting others’ boundaries (if the kid is new and has issues with recognizing boundaries - after a while it just becomes an expected-standard-of-behavior thing) and/or putting a stop to bullying behaviors (“Hey, I saw you stop [kid] from bugging [other kid]. That was nice of you. Good job.”)
The most important thing is to be consistent with it. Kids I volunteer with know they can joke with each other about stuff, but the moment it crosses into actually insulting each other or the moment a kid’s establishment of a boundary is not respected, I will scold or make them sit out until they’re willing to be respectful of others, depending on how much they’ve pushed it. Full stop. No exceptions. It’s to the point that the kids who’ve been there longer will now put a stop to bullying situations before I even have to step in (“No, leave [kid] alone, they said they don’t like that. Let’s do [other thing] instead!”). I tell kids that I don’t ask them to like or be friends with everyone, but I do demand that they treat each other with respect and consideration.
And especially, especially lead by example. If you don’t want kids you watch over/teach to bully, don’t be a bully. If you want kids to view you as a safe grownup to come to about these things, don’t be a bully. Don’t make fun of the kids you’re working with. Don’t ignore their boundaries. Ask if you can borrow stuff. Don’t embarrass them on purpose in public. Don’t use humiliation or public embarrassment as a punishment (there’s a big difference between “Stop that or you’ll have to sit out until you can be safe.” and “Hey, everyone, [kid] thinks it’s a good idea to do [bad thing]! [Kid] can do [punishment] now while we all watch and thank them for the delay they’ve caused us. Good job, [kid].” The first is discipline, the second is humiliation). Ask before you touch them if you need to touch them for something (e.g. “Do you want me to put the band-aid on or do you want to do it?”). Keep jokes friendly, and don’t be afraid to apologize if you hurt feelings by mistake. Act the standard you want the kids to rise to. Kids model the adults they’re around - if they see grownups treating everyone with respect and consideration, they will tend to follow suit. By contrast, if they see grownups tease and bully, they’ll think that behavior is okay.
As well, take any complaints of bullying seriously and make good on your promises. My default response is along the lines of, “I’m sorry that I didn’t notice that at the time. I’ll keep a close eye out for it later, and I’ll pair you with [different kid] instead next class, okay?” And then I follow through with that. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. When I was a bullied kid, the adults who refused to do anything were frustrating, but worse were the adults who promised to do something and then never followed through. Making good on your promises is really important for maintaining the trust of the bullied kid. I won’t punish a kid for something I didn’t see unless there’s compelling evidence (because I know from being on the wrong end of it that a system like that could be too easily exploited by the bullies), but I will follow through with any action I’ve promised - pairing kids with different partners, making sure the bully doesn’t get the victim alone during class time, and keeping a closer eye on the kid who complained so that I can take action right away if the bully tries anything the next class being the most common promises I make.
Finally, accept that no system is perfect. No matter how hard you work at keeping your enviornment considerate and respectful, bullying will happen, and you have to address it when it does. you can affect the severity and frequency of it, but it’ll still happen sometimes. Do not fall into the trap of thinking, “My class/school/club/etc doesn’t have a bullying problem! We’re respectful!” Doesn’t work that way. All denial does is make an environment where bullying can thrive as long as it stays out of your sight. I admit I’m more prone to that thought process than I’d like, and I know better - I was bullied terribly at a school that refused to do anything because “We don’t have a bullying problem here!”