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, because that can crush the kid’s self-esteem later, & can so easily turn them into someone who bullies a different kid to feel better.but what should you say to support kids instead?yrs, a past bullying victim, now older & trying to support kids thru the same thingrealsocialskills said:I think, before considerations about teaching kids who come to you for help self defense, it’s important to consider what you might be able to do to protect them. You are likely in a position to offer them material protection as well as self-defense advice. This is a situation in which actions speak louder than words.For instance:Can you offer bullied kids a refuge?
- If you’re a teacher in a school, can you start a lunch club or recess club where kids can eat and hang out in your classroom instead of going to the playground?
- If neighborhood kids are coming to you for help, can you make your house or yard a safe space for them to hang out in away from bullies?
If you’re an adult with some kind of power over kids (eg: a teacher, a youth group leader, etc), you might be able to make some things better by supervising things more:
- Can you pay close attention to what’s going on, and intervene when the wrong kid gets suspended?
- (You know from being bullied that the kid who gets caught often isn’t the kid who started it.
- If you pay enough attention, you might be in a position to protect the kid who is being unjustly punished.)
- Can you pay attention to when harassment and bullying rules are being broken, and enforce them? Rules can actually make a difference when they are enforced consistently.
- (For instance: if there’s a rule against touching people’s stuff without permission, can you pay attention to when kids take other people’s stuff and insist that they stop?)If the bullies are taking or destroying the kid’s possessions in a place that’s hard to supervise, can you offer them a safe place to keep it?
- Being able to store things in a place bullies can’t get to can make a huge difference
- For instance, a kid whose science project keeps getting destroyed by bullies can complete it if teachers give her a secure space to store it and work on it
- A kid whose dolls keep getting destroyed by his brothers will probably be much more ok if an adult gives him a safe place to keep his dolls.If the bullies are preventing the kids from eating:
- Can you provide a safe place for them to eat?
- If bullies keep taking food away from the kids who are coming to you for help, can you give them food?
- If kids need to break rules in order to eat safely, can you allow them to break the rules?Has the kid been physically injured or threatened in a way the police might take seriously?
- Sometimes the police might take things seriously even if the school does not
- Calling the police is not always a good idea, but sometimes it is
- If calling the police might be warranted, can you offer to sit with the kid while they call the police?
- Or to call for them?
- Or to go to the police station and make a report together?
- Going to the police is a lot less scary if someone is helping you; and children are more likely to be believed if adults are backing them up
- If they have to go to court, can you offer to go along for moral support? (It makes a difference. Testifying is often terrifying and horrible and it’s not something anyone should ever have to do without support)What else can you do?
- I don’t know you, so I don’t know what the kids coming to you need, or what you’re in a position to offer.
- But there are almost certainly things you can do that I haven’t thought of
- if you think it through, you can probably think of and do some things that materially help bullied kids.
- Actions speak louder than words. If you help protect them, you send the message that they are worth protecting.You can also be an adult who believes them:
- Being believed about bullying is incredibly powerful
- So is listening
- Kids who are bullied often have everyone in their life try to downplay how awful it is
- If you believe them about their experiences and listen, you send the message that it matters that others are treating them badly
- And that it’s not their fault.
- And that they’re ok and the bullies are mean.There is an emotional self-defense technique that works better than the destructive one we were taught as children. It was developed by Dave Hingsburger, and he describes it in The Are Word (a book anyone working with people who are bullied for any reason need to read.)I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about how it works, and I will probably do so again in the future.Have any of y’all helped out bullied kids? What have you done?
I am a music teacher who works with 8- to 11-year-old children.
This isn’t a total anti-bullying strategy, but I have found that it’s important, when you are talking to children about a particular instance of bullying, to talk to to the bully and the child who is being bullied separately from each other. Many of the adults at my school make a practice of talking to both children involved together and treating bullying like a disagreement that needs to be mediated. I think this harms the bullying victim in a couple different ways:
- The bullying victim is unlikely to be as open with you when the bully is there because they are afraid of them. There might be facts about what is happening that will never come out unless you give the child who is being bullied a safe and private place to share them.
- It sends the message (whether or not you intend this) that bullying is like a two-sided argument, rather than a directed form of deliberate harm. This emboldens the bully to think that what they are doing might have some legitimacy, and takes power out of the victim’s complaint.
Oh wow, yes. This is *really* important. Mediation is not a solution to bullying.
Ages 6-9, I was bullied relentlessly. The school was always like “just tell an adult! they’ll make it better! there are rules against all that!” but they would never enforce the rules, and mediation was always their version of a solution.
Mediation basically worked like this: I would go to a teacher for a “solution” as I was told to do, the adult’s solution for my safety was always to then (no matter how much I begged them not to) bring the group of bullies into the room with me, out-number me with them, and tell them all word-for-word what I told the adult. Then the mean kids would put on their super convincing “nooo it was just a big misunderstanding!!!” charade, and the adult would fall for it, and then (best case scenario) they’d be like “see? it was a misunderstanding!! now run and go play.” or (worst case) they would assume that, since my story differed and was “more negative” than the bullies’ versions of events, that I was a liar, and tell me off for “lying.”
Then my parents pulled me out of that tiny shitty school and put me into an equally tiny school with an even smaller budget, fewer adults, and roughly the same written rules on bullying… but the difference was that the adults actually knew what they were doing.
They would SUPERVISE the kids and ENFORCE the rules against bullying when it happened, rather than just waiting in an office until a bunch of kids came to them crying followed by making a half-assed attempt to make the situation go away.
That second school was the best middle school I have ever heard of. They took such an amazingly pro-active stance against the epidemic bullying rather than treating it like some marginal, pesky issue that they don’t feel like being distracted by.
Never ever ask a kid to explain what happens to them when the bullies are around. Because all you’ll do is make the bullies want revenge. They did this with me in early high school, in front of the entire class. It’s scary, and could even lead to some kids pretending they aren’t bullied just to not make things worse for themselves.
Make sure that if you’re a teacher or a parent or any authority figure, that kids KNOW they can talk to you about it. That you’ll listen and try to help them as best as you can - and then also come back to them with whatever you did or try to do. My parents didn’t tell me they tried to talk to my bullies’ parents, and I always wondered why they didn’t do anything until I heard it yeeaars later. Even if nothing changes, the victim needs to know you’re on their side. And they need to know you have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, because otherwise they might just not tell you.