Dave Hingsburger

Doing right by victims of bullying

Hello! I’m in my first year of teaching and I have a couple of students who are being bullied verbally everyday by a group of older boys. Of course, I’ve been working on putting an end to it, but instead of helping my bullied students, the boys have just added me and another new teacher to their list of targets. They are not my students so I can’t directly punish them and their own teacher wouldn’t do anything about it. And their parents are busy rich people who couldn’t be bothered. Any advice?

There’s a book you need to read. The Are Word by Dave Hingsbuger is an amazing practical guide to helping victims of bullying. It’s short, easy to read, and has practical techniques that actually help people. (He wrote it for those who work with people with intellectual disabilities, but what he says is broadly applicable to everyone.)

Some things I think it’s important to acknowledge about this kind of situation (and this is part of what Dave Hingsburger discusses in his book):

  • You might not be powerful enough to make the bullies stop
  • The victims are almost certainly not powerful enough to make the victims stop
  • There are a lot of things you can do for your students, whether or not you can stop the bullies
  • Your students need you, and it’s important to be there for them

Be careful about your ego:

  • You probably want to see yourself as someone who stops bullying
  • Most teachers decent enough to care about vulnerable kids feel that way
  • This can lead to some bad consequences when there are bad things going on that you can’t stop
  • Sometimes teachers who want to believe that they are solving bullying end up talking themselves out of acknowledging bullying when they can’t fix it
  • Or worse, sometimes they convince themselves that teaching victims social skills or other responses will fix bullying
  • That ends up hurting victims really badly, and making them feel like it’s their fault and/or that no adults care very much about what’s happening to them.
  • Don’t do that to their students
  • Acknowledge what’s happening to your students, even when it hurts to admit to yourself that something bad is happening that neither you nor they can fix

Even when you are not powerful enough to control the behavior of bullies, there are a lot of other things you can and should do to help your students. I’ve written before about things adults can often do to help victims of bullying.

tl;dr: Teachers can’t always stop bullying; they can always do things that are at least somewhat helpful to victims of bullying. One of the most important things you can do is to be honest with yourself and your students about the situation. _The Are Word_ by Dave Hingsburger is an incredibly helpful book for anyone who wants to support victims of bullying.

"Don't let people get to you"

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced this a lot:

  • I’ll talk about someone being mean or bigoted towards me.
  • And someone will say something like “Don’t let them get to you”, or
  • “Don’t ever let people get under your skin like that, they’re not worth it”

And in my experience, that always makes me feel worse. This is what I eventually figured out about it:

Things hurt.

It’s not your fault that it hurts when people are awful to you.

It’s not your fault you care what people think of you sometimes. (Everyone does.)

Having connections to others matters. And when people we’re connected to are mean, it hurts.

Self esteem talk can end up being yet another stick to beat you with, and that’s not right either. 

Being hurt by mean people doesn’t mean you’re failing. It’s not possible to be completely invulnerable at all times. When someone’s shooting arrows at you, it’s not your fault for failing to make armor fast enough to stop them.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

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 thing
realsocialskills 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?

Learning self respect

I’m twenty years old and I can’t help but think that everyone thinks I’m stupid. I stutter, I feel slow, I say dumb things, and I sometimes catch people giving me judging looks. No one’s ever said that to me except maybe once or twice when I was much younger, but I can’t help be bothered by it. I feel like there’s something wrong with me mentally, but people don’t want to address it. I hate it. I’d rather be messed up and not aware of it than this. How do I learn to love and be okay with myself?

realsocialskills said:

The most helpful thing I know about this, I learned from Dave Hingsburger’s book _The Are Word_. And, in the simplest form, it’s this:

You’re ok. They’re mean.

If you stutter and think slowly and have cognitive problems and have trouble communicating, there probably are a lot of people in your life who think you are stupid.

They may think that, but it isn’t true.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

People who think that you are stupid are being mean. People who give you judging looks are being really mean.

You’re ok. They’re mean. 

The way you talk doesn’t make them look down on you. The way you think doesn’t make them look down on you. Your voice is not the problem. Your brain is not the problem. They’re mean because they’re bigoted and mean.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

And, in the words of Laura Hershey: you get proud by practicing

I know it hurts. It hurts terribly. It’s not your fault, and you won’t always feel this awful. It takes time. It takes practice. It’s slow, and incremental. Try not to be hard on yourself for struggling with this. We all do. It’s hard. That’s not your fault, either.

You’re ok. They’re mean. And as you practice understanding this, and as you practice getting proud, it will be easier to feel ok and harder for them to hurt you.

Other blogs

Are there similar blogs to this or other positive blogs that you or readers can recommend?
realsocialskills said:
Here are some blogs that address some of the same topics I do:
Captain Awkward is an interpersonal advice blog that talks a lot about dating, friendship, professional relationships, family, and asserting boundaries. We don’t agree on everything (particularly, I am far more cautious about recommending therapy than she is), but it’s a really excellent blog.
Ask A Manager is a blog about employment and management. It covers topics like workplace boundaries, finding a job, giving feedback, responding to feedback, delegation, professionalism, and any number of other things. It’s very practically focused and I’ve found it very useful.
Unfuck Your Habitat is a blog about cleaning and keeping your space clean. It’s not useful for me because I can’t handle the tone, but it’s very helpful for a lot of people.
Rolling Around In My Head is Dave Hingsburger’s blog. It’s an excellent blog about disability issues and power. He’s both a person with a disability and someone who has many decades of professional experience working with people with developmental disabilities. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to think about disability, power, or living through hate.
Do any of y'all have blog recommendations? 

You’re ok. They’re mean.

Dave Hingsburger, “The Are Word: helping individuals with intellectual disabilities deal with bullying and teasing

And also he explains it in this blog post: I’m ok, I have it on good authority

(via realsocialskills)

He also taught it at a self-advocacy conference.  He had us role-play bullying over and over while yelling “I’m okay - you’re mean!”  It really works.  It is the first thing anyone ever taught me about bullying that ever, ever worked.  Because “ignore it” won’t work.  But this does.  It teaches you to rethink what’s happening, rather than just “ignore it” and expect it to go away.  I use this all the time.  It is the only cognitive tool about bullying that has ever made a difference to me.

(via youneedacat)

I would love to go to that training. Just reading it described in the book has helped me a lot. It’s *amazing* how much “I’m ok, you’re mean” helps. It’s gotten me through a lot of horrible things in the three or so months since I’ve learned it.

Most people teach us to be non-judgmental in the face of bullying, when in fact judging bullies is literally the *only* thing that ever helps make it bearable.