bullying

Dealing with isolation at school

Anonymous said to :

What do I do if my friends are rude to me constantly but they’re my only friends and I literally cannot make friends with anyone else cause I have a v v v small school and they’re the only people around my age? It hurts a lot and I get overlooked a lot and when I try to say something I get ignored or told to shut up:

realsocialskills said:

A couple of things:

These other people at your school might not be your friends. People who dislike you and are mean to you aren’t actually friends. Friends are people who you like, and who like you back. Friends are people who respect you and who you respect. Friends are people who are, generally speaking, nice to you (no one is perfectly nice all the time; everyone is mean or obnoxious occasionally. But people who are intentionally cruel are not friends. They’re bullies).

If people don’t like you, don’t want you around, and are mean to you, that’s probably not something you can change. It’s not usually possible to persuade people to be your friends or be nice to you if they don’t already want to.

Something you can sometimes do is assert boundaries. Sometimes if people are nice to you sometimes but not other times, you can limit your interactions to contexts in which they are nice.

eg:

  • If students in your school are nice when adults are looking and mean when they’re not, it might be best to limit your interactions to closely supervised settings (eg: hang out with them in the lunch room and not outdoors during breaks) 
  • Some people are nice in mixed-gender grounds but mean in single-gender groups, or vice versa. If you notice that pattern, it might be worth paying attention to the gender composition of a group you’re trying to hang out with
  • Some people are nice one on one, but mean in groups. It can sometimes be worth making a point of hanging out with those people only individually.

That said: Being isolated at school is horrible, but I think that being socially intertwined with people who are mean to you is a lot worse (I’ve experienced both). I’m not you and I can’t tell you what you should do - you are the best judge of that. But, from my perspective, I think you would probably be better off seeking friends elsewhere. That’s probably possible even if you’re in a small school.

Friends don’t have to be people who go to your school. Friends don’t have to be your age. Friends don’t have to be people you see in person. There are other ways to have friends.

I’m assuming that you’re a teenager and that you don’t have very much control over your life right now. I don’t know which of these suggestions are realistic for you, but probably some of them are:

One option you almost certainly have is to make friends online. Internet friends are real friends, and can be much better friends than people you know in person who are mean to you. If you take those relationships seriously as friendships, it will probably substantially improve your social life. One good way to meet people online is by participating in a fandom. If you really like something, finding other people to talk to online about that thing can be a good way to make friends and have fun interacting with people. If you’re being actively bullied at school, or if your parents are hostile, it’s probably best to do this in forums that don’t require you to use your real name. (Eg: Tumblr is likely better for this than Facebook.)

Another option is to join a club or group that takes you out of your school, or to take a class outside of school. For instance, many people enjoy the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. (Unlike Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts is a secular organization and is not actively hostile to gay and trans kids.) It doesn’t work for everyone, but some people who are very socially isolated in school have a good time socially in the scouts or in other clubs.

If there is a community center in your area, you might be able to play a sport or take an art class. It doesn’t have to be a class specifically for people your age - it can be really, really good to meet people of a range of ages, especially if you have trouble connecting with people your own age. If you find a group of people doing a thing you like, you’re likely to have more friends than if you’re just relying on people who go to your school.

If you’re in high school, taking college classes at a local community college might also be an option. That might be both more interesting than what you’re doing at school, and a way to meet people who don’t go to your school and might be nicer than you. (It doesn’t always work that way, but it does for some people.)

Another option is to volunteer. Is there a cause in your area that you care about? It might be worth finding out if there’s anything that you can do to help them. Again, that could bring you into contact with other people who care about the same things you care about, and it might be something people with power over your life would approve of. Volunteering to visit elderly people might also be something you could do. There are a lot of isolated elderly people who don’t use computers who want social contact, and some of them are really awesome. Some groups that match people accept teenagers as volunteers. (Again, not for everyone, but this is a good thing for some people.)

If you’re religious or your family is, there might be things you can get involved in at your place of worship that you’d enjoy and that would expand your social options beyond kids your age at your school. If you have a youth group that is largely populated by the same kids who are mean to you at school, it might be better to get involved in something else. For instance, there might be a social action or charitable group that you could join. Or an all-ages study group. (Definitely not for everyone, especially not if religion is something you’re unpleasantly coerced into participating in. But can be good for some people.)

tl;dr Mean people aren’t good friends. It’s usually better to seek out the company of people who are nice to you than to try to make friends with mean people. Even if you are young and go to a tiny school, there are options for finding friends. Scroll up for some ideas.

Anyone else want to weigh in? How do you cope with being surrounded by mean people at school? How do you find friends?

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.

more on bullying

thequeergoblinking:

porcelain-horse-horselain:

realsocialskills:

fahrendengesellen:

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 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?

fahrendengesellen said:

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.

realsocialskills said:

Oh wow, yes. This is *really* important. Mediation is not a solution to bullying.  

porcelain-horse-horselain said:

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.

thequeergoblinking said:

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.

Honesty

When you’re teaching vulnerable kids social skills, it’s important to tell the truth.

They need skills for living in the world as it is, not as you would like it to be.

For instance: If you teach them to walk away from bullies, you have to tell them that sometimes bullies will follow them.

If you teach them to tell an adult, you have to teach them that sometimes the adult won’t care, or will take the bully’s side, or will tell them to stop tattling.

If you teach them to say “That hurts my feelings!”, you have to teach them that some bullies will laugh at them.

If you don’t teach kids that, when those things happen, they will think it is their fault. Or they will think that you don’t care. Either way, they’re not likely to be able to come to you for further support.

It’s much better to admit that your answers are imperfect. It’s much better to admit when you don’t know how to help. It’s much better if you can listen.

Sometimes the best thing you can say is “I’m sorry that people are being so mean to you. Do you want to talk about it?" 

NVC, cognitive ableism, and abuse

youneedacat:

ischemgeek:

00goddess:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

loriadorable:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is…

ischemgeek said:

This. Other issues is that NVC can be used by abusers to abuse… “nonviolently.” Especially if you’re standing up for yourself to them.

Like by using their I-statements to redirect from the issue to them. Like, if I’m saying, “Please don’t [x] because [y],” then the abusive NVC user responds with an I-statement about how hurt they feel about what I just said. Suddenly I’m the bad guy for telling them not to [touch me, interrupt me, roughhouse, etc].

Or using their I-statements to gaslight. I say, “Please don’t [x] because [y],” and they respond with an I-statement about how they feel attacked when I “yell” even though I wasn’t yelling. And then the conversation is suddenly about whether or not I was yelling at them, not about the thing I’m trying to get them to stop doing. And again, I’m the bad guy for establishing a boundary.

Or using their I-statements to engage in ableism and tone policing. “I don’t like being spoken to in such a harsh tone.” when I can’t word something any differently because I’m trying to hold off a meltdown. And then convo is redirected to whether or not I’m being “too harsh” and away from “I need to get out of this situation yesterday,” however I phrased it.

And ableism in that they don’t accept that sometimes it’s hard to impossible to phrase stuff in a NVC-acceptable way. On a bad word day, something like 70% of my conversational brainpower is focused on getting the mouth to make the word-sounds in the order, volume, cadence and smoothness that makes the gist of what I need to communicate understood. The remainder of my conversational brainpower is about evenly split between understanding what the other person is saying and trying to figure out how to phrase something so that I can get it out of my uncooperative mouth. NVC phrasing is almost always wordier, more oblique, and therefore harder to conceptualize and say than direct/blunt phrasing. On a bad words day I don’t have any brainpower left over to figure out how to phrase things tactfully/gently. If I stumble onto it because it’s in a preexisting script that I think I can say, great. If not, communication > etiquette. I will point and say “Shut it” about a fume hood sash at work, even if it’s blunt to the point of rudeness, if it’s what I can say at the time. Because the alternative is dangerous at my work. NVC does not as a philosophy allow for this being a situation that might happen.

It’s also harder to parse what the other person is actually wanting from me in the conversation when they choose to hint and talk around it with NVC (e.g., “I’m sensing anger” can mean “Did I upset you?” or “Are you angry?” or “Why are you angry?” or “Is something bothering you?” or “am I misreading your body language?” or “I don’t like your tone of voice.”). When I’m in a high-stress time, I’m unable to correctly parse body language and subtext. I will misread what the other person is hinting at, and then they get annoyed when I don’t follow their lead in the social dance. When I’m stressed, I’m either oblivious to or I’m hearing only part of the metaphorical music, and therefore I can’t follow the subtleties and intricacies of what they want me to do. NVC also does not as a philosophy allow for this being a situation that might happen - I need direct, explicit, and downright blunt-to-the-point-of-rude communication at times. NVC practitioners (for want of a better word) have a tendency to assume I’m being purposefully obtuse at such times, when in reality I’m just not understanding what they’re trying to get at.

Lastly: I’m a survivor of various forms of abuse. Learning how to judge my abusers for their abuse was a necessary part of the healing process. NVC takes the assumption that it “takes two” to have a blow-up about something. And in some cases, it does. But in other cases, NVC is a philosophy of victim-blaming.

It did not take two when I was being sexually harassed by a kid over twice my age on the school bus. It took him. Choosing someone to victimize. It did not take two when someone held me by the throat as they put a hole through the wall beside my head. It took that person, choosing to victimize me. It did not take two when I had kids slam my head in the locker and beat me while I lay on the ground stunned and counting stars out of the blue, for no reason other than that they thought it would be funny. It took my bullies choosing to victimize me. Judging their actions as wrong and harmful and just plain mean let me learn to stop blaming myself when it was done to me. And that, in turn, opened me to taking more radical action, which I eventually did upon graduating high school.

Judgement is a necessary skill when you’re in an abusive situation. Full stop. You need to judge others so that you can stop victim-blaming yourself and stop believing that if you’re just perfect enough - if you fit in enough, if your hair and clothes are good enough, if you’re well behaved enough, if your marks are good enough, if you practice physical coordination enough, if you never even sneeze wrong or breathe funny - you won’t be abused anymore. That won’t happen. You will never be perfect enough for them. I could walk on water, and they would call me a r***** for not knowing how to swim. And it’s not my fault. It’s theirs, for choosing to victimize.

Learning how to judge, and that judgement is okay in some situations, even necessary in some situations, allowed me to leave those abusive situations. Expressing my judgement of their actions allowed me to establish boundaries in a way that was unmistakable by bystanders. And it got others to acknowledge and more importantly learn from my experiences. A school-aged relative of mine did not have a bullying situation in school go unchecked because I expressed my judgement of how my parents handled my bullying situation in school. My parents were hurt by my words, I’m sure. But that relative was saved years of torment. I tried with I-statements, I really did. And they didn’t work. And I tried talking about the scientific studies on the harms of bullying. And that didn’t work. What worked was sitting down with the kid’s parents and telling them in so many words (I rehearsed it a lot so I’d be able to get it out right the first time), “Your child will hate you in ten years if you don’t do something about this now. Not in a month or two in case it gets better. It’s been going on for months. It won’t get better. It will just get worse if you don’t do something, and in a month it might be too little too late. Trust me on this. You need to do something now. I was in [kid]’s shoes when I was that age, and by the time I was a teenager, I hated my parents with a passion for not doing anything about it when I was a kid. Don’t ignore it and pretend it’ll go away. Do something. Even if it doesn’t work, [kid] will know you’re there and trying, and that means something. “

NVC is a good tool for certain situations. But it is not and should not be the only tool. If it doesn’t work, you need to have something else to turn to. To use a metaphor: If all you have is a hammer, you’ll wreck your damn plumbing when you try to tighten a nut. Likewise, if all you have is NVC, you’ll make the situation worse when forceful verbal action is required.

youneedacat said:

Oh gods the first fourth-grade teacher I ever had (I repeated the grade)… he always said “it takes two to tango” or “it takes two to tangle” or something.  I didn’t have the language skills to parse out what that meant, but it always consisted of this girl beating me up or otherwise bullying me and then him forcing us to “talk it over” while she cried sweet little crocodile tears about getting caught and the teacher would tell me “Look at her, she’s CRYING,” as if that meant any damn thing at all.

More on bullying

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 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?

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?

kyraneko:

realsocialskills:

angelrat:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

foxship:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach…

angelrat said:

It’s also not much help if you’re being bullied. It’s like the “stop it, I don’t like it” technique that children are advised to use … the obvious response from the bully is “good, objective attained, I’ll do that again now I know you don’t like it”. I have never seen the sense in “stop it, I don’t like it” as the entire point of the bullying behaviour is to do something the other person does not like.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, exactly. I’ve been trying to write some posts for ages about why it’s wrong to teach kids strategies like that. It’s - it’s not ok to make yourself feel better about the world by teaching vulnerable people things you wish were true. They need to know how things actually work so that they can protect themselves rather than walking into greater danger.

kyraneko said:

Thank you. Openly and honestly telling kids that bullies exist and the official authorities are rarely much good at stopping them (and sometimes are bullies themselves), and then teaching them how bullies function, and then letting the kids use their own understanding of their situations to decide what to do, would work so much better than all these adultsplaining how-to’s that pretend bullies are an occasional bother with no official support that are only bullying you because you haven’t really communicated to them that it’s hurtful to you …

You make kids stronger and more resiliant to bullying by telling them that they matter with actions as well as words. You teach them that they deserve better than to be bullied by interfering with the bullying of them that you witness, and believing them about the bullying you don’t witness, and giving them whatever tools they need to defend themselves when you’re not around to do it for them.

Authorities often refrain from interfering with bullying because “they’ve got to learn to defend themselves,” but no one tells an airplane that since it has wings, it doesn’t need a runway because “you’ve got to learn to fly on your own.” And it only gets worse when they engage in such distortion of reality to make dealing with bullies sound like such an easy thing. The victim goes out with the wrong information, fails, and then gets chided for hir lack of success at such an “easy” task, while the authority figure goes on blissfully believing the world is that simple and that the problem will be fixed once her wayward charge “gets it” and makes the bully stop by “standing up for hirself” in the approved nonviolent fashion, which will totally work once it gets around to happening. No hurry.

Fuck that. Get the kid an understanding of how bullies work and how the rest of the world works, sparing no illusion about teachers who make excuses to let bullies bully or punish their victims instead, and then let the kid decide what’s the best course of action to take.

angelrat:

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

foxship:

agent-hardass:

realsocialskills:

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach…

angelrat said:

It’s also not much help if you’re being bullied. It’s like the “stop it, I don’t like it” technique that children are advised to use … the obvious response from the bully is “good, objective attained, I’ll do that again now I know you don’t like it”. I have never seen the sense in “stop it, I don’t like it” as the entire point of the bullying behaviour is to do something the other person does not like.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, exactly. I’ve been trying to write some posts for ages about why it’s wrong to teach kids strategies like that. It’s - it’s not ok to make yourself feel better about the world by teaching vulnerable people things you wish were true. They need to know how things actually work so that they can protect themselves rather than walking into greater danger.

When people you love are mean

So, in a recent post in which I referenced “You’re ok, they’re mean” as a response to ableism, I got responses along the lines of:

“But what about when it’s my parents? Or people who are really nice in other ways? Or my friends? Or people I respect? How can I say they are mean?”

The short answer: people are complicated. 

It’s possible for someone to be mean sometimes, but not always. Actually, most people aren’t mean all the time. (Even if they are mean to *you* all the time).

Hateful aspects of someone’s personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are loving and respectful. They coexist.

And it cuts both ways - the loving or respectful aspects of their personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are mean. 

When they are being mean, it’s important to recognize that they are being mean, and that it’s wrong for them to be mean to you. Even though they aren’t mean all the time and you respect them in other ways.

Sometimes, when people who you love are mean, it’s possible to talk to them about it and show them that it hurts you. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re being mean, and sometimes they stop once they realize. But not always. Sometimes they don’t believe you, or don’t care. You have to use your judgement about which kind of situation you’re in.

And in any case, it starts by recognizing the mean behavior or attitudes as mean. If people think less of you because of your disability, or who you love, or anything else like that, they’re being mean. It’s a reflection on them, not you.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

When you don't hide

Some people are bullies. 

Many bullies target people who have apparent stigmatized characteristics.

If you choose to stop hiding a stigmatized part of who you are, some people will be actively mean to you who weren’t mean before.

For example:

  • If you are gay, coming out will make some homophobic bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you are autistic, stimming in public will make some ableist bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you wear clothing associated with a stigmatized religion, some bigoted bullies will be more interested in hurting you

This is not your fault, but some people will blame you. Some people will tell you that you brought it on yourself by being visible. You didn’t. Bullying happens because mean people choose to hurt others. 

You were already getting hurt by bullies, because hiding hurts too. The way bullies hurt you when you are more visible is a different kind of hurt. Both are equally real.

Some people in some situation find hiding more bearable. Some people in some situations find being visible more bearable. Both are valid. It’s a personal choice. And the consequences are never your fault.

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.

poisondartwolf:

These two conversations are not the same:

#1
Person A: I’m being bullied!
Person B: You you belong to [group] and/or have [trait]. This might make you a target for bullying, but this does not make it your fault.
(Person A might already know this.)
[Sometimes there can be further dialogue about bullies and how people react to them here.]

#2
Person A: I’m being bullied!
Person B: You should expect that because of [group affiliation and/or trait]. Grow a thicker skin.

A lot of people think they’re doing #1 when they’re actually doing #2. A lot of people already know the first conversation and don’t need it repeated.

#2 also shifts the pressure off the bully and shifts it onto the person being bullied, and makes their reaction the problem, not the existence of bullies. This tells someone that if they didn’t care about being hurt there would not be a problem. This isn’t true. Bullying is a behavior that is a problem, even if not every person targeted by it feels hurt. (There is a lot of variation in how people react, and in this case the focus is on a person who is expressing upset as a reaction. But know that there are more.)

Basically, stop treating these conversations as the same. They’re not, and the differences matter.

Words like “bully”, “tease” or “abuse” are labels. Then someone can say “No, it isn’t!” because it doesn’t match the images in their mind. I think it’s better to describe what happened in terms that can’t be disagreed with, and to describe your own feelings, which others aren’t really in a position to disagree with. For example: “He stood close to me. I felt intimidated. He mentioned my disability in a sing-song voice. I felt humiliated. He struck me, and I could still feel it 30 minutes later.”
realsocialskills answered:
I think it’s important to have a way of talking about these things that isn’t just a matter of subjective feelings.
Because feelings can be wrong, or at least misleading. A bigot can feel humiliated by seeing someone they as subhuman being treated as my equal. A racist can feel intimidated by the presence of a person of color. In that case, the problem is that someone is a bigot or a racist. If they change how they think, they’ll feel better.
In contrast, if someone is experiencing injustice, the solution is for the injustice to stop. And it’s ok to oppose injustice by saying “this is wrong”; you don’t have to soften it by making it about your feelings.
Humiliation feels the same whether or not anyone is wronging you - you have to think about what’s going on and get a lot right to be able to figure out what to do.
Understanding the actual situation matters.
Push come to shove, it matters what’s true, and that’s not always a matter of feelings.
If we want to stop bullying, we have to be able to use words that acknowledge that people actually are bullying others. We can’t just focus on the fact that people feel bullied.

p-3a:

realsocialskills:

p-3a:

phrases teachers/parents/caregivers/peers need to stop telling bullied kids:

“it’s alright, in ten years’ time you’ll be their boss and they’ll be flipping burgers at mcdonalds!”

because, no, okay, listen. the kid that’s being bullied is probably going to have lasting effects from the bullying which will directly impact their ability to get any job, let alone a management role. 6 years (5 of which were spent in therapy) later, I still have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my bullying which renders me totally unemployable and i can’t count the number of times well-meaning teachers told me it wouldn’t be this way. which, funnily enough, does the exact opposite of helping me feel better about myself.

not only that, but who says flipping burgers at mcdonalds is a bad thing. who says that’s a “punishment” that needs to befall bullies and people who were horrid at school, and not… just something that’s a suitable method of employment for people who don’t have very many formal qualifications? a way of earning money while you’re trying to get experience for a better job? a way of feeding your kids when no other employer would take you?

we need to stop making kids feel like working temp jobs at fast food restaurants is the worst fate that could befall them, because it’s a growing reality for many folk. including folk who were bullied at school.

at best, that phrase gives the kid you’re telling it to an entitlement complex which will see them behaving snobbishly towards their peers and having a breakdown later when they realise that the world doesn’t actually owe them a management job and that they might have to find employment flipping burgers to stay afloat.

at worst, it makes an already mentally ill young adult the sense that they can’t talk to you for support because they’ve let you down somehow by failing to be employable as a result of the bullying they went through and that you were supposed to be helping them with.

it doesn’t address the problem (“this kid is being bullied”), it doesn’t make the bullies stop. which, when a kid comes to you and admits they’re being bullied, is what should be your end goaltreat the disease, not the symptoms. talk to the bullies and find out why they’re behaving the way they are. use your teacher/caregiver training. address the problem that way, not by superficially patching up the self-esteem of the victim so you can feel like you helped when all you really did was make yourself feel better about not doing anything.

realsocialskills said:

This.

Also -

The most successful bullies are really, really good at manipulating power systems in ways that give them control over other people. That is a skill set that can make people *more* likely to end up being bosses, not less.

Especially if they have other socially valued skills. Especially if they are in socially valued groups. Especially if their parents have connections.

We need to stop pretending that bullies are all just physically strong kids who are jealous of other kids’ mental powers. That’s not actually how it works. There are bullies like that, but there are also a lot of bullies who are good at school and highly valued by teachers. Being good at school doesn’t make kids kinder, more considerate, or less likely to abuse power. It just makes it slightly more likely that adults will *care* if they are bullied and dramatically more likely that adults will look the other way if they bully others.

Treating people well doesn’t correlate with intellect or employability. It’s something that people need to actively care about and work on, and something that adults need to teach and expect as an end in itself.

p-3a said:

This is a really important addition, thank you

Everyone I’ve spoken to had a teacher that reminded them of Professor Umbridge. It takes a lot of academic skill to become a teacher. Bullies aren’t limited to people with brawn, and bullying techniques are far from limited to physical ones.

realsocialskills said:

Yes. Also, intellectually inclined people who are good at school can *also* be physically violent. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

p-3a:

phrases teachers/parents/caregivers/peers need to stop telling bullied kids:

“it’s alright, in ten years’ time you’ll be their boss and they’ll be flipping burgers at mcdonalds!”

because, no, okay, listen. the kid that’s being bullied is probably going to have lasting effects from the bullying which will directly impact their ability to get any job, let alone a management role. 6 years (5 of which were spent in therapy) later, I still have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my bullying which renders me totally unemployable and i can’t count the number of times well-meaning teachers told me it wouldn’t be this way. which, funnily enough, does the exact opposite of helping me feel better about myself.

not only that, but who says flipping burgers at mcdonalds is a bad thing. who says that’s a “punishment” that needs to befall bullies and people who were horrid at school, and not… just something that’s a suitable method of employment for people who don’t have very many formal qualifications? a way of earning money while you’re trying to get experience for a better job? a way of feeding your kids when no other employer would take you?

we need to stop making kids feel like working temp jobs at fast food restaurants is the worst fate that could befall them, because it’s a growing reality for many folk. including folk who were bullied at school.

at best, that phrase gives the kid you’re telling it to an entitlement complex which will see them behaving snobbishly towards their peers and having a breakdown later when they realise that the world doesn’t actually owe them a management job and that they might have to find employment flipping burgers to stay afloat.

at worst, it makes an already mentally ill young adult the sense that they can’t talk to you for support because they’ve let you down somehow by failing to be employable as a result of the bullying they went through and that you were supposed to be helping them with.

it doesn’t address the problem (“this kid is being bullied”), it doesn’t make the bullies stop. which, when a kid comes to you and admits they’re being bullied, is what should be your end goaltreat the disease, not the symptoms. talk to the bullies and find out why they’re behaving the way they are. use your teacher/caregiver training. address the problem that way, not by superficially patching up the self-esteem of the victim so you can feel like you helped when all you really did was make yourself feel better about not doing anything.

realsocialskills said:

This.

Also -

The most successful bullies are really, really good at manipulating power systems in ways that give them control over other people. That is a skill set that can make people *more* likely to end up being bosses, not less.

Especially if they have other socially valued skills. Especially if they are in socially valued groups. Especially if their parents have connections.

We need to stop pretending that bullies are all just physically strong kids who are jealous of other kids’ mental powers. That’s not actually how it works. There are bullies like that, but there are also a lot of bullies who are good at school and highly valued by teachers. Being good at school doesn’t make kids kinder, more considerate, or less likely to abuse power. It just makes it slightly more likely that adults will *care* if they are bullied and dramatically more likely that adults will look the other way if they bully others.

Treating people well doesn’t correlate with intellect or employability. It’s something that people need to actively care about and work on, and something that adults need to teach and expect as an end in itself.