The Power of Several

Bullying has become so serious in this country that even President Obama recently said that “it is not a rite of passage” in growing up. Every day 160,000 children do not attend school because of chronic teasing, name-calling, unkind remarks, pushing/hitting, etc. There have been five deaths in the past month due to suicides by kids being bullied. I suspect that this problem has come about due to so many societal changes including high divorce rate, mobility of society and less extended family nearby, media (reality shows!) influence and more mothers working outside of the home. The theme is less adult/child interaction, support and supervision than previous generations. In other words, kids are often rearing themselves and being influence by their own peers. There is no village rearing the child!

I was recently training teachers, counselors and students in a school district on this very problem. If we are working one-on-one with a youth who has someone picking on them verbally, I still suggest trying two weeks of ignoring when saying, “Stop it. You’re being mean.” hasn’t work. It’s no fun for the bully when they get absolutely no reaction and over time they often give up. We must help the victim to understand what true ignoring is though, and role-play it with them. The victim must learn to not react with words or even facial expressions. If that doesn’t work after the specified time, then adult intervention needs to occur.

Another way to attack this problem may be through the by-standers. There is power in several kids sticking up for the person being bullied. It requires three steps:
1. Kids make a pact with their friends that if they see someone being teased in mean ways that they will stand up for the victim. Of course, a discussion has to take place that they don’t try to break up a fistfight or put themselves in danger.
2. Kids are taught to look at the bully and say, “Stop it! You’re acting mean.”
3. Kids are encouraged to look at the victim and say, “Come on with us.” Then all walk on to class. They are told they do not have to become friends with the victim, just to offer help when needed

If we could encourage kids to stand up for one another—and be kind—we might just make a dent in this serious problem.
Sharon Scott is in private practice with offices in Frisco and Celina. She is the author of nine award-winning books including the teen best-seller How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed. and the children’s books Too Smart for Trouble and Nicholas’ Values: A Child’s Guide to Building Character. She has provided training workshops in schools in 42 U.S. states and 9 foreign countries.

By Sharon Scott, LPC-S, LMFT-S

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