“It places responsibility directly upon the shoulders of the victim, where it should be. Whether or not he is upset is entirely up to him, not the bully.” Izzy Kalman

There has been a lot of talk and programs and money addressing the issue of bullying, especially in the schools. There have been some promising results in schools that commit to the process with a significant amount of time – a difficult resource to find in the school curriculum. To find out more about successful programs in schools, click here.

I’d like to encourage you to consider an option for parents dealing with a child who is being verbally bullied. This is a plan to help your child take an active role in changing the interaction with bullies. One powerful deterrent to bullying is engaging other kids to intervene. This may not be a response your child can create. Bringing adults into the situation does not often succeed. We do need to encourage our kids to be aware of their role as bystander. For more information on this, please visit the Bullying Prevention Institute or Tolerance websites.

The different approach I would like to share with you focuses on teaching your child new skills in how they react to bullying. It’s an empowering model – just the opposite of how bullying victims feel. When we encourage kids to go to adults we are saying we don’t think you can deal with this on your own. The problem for adults is assessing the risk of harm and the risk of additional harm when the adult gets involved. But harm is already being done. How can we help our kids protect themselves? Here’s an idea that might work for your kids. It’s a large website with lots of information. I’ve pulled just a note from his website with his perspective.  This model is intended to empower NOT to discourage them from telling adults what is happening to them.  Be sure to empathize with the feelings or your child.  Be sure to present this model as a way for your child to let the bully get what he or she wants – to see you upset.  If you interested in Izzy’s model, please visit his website.

A general note about bullies: The word “bully” has negative connotations. The general attitude of adults is that the bullies are bad and must be made to stop their bullying. I, though, am not judging the bullies. I refer to kids as being bullies only in the sense that they apparently have the upper hand in the bully/victim interactions. We are to consider them as being no better and no worse than victims. In fact, we are to consider them as necessary for the learning of social skills. Childhood is a time when children practice the skills they will need in their adult lives. If they don’t learn how to deal with aggression in their formative years, how in the world are they going to know how to do it when they are adults? It is more useful to see bullies as the social sparring partners of our children. Bullies give our children the opportunity to learn to deal with aggression, an essential life skill, and we are to be grateful to them rather than angry. Our job is not to protect the victims from the bullies, but to teach the victims how to defeat the bullies – by not getting upset.