I hate bullying.
I am the guy whose state changes in movies when the villain starts picking on the protagonist. My heart starts pounding, my palms get sweaty, my muscles get tense, and I can never see that actor quite the same afterwards.
I know....I know...
Profe, it's just a movie!
But those movie scenarios aren't too far from real life for some people.
I remember living in Mexico...
A violent gang had just arrived to my town and some of our friends down the street called me and my wife. They were terrified, threatened by the gang to give 500 pesos a week (which was the equivalent to half a weeks salary) or else their family would be killed.
I was so infuriated that I called the pastors who I worked for to see if I could do anything. As I fumed over the phone, they begged me to stay out of it.
I honestly just wanted to go Matrix ninja on those gang members. It still makes me mad just thinking about it.
I hate bullying.
So how do we teach kids to handle bullies?
It's a hard subject that does not have an easy answer. Every case is different and some cases require extreme action (such as switching schools). I am not making light of that.
However, bullying has a very broad interpretation. I feel that many cases can be handled before they get out of hand. After dealing with bullying myself and seeing countless kids go through the same thing, here is what I'm going to teach my students:
1. Tell an adult
Tell someone in authority. You aren't a tattle tale. Make sure it is someone who will listen to your emotions, give you space to handle it if you can, and that has the wisdom to intervene if necessary. Light bullying resolves itself better if you can deal with it yourself, but keep an adult posted at all times of the progress. If the bully ever gets physical, let the authority handle it from then on!
2. Give firm verbal boundaries.
You need to let the bullies know that what they are doing is not ok. Some kids are simply "picking on you" and don't know where the line is. Use powerful I statements like. "I want you to stop calling me that name. If you don't, I am going to have to do something." The bully has no say in your likes, dislikes, or your course of action. That is something you can control. Also, don't tell the bully what you are going to do at first. Leave it up to their imagination. If they push for more details on your course of action. Simply nod and say, "I'll do something" and walk away.
3. Don't get sucked in.
The bully wants you to play their game their way, which is why they are eliciting a certain reaction. Don't play their game. Make them play YOUR game.
My favorite game to play with bullies is the "I'm going to confuse the snot out of you" game. React in a way that makes no sense or leaves them wondering what just happened. You don't have to get even, just get them confused. The less words, the better.
Bully: You're such a nerd!
You: Hmmm...interesting (walk away).
4. Control what you can control.
Deep breathe to slow down your adrenaline. You don't have to give in to fear and anger and panic. It is important to recognize those emotions, but don't let them have the final say on your actions. Calm yourself down from flight, fight, or freeze and think rationally.
5. You don't have to live 24/7 with the bully, but they DO!
Know that the poor bully has to live with themselves all the time, and you only have to live with them some of the time. On a deeper note, bullies have crap going on which is why they are bullies. Their story is probably tragic, which is why they are taking their anger out on you. Go easy on them and know that they have their own problems, and you don't have to be dragged into their problems.
6. Find your allies
Bullies always have the same strategy: DIVIDE AND CONQUER. They usually go for loners or people who don't have very many friends. It is important for you to invest in buddy insurance. Friendships and social connections are your insurance! Think of something you do today to foster friendship and connection with others. Don't isolate yourself. Learn to be a friend and make friends. Bullies won't attack numbers.
What would you add to the list?