Advice for Students
1. If you’re a victim of bullying, remember, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s everything that’s right about you that makes you stand out from the crowd. Don’t change for anyone. It is those who put you down and exclude you who need to change.
2. Never ignore the bully and walk away. You must look the bully in the eye without any emotion or fear, command him to stop, and then stare him down just long enough to let him know you mean business. Next, begin walking away, and then turn briefly back toward him and say “See you later.” The first few times you employ this method the bully will probably get meaner because you’re taking
away his power. After a while, the bully will likely begin to see you in a new light. But even if it doesn’t work, at least you know that you defended your dignity and your pride. Remember, standing up for yourself nonviolently in the moment abuse occurs is your human right. Seeking
vengeance later on is the mistake.
3. Don’t suffer in silence. Confide in an adult you trust that you’re being bullied and need help.
4. School doesn’t have to be your whole world even though it may sometimes feel that way. Seek an alternative social outlet through the local park district, community center, or public library. Call or visit these organizations online and research what youth activities they have available. It’s important, however, that you reach out to organizations that are one town away from where you attend
school, because the purpose is for you to make friends with kids outside of your school network who will have no preconceptions about you.
5. If you see someone being bullied and don’t want to be a bystander, you have two options. Intercede on the victim’s behalf and tell the bullies to stop or devise a clever excuse to pull the victim away from the situation. For example, you might say something like “Susie, my locker is stuck,
could you help me?” or “Jaime, there’s a phone call for you in the main office.”
6. If you think you may be a bully or an Elite Tormentor, recognize that it’s not just joking around. You may be damaging someone for life. Think about that the next time you abuse or shun another classmate, or worse, treat her as if she’s invisible.
7. Always remember that bullying isn’t just the mean things you do, it’s all the nice things you never do on purpose. Letting someone walk to class alone or sit by themselves at lunch, excluding the same person repeatedly from parties and other social activities, choosing the same student last whenever you divide into teams in class or gym, are the worst forms of bullying. It makes the victim say to himself, “There must be something wrong with me,” and he may believe it the rest of his life.
8. If you see a classmate is struggling to fit in or being maligned, tell a teacher or counselor. It could change this person’s life and it could save yours because what happened in Columbine could happen at your school, too.
9. Don’t be afraid of professional help. If your parents want you to see a psychologist or counselor, ask if they would attend the first few sessions with you-explain that it will make you more comfortable because you’ll feel like you’re dealing with the circumstance as a family and not “you as the problem.” One tip-be honest with everyone, including yourself, and you will find the experience very worthwhile.
10. Pay attention to other classmates who may be experiencing some of the same loneliness and rejection you are and reach out to them in friendship. You could end up forging bonds that will last a lifetime.
Advice for Educators
1. Never say to a bullied child: “Ignore the bully and walk away; they’re just jealous; twenty years from now those bullies will probably be in jail and you’ll be successful; I know how you feel; or be patient.”
2. This is what you should say to your bullied student and do: Step one: Say, “I don’t know how you feel. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It must be awful.” Step two: Say, “Let’s talk about an action that we can take together today to help solve this problem of bullying that you’re facing.” Step three: Contact the local park district, public library, and community center one town over and ask them to send you a list of their youth programs, then review this information with your student and help him choose something he can participate in. Step four: Contact the parents and explain from a constructive point of view so as not to put them on the defensive that their child has been encountering some challenges but that both you and their child have come up with some exciting solutions that you’re eager to share with them.
3. Before you let any student confide in you, close your eyes and visualize that you’re switching hats from that of teacher to friend, and promise yourself that no matter what you hear you’ll approach it from the perspective of an ally, and not the stance of an authority figure.
4. Don’t chastise an Elite Tormentor in front of the entire class. Devise an excuse to pull the victim out of the line of fire and then approach his assailants individually at a later date.
5. Traditional punishment doesn’t work. It only makes an angry kid angrier and is best employed as a last alternative. First, try compassionate forms of discipline that help the student access the empathy inside him. For example, in lieu of a detention for bad behavior, require a student to do one nice thing for a different person every day for two weeks and to record in a notebook each
evening how the recipient responded and how the
response made him feel. Make sure he has each recipient sign and date his entry and include a phone number so you can verify your student’s compliance in this exercise. If the student is remiss, then use traditional punishment as a consequence.
6. Remember, the bully and the victim are flip sides of the same coin. Both are bleeding emotionally, both need love and support. When approaching the bully, begin the conversation on an encouraging note with something like, “Johnny, I enjoy being your teacher and I know you’re a really good kid, that’s why it surprised me when you. . . .” Then, launch into the issue you need to discuss, trying to
be as general as possible and only using the victim’s name if there’s no other alternative. This will help to prevent retaliation later on.
7. If you’re a teacher trying to help a student and administration is giving you the runaround, plead your case to the school board, and if that doesn’t work, contact the education reporter at your local daily paper. Conversely, if you’re a principal struggling with a tenured teacher who’s a bully, keep going up the chain of command until someone pays attention, even if that means turning to the
8. Try to creatively incorporate anti-bullying messages into your required subject matter. For example, if you’re teaching students about the food chain in science class, add a quiz question that asks them to compare the social environment at school to the food chain. You can also have
students study great leaders in whatever subject you teach who were maligned and shunned for being different or ahead of their time. Their life stories will inspire students who are being bullied, and help to ignite spirited discussion.
9. Develop a code of conduct for your classroom and reward those students who uphold it.
10. Never forget why you became a teacher, and don’t let government policies, administrative bureaucracies, or anything else get in the way of your love for your students or your commitment to protect and empower them. And if you’re an Adult Survivor of Peer Abuse yourself, don’t minimize what happened, find a therapist and talk about it so it doesn’t hinder you as an educator.
Advice for Parents
1. Never say to a bullied child: “Ignore the bully and walk away; they’re just jealous; twenty years from now, those bullies will probably be in jail and you’ll be successful; I know how you feel; or be patient.”
2. This is what you should say to your bullied child and do: Step one: Say, “I don’t know how you feel. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It must be awful.” Step two: Say, “Let’s talk about an action that we can take together today to help solve this problem that you’re facing.” Step three: Contact the local park district, public library, and community center one town over and ask them to send you a list of their youth programs, then review this information with your child and help him choose something he can participate in. It’s important you go one town over so your child meets new faces and isn’t interacting with the same kids from school. Step four: Contact your child’s school counselor and calmly explain what’s been going on with your child. You might want to start out with
something like, “My child’s been encountering some challenges with his classmates and I’d like to sit down and discuss possible solutions with you.”
3. Don’t advise your child to ignore the bully. Tell him to confront the bully nonviolently and tell him to stop. If your child is too timid to do this, rehearse the confrontation with him the same as if it were a scene in a play, writing a script and memorizing the lines. You could play the bully,your child plays himself, and someone else in the family acts as director. Not only will this give your child a sense
of control because he’s practiced what he’s going to say and do, but the mild disassociation of approaching it like an actor portraying a part makes him feel less vulnerable.
4. If you feel the school isn’t being helpful enough, work your way up the chain of command. If the principal and the superintendent are unresponsive, present your case at a school board meeting, and if that doesn’t work, contact the education writer at your local paper. The same applies if you’re dealing with a teacher who’s a bully and are getting stonewalled by the school administration. You’d be surprised how quickly people come to attention when they start getting phone calls from journalists.
5. When approaching the parents of bullies and Elite Tormentors, rather than initiating the conversation on an accusatory note likely to make them defensive, start out by emphasizing what you have in common as opposed to what separates you. You might try something along the
lines of: “Our kids are struggling with each other, why don’t we get together and discuss how we can work together to help them both.”
6. If you think it would be helpful for your child to see a therapist, make sure that you attend the first few sessions with your child, so she feels you’re addressing this problem together as opposed to “I am the problem.” Also, thoroughly research the mental-health professional’s background, and request references. Should a psych med be prescribed, ask lots of questions and be confident of
the doctor’s diagnosis before giving your child anything.
7. Be alert to the warning signs that your child may be getting bullied. Those signs could include: lethargy, depression, self-mutilation, extreme makeover attempts, diminished personal hygiene, lack of interest in social activities, sudden change in weight, inexplicable fits of rage,sudden increase or decrease in grades, and faking illness or willing oneself sick to avoid going to school.
8. If you suspect your child may be an Elite Tormentor but aren’t sure, casually have a conversation with her about who’s popular at school and who’s not, coaxing her into revealing the names of those students who struggle to fit in or who strike her as lonely. A week later, ask your child
if she’d like to host a party suggesting it might be nice if, along with her friends, she invited a couple of the forgotten ones, too. If she agrees despite what her friends may think, she’s probably an Elite Leader. If she won’t because she’s fearful her friends would freak but feels bad about it, she’s most likely a bystander. But if she recoils at the thought or acts indignant, perhaps even laughs, chances
are she is an Elite Tormentor. When your child is on the phone, pay attention to her tone and demeanor. Does it sound like she’s making a joke at someone else’s expense or gossiping about
another student? This too could indicate you have an Elite Tormentor on your hands. Also, keep an eye on your child when she’s on the Internet. When she instant messages friends, is she bad mouthing others? What blogs does she frequent and what are some of the things she and her friends are posting? Does she participate in nasty e-mail-a-thons with other students? The more you
know, the more you can protect her and everyone else.
9. Traditional punishment doesn’t work. It only makes an angry child angrier. Try more compassionate and creative forms of discipline. For example, if your daughter gets in trouble at school for teasing an overweight classmate, take her to the pediatric eating disorders unit of the local
hospital to volunteer as a candy striper for a day. If your son puts down some of his less fortunate classmates, spend an afternoon with him at a soup kitchen handing out food to the homeless. The key is to help your child access their empathy and find creative ways to develop it as one would exercise.
10. The typical bullied child is an Ancient Child, an old soul trapped in a young body. This is the child who wants to fit in just as desperately as his peers, but he has an adult sense of compassion and morality that sets him apart and often makes other children perceive him as “weird.” If you have an
Ancient Child, remember, though he may act more socially and intellectually mature than his classmates, inside, he’s still emotionally just a kid, and realize that the rejection he’s enduring at school could be cutting a hole in his soul, and it’s up to you to do everything you can to help him, even on those days when your patience has run out and you fear your hope may be next. And if you’re an Adult Survivor of Peer Abuse yourself, don’t dismiss what happened to you. Find a therapist and talk about it so it assists you as a parent in understanding your child.
Advice for Adult Survivors of Peer Abuse
1. Realize that you need to deal with the abuse and rejection you endured in school the same way you would any other trauma from your past. Do not let anyone tell you you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Bullying can cause permanent emotional and psychological scars, and acknowledging
this is your first step toward healing.
2. Though you can never erase the painful memories, therapy can help you learn how to cope and move forward. When choosing a mental-health professional, review their background and make sure they have experience in this area.
3. Some Adult Survivors of Peer Abuse can suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and social anxiety. If you suspect you may have PTSD, be sure and tell your therapist.
4. If you’re a married Adult Survivor of Peer Abuse or in a committed relationship, talk about it with your significant other and make sure to include this aspect of your past in any couples counseling sessions.
5. If you’re debating whether or not to attend a school reunion, remember that the only way to overcome a fear is to face it. Try and go with a safe person who understands your fears and is there to support you.
6. If you’re a parent, pay attention to how you react to any bullying situation with your child and be aware that you don’t want to blur the line between your past and their present. You may need therapy to help you keep that line clearly defined. The same applies with your students if you’re an educator.
7. Turn your pain into purpose and reach out to your local school district and ask if you could speak to students about your experiences to help create awareness of how hurtful bullying can be.
8. Reach out to the parents in your district whose children are being bullied and provide insight and moral support. Form a support group in your community.
9. Attend a school board meeting and share your personal insights about bullying. It could generate awareness that saves lives.
10. Always remember, there’s nothing wrong with you and there never was. It was everything that was right about you that made you stick out when you were a student. It’s time to celebrate who you are!
Excerpted from Please Stop Laughing at Us... The Sequel To The New York Times Bestseller Please Stop Laughing At Me.
the Books Now