Coping with the Bullies, Part 2 ... by C.L. Beck
Tags: parenting, bullies
Photo © Simeon
When bullying happens, parents often tell their son to make friends with the bully, and maybe even take treats to him at home. Yes, we should love our neighbor, but in the case of bullying, nothing could be more ineffective. By giving extra attention to the bully, the child reinforces the bully’s negative behavior. After all, which of us - when given treats, praise, and adoration for bad behavior - would willingly give it up? Bullying is all about power and control, not about who is kind and who is a friend.
Ignoring a bully doesn’t work, either, because he has allies who cheer for him. The lack of attention your son gives the bully does not override the attention he’s getting from his friends. Ignoring a bully simply causes the situation to escalate.
So ... if kindness, cookies, and compassion don't work, and ignoring the bully makes it worse, what is effective?
Teach your son to swagger. Yes, this seems like a funny thing to teach kids, but it's surprising how effective it is. Bullies size up their targets, and a boy that swaggers is more imposing than a mild-mannered one that looks at the ground or an easy-going one who smiles at everyone. It's not necessary for your boy to swagger all the time, just during the first few weeks of school while the pecking order is established. Then it's only used when needed.
After you teach your son how to swagger, have him practice it when he's with you, at times that seem appropriate.
Teach your child "The Stare." I can see some of you raising your eyebrows and saying, "But, staring is impolite." We've all been taught not to stare, but a child who is able to hold his gaze until the other person looks away is sending a signal that he is not an easy target. It shouldn't be used every day with everyone he meets, so it will take effort on your part - as well as practice on your son’s part - to understand when a stare is appropriate.
Find something social at which he excels. This doesn't mean he has to be the star quarterback, but every boy needs something at which he excels; something that gives him friends with similar interests. Self-defense courses are great, but if your son isn't interested in those, try something else that carries a little psychological weight and makes him feel he's a success. Enroll him in anything he enjoys, but that will not be viewed as nerdy by his peers, and at which you're pretty certain he'll succeed.
Don't make your son ride the bus. One of the prime places for bullying is on the school bus. Through no fault of their own, drivers can't watch the road and see what's happening in the back of the bus at the same time. No life lessons will be missed if your child gets a ride from you or the neighborhood carpool.
If there's a problem, talk with the authorities. Take it as far as it needs to go. Talk first to the teacher and the principal, and arrange for either the bully or your child to be moved, monitored, or what ever needs to be done to end the situation. If nothing changes quickly, take it to the school board, and then the police. Better to have all of them angry with you because you've caused them an inconvenience, than to have your son lying in the hospital, comatose, because a bully beat him senseless. And yes, I've known of an instance where that was the case.
If need be, investigate other options … home schooling, charter or private school, or another school district. Then, move your child there.
Those last options might seem extreme, and cost you money or time. However, when it comes to bullying, it’s up to you to put a stop to it – you’re the only protector your son has, and repeated bullying may scar him for life. Or worse yet, end his life before he's had a chance to live it.
[Note: Although this article deals with the bullying that takes place with boys, I plan on addressing the emotional bullying that girls endure in a future article.]
------ "Coping with the Bullies - Advice for Parents of Boys" © Cindy Beck, 2011------
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