I had my bully, and it was excruciating. Not only the bully, but the intimidation I felt. – Robert Cormier
Recently my younger son has been the target of a bully. While coping with bullies has happened before with my other children, I was surprised it was happening to my son because he is a senior in high school. My belief, until now, was bullying was confined to the school playground.
In helping my son deal with his bully, it occurred to me that bullies are ageless and can be found anywhere. Bullies are in the workplace, in relationships and in our neighborhoods. Their methods may change, but their intent remains the same – to do hurtful things to their victims.
Dr. Dan Olweus of Norway, a pioneer in the field of bully prevention, defines bullying as, “When someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean things to another person who has a hard time defending herself or herself.” These hurtful things can take on many forms, including:
- Name calling and verbal harassment
- Leaving another person out of a group
- Physical bullying such as pushing, hitting or kicking
- Taking away money or damaging personal property
- Threatening or forcing another person to do things they don’t want to do
- Racial bullying
- Sexual bullying
- Cyber-bullying (text messaging or the Internet)
If it feels like someone is doing these things to you or to someone you love, then a bully may be in your life, too. However, you do have power and control in the situation by knowing what to do to put an end to the bullying.
Here are eight simple steps you can take right now to stop a bully:
- Take it seriously.
When a bully’s tactics cross the line, take the actions seriously. Typical warning signs include withdrawal, unexplained injuries, or becoming afraid to go to work or school. If the bullying is happening to someone close to you, address these signs with the person as soon as you notice them. If you are the victim, find someone to talk with about what is happening. Left ignored, the bullying will likely escalate.
- Use your voice.
Workplace and schoolhouse bullies would prefer to keep their actions under the radar so they may continue. However, one of the most effective ways to stop bullying is to report the bully’s actions to others. Be specific so the person receiving the information understands what is occurring and its impact on you or the victim.
- Don’t bully back.
This is a no-win deal. Often times, the bully is looking for an aggressive response so they can increase their bullying – perhaps with even more force and violence. As stated before, the best bet is to alert others to what is happening.
- Provide consequences.
Adults who are being bullied can enforce some boundaries. For example, if you find yourself being bullied by a co-worker, or even a supervisor, tell the bully if the behavior doesn’t stop then you will report him or her to the human resources department.
- Don’t take it personally.
What motivates a bully is usually an issue or a limitation the bully feels insecure with. Bullies target others to feel better about themselves. Even though being on the receiving-end of a bully’s wrath is unpleasant, as well as unsafe, remember it’s not about you; of anything you did wrong. When helping another person through their experience with a bully, remind them of their worth and value and to ignore the harsh name calling being fired at them.
- Move past the shame.
Bullies will think they can continue the bullying because their victim may be too ashamed to say anything. When I was a child, the bullies taunted me about my speech impediment and the fact I had to wear eyeglasses – two things that brought me shame regardless if I was being bullied, or not. The bullying only exacerbated my shame. Now as an adult, I know the playground bullies from my past were motivated by their own shame. If you are a victim, understand the internalized guilt you feel belongs to the person bullying you. Give the shame back to the bully. When you do, you will begin to feel the power you do have.
- Look for trends.
Bullies have patterns. At work, if you notice your boss is more aggressive just before an important meeting, then avoid these meetings, or least your interactions with your boss beforehand. If your child reports the bully is more hostile on the school bus, then consider alternative ways to get your child to school. Bullies adopt habits and trends. Becoming more aware of these trends, and then developing a plan to counter them, will put you in a better position to stop the bullying.
- Use common sense when online.
Guard your passwords and the passwords of your children. Be discerning when considering if your elementary or middle school-aged child may create Facebook or email accounts. Limit social media friend requests and other contacts to only those people with whom you have positive relationship with offline. Watch the amount of time your child is spending online and monitor their emotions and behaviors afterwards.
Bullies can leave scars that last a lifetime. My goal is to keep my son safe and to provide the tools he needs. My hope is with the school year ending soon; the bullying will end with it. By helping him deal with his bully now, may prevent the scars he doesn’t deserve.