Help to Help Kids Survive Bullies
Susie Caron (c) 1/23/16
Everyone knows - Bullies hurt people, but to help kids survive we need to understand more. We need to know how they do it, how their actions affect victims, and how to help kids survive.
What do Bullies want?
A Bully has one goal, to appear to be 'top dog', and a nasty dog at that. Fear is the primary tool. They want to be feared and they want followers who are so afraid of them that they agree to do whatever the bully wants.
If the Bully wants the group to stand during lunch, they'll stand. If the Bully wants them to beat up another kid, they'll do it, and without question. Why? Because members of the group are afraid. They know that if they don't comply with the Bully’s wishes one or two things could happen to them.
First, they could get whatever treatment they wouldn't dish out.
Second they could be kicked out of the group.
Most adults think that would be a good thing. But the child kicked out feels shunned, unworthy and hated. This isolation can lead to depression and much worse.
How do Bullies create fear and followers?
Bullies create fear through posturing, aggressive behavior and intimidation. They don't need to be physically violent, but they must convince everyone that they could be. They use abusive verbal and emotionally charged language. Sarcasm, direct put downs, name calling, and shunning are all part of a Bully’s arsenal. They use everything they've got to keep their followers under their power. Then they use their followers to keep everyone else away from them. Why is that? Don't they want more followers?
Bullies create fear because they are afraid they are actually weak.
Bullies want more followers, but they hide a little known secret: Beneath the grandiose behavior which makes them look and act like they have a huge ego, hides an insecure personality, with a weak and poorly formed self- concept. This is noticeable when the Bully is criticized. Fearing any negative judgement and loss of support, he/she will over-react with even more aggressive words and actions. That’s how a Bully continues to create more fear, which keeps outsiders away and causes insiders to cluster closer together to avoid retaliation.
How are Victims affected?
Victims usually don't have a chance, especially kids because they crave belonging. They live in a developmental stage (6-18) when belonging is a major drive. Parents must understand this:
Acceptance into a group is of primary importance to kids and impacts their social, emotional development.
That’s why it isn’t easy for kids to ‘pull out’ even if they want to. For kids, inclusion, even in a nasty group, is better than being ostracized. But inclusion comes with a price. Standing too close to a flame can cause clothes to catch fire. Being that close to a Bully sets up anyone inside or outside the group to become a future target. Bullies don't need a reason. Boredom is enough.
Victim's get trapped.
Victims are made to feel 'less than', 'undesirable', damaged, and unclean. Kids can try to move away from the Bully and group. However, they often carry damages with them. Without the help of family, good friends, educators and sometimes mental health counseling, victims stay convinced of the lies and internalize the Bully’s assessment of them.
What can you do to help kids survive the lure of and prevent damage from Bullies?
Bully Proof them as much as you can, especially when they are very young.
Here are some ways to do this.
Choose play dates wisely.
In the early years you have a lot of control over with whom your kids spend time. Some children are naturally drawn to strong personalities. Monitor them and redirect your kids toward playmates who are better friends. Tell your kids,
“You don’t want to or need play with kids who are mean to you or mean to your friends. Let’s have play dates with friends who are kind and fun to be with.”
Watch your child’s behavior.
If your child begins acting like a bully at home, chances are he or she is being affected by a Bully at school. You may not stop the behavior of the other child, but you can discuss your child’s behavior with him or her. Explain why bullying is hurtful and that you expect your child to be a good friend, not a scary one.
Listen to your child and take action.
If your child tells you that someone is bullying him or her, take action. Thank your child and say, “I want to keep you safe.” Then make sure to tell the teacher, guidance counselor, and continue up the chain of command if needed. Ask them to stop the Bully’s behavior. You may need to insist that they keep an eye on your child to keep him/her safe. Whatever you do, don’t just dismiss it. Your child and the bully are both struggling. Both will need assistance. If you child continues to struggle, it may be wise to seek counseling.
Tell your kids to stay away from kids who act tough or mean.
Explain that you want them to stay away from Bullies, but they don’t need to be afraid of them. Explain that Bullies only look like they have power because they try to make people afraid of them. That’s not real power because being mean to others tells everyone that the Bully is really the one who’s afraid. The Bully tries to cover up his own fear by trying to make everyone else afraid.
Teach your kids to remember this statement:
"Bullies only have Bully power, but that they have 'Me Power'.”
Explain to your kids, that “Me Power” is real good power that comes from inside, because deep down inside they know what’s true about them. They are okay just the way they are, just being themselves. and no one can take that away.
Teach them how to wear “Bully proof vests”
Little kids love this. Just like the police wear Bullet Proof vests to protect them, they can wear Bully Proof vests. So when someone says something nasty to them, your kids must refuse to believe it, it will just bounce off the vest. This is like saying “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
Help older kids develop "Come Backs."
Older kids seem to enjoy this way of handling new Bully attacks.(Early attacks are intended to try to test for new followers by making them afraid.) If your child is under new verbal attacks by a Bully, help your child to create 5 ‘come backs’. 'Come Backs' are statements kids say back to a Bully that can make the Bully believe his/her attacks are just not important, scary or even interesting.
For example, to Bully verbal attacks your kids can respond:
“Is that the best you’ve got?”
“Get a life.”
“Don’t you have something better to do?”
“What’s that? I can’t hear you. What’d you say. You must be whispering.”
It's best if your kids make up their own and write them down. They need to practice because they must pretend whatever the Bully says doesn’t matter. Shrugs and dismissive gestures help too. You can ensure them that if they really pretend well, the Bully will very soon move on and try to find someone else to pick on. Then your child can enjoy his or her real friends.
Tell your child that bullies come in all ages, and nastiness.
Adults can be Bullies too.
So make sure you tell them, “Never vote for a Bully.”
I hope this article helps give you some ideas and skills how to help Bully Proof your kids.
Twee' means you & me
Working together to protect kids from Bullies.
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
Buy All 3 Today.
Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!