Stand Up to Bullying
This past week at Kang’s we talked about bullying. This topic has been addressed for years, but it seems that it never has been unnecessary.
Bullying is consistently a pervasive issue in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. A common misconception is that bullying only happens among kids on the playground, but it has entered virtually every aspect of our lives. It can happen with kids, adults, in-person, and on-line.
It’s important to realize not only what bullying is, but why it happens and how to address it when we see it happening.
What is bullying?
Bullying can be described as harmful intentional and repetitive behavior toward another. This can take many shapes and forms, including both verbal and physical behaviors. Some behaviors are more obvious to observe and label as bullying, such as public humiliation and physical abuse. Others forms of bullying, like emotional abuse or spreading rumors, might not be as easy to detect. If you suspect someone is a victim of bullying, it might be best to talk to them about it beforehand before becoming too closely involved.
Why do people bully?
There are hundreds of reasons why someone might bully others – and sometimes, someone could be bullying for multiple reasons. The reasons could be external – maybe the bully is getting bullied by someone else, and is projecting that pain onto others. Other times, the reasons could be internal – maybe the bully is having difficulties making friends and feels that this might be a way to do it; maybe the bully is hurting on the inside, and uses bullying as a means to try to make themselves feel better.
Be an Upstander:
It definitely isn’t easy to stand up to bullies – in fact, it takes a lot of courage to do so. If you see bullying happen, be an upstander – this is someone who takes action against bullying. There are many different ways to stand up to bullying, and different situations might call for different ways of reacting.
- Get there first – if you see a bully approaching someone who they’ve bullied a lot in the past, try to get to the target first. In doing this, find a creative distraction to get that person away from the bully. For instance, you could ask them for help with something, or see if they’d like to come sit with you.
- Step in and take charge – if someone is being actively bullied, you can intervene and try to stop it. Remember – assertive, non-violent words are the best approach. For instance, you could say, “Johnny, that’s not okay to say to Dave. You should stop that. No one likes to be made fun of.”
- Distract and redirect – if you notice bullying happening, you could approach the people involved and interject with an unrelated conversation, as if you are completely unaware of the bullying that is happening. For instance, you walk up and say, “hey Susan, that’s a really nice top.” Then, take Sally (the target) by the arm and walk off, saying something like, “hey Sally, come on with me, I need to show you something.”
- Leave and report – if you are not comfortable intervening in a bullying situation, there is no harm in seeking help from an authority figure. This does not make you a snitch or “tattle-tale” – you are protecting someone who likely will appreciate it.
There are so many ways to stop bullying, and having conversations about it early and often is important to reducing its occurrence. No one should have to put up with bullying, so anything you can do or say to stop it from happening is worth it. But it is important to remember – words can be more powerful than fists, and oftentimes, physical violence makes it worse. Self-defense should only be used as a last-resort if verbal measures have not worked.
If you have kids at home, try to start an open and honest conversation about bullying. Talk to them about if they’ve had any experiences with it, how they’ve handled it, or how they would handle it if they ever saw an instance of bullying. It’s important to make sure that your child knows she or he has someone to talk to about this, without feeling like a “tattle-tale” or feeling judged. Having this conversation early and often will ideally promote a positive and supportive environment for your child to talk about his or her experiences.