Learn to identify and label different types of bullies and the tactics they use.  That will give you power.  You’ll know what you’re up against.  You won’t second-guess yourself.  You’ll be able to align and focus your energy and action.  You’ll get the help you need. Some ways many people think of bullying are:

  • Mental, emotional, physical bullying (including harassment and threats).
  • Verbal bullying, non-verbal harassment, physical violence (attacks on people, pets or things).

But I focus on 5 types of bullies and their tactics:

  1. Overt bullies.
  2. Covert bullies.
  3. Cyberbullies.
  4. “Professional Victims.”
  5. Self-bullies.

Often there are no clear and fixed lines between these types of bullies and bullies often use different tactics.  I don’t include sexual bullying as a separate category because that can be done using all the tactics.

Overt bullies act out in public.  They’re easier to see and to get evidence against.

Covert bullies are sneaky, manipulative and controlling.  They abuse in secret; it’s much harder to get evidence against them.

Some of the techniques overt and covert bullies use:

  • They get out of control and throw temper tantrums (like children).  They’ll have physical or verbal explosions or give the “Loud Silent Treatment.”  They get power by anger and rage.
  • They indulge in personal vendettas and scapegoat victims.
  • They make harsh judgments or remarks or put-downs.  They’re experts in personal criticism and negativity.
  • They talk down to people.  They push sensitive places in order to make other people feel bad.
  • Their feelings matter; yours don't.  They make the rules; you don't.  Their reasons make sense; yours don't.  They're right; you're wrong.
  • They’re instigators.  They pour gas on the fire, get other people to fight and they create “uproar.”  They’re splinters.
  • They’re control-freaks and turf protectors.  They’re always right and righteous.
  • They’re relentlessly negative, critical, naysayers who are impossible to please.  They complain until they get attention.
  • They tease, taunt and use name calling put-downs.  They use people as emotional punching bags.
  • They make nasty, ugly, vicious, snide jokes or cut you down, followed by “I was just kidding” or “You’re too sensitive” or “I didn’t mean anything bad” or “I was only having a little fun.”
  • They mock with non-verbal, disrespectful “editorial” comments like eye rolling or snorting.
  • They form school yard cliques to cut out their targets. They’re passive-aggressive.  They manipulate, triangulate, and stimulate unhappiness and drama.
  • They spread rumors, gossip, innuendos and lies.
  • They’re great debaters who never let you win.  They’re antagonistic, boundary pushers who do the minimum and undercut authority and systems.
  • They always blame others.  Nothing is ever their fault.  They have endless excuses and justifications while showing little-no improvement.

Cyberbullies are hostile and personal.  They encourage or organize “mobs” to pile on.

“Professional Victims” – most people overlook this category.  Professional victims act fragile and have hurt feelings in order to gain power and control.  People walk on egg shells near them.  They’re hypersensitive, spoiled brats who cry and blame.  They’re hysterical Drama Queens-Kings.  They make a big deal over things you think aren’t worth fighting about.  They use shame, guilt and anger.

Self-bullies beat themselves up all the time.  They feel unworthy and have low self-esteem.  They wallow in self-questioning and self-doubt, and stay stuck and insecure.  They’re easily manipulated by overt and, especially, by covert bullies.  They’re the hardest people to help.

Please watch the following YouTube videos:

Knowledge is power.  Learn to recognize all types and styles of bullying so you can protect and defend yourself and your children.

Protect your personal environment from pollution.  Get bullies out of your personal space.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

How can you stop school bullies by forcing reluctant, do-nothing principals to protect your children?  That’s a skill many parents must learn. First, bullies are always 100% at fault and that never decreases.  Kids who act as spectators or cheerleaders, and kids who pile on also are at fault on their own.  There’s more than 100% to go around.

The worst are the adults who are responsible for stopping bullying; for creating bully-free schools, but who don’t.  Let’s focus on reluctant, do-nothing principals who tolerate bullying at their schools.

Some principals won’t tolerate bullying, but many principals won’t act strongly and effectively.

Five signs of these do-nothing principals are:

  1. They don’t have a school-wide program, including kids and parents, to stop bullies.  There’s no training for teachers, administrators, janitors or bus drivers to recognize the early warning signs of overt and covert bullies; of verbal, emotional, physical and cyberbullying.
  2. Even though every kid in the school knows who the bullies are and where and when it happens, do-nothing principals make no effort to monitor areas of the school where most bullying occurs.  They plead ignorance and expect you, the parents who are off-site, to provide the proof for them.
  3. They think the best way to stop bullying is through forgiveness, sympathy, compassion, understanding, education and compromise with bullies.  They focus on the reasons bullies bully instead of simply stopping them.  They think that doing some process counts.  But only the results count – stopping bullies.
  4. Do-nothing principals blame the target – your child.  They assume your kids must have done something wrong to antagonize the bully.  They don’t keep your kid’s complaint confidential.  Reluctant principals have great sympathy for how hard the bully’s life is and little sympathy for your child, who is the target of harassment and abuse.  Some can’t figure out how to stop a relentless bully so they’d rather look the other way.
  5. To keep you in the dark, they plead confidentiality.  Or they ask you to trust them while they handle the situation, but you see that the bullying doesn’t stop.

In these schools, bullying is never one incident; it’s a pattern.  Relentless bullies know who has the power and what they can get away with.

Learn how to force reluctant principals to act. These do-nothing principals are afraid of two things:

  1. Publicity.
  2. Legal action.

Do-nothing principals don’t want to be involved with something that can get messy for them.  Often, they’re afraid of the bullying parents of the bullying kids.  You must change that.  Since do-nothing principals won’t do what’s right on their own, you must make them more afraid of you.

Four things you can do to make sure your children are protected are:

  1. Before there are any incidents, even before school starts, organize a few like-minded parents and start lobbying for a school-wide program including kids and parents.  Get media coverage.  Make sure there are legal rules and a legal process.
  2. If bullying begins, talk to the principal and staff.  Listen carefully for excuses, rationalizations, confessions of ignorance, discussions of what constitutes legal evidence – these are bad signs.  Record the conversation.  Send to everyone a follow up email listing all the points and promises made.
  3. Give the principal (and counselors and teachers) one chance to stop the bullying – maybe a week or two.  Are bullies removed?  Does cyberbullying stop?  Or is your child picked on even more?
  4. If bullying continues, see an expert lawyer, get an expert coach and start making waves.  Contact parents of other kids who are bullied.  Get evidence.  Contact District Administrators.  Contact police.  Get publicity from local radio and TV stations.  File a law suit.  Be prepared for a long, ugly fight.  Document, Document!

Don’t be sweet and weak; be firm.  Be courageous, determined and relentless.  Silence, appeasement, wishful thinking and the Golden Rule don’t stop real-world bullies.

Be effective.  Teach your children how not to be victims.  Your children’s mental, emotional and physical well-being is at stake.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

I’ll start right off with the bottom line: being “nice” and “caring” won’t help kids stop relentless school bullies. Why not?

I’ve been interviewed a lot on radio and TV.  But when I ask those interviewers how they stopped bullying when they were kids, almost all the women say they were never taught how to stop bullies.  Instead, their well-meaning moms told them:

  • Bullies have a hard life so we should have sympathy for what they’re going through and how low their self-esteem must be.
  • Don’t sink to the bully’s level by fighting back.  You have it easy so you should rise above the bullies.
  • If you’re nice enough, kind enough and loving enough, bullies will respond by being nice in return.
  • You should never push back – verbally or physically.  If you push back, it means you don’t care.
  • Violence is morally wrong and violence never solves anything.  They cite Mahatma Gandhi as someone who stopped the British without pushing back and by preaching tolerance and love.

All these women now bear a grudge against their well-meaning mothers.  Those messages are all wrong.  These women learned the hard way that the way you identify relentless bullies is that “nice” and “caring” don’t convert them from predators to friends.

First, the statement about Gandhi is a complete misunderstanding of his tactics.  Applying ahimsa to relentless bullies is not a good comparison.  If Gandhi had tried his tactics against Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao or the founder of Pakistan, he wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes.

Second, violence was required to stop slavery, Nazism, Fascism and communism, to name just a few.

Third, you have to love yourself first.  Sometimes, the most caring thing you can do for someone who’s a jerk and a bully is to show them that their tactics don’t work.  They’d better learn new tactics.

Fourth, you can’t love relentless bullies enough to change how they treat you.  Ignoring, minimizing and “rising above” do not stop relentless bullies.  Appeasement, begging and bribery do not stop relentless bullies.

Fifth, you’re not the bully’s therapist; it’s not your job to rehabilitate them.  The adults have that responsibility, but only after they protect and defend the targets of bullying.

Appeasement is never effective with determined boundary pushers who always want more.  If you suffer in silence, if you whine, or if you advertise that you’re afraid bullies think you’re a victim waiting to be bullied.  If you are kind, bullies think you are weak.  They’ll continue to harass and abuse you.

Don’t waste time complaining about your society, the media, your parents, your friends, your school officials, or how hard it is.

It’s your job to protect and defend your personal space from predators.  It’s your job to make bullies a small part of your mental and emotional world so you can get on with your education and your life

You must be determined, courageous and strong in defending and protecting yourself – not because you deserve it, but because you want to, you have to.  “I want to” is more than enough reason to protect yourself.

You must learn how to push back verbally, to get help from school officials, your parents and the police, and to fight back when you have to and you can.

You have to succeed even though conditions haven’t been prepared perfectly for you.  Don’t starve while you’re waiting for someone else to set the table.  You have to overcome obstacles; it’s a sign of good character.

You may be a target; don’t be a victim!

What’s the price of tolerating bullies; slow erosion of your soul.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Some people hesitate to acknowledge the truth kids see, know or sense.  Common examples are when kids sense they’re unsafe in the presence of:

Sometimes, adults simply don’t see the truth themselves, but more often, some adults:

  • Want to maintain illusions that these close people are not actually dangerous.
  • Hold back because they don’t want to say anything bad about someone like an ex or a relative.
  • Have a value that it’s wrong to judge a person’s identity as bad or evil.

Some parents hesitate even when the danger is obvious and glaring.

These hesitations are wrong and very damaging to the kids.  Kids need to now that they may be in dangerous situations even at home.  Especially, kids need to know when what they sense is accurate.

Jane’s father had even seen his five year-old daughter yelled at, harassed and verbally and emotionally bullied by the new boyfriend of his ex, Jane’s mother.  So when Jane said she was scared to go there and that the boyfriend was bad to her, he knew her fears were well-grounded.  Jane also said that her mother had said that the boyfriend was a good person.  Obviously, Jane was unsure what to think.  But she knew what she felt.

Jane’s father was a nice person and didn’t want to think of the boyfriend as a bad person, so he hesitated in responding to Jane.  He didn’t want to say that someone was bad.  Also, he thought it was important for a child to see her mother often and to like her mother’s friends.

Get your hierarchy of values and priorities straight.  Jane’s father is missing the point.

  1. Jane’s father has conflicting values and hasn’t effectively organized his priorities in a hierarchy of importance.  It may be important to him not to judge or label people as “bad” or “evil,” but more important than that value is the value of protecting his child.  And there’s a way he can intervene without judging the boyfriend’s identity.
  2. Jane is unsafe.  She’s being subjected to mental and emotional bullying and abuse.  Her mother may be also.  And both Jane and her mother may be targets of physical abuse already or in the near future.  Jane’s father must intervene effectively even though he may have difficulties because of court ordered divorce requirements or because of the possibility of starting a fight with his ex in court.

Kids need to know when their sense of things is accurate and true. A key step in developing confidence and self-esteem is learning when we can trust our estimations of people and situations even if other people disagree or our self-bullying, “monkey mind” tries to talk us out of what we sense to be true.  Tremendous damage is done to kids when adults tell them not to trust their feelings, thoughts and intuitions.

Jane needs to know that she’s right.  What she estimates as “not safe” and “fear” is accurate.  She should not be talked out of those accurate estimations because of big and meaningless words like “compassion,” “kindness” or “being non-judgmental.”  She must know that she does see the reality of the situation.  Even more damaging than thinking that “love” means putting herself in dangerous and painful situations, if she’s talked out of her feelings, she’ll grow up riddled with self-doubt.

To protect Jane, we don’t need to judge the boyfriend’s identity. Jane, at age five, may think in terms of good or bad, but we don’t have to.

Thinking in those terms is usually a self-motivation strategy.  Some adults generate enough anger to act only if they think in those terms.  Then they often over-react because they’re so emotional.

But we can act simply when we recognize that a situation or person is dangerous.  We don’t need to get into a highly emotional loop that keeps us from acting effectively.  And we don’t need to label people’s identity.  We can simply discern a pattern in their actions no matter what their reasons, excuses or justifications are.

In a way that a five year-old can understand, Jane’s father must acknowledge to Jane that she’s right; the situation is painful, dangerous and scary.  Then he can deal with the difficulties in the situation.  If Jane’s mother is also feeling abused by her new boyfriend, Jane’s father may be able to stimulate her to act without her admitting she’s done anything wrong – which might make it easier for her to act.

But Jane’s father may have to deal with difficulties in order to protect Jane.  Can he get Jane’s mother to get rid of the boyfriend without going to court?  Can he get documented evidence that a court would accept?  Must he get a court-approved psychological evaluation, which would put Jane in the middle of choosing between her parents?

These are not easy choices.  Jane’s father probably needs good legal advice before he begins.

But he must act soon.  He can’t keep putting his daughter in danger.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Nobody wants their children to be bullied.  We all want responsible school officials to stop bullying at their schools.  We all want other parents to teach their children not to be bullies.  We all want other kids to be witnesses and defenders when necessary. We all want the road smoothed for our children.

Of course we must do what we can to prepare the road with good enough laws and with clear requirements to hold school principals and district administrators accountable.

But since no amount of effort or number of laws against bullying in any of its forms – verbal, mental, emotional, physical, cyberbullying – will ever stop mean kids or their protective parents from bullying their targets, what can we do for our children?

Good parenting also requires us to prepare our children for the roads they’ll encounter.

Report to school officials but that’s only the second task. For example, Tom came home complaining that some other kids called him names, mocked his clothes, belittled his taste in music and even put down the way his parents looked and dressed.  His parents blew up and went to school the next day to have it out with the principal.  Since they ranted and raved and wanted the kids beaten in public or at least thrown out of school, they got no where.

Then they focused all their energy on the road – they wrote angry letters to the media, organized other parents and tried to get the principal fired.

Focus first on preparing the child. Tom asked, “Why do my friends call me retarded, gay, stupid, ugly?  Why don’t they like me?  What am I doing wrong?”  He was taking it personally; as if the other kids had the correct taste or accurate perceptions, and he was somehow being tested and failing. He thought there must be something wrong with him.  He was getting negative, uncertain and angry.  He was losing his confidence and self-esteem.

We rapidly found out however, that his friends at school weren’t saying these things.  The bullies were kids who really didn’t know Tom.

So we prepared Tom with his lessons for the real world.

  • There will be jerks who target you, but that doesn’t make you a victim.  Victims give in and give up.  Victims feel isolated and helpless.  Victims get depressed and commit suicide.
  • You’re okay; don’t take it personally.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  They don’t know you.  Test them – are they nice or are they jerks?  If they’re jerks, their opinion doesn’t tell you about you; it tells you about them.  Don’t ever let jerks control your feelings or emotions.
  • Choose to be upbeat – courageous, strong, determined.  Be happy while you learn how to stop themKeep a fire burning in your heart.
  • Stand up; speak up.  Use your talent and learn new skills.  Come back at them verbally.  Use humor; especially sarcastic humor.  Speak your piece.  Fight back if necessary.
  • Get your allies to act.  Tell your parents; tell your favorite, trustworthy teachers.  Get help.  Test your friends.  Are they real friends or are they just acquaintances or “friendlies” who hang out?  If they don’t care enough to get involved, they’re not friends.

Parents, be smart in how you prepare and fix the road. I’m all for fixing the road.  Just be smart about it.  The summer is the best time to prepare the road.  Work with principals, teachers and parents to develop clear and strong policies and programs.  Hit the ground running when school stats in fall.  Get the kids involved so they become witnesses and defenders.  Make it a whole community effort.

Prepare yourself so that when there’s an incident, like happened with Tom, you know what to do and can do it without being overwhelmed by your emotions.  Have a checklist.  Is it a one-time argument or on-going harassment, bullying and abuse?  What are the power dynamics?  What evidence can you get?  Does it happen to other kids?  Can you get witnesses?

Prepare the friends and their families. None of Tom’s friends defended him.  They wouldn’t even be witnesses until we talked with them and their parents.  Then they saw the power of choice and of standing together.

Parenting: Prepare the road or the child? Don’t make it an either-or choice.  Prepare both.  Prepare your children to teach your grandchildren.  Do you doubt they’ll also have to learn to stop bullies?

O, the basic trap of enmeshment and co-dependency; when we think we’re responsible for someone’s happiness, for doing what they want.  Both men and women willingly give up their lives to serve others. Of course, overt and covert (sneaky, manipulative, narcissistic, critical, controlling) bullies try any way they can to get us to shoulder that burden.  Sometimes they just want to be catered to but often they actually believe that they’re entitled to our serving them.  Both men and women can be demanding.

Tom’s ex had jerked him around for years before Tom finally couldn’t take any more and divorced her.  Even though he got custody of their son, his ex continued to try to make Tom do what she wanted.  She called him when she needed home chores and repairs, car repairs and computer fixes.  She wanted him to change the visitation times to suit her whims or convenience.  She wanted him not to find anyone else to be interested in.  Of course, she wanted money from him.

Why do we take on the responsibility to serve others? Tom had all the usual reasons:

  • He had made marriage vows. It was important to honor his pledges, to never go back on his word.
  • He was raised to adjust and accommodate to what other people wanted.  Some of his old rules, values and beliefs were that he shouldn’t push what he wanted, that nice people tried to make others happy before they made themselves happy and that he shouldn’t be selfish.
  • One way she’d previously controlled him was by vindictive retaliation; she’d harass and abuse them relentlessly.  He was afraid that if he disagreed or upset her, she’d blow up like she’d always done and attack him and his son verbally, physically or legally.  He didn’t want to make it harder on his son, even though he was now 16.
  • The other way she controlled him was through blame, shame and guilt.  If he didn’t do what she wanted, her feelings would be hurt and it’d be his fault.  He couldn’t stand to make her cry by asserting himself over matters he thought “trivial”.  He convinced himself that it was easier to give in; then he’d waste less time defending himself from her emotional outbursts.
  • He didn’t think he should ever say anything bad about her to his son.  He thought that boys need to love their mothers.  Even though his son was a teenager and didn’t want to see his mother, Tom felt he should force them together.
  • He looked for the path of least resistance.  He still hoped that if he was nice and forgave her, if he appeased or gave in to her, she’d reciprocate and give in to him graciously next time.  Why fight when he could simply do what she wanted?  He’d learned that she’d never give up, never forgive or forget.

Intellectually, Tom realized that none of his approaches had ever worked with her.  She’d never relent or reciprocate in return for his appeasement, begging, bribery or reasonableness.  He knew she was a negative, critical, controlling boundary pusher who kept trying for more once she got something she wanted.

But emotionally, he still looked for the easy way.  It was as if the fight over the divorce had used all his strength, courage and determination.

Underneath all the psychoanalysis, he still felt responsible for making her happy.  She’d once been his wife.  She was the mother of his son.  He was an enmeshed, co-dependent caretaker.

Children are often the reason people finally act. Eventually, Tom realized that if he gave in to her desires he and his son would never be able to live lives of their own.  Also, he’d be giving into his cowardice and a false sense of responsibility.  If he gave in to her narcissism and self-indulgence, he’d be exposing is son to a lousy mom.  He’d be setting a terrible example for his son.  His son came first.

Finally, he realized that she was not the center of his world or his son’s.  We’re all responsible for anything a court requires, like alimony, child support and insurance.  But she was responsible for her own happiness.  He and his son were responsible for theirs.

People divorce to go their separate ways as much or as little as they want, but they are no longer responsible for and intimate with each other.  Tom can wish her well but it has to be from a distance and he has to be not responsible for her.  He has to protect himself and his son from her clutches.

He realized that he’d trained her to think that she would eventually get her way if she forced him angrily or manipulated him through blame, shame and guilt.  Now he’d have to train her differently – and legally.

Some common variants of this care-taking pattern are:

  1. Elderly parents – even though they were bullying, abusive, demanding, harassing and crazy; even though they brutalized you sexually, verbally and physically all your life, now they say you owe them or they plead poverty or helplessness.
  2. Adult children – they may be incompetent or crazy; they may be lazy, greedy or narcissistic, but now they want to be dependent and they want you to support and cater to them in any way they want.
  3. Extended family – they know better than you do about what’s right and they’re totally demanding and/or totally needy.  They say, “You wouldn’t want to disrupt family unity and cohesion by being difficult and uncaring, would you?”
  4. Toxic friends and co-workers – they need you to help or rescue them, to make their lives work for them.
  5. Clients – many mental health professionals, body workers and healers feel responsible for curing their clients.

Nora Ephron (“Silkwood,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’ve Got Mail”) said that as she got older she decided she needed a list of people and things she simply was not going to think about any more.  In many ways it’s the opposite of a bucket list and just as important.  She started by putting a lot of celebrities in her “Ignore Bucket.”

In order to have the physical, mental and emotional space we need to make the life we want, in order to stop bullies and our self-bullying, we also need an “I’m not responsible for” list.  As a start, Tom put his wife on his list.

Who and what are on your list?

The second edition of “Bullies Below the Radar: Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” documents the personal journey to courage, strength, determination and skill of Grace, a wife and mother, who finally accepted that she was being controlled and bullied by a stealthy, sneaky manipulative husband. Grace finally accepted that for years:

  • She’d lived in a frustrating, hostile marriage, full of drudgery and pain.
  • Even though she hadn’t been physically abused or beaten, she’d been worn down and controlled by serving her husband and by arguing that hadn’t improved the relationship.
  • She’d suffered watching herself and her children get harassed, manipulated, controlled and bullied.
  • Her love, understanding, sweetness and kindness had not changed him.
  • His numerous apologies simply kept her coming back, but he won’t change.

Grace discovered that she couldn’t make things better by being a peacemaker.  Tactics like begging, bribery, understanding, endless praise, appeasement, politeness, ‘second chances,’ forgiveness, sympathy and unconditional love, and the Golden Rule usually encourage more harassment, bullying and abuse.  We won’t get the results we want; we won’t stop emotional bullies or physical bullying unless we’re clear about which values are most important to us.

She stopped wallowing in negative self-talk, perfectionism, blame, shame and guilt, which had led her to get discouraged, depressed, despairing and easily defeated.  She’d lost her confidence and self-esteem.

On her journey to taking power, effectively setting boundaries and voting her narcissistic husband off her “Isle of Song,” she learned:

  • To recognize the seven warning signs of bullies below the radar, including sneaky patterns of bullying behavior, and the mental, emotional and spiritual costs accepting bullying.
  • To go beyond magical thinking to overcome the six most common objections to standing up to bullies.
  • To stop using the nine common strategies that fail to stop bullies.
  • What to do if at first she didn’t succeed.
  • The seven success strategies that will be effective in any bullying situation.
  • A seven-step process to plan tactics that will be effective in any particular situation.
  • How to protect her personal ecology and create a bully-free future.

Applying these real-world techniques, she got strong, courageous, determined, persevering and flexible in order to stop bullies of all types – controllers, critics, exploders, pushy perfectionists, prying questioners, emotional intimidators, smiling manipulators, relentless arguers and more

Grace learned that, “History is not destiny.”  Using the step-by-step instructions presented here, Grace changed her mind-set and built her courage, character and skill.

My advice: Don't be a victim waiting forever for other people to grow up or change.  Don’t accept bullies’ reasons, justifications and excuses.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Use your own power.  Say “That’s enough!”  Say “No!”

For some examples of different tactics, also see, “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

A nine-year-old, third grade student from Colorado Springs was recently suspended for fighting back against another student who had bullied him repeatedly  The target had complained to school authorities, but they had not protected him. Both boys were suspended for fighting.  The school defended its actions: "If a student is involved in a physical altercation on school property, they are automatically suspended. District 11 schools employ many anti-bullying teaching techniques … and none of these methods include violence or retaliation," the school said in a statement to KDVR.

What should you tell your child:

  • If he's in elementary school and is being bullied and the responsible teachers and principal do not stop bullying?
  • How should he stop school bullies?
  • Is the punishment fair?

The school officials are saying that even though they can't stop school bullying, even though they don’t stop negativity, harassment, abuse or physical, mental or emotional violence, even though there’s a pattern of bullying, the targets are not allowed to defend themselves by fighting back.  According to the school officials, not using violence, even if it makes you helpless, is a more important value than protecting yourself.  Being a victim is not as bad to them as fighting back.  Process counts more than results.

Maybe the school principal should be suspended for not doing his job.

The school officials are saying that process and techniques are a more important value than getting results, even if they create victims because their techniques don't protect the targets.

I disagree.

Protecting targets is more important than clinging to their ineffective techniques.  In desperation, and unlike parents who sabotage their children by preaching non-violence, the target's parents had told their son that since the school officials weren't protecting him, he should fight back.

I go further.  I've told our elementary school-aged grandchildren - in secret so their parents don't know:

  • Try everything peaceful you can think of to stop bullying – be nice and friendly, ignore it, ask the bully to stop, tell the bully he'd better stop.
  • If those techniques don't work, learn to use verbal come-backs and put-downs.
  • If those techniques don't stop the bully, tell your favorite teacher and the principalGet your parents involved.  They'll talk with the principal and teachers.
  • If they don’t stop the bullying, use your own power, beat up the bully.  And I want them to learn how to really hurt the other kid, swiftly and effectively.
  • Of course, they'll suspend you because teachers and principals who don't protect kids are do-nothing jerks and jerks do jerky things and they don’t wan to risk making a wise judgment about who the bully is. When you get suspended, act contrite.  Say you're sorry, promise you won't fight again.  When no one is looking, wink at the bully to let him know that you'll beat him up again, if necessary.

If you follow this plan, you'll get at least four wonderful things:

  1. The bully will leave you alone.
  2. You'll respect yourself and feel like you can succeed in the world.
  3. Other kids will respect you.
  4. While you're on suspension, I'll take you to Disney World for a big celebration.  After all, winners of  Super Bowls get to go; why not winners on the playground?

I also tell them that there are some caveats to my advice:

  • If the bully is much bigger than you or if there is a gang of kids, we'll devise a different plan
  • When you're old enough (maybe high school) that kids are carrying weapons, we'll devise a different plan.

But the take-home message is always to give the responsible authorities a chance, but if they don't do their jobs, solve the problem yourself.  Don't be a victim waiting forever for other people to protect you.  Use your own power.  Say “That’s enough!”  Say “No!”  Stopping bullies is more important than never using violence.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Sawyer Rosenstein, 12 -year-old seventh grader from New Jersey, was bullied for months until the bully punched him and left him paralyzed.  He received a settlement of $4.2 million from the school district.  A claim against the bully has also settled, but details are confidential.  And, Sawyer is still paralyzed for life. Reports from the New York Daily News and the Morristown Personal Injury Blog make clear that:

  • Three months before the final incident, Sawyer reported previous incidents of being bullied to the school in writing, but no responsible adult – principal, teachers, therapists, district administrators – stopped the school bullying.
  • "Additionally, the same bully that injured the boy had previously injured another student, yet no serious action was taken."
  • New Jersey has a strong anti-bullying law.  Nevertheless, his experience “shows that schools have a great responsibility to make sure that these laws are enforced in order to prevent students from being injured by bullies on school property.”

“The Board of Education released a statement Wednesday denying any wrongdoing and saying that it was the district’s insurance carriers that decided to enter into the settlement and will pay it out.  ‘The district’s character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge,’ the statement said. ‘All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey.’ … The board said the settlement did not include any admission of liability or fault on the part of the district.”

What’s wrong with the school board’s basic assumptions?

Of course, the local Board of Education has washed its hands of all responsibility, claiming that they followed the correct procedures.  Thy used the same type of defense that the do-nothing principal and district superintendent used after the suicide of Iowa teen Kenneth Weishuhn.

The people on the Board of Education, the principal, teachers, therapists and district administrators seem to feel that having a process; a program, initiatives and reporting practices is enough to cover them.  If negativity, harassment, abuse, or physical, mental and emotional violence occurs, it’s not their responsibilityIf they victimize students, it’s not their responsibility.  They were just following orders and procedures.

They think they’re not responsible for results, only for process.  They think they’re not responsible for stopping school bullying, only for pushing paper.

That lack of accountability may work for adults in education but for the rest of us, with real jobs, results count.  Even the kids taking tests are held accountable for performance and results.

Obviously laws are never enough.  It’s the people who administer the laws who are responsible for protecting us.  Or these incompetents settle for ineffective responses and leave it at that.  They lack the will to stop bullies.

Little children usually can get away with charm, potential and promises.  But as we cross past approximately 5th grade, we enter the time when those qualities count less and less, and results count more and more.  That’s a hard transition for many people to make.  When we get to be adults, we’re evaluated by the results we produce.

Obviously, the 12-year-old bully was in the transition, but how about the adults who were responsible for protecting all their students?  When are they going to be held personally responsible?

Following the rules or processes is a minimum standard.  The correct standard, by which school authorities should be judged, is whether they get results. Thomas Alva Edison once said, “Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.”  Of course large organizations like school districts need rules and processes.  But those are judged by whether they produce the desired results, not by whether they’re being followed.  Following processes is never enough; results count.

What can you do if you’re a parent trying to protect your child from such irresponsible incompetents?

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Kenneth Weishuhn, a 14-year-old high school sophomore in Paullina, Iowa, died of self-inflicted wounds after months of relentless bullying.  Articles in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the Washington Post and the Huffington Post have described the town’s outcry. It’s true; Kenneth tried to minimize the bullying so it didn’t become worse.  And he got some relief when the gang of bullies turned some of its attention on a pregnant student.  And the school did hold an assembly after he reported the bullying.

After his suicide, school officials tried to cover themselves in the usual way.  “Dan Moore, the superintendent of the South O’Brien Community School District, said administrators knew of only one incident regarding Kenneth and that he believes they dealt with it well.  ‘I feel the school did address the issue that they were aware of when it came to their attention,’ Moore said. ‘Obviously, we had no idea that we’d have an end result like this, or what was going on outside of here.’”

There’s much more hidden below the surface of the principal's and Mr. Moore's lack of an effective response; especially the real fault that the administrators are trying to cover up.

Let's understand clearly.  Mr. Moore thinks they addressed the bullying and abuse well because he did some processes, procedures and techniques, even though the harassment and bullying didn't stop and, in fact, got worse.  And Mr. Moore thinks that performing some processes relieve him of responsibility.

What’s hidden here?

  1. The school principal, teachers and district administrator put all the responsibility for knowing about bullying on the reports they receive from students.  They take no responsibility for knowing what’s going on under their noses.  Every kid in school knows who the relentless bullies are and who leads the cliques and gangs.  But they don’t tell.
  2. The school principal, teachers and district administrator haven’t created an environment, a culture, in which at least some of the many witnesses come forward, instead of remaining as bystanders. Why didn't the witnesses come forward?  They know that nothing serious will happen to the bullies, but they’ll be exposing themselves to retaliation.  They don’t want to become the next victims of bullying.  What was the principal’s "stop school bullying program" at the start of the year, before there were any incidents?  Were parents involved in the program?
  3. Despite their years of education, their advanced degrees and their special training on how to stop school bullies, the school principal, teachers and district administrator treated bullying as an “incident,” not as a pattern.  Yet everyone knows that school harassment, bullying and abuse are rarely an isolated incident.  These behaviors may start as an incident perpetrated by one kid instead of by a gang, but when nothing happens to the bully, bullies become bolder and more overt.  When there are still no serious consequences, other bullies join in and bullying becomes a pervasive pattern.  Pretty soon, other kids pile on.  Bullying expands from emotional and physical abuse into cyberbullying – on and off campus.  When relentless bullies get away with their worst behavioral impulses – taunting, teasing, harassment, physical, mental and emotional abuse – other kids let their worst impulses out.

Kids know who has the power.  If the responsible adults turn the other cheek and bury their heads in the sand, kids know that the bullies are in charge.  Behavior sinks to the lowest level.  The culture becomes the "Lord of the Flies" on the playground, in the bathrooms and in the hallways.

When Kenneth Weishuhn reported what was happening, he faced an accomplish-nothing principal and district administrator who weren’t proactive in protecting him but, instead, would excuse and justify themselves by saying that they did the minimum required - even if it didn't work.

Would you want to pay those people’s salariesWould you want your child at those schools?  Maybe, but only if your kid was the leader of the bullies.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Many people believe that forgiveness – complete, unconditional and true – is necessary for spiritual development and for stopping bullies. These people struggle so they can see all people as completely spiritual and good, they strive to love them unconditionally, and they aspire to rise above earthly concerns and values.  That makes them feel very spiritual and virtuous.

However, much more often, I see the trap that “ineffective forgiveness” leads people into.

There’s a better way – “effective forgiveness.”

What I see are the many women and men who I’ve coached or who have written comments about their years of trying to love and forgive bullies who haven’t changed and who continue to harass and abuse them and their children.  Ineffective forgiveness becomes a trap when:

  • We don’t stop thinking about the incidents and we generate the same repeating cycle of strong emotions.
  • We don’t take precautions so the bully repeatedly attacks us.
  • We don’t learn how to avoid the same traps or how to stop bullying by toxic, selfish, narcissistic bullies’ sneaky manipulations, control, back-stabbing, or overt violence or threats of violence.

Ineffective forgiveness means that we hope the other person won’t be mean or nasty next time.  We hope that our believing this bit of wishful thinking helps bullies become better.  And to show that we’ve forgiven, we must put ourselves back into the same position in hopes bullies won’t take advantage of our good nature and kindness.

Ineffective forgiveness means people have put the value of forgiveness and the value of self-protection at the same level.  This trap leads to despair, defeat, depression and, maybe, suicide.

Almost all of the women who have interviewed me on radio and television were raised to be “nice girls.”  Their mothers taught them to forgive the mean girls who tormented and terrorized them, because those girls must have had terrible home lives.  They were taught that it was wrong to fight back and to protect themselves.

This kind of ineffective forgiveness doesn’t stop relentless bullying at home, at school or at work.

What do we try to gain by replaying incidents of bullying and abuse? Replaying is a motivational strategy.  We’re trying to develop enough fear or pain, suffering or sorrow, isolation or depression, anger or rage so that we’ll finally take steps to protect ourselves.  We’re trying to develop enough energy to act effectively.

Therefore, once we know that we’ll protect ourselves, we can stop the rehashing the incidents, stop regenerating the strong emotion in order to keep us suspicious and alert.  Then we can forgive effectively.

What are the goals of effective forgiveness and what do we usually require to get there?

  • The goal of effective forgiveness is simply to stop thinking about the other person so they occupy no space in our mental or emotional worlds.
  • In order to relax our vigilance, either we have to know that the perpetrator won’t try bullying us again or that we’ll protect ourselves, naturally, automatically and easily, if they ever try again.  Because we’ll stop them automatically, we don’t need to replay and re-analyze all the terrible incidents to keep us on guard and full of energy.
  • Sometimes we’ll get bullies out of our environment, off our isle of song, but sometimes we’ll allow them to stay, although we’ll protect our personal space next time.  Effective forgiveness does not mean that we must still relate to them in the way they want.  Whoever tries to require continued interaction as evidence of “forgiveness,” is still trying to control us.
  • Usually, we test a bully’s sincerity by requiring public apologies and amends.  If they won’t do these, we correctly don’t trust them.  Even if they do these, we still can choose to get them out of our space.

What if no apologies or amends are possible? I saw a program about the Amish in America, in which a portion was devoted to a young man who invaded an Amish school, sent all the boys out and started shooting all the girls. He killed five and seriously wounded more.  Then he killed himself.

What can we say?  There are no apologies or amends that would make that okay.

I’m saying that in such cases, the task of the Amish families is not to forget, but somehow to move on with the children who are alive and with each other.  Whatever they can think and do to reduce this horror to a size that makes it only a part of life, to a size that still allows them to find joy, for the children to grow up and love and have their own children, whatever allows them to do that is effective.  If they use the work “forgiveness,” that’s fine.

How can we forgive ourselves? Follow the same approach.  Beating ourselves relentlessly; negative self-talk, self-bullying, self-doubt, self-questioning, perfectionism, blame, shame, guilt and self-flagellation are simply ways of continuing to remind ourselves to do better.  But that’s a hard way to keep the reminder in mind.  The price is pretty high – loss of confidence and self-esteem, loss of will and determination.  When we change our way of being in the world, so we know we won’t act that way again, we won’t need the self-bullying.  Or when we make ourselves into people who are so filled with the best of us that we won’t act that way next time, we won’t need the self-bullying to motivate us to stay on track.

The goal of effective forgiveness is always about behavior:

No specific process is required or is the best, as long as we get to the goal.  Whatever our explanations, psychological rationalizations, excuses or justifications are for bullies’ behavior or whatever make us feel good about forgiving them, the only criterion that really matters is that we get to the goals of effective forgiveness – we don’t waste our time and energy obsessing on the bullies and we protect ourselves.

Notice that I haven’t gone into abstract discussions about the existence of evil, or whether bullies are sinners or whether this world of pain and suffering, of joy and beauty is real or whether it’s a delusion to see through.  Those considerations might be important to some people, but they’re irrelevant to learning how to stop bullies and to protect ourselves from their attacks.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Although each situation is different, bullies exhibit common styles, techniques and patterns.  These commonalities enable us see what responses are ineffective and also to develop responses that are effective to stop bullying. Whether in relationships, by our own children’s temper tantrums or nastiness, by false friends, at school or in the workplace, there is one rule of thumb that’s critical in order to stop bullies: Don’t suffer in silence.

For some relationship examples, see the comments to the articles:

Too many women see the early warning signs of bullying and abuse, but ignore them.  They feel the jealousy, the control, the verbal and physical abuse, and the isolation.  They’re criticized, chastised, belittled and demeaned endlessly. Their money is taken away.  Their children are brutalized.  Often, the sons imitate their father’s behavior.  Often, the girls grow up to think that such harassment, bullying and abuse are normal, and they should be prepared to accept it when their turn comes.  And yet, these women stay and suffer in silence.  Often, they say they love the bullyThey don’t make the critical step of saying, “That’s enough.  I’m gone or you’re gone.”

Of course, women can inflict the same punishment and pain on their spouses.

At school, too many kids suffer in silence also. Often, kids are physically intimidated into silence. Often, kids are too ashamed to reveal their guilty secret or they don’t think their parents can or will help.  Often, they accurately see that principals, teachers, counselors and psychologists won’t help them.  Often, they think it’s their fault; they must be doing something wrong or they must be bad people in order to attract so much taunting, teasing, harassment and brutality.  Often, other kids pile on physically, verbally and by cyberbullying.

Kids’ silence prevents effective action from the principals and teachers who would protect them.

As parents, we must learn to recognize the signs that our children might be subjected to bullying and abuse.  Sometimes, we must pry the truth out of our reluctant kids.  Sometimes, we must check their phones, computers and social websites.  Sometimes, we must investigate with parents of their friends or with teachers.  Sometimes, we must learn to force reluctant principals to act, even though that might violate our old beliefs or values.

Do-nothing principals promote, collude and enable bullies to flourish in the dark.  Do-nothing principals and teachers are a major factor in student suicides

In all cases, we must not be passive; instead we must respond. Suffering in silence inevitable leads people to feel like victims; helpless and hopeless.

We already know that minimizing or ignoring relentless bullies doesn’t stop them.  We know that trying to understand, forgive, appease, beg, bribe, be nice or reason with real-world bullies doesn’t stop them. The Golden rule doesn’t stop these ignorant, insensitive or narcissistic predators.

I’m not going into the many reasons that targets suffer in silence.  We don’t need a scientific study to analyze all the reasons.  If we and ten friends make a list, we’ll cover more than 90% of the reasons. So what?

What’s important is that whatever our reasons are, we already know we must overcome them.  We must act despite our feelings of reluctance.  Just like we wouldn’t be swayed by bullies’ excuses and justifications, we can’t give in to our self-bullying ones.

We must develop the will to stop bullying. I think of the will as the engine that gives us the power to go where we want to go.  The engine is the will to do whatever it takes to stop bullies – determination, courage, mental and emotional strength, perseverance, resilience, endurance, being relentless.  The old word, still perfectly good, was grit.

Of course, we need skills – learning how to steer.  But without an engine, all our skills, all our ability to steer, won’t matter.  Without an engine we won’t get anywhere.

Don’t suffer in silenceDon’t whine or complain; speak up.  Give yourself a chance.  Test the world: Who’ll help you and who won’t.  That tells you about them and whether you want to vote them off your island.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

One of the typical tactics of sly, sneaky, stealthy, manipulative bullies is to work in the dark; to not be seen to be bullies.  Then, when a light is shined on their abusive behavior, they claim that they were just having fun; that they were just kidding around; that they didn’t know their target was offended, hurt or minded their attacks. This tactic is used at home by bullying, toxic spouses, parents or children, and by bullies and their cliques in schools and at work.

In order to stop these bullies you must protest; you must say “No!”

Often, people decide to ignore the bullying.  These targets (on their way to becoming victims):

Ignoring bullies can be a good first response, but only if we use it as a test.  If we ignore the bully and he stops, fine.  We’re okay.  But if the bully moves on to bully someone else, the question then becomes, “Are we willing to be good witnesses?”

But what if the bullying doesn’t stop?  Usually, determined, relentless bullies are only encouraged by lack of resistance.  They see a non-resisting target as holding up a “victim” sign and they escalate.  They can’t understand the moral impetus behind such kindness.  They’re bullies. They interpret our lack of push-back as fear and weakness, no matter how we interpret it.  They’re encouraged to organize cliques to demean, mock, attack and hurt us more.

Other people assume that if we’re not protesting, we must know we’re in the wrong; we must deserve the treatment we’re getting.  Our society saw that phenomenon when women didn’t cry “rape!”

At school, if we and our children don’t protest loudly, clearly and in writing to teachers, principals and district administrators, bullies can excuse and justify their behavior by claiming they didn’t know we thought of their actions as bullying.  So, of course, they felt free to continue bullying.  And we’ll have no defense.  This goes for physical, mental, emotional and cyber-bullying.

At work, many bullies use the same tactic.  Even if our company has rules against bullying, if we didn’t protest loudly, firmly and in writing, we’ll have no legal grounds to stand on later.  Our supervisors need written documentation in order to act.  And we need it in order to hold cowardly, conflict-avoidant supervisors accountable later.

Of course, we must also protest against abuse by overt bullies, even if that makes them feel proud.  But that will get the ball rolling for our resistance.

But, if we protest, won’t the bullying get worse? Maybe or maybe not.  Remember, what happened we tried the test of not protesting?  When we didn’t protest, the harassment, abuse and bullying got worse.  So we might as well learn to protest effectively; the first step of which is creating records and documentation.

And we don’t want to live our lives as cowards, do we?  Remember the old and very true sayings about cowards dying a thousand deaths.  That’s an underestimate.  If we don’t protest, our negative self-talk, blame, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, stress and depression will pervade our lives.  Our lives will shrivel like prunes.

For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and hesitation, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.

If we protest, will the bullies stop? Although there’s a guarantee that relentless bullies will escalate if we don’t protest, there’s no guarantee that simply protesting will stop them.  Protesting is only the first step in responding effectively.  We may need to go up to higher steps to stop a particular bully.

Expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Mean girls, like mean guys, can make middle and high school a wounding, scarring misery for many kids. We’d expect elementary school friendships to change as girls develop different interests in boys, studies, athletics, music, art and science at different rates – especially interests in boys.  We’d expect old friends to drift apart.

But the verbal, mental and emotional consequences of put-downs, teasing, taunting, cutting-out, ganging up, harassment, hazing, bullying and abuse can be devastating.  Scars can last a lifetime.

Alicia and Cory were best friends for years but in middle school, Cory changed.  She became boy-crazy and Tammy became her best friend.  Alicia wasn’t interested in boys at that time so she and Cory started drifting apart.  Nothing unusual or wrong with that.

But Tammy made it a problem.  She and few friends targeted Alicia and insisted that if Cory wanted to be Tammy’s “best friend,” Cory had to join in the attacks on Alicia.  Cory didn’t resist.  As soon as Cory gave in, Tammy upped the stakes and kept making Cory be more and more vicious in order to join the gang.

Alicia had never done anything bad to Tammy or to Cory.  Neither would talk with Alicia about why Tammy had singled her out.  Tammy was simply a bully; each year in school she aligned herself against a scapegoat who she used to rally a clique around her as a leader in devising more and more cruel attacks.  This year was simply Alicia’s turn.  Since nothing bad happened to Tammy during her years at school, she didn’t see any reason to stop.

When Alicia talked with Cory, Cory cried, but didn’t stop her attacks.

What can Alicia and her parents do?

  1. Alicia didn’t talk about the bullying but her parents could tell there was something very wrong.  They dragged it out of Alicia.  They could understand Alicia and Cory’s different interests and growing distance, but they were appalled that an old friend was so vicious toward Alicia.
  2. Alicia’s parents talked to a teacher who confirmed the level of abuse but said she was helpless because it was all verbal and the school had no policies or programs in place and her principal didn’t want the subject of bullying brought up.  The teacher also told them that Tammy’s parents had been spoken with the previous year for attacking a different girl, but since Tammy was winning and feeling good, her parents didn’t see any reason to stop her.  In the long-term, Alicia’s parents knew they had to fight for a strong anti-bullying program and probably a new principal but that didn’t help resolve the immediate problem.
  3. Alicia’s parents knew Cory’s parents very well so they decided to talk with them.  They didn’t know Tammy’s parents so they did not approach them.  Cory’s parents were upset at their daughter, but after lengthy discussions they decided to minimize the bullying. They said that Alicia would have to deal and they were happy that Cory had gotten in to a popular crowd.
  4. While Alicia’s parents were exploring other avenues, like talking to the district administrator, they knew that their immediate task was to help Alicia develop an attitude that would diminish the emotional hurt.  They knew that kids who took the put-downs to heart usually suffered all their lives.  More than the crying, loss of appetite, falling grades, sleepless nights, negative self-talk, anxiety, blame, shame and guilt, low self-confidence and self-esteem, and depression and maybe even suicidal tendencies often followed such relentless attacks.  Indeed, Alicia had begun to take the viciousness personally.  She wasn’t ugly but she wasn’t beautiful; she was skinny and she hadn’t started developing breasts yet; she was good-natured and social but not in the clique of the most popular girls.  She began to think that there must be something wrong with her because she was picked on and didn’t know how to fight back – being nice, appeasement and following the Golden Rule hadn’t helped.  Since the adults didn’t protect her, she thought that maybe there really was something wrong with her and she’d be a loser and alone all her life.  Her parents and family loved her but maybe, she thought, in the outside world, she’d be victimized for life.
  5. Alicia’s parents decided to focus on helping her turn around her thinking.  She had thought that since she was evidently failing Cory and Tammy’s tests for friendship, she must be doing something wrong and there was something wrong with her.

The big shift came when Alicia decided that she was really testing them.  She decided that there was nothing wrong with her; Tammy, Cory and their friends were simply jerks.  She decided that Cory, Tammy and the others were stupid and insecure, and needed to put someone down in order to feel good.  And that her old friend Cory was especially weak and ignoble.  They had failed Alicia’s test of who she wanted to be friends with.  She didn’t want to be friends with people who acted that way.

Alicia was not one to fight back with fists, arguments or even sarcasm.  The tactic that fit her personality and comfort zone was simply to mutter “jerks,” laugh with scorn and walk away with her head held high.  And she remained laughing and happy because she knew who the losers were.  While that infuriated Tammy, Cory and the others, there were a number of other girls who responded to Alicia’s attitude of confidence and self-esteem, and to her smile and good cheer.  She slowly collected her own clique of friends.

Alicia also built a mental movie of a future in which she was loved and had a loving family.  She could see that she looked like her mother, who’d married her handsome father and that they loved each other.  She had hope that she could also do as well.  Therefore, she also judged the boys who circled around Tammy and Cory as jerks.  She knew they weren’t good enough for her.  Her self-esteem and confidence grew.  Other kids noticed that she seemed more secure and sure of herself.  Since she was nice and friendly, many wanted to be friends with her.

Alicia also realized that she would not want to be friends later in life with most of those middle school kids.  As much as they had seemed important to her before, she decided that she’d make her own life, following her own interests so any middle school friends were probably temporary.  That took much of the sting out of Tammy and Cory’s continuing scorn and harassment.

What Alicia’s parents did to try to rally the principal and district administrator is a different story.  Typically, when harassment or abusive behaviors, and bullies are tolerated at a school they do not remain as isolated incidents, they become typical patterns of behavior.  Therefore, there were many other kids in Alicia’s position of being harassed and targeted by other bullies.  But how Alicia’s parents rallied them is also a different story.

The important story here is that through personalized coaching, Alicia started a life of testing the world.  She took charge of her attitudes and feelings, increased her self-confidence and self esteem, and changed her life for the better.  In so doing, she took charge of her actions and her future.

The best ways to destroy a child’s confidence and self-esteem, and to create an adult riddled with self-doubt, insecurity and negative self-talk are:

  1. Relentless beatings. These instill fear and terror.  Children can become convinced they’re always wrong and the price for mistakes is high; maybe even maiming or death.  The result can be adults who’re afraid to make decisions, assert or defend themselves, think they’re worthy of respect or good treatment.  The result can be adults who expect to be bullied, punished, abused or even tortured.
  2. Relentless and personal criticism, hostility and questioning. The results can be the same as relentless beatings.  Kids grow up thinking that no one will help or protect them.  Emotional beating can leave even deeper scars.  Adults often have mental and emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, self-mutilation and suicide.
  3. The “Big Lie:” “You don’t know what’s really happening.”

The first two seem fairly obvious and much has been written on them.  Let’s focus on the Big Lie.

Kids have emotional radar.  They’re born with the ability to sense what’s going on.  Their survival depends on knowing who’s friendly or hostile, who’s calm or angry, who’s reliable and trustworthy, and who’s liable to explode without obvious provocation.  They know who’s nice and who hurts them.  They sense when their parents or family are happy or angry.

The effects of being consistently told that they’ve gotten it wrong can be just as devastating as physical or emotional brutality.  For example:

  • When kids sense that their parents are angry at each other, but they’re told that the family is loving and caring they learn to distrust their kid-radar.
  • When they’re yelled at, teased, taunted or brutalized, when they’re subjected to bullying, they know it hurts.  But when they’re told that the parent cares about them or loves them, or that they’re too sensitive, they start to distrust their own opinions.
  • When they can never predict what’s right or wrong, they can grow up thinking they’re evil, stupid or crazy.
  • When they’re constantly challenged with, “Prove it.  You don’t know what’s really happening.  How could you think that; there’s something wrong with you.  If you were loving, grateful, caring, you wouldn’t think that way about your parent or family.”

Kids raised this way often grow up riddled with insecurity, self-doubt and self-questioning.  As adults, instead of trusting how they feel, they wonder if they’re being lied to, mistreated or bullied.

They become easy prey for bullies; especially stealthy, covert, manipulative control-freaks who demand, criticize, question or argue about everything.  The more convincing and righteous the bully is, the more the target is thrown into insecurity and panic; the more they become indecisive and frozen.

How do you know if you’re a victim of that early treatment?  In addition to your history, the tests are your thoughts, feelings and actions now:

  1. Do you consistently doubt yourself?  Do you even doubt that you see reality? Do you think that other people know better about you than you know about yourself?
  2. Are you indecisive and insecure?  Do you worry, obsess or ruminate forever?  Do you solicit all your friends’ opinions about what you should do or just one friend who seems to be sure they know what’s best?  Do you consistently look for external standards or experts to tell you what’s right or proper?  Do you complete quick tests of ten or twenty questions that will tell you the truth about yourself?
  3. Do you feel bullied but you’re not sure that you are?  Do you let other people tell you about what’s too sensitive or what’s reasonable or “normal?”
  4. Do you think you have to deserve or be worthy of good treatment, or that you have to be perfect according to someone else before they should treat you the way you want to be treated?  Are you filled with blame, shame and guilt?  Do you think that if you were only kinder, nicer, more understanding and more caring, if you asked just right or compromised every time you’d finally get treated the way you want?
  5. Do you struggle to get the respect and appreciation you want?

Of course, we all have moments when we’re unsure, but if you’re consistently insecure or insecure consistently with one or two people then you may have a deep-seated problem.

If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, you may need expert coaching.  All tactics are situational, so we’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

We don’t need more research and statistics to know that domestic violence is a travesty and must be stopped.  For example, watch the graphic five minute video about the effects of that brutality and the work of one safe house helping women and children.  Domestic violence is obvious – you can see the results of physical battering. On the other hand, even though domestic bullying and mental and emotional abuse are more wide spread than overt beating they’re often hidden from view.  Since harassment, bullying and abuse often fly below the bullying-radar of the targets and the public, I want to focus on it here.  Targets who accept the bullies’ promises or threats or on-going torture often don’t recognize how bad it is; how demoralizing and defeating it is; how their souls are being eroded over time.

Of course, some men are bullied by women, but notice the patterns of the bullied women who have written these (edited) comments:

  • “Out of the blue, he started taking control over me (commanding me), which I am not liking.  He is not letting me meet my friends or go out with them on weekends.  He doesn’t let me wear dresses, saying his parents don’t like it.  I am not allowed to do anything; no friends, no meeting people, no phones, nothing.  These things were never an issue previously.  I tried to work out things during last five months by listening to him and not meeting or talking to my friends.  He just keep saying ‘Listen to me and things will work out; otherwise pack your bags and leave.’  He doesn’t let me go out anywhere without him.  He doesn’t want to sort it out by talking.  Whenever I try, he says, ‘I am not here to listen to you.  You have to do whatever I say.   I don’t want to hear a ‘No’.  Now, I am always depressed and sad and smoke a lot more.  I lost my smile.  I lost myself in this relation.  Shall I give up or keep compromising without any expectations in this relationship?”
  • “I have been in a four year relationship, and have a two year-old daughter with him.  I have been feeling depressed lately and having second thoughts about us being together.  He controls me.  I can’t go any where without asking him first.  Sometimes I feel like a little kid asking for permission, even if it’s to go to the store.  My friends ask me to go out for a girls’ night and he gets mad if I mention it, so I stopped asking and him and just tell my friends I’m doing something that night so I can’t go.  Now, they don’t even ask me anymore.  When his friends are here he acts like he’s so cool and even yells at me in front of them.  It’s extremely embarrassing.  I feel alone.  I tried leaving in the past and he won’t let me take the baby.  So I stay because I don’t want to fight and I’m not leaving my child.  What do I do?  How do I make it an easy break up?  How do we get out?”
  • “At first my husband was the sweetest man I ever met.  He complimented me and had such great manners.  Then slowly but surely he began changing into the worst thing I could ever imagine.  The sick thing is I know I don't deserve it, but I can't leave.  It's like he has some strange control over me.  He constantly puts me down about my intelligence, appearance and my mothering abilities, which hurts the most.  It’s such an everyday obstacle that I find myself questioning why I stay.  It's gotten so bad I'm beginning to believe the things he says to me about how I'm useless and no one will ever want me but him.  Every bad thing that happens, he takes out on me.  Every single thing is my fault.  I want to leave but I still find myself staying, feeling bad for him and his feelings.  He can't even compliment at all without letting me know that I'm ugly and lucky he even loves me.  I'm just so sad anymore.  I don't even recognize myself.  I'm not allowed to speak to my family or friends.  I just don't know what to do anymore.  I'm so lost.”
  • “My husband and I have been together for eleven years with four children.  We go through the cycle of an abusive relationship.  Every time we argue, I get called a ‘bitch,’ which I have asked him many times to not do.  We kiss and make up.  Then everything's fine and dandy again.  He doesn't like to talk about our fights and says he will not name-call me again.  But every opportunity he gets, he's right at it again.  I guess I keep hoping he'll change, but I know he never will.   I don't feel any love from this guy.  He has fooled around on me and even went as far as marrying someone else while we were married.  Just recently he took my wedding ring away and threatened to pawn it.  He also promised my kids that he'll take them on a vacation.  He doesn’t even work, so I ended up having to get funds just to take the kids on the vacation.  Today, we fought again and he said sorry and he'll start today on not calling me a bitch.  Then ten minutes later it happened again.  I feel so stuck.  I feel as my only way out is suicide.  But I don't want to give him that satisfaction.  All I did today was cry.  And I don't even have anyone to talk to because everyone is sick of hearing me cry over him.”

Some patterns I see are:

  • He commands, bosses and embarrasses her in public.  She submits because she wants to avoid bigger fights.  She hopes that since she gave in this time, he’ll be nicer next time.  But he’s relentless in arguing, bullying and abusing; he never stops.  If he doesn’t beat her, the threat is there.
  • When she’s nice and logical – discussing, asking, compromising, begging, arguing, appeasing – she may get peace because he’s gotten his way, but it’s only momentary.  Her good behavior doesn’t buy his in return.  He never reciprocates by letting her have her way next time.  Eventually, she submits completely and asks permission to do anything.  He’s in complete control.  When he’s mean, angry or out of control, it’s her fault because she isn’t perfect.  It’s as if, “Since he’s angry, you must have done something wrong.”
  • She’s mocked, criticized, demeaned and humiliated until she doesn’t know what to believe.  She thinks she’s helpless and wouldn’t be loved or succeed on her own.  He’s so convinced and convincing that she begins to question herself, increasing her self-doubt, stress, anxiety and insecurity.  Eventually, the results of emotional and spiritual defeat are physical defeat and sickness.  Even though she knows she doesn’t deserve such treatment, she usually has some self-doubt and guiltShe makes many attempts to be perfect according to his standards.  She forgets that it’s her standards that should matter to her.
  • Step by step, she’s isolated – cut off from friends, family and sources of her own income.  She loses her old self; she loses her confidence and self-esteem; she becomes depressed, heart-broken and ready to give up.
  • It’s even worse if there are children she thinks she’ll have to support if she leaves.  Eventually, she begins to think like a victim – she can’t see how to get safe house help, legal help or the police on her side.

These targets keep hoping they’ll find some magic wand to change him; he’ll become a loving, caring, nice and reasonable person.  But that’s not going to happen.

Or they think that the most important value is making a marriage last even though it’s a marriage of torture.  Or that what matters is whether he loves her or not, when what really matters is how he loves her.

The question they must answer is whether it’s more important to keep a marriage at any cost, while giving in to fear and despair, or whether it’s more important to risk demanding the behavior they want in their personal space.  And if someone won’t behave decently, either they’re voted off our island or we leave theirs.

Maybe if these targets thought that they’re dealing with relentless bullies or predators, they might summon the strength to take steps to get away.  They might accept that the Golden Rule won’t stop narcissistic control-freaks; that appeasement won’t change predators; that unconditional love won’t convert carnivores; that unconditional forgiveness won’t heal the wounds they think drive him to be so abusive.  Maybe they’d realize that asking, threatening, yelling, demanding or an endless number of second chances without consequences are merely begging.

Those abusive, bullying control-freaks always interpret their target’s kindness, reasonableness and compromise as weakness and an invitation to take more from them, to control more of their lives, to eat them alive.

Ultimately, these women get the worst that they’re willing to put up with.  And eventually, the price they pay is slow erosion of their souls.

That’s why the first step in creating a bully-free personal space is for us to rally our spirits; to become strong, brave, determined and persevering.  Endurance endures.  Then we can make effective plans, take skillful steps and get the help we need.

No matter how difficult it seems, getting away is the only way to have a chance for a wonderful future.

All tactics are situational, so we’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit the target and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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I’ve often seen principals, guidance counselors, teachers and district administrators recommend mediation even for relentless school bullies and their targets, even after the bully has taunted, teased, harassed and abused the target for months and the school officials haven’t changed the bully’s behavior by asking, encouraging, begging and bribing the bully. In these situations, the principals finally give up and throw the burden back on the defenseless targets by saying that the kids have to work things out on their own.  In these circumstances, this recommendation is a cowardly abdication of adult responsibility and authority, and it’s totally wrong.

Of course mediation and the weight of peer opinion and condemnation can be effective in some cases.  For example, in situations in which two kids got into it with one time, it’s possible to bring them together and build a bridge of civility and even respect.

But in recommending one-to-one mediation when the school officials have already failed, the officials have taken the third step in converting your targeted child into a victim:

  1. The first step was in not protecting the target, in not removing the bully, in not having consequences for the bully and his family the next time the bullying occurred, in not kicking the bully out of school.
  2. The second step in converting targets into victims is usually taken in cases where the principal, teachers, counselors and school district administrators have been unable to rehabilitate the bully through asking, teaching, begging and bribing the bully.  They make the target pay the price by removing him from the classroom or by simply looking the other way when the bully acts and then stonewalling and lying to the target’s parents.  They hope the target will be less stubborn than the bully and will agree to suffer in silence.  However, when the bully realizes that he has power, he usually increases his violence because no adult is making him stop bullying and other kids are afraid of him because he can get away with doing what he wants.
  3. The third step that uncaring, lazy, weak, inept or cowardly principals take is when they blame the target.  They say, “You must be doing something wrong because the bully’s still picking on you.  Therefore, if you get together and apologize and promise to do whatever the bully wants, he won’t have a good reason to abuse you.  If you can’t make him change, it’s your fault.”  They call that “Mediation.”  That kind of mediation assumes that the target did something wrong, that the bully has good reason to be angry and abusive, and that the bully will stop when the target grovels.  That form of mediation completely ignores the truth that relentless bullies are predators. For whatever reasons – their own pain, their drive for power and position – they will keep bullying until they’re actually stopped.

This approach makes the targeted children feel helpless and that their situation is hopeless.  They’ll be victims for life.  It destroys self-confidence and self-esteem.  It stimulates anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation.  It starts children down the path toward isolation, depression and suicide. Parents, when principals have gone on weeks and months making excuses why they allow the bullying to continue, they’re telling you that you’re on your own.

  • They won’t stop the bully; they’ll look the other way.  They’ll let your child sink or swim on his own in the shark-infested waters of the playground, cafeteria, lockers, hallways, bathroom or bus.
  • They don’t care about your child’s feelings or problems.  They either care about the bully’s feelings more or they simply don’t want to deal with a difficult problem.  Don’t let your child entertain self-doubt or negativity.  Don’t give in to stress, anxiety, hopelessness or depression.  Don’t go down that path to helplessness and suicideKeep your child’s confidence and self-esteem high.  You and your child can stay strong and courageous; you can stop the bully.
  • Encourage your child to maintain his inner strength and move up a staircase of increasing firmness to try to get the bully to look for easier prey.  All tactics depend on the situation, but there are some general guidelines.
    • At the bottom of the staircase we try peaceful, friendly methods.  We ignore it, we say ouch, we ask the bully to stop, we try to deflect it with jokes, we avoid contact.  If that stops the bully, your child wasn’t really dealing with a relentless bully.  If the bully doesn’t stop, if the violence continues, we need to teach our children to push back verbally.
    • If verbal methods don’t stop the bully and the school officials won’t stop the bullying, especially with younger kids, when it’s one-to-one and the kids are the same size, your child must be prepared to beat up the bully, if possible.  Prepare your child with martial arts training.  Of course you must be aware that the older a bully is, the more likely he is to be carrying a weapon.  I’m going to this level because you’ve already failed using every peaceful means you can.
    • I’m assuming that the principal and district administrators have not stopped the bullying while you’ve been talking to them and your child has slowly gone up the staircase.  Of course, when your child hits back those cowardly principals will attack your child because, they’ll say, “We don’t condone violence,” even though they permitted the bully to be violent for months.  And usually, they permitted his friends to pile on by attacking your child verbally and physically or through cyberbullying.  They’ll suspend your child for fighting back.  Arrange for your child to be prepared and happy.  Go to Disney World as if you won the Super Bowl.  If the bullying stops because your child is ready to fight again, it’s worth the trip.
  • Since you won’t have legal redress – principals can’t be fired if they don’t stop bullies – your only alternative is plenty of bad publicity.  You’ll need a lawyer and the ear of sympathetic reporters.  Get your documentation together and make it public; minutes of all the meetings with the principal, emails and letters received by the principal expressing your concerns for your child’s safety and containing the minutes of the meetings.  Look for a reporter or station manager who was bullied and not protected when he or she was a child.  They might champion your cause.
  • The most important consideration is your child.  Eventually, you want your child to get a good education.  You must increase his strength, courage, character and will.  You want him grow up to look back at the bully and the authorities who didn’t protect him as insignificant.  They were speed bumps in his life that he’s overcome and doesn’t even think about now because his life is so wonderful.  That may mean that you remove your child from the care of school officials who don’t care about his physical, mental and emotional well-being and safety.

By the time the principal suggests mediation, you know you’ve given them too much time and trust.  You’ve been in an adversarial relationship and you didn’t recognize it.  Now you know.  Act wisely and tactically.

If your children are the targets of bullies and school officials who aren’t protecting them, you need to take charge.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome principals and other officials who won’t do what’s right.  We can plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Posted
AuthorBen Leichtling
24 CommentsPost a comment

Principals didn’t stop school bullies and now there are more school bullying-caused suicides.  In all of the cases I’ll describe, there were differences in the bullies’ methods of harassing and abusing their targets.  But what was the same was that the parents complained and the responsible school teachers and principals didn’t protect the children in their care.  Also the same was the principals’ or school district administrators’ defense: “We didn’t know.” To me, especially after the parents of the targets complained, that’s an admission of incompetence, delinquency and neglect.  The other kids at school knew who bullies were and where, when and how it occurred; why don’t the college-educated, supposedly intelligent and responsible adults know?

I know that the first culprits are the bullies themselves and their parents.  But I want to shine two lights: I know that the first culprits are the bullies themselves and their parents.  But I want to shine two lights:

Notice the similarities in all these cases:

  • In Texas, a straight “A” eighth-grader, Asher Brown, took his life 18 months after his parents claim to have reported on-going bullying by four other students.  Despite the evidence of repeated conversations offered by the parents, the school district spokeswomen, Kelli Durham, whose husband, Alan Durham, is assistant principal, claims that they never knew and never had evidence.  Nothing was done to stop the bullies or remove them.

However, numerous comments from other parents and students on the web site of KRIV-TV Channel 26, which also reported a story about Brown's death, stated that the boy had been bullied by classmates for several years and claimed Cy-Fair ISD in Texas does nothing to stop such harassment.

  • An 11-year old Oklahoma boy, Ty Smalley, committed suicide after being bullied repeatedly for about two years.  Despite the parents contact with the school, teachers, counselors and the principal never saw anything and never stopped the bullying.  The parents were told things like, “Boys will be boys” and “It would be looked into.”  According to Ty’s father, Kirk, the school never documented any of these conversations so they can now claim that they never knew.

The event that precipitated Ty’s suicide was when he finally retaliated against the bully he was suspended for three days while the bully, previously identified to the teachers, was suspended for only one day.

  • An eight-year old in a Texas Elementary school tried to commit suicide, but survived his leap off the balcony of a school building.  He had been repeatedly harassed but school officials had done nothing.  His mother said that teachers kept telling her they'd “handle it” when she complained about the bullying over the past seven months.  The last straw for the 8-year-old was when he was told to leave his classroom after two other boys pulled down his pants in front of the class.

The principal, Linda Bellard, said teachers never informed her of the harassment until the boy's suicide attempt, although the child's mother had visited the school seven times since September to complain about the problem.

Each of these cases will wind their way through courts, settlements will be reached in some, some school administrators will get off because there aren’t specific enough laws that require them to act and we’ll probably never know the whole truth because we weren’t there.

As a parent whose responsibility is to ensure the physical safety, and the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of your child, you need to know how to get appropriate action from principals and teachers who will resist acting strongly and swiftly to stop bullies.  Your child’s self-confidence, self-esteem and life depend on your skill.

  • Complain to teachers, counselors and principals.  But it’s never enough to complain or even to keep a record of your visit and conversation.
  • Give the responsible adults one chance.  Do they remove the bully?  Do they continue to monitor the bully and his or her friends for further retaliation?  Or do they remove your child?  Do they excuse the bully’s behavior as, “Kids will be kids?”  Do they say that the bully has a right to be educated in classes of his or her choice?
  • Use “The Lucius Malfoy” test.  Is your child’s principal standing up to the bullying parents of the school bully?  Or will he or she cower in front of bullying parents who say their child does no wrong or who threaten to sue the school if anything happens to their little darling?
  • If your principal fails theses test you must bring pressure to bear - immediately.  Remember that principals fear three things more than anything else: loss of job, publicity and law suits.
  • Get a lawyer and media publicity.  Learn what constitutes evidence and documentation.  Record all communication.  Communicate in writing and have proof that school officials received the letters you write.
  • Bullying is rarely an isolated event.  Unite with other parents whose children are bullied.  Get witnesses who will put their evidence in writing.
  • Have support for the long-haul.  Find people who’ll keep your spirits up through repeated set-backs.  Find experts to help you plan tactics at each step of the way.

Have great appreciation for principals who simply won’t tolerate bullying – who will have strong, proactive programs to train their staff and who will act swiftly and firmly in response to complaints.  Training is never enough: strong and courageous people are required to make these programs effective. Have realistic expectations; don’t assume that principals, teachers, counselors and district administrators will be active in stopping bullies.  Expect bullies’ parents to thwart your efforts.  Expect most uninvolved people to look away.  If nothing bad happens to bullies, expect other kids to pile on.

You’re on your own.  Many children will give up if they’re not protected by adults; make sure that you know how to protect yours.  Be the skillful advocate of your child’s safety and well-being.

There’s a world of difference between being an active witness to bullying and abuse, and being merely a bystander. A bystander has already decided to be an uninvolved spectator, to look the other way, to pretend ignorance if called upon.

A witness can make a tactical decision based on the circumstances – intervene now in some tactical way or speak up later.

At work, co-workers or bosses are bullies; at home, abusive parents will harass and bully one young child while lavishing goodies on the other; in addition, toxic parents will favor one adult child over another with love and inheritance on the line.

I’ll focus here on kids, but the larger implications should be obvious when you think about slavery or the Nazis or a hundred other public examples.

Often, at school and at home, mean kids will try to turn siblings or friends against each other.

For example, Charles’ friend, Brad, was relentlessly nasty to Charles’ sister Sarah.  He made fun of her, called her stupid, dumb and ugly, and, even though Sarah was tall and skilled enough to play with the older boys, he’d cut her out of their games or he’d intentionally knock her down.

Charles looked on in dismay but never interfered.  That was puzzling to Charles’ parents because, in one-to-one situations, Charles played well with Sarah and liked her.  Yet Charles had become a bystander; he wouldn’t step up to what he knew was right.

How come he didn’t protect Sarah from Brad?  Was Charles afraid that if he interfered he’d lose a friend or that Brad would beat him up?  Did Charles secretly want his sister out of the way?

More important than an analysis of “why,” was the potential effect on Charles of being a bystander.  What would be the cost to his character and mental and emotional well-being?  What would be the effect on his conscience and self-esteem if he played along and didn’t speak up against the abuse or if he colluded by joining in the harassment of his sister in order to make friends with Brad?

Without knowing the real answers to the “why” questions, the pain, shame, anxiety and stress of watching his sister tormented and the guilty laceration of his conscience finally drove Charles to choose which side he was on.  He stood up for his sister and for high standards of conduct, but then he had to solve another problem; Brad was a head taller and 30 pounds heavier than he was.

In front of Sarah, Charles got in Brad’s face and told him to cut it out.  If Brad wanted to be his friend and play with him, he had to be nice to Sarah…or else

Most of the Brad’s in the world would back down but this one didn’t.  Angry words led to shoving and Brad grabbed Charles and threw him down.  At this point Charles and Sarah’s advanced planning gave them a tactical advantage.  Sarah, as tall and heavy as Charles, jumped on Brad’s back and the brother and sister piled on Brad and punched and kicked him.

As with most kid fights it was over fast.  Brad got the message; he was facing a team.  If he wanted to play with them he’d have to play with both of them.  If he wanted to fight he’d have to fight both of them.  No parents were involved and Brad chose to play with them and be nice to Sarah.

As much as the incident helped Sarah, Charles was the major beneficiary of his choice.  His self-esteem soared.  He had been courageous and mentally strong.  And he learned that he and his sister could plan and stand firm together.

In a different situation, Ellen was popular and Allison, who was outgoing but had no friends, wanted Ellen all to herself.  At school, Allison put-down and cut out anyone Ellen wanted to play with.  If Ellen refused to follow Allison, Allison would get hysterical, cry and wail that Ellen was hurting her feelings.  Ellen didn’t want to hurt Allison but she wanted to play with whoever she wanted to play with.

The situation came to a head during the summer.  Allison wanted to play with Ellen every day.  And on every play date, Allison would be nasty to Ellen’ younger sister.  She’d mock Jill, order her to leave them alone and demand that Ellen get rid of her younger sister.  They were best friends and there was no room for a little kid.

Numerous times at their house, Ellen’ parents asked Allison to include Jill, but to no avail.  Allison would agree, but as soon as their backs were turned she’d be twice as nasty to Jill.

Ellen faced the same choice that Charles had; hurt her sister in order to collude with her friend or lose a friend and classmate.

Ellen didn’t agonize like Charles had.  Ellen was very clear; colluding is not how a good person would act.  However, her requests that Allison stop only brought on more hysterical anger and tantrums.

Ellen didn’t want to play with Allison any more but didn’t know how to accomplish this.  When she told Allison, Allison threw another fit – hurt feelings and crying.

This situation required different tactics from Charles’ because Ellen was younger and arrangements for them to play during the summer and after school had to be made by their parents.

Ellen’ parents could have gone to Allison’s parents and told them what Allison was doing.  However, they’d observed that Allison’s parents had never tried to stop her hysterics, blaming and finger-pointing at school.  They’d always believed Allison’s accusations about other kids and added their blame.  They demanded that teachers do what Allison wanted.

Ellen’ parents thought that raising the issue with Allison’s parents would only lead to negativity, accusations and an ugly confrontation, which would carry over to school.

They decided to use an indirect approach; they were simply always too busy for Ellen to play with Allison.  The rest of the summer they made excuses to ensure there would be no play dates.  When school started, they made sure there were no play dates after school, even if Jill wasn’t there.  They didn’t want their daughter to be friends with such a stealthy, manipulative, nasty, control-freak like Allison.

In addition, they told Ellen’s teacher what Allison was doing and asked them to watch if Allison tried to control Ellen and cut out other kids.

Most important, Charles stopped being spectator and became an effective witness-participant.  Ellen also would not remain a bystander.  She made her feelings clear and her parents helped intervene.  Both children learned important lessons in developing outstanding character and values.

Tactics are always dependent on the specifics of the situation.  As parents wanting to help and guide your children and grandchildren, remember that there’s no one-right-way to act.  The people involved get to choose where they want to start the process of standing up as witnesses and participants.  You can get ideas and guidelines from books and CDs but on-going coaching, to prepare you for your “moments of truth,” is essential.  You will need to adjust your plan in response to what happens at each step along the way.

For example, see the studies of Jake and Carrie in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”