In her article in USA Today in December, 2008, “Teach children ways to cope with bullies,” Barbara Cavallo writes, “Parents can help children learn effective techniques that include meditating, reading inspirational stories and performing simple physical exercises to cope with stressful situations such as bullying.” Those are good activities, but I disagree that they’re enough. I suggest alternative tactics to cope with bullies and to relieve stress.
Yes, meditation, reading inspirational stories and performing simple physical exercises are useful and good for the soul. But, if children’s energy is totally turned inward, you’ll be teaching them to be merely passive or to follow a faddish idea about saintly behavior. You’ll help your children handle their stress better by teaching them to deal effectively with the bully, not by withdrawing to make themselves feel better or more virtuous. The best antidote for stress is strong and firm action to change the situation.
Not getting or not showing hurt feelings is a great first step, but usually not enough. As I point out in “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” bullies don’t take your acquiescence as kindness. They take your giving in as weakness and an invitation to grab for more.
How about helping children and teenagers convert fear and pain into know-how, even if fueled by the energy of anger.
Schools have never been safe. I remember a biography of Harpo Marx (remember the Marx Brothers?). He went to school for one day. The kids threw him out the window (first floor). He came back in. They threw him out again. After the third time he didn't go back in. And never did again.
Schools are testing grounds for the real world. They present us with situations in response to which we can develop strength of character, resilience and skill. Imagine growing up on a farm, in an Indian village or in the middle ages. Not safe. I grew up in New York City. Not safe.
There are no safe environments. When I was growing up, that was the lesson I always got from reading great hero stories. And each tale challenged me to prepare myself for similar dangers.
All bullies are not the same, but their patterns of behavior, their tactics, are the same. That’s why I’ve found ways to stop them. If we don’t stop bullies, they’ll think we’re easy prey. Like sharks, they’ll simply go after us more. Sometimes, fighting is the key to success.
When children have learned how to stop bullies in their tracks, they will have developed strength of character, determination, resilience and skill. They’ll need these qualities to succeed against the real world bullies they’ll face as adults.
Growing up, I saw that for myself and my brothers. I also saw that with our six children. And I see that with my clients.
Begin with the books “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” and the10-CD set. You will probably also need practical, pragmatic coaching and tactics designed to resolve your specific situations.