In his article in the Costco Connections, “Stop Hassling Me: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying,” Steve Fisher quotes Psychologist Izzy Kalman as saying:
- “School anti-bullying programs don’t work.”
- “I hate referring to kids as bullies.”
- “Be nice to kids when they’re mean to you and before long they will stop being mean. This is known as the Golden Rule and is the solution to bullying.”
- “Don’t tell on kids who upset you.”
- “Don’t get angry at kids who upset you. Make it clear that they can insult you all they want and it doesn’t bother you. After a few days they will stop.”
- “If kids bring you nasty rumors, don’t defend yourself.”
- “If a kid hits you and you’re not hurt, act like nothing happened. If they keep hitting or pushing you, ask them calmly, ‘Are you mad at me?’ If they aren’t, they’ll stop hitting you. If they are angry, they’ll tell you why. You can discuss the matter, apologize if appropriate and they will also stop hitting you.”
Dr. Kalman doesn’t work with the targets of real-world school bullies. His advice is great for the targets of nice kids who are bullying one time because they’re having a bad day.
But real-world school bullies will be delighted by kids making Dr. Kalman’s responses. Real-world bullies are relentless predators who look for weak and isolated prey. You can’t stop real-world bullies by being nice, understanding, kind and rational, or with the Golden Rule. Real-world bullies take your use of the Golden Rule as a sign of weakness and an invitation to bully you more. Real bullies don’t have the empathy to stop abusing you because your feelings are hurt or because you’re a caring little saint.
Also, many school stop-bullying programs are effective when they’re based on real-world solutions, backed by strong principals, teachers and parents. And labeling bullies and bullying as “bullies” and “bullying” is a necessary component of successful programs.
How do I know this; check your own experience. Ask yourself about the kids you saw who were nice, but had one grumpy day versus the kids you saw who were relentless bullies. What stopped the relentless bullies?
My personal and professional experience and the experience of almost everyone who comments on articles and blogs is the same: The only way to stop bullies is to stop them. That may mean that the school authorities recognize them and stop them or get rid of them. Or that may mean that you get more and more firm until they quit. This may mean, eventually beating them up. Relentless bullies will show you how far you have to go in order to stop them.
After bullies are stopped or removed, then you can work on their therapy and rehabilitation. But I wouldn’t want my kids to be victimized while we wait for the bullies to become nice citizens.
Although Dr. Kalman’s suggestions are directed at bullies in school, how many of you have seen his suggestions as successful in stopping the real bullies at work? Again, all the lawsuits and comments about workplace bullies show that real bullies are relentless and don’t stop when you’re nice, kind, understanding and reasonable.
The other expert in the article, Barbara Coloroso, author of “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander,” on the other hand, has much right, but she also makes a common mistake when she advises, “Don’t tell your child to fight back.”
Sometimes, fighting back is the only language a bully understands. And your suspension from school is worth stopping a bully. The same applies at work, where fighting back usually means a law suit backed by great documentation.