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.

Do you think it’s normal for tweens and teens to be sarcastic toward their parents?  You know: the non-verbal hostility and sarcasm of eye-rolling, snorting, laughing.  You know: the openly sarcastic remarks, put-downs and talking back directly to us or in front of us while they’re talking to their friends. I think it’s normal for people to try to discover what works easiest for themselves: to think their opinions matter, to think that they’re entitled to express themselves in any way they feel like at the moment, to try to assert themselves and to push boundaries in order to gain control and power.

What’s not normal is for parents to allow their children to treat them that way.

Some typical reasons why parents don’t insist on better treatment:

  • Parents complain that it’s hard to resist the bad influences of tween and teen television, movies and internet shows, and the bad influences of their friends.  Yes, that stuff is out there.  Yes, we have to put out more effort to counterbalance bad influences.  Don’t wallow in analysis of those factors.  So, it’s hard?  We can’t wait for society to make things easy for us.  Who said parenting would be easy?  We must act as soon as we can to teach our children to see what’s wrong with the media and the behavior of some of their peers.
  • Many parents are afraid their children won’t like them if they’re “strict.”  As if being liked is more important than setting boundaries and high standards.  We do know that our children will understand a lot better when they have teenagers of their own.  Of course, there’s a balance.  I’m not talking about beating or abusing our kids.
  • Many parents think that it’s very important to be best friends their kids.  As if their kids will reveal more secrets to them or that kids will be helped to adjust better when they’re friends with their parents.  I even saw an official name for that style of parenting, “Peerenting.”  What nonsense.  If your children know as much as you, you don’t know enough.  They may be technically more savvy, but they’re still kids and we’re still parents.  They don’t know more about what constitutes good character, attitudes and values.  They don’t know more about the effects sarcasm and nastiness will have on their careers or families when they grow up.  We must teach them.
  • Many parents do not believe in punishing their children.  They think their children will grow out of all bad behaviors by themselves.  As if denying children what they want or thwarting their self-expression will create psychological problems for them later.  As if, when they become 21 or get married or have children, those kids will suddenly become polite, civil and responsible citizens who love their permissive parents.
  • Many parents believe they shouldn’t set standards.  They believe that kids should determine their own standards as they grow up.  I think we are teachers.  We teach them a set of standards that we think is right.  When they grow up they can decide what parts of ours they want to keep and what other ideas they want to try out.

One of the most important lessons we can teach and model for our tweens and teens is that we determine what behavior we’ll allow in our personal space.  We must not allow harassment, bullying and abuse in our personal space.  Since tweens and teens are still dependent on living with us, we can’t simply remove them from our space, as we would any adult who attacks us, no matter what the relationship is.  Therefore we must require that they treat us well.  That’s the first price they pay for anything they want from us beyond food and shelter.

Do not show them that we give into bullies.  They’ll believe what we show them, not what we ask, beg, bribe, threaten and yell at them to do.

In addition to developing the will, determination, courage and strength to set standards of behavior, we need to learn skills.

Some effective parental responses to smart-mouthed kids, all delivered with good cheer and smiles and a matter-of-fact firmness, are:

  • Take charge of the TV and internet.  Allow them to watch only certain shows or internet sites.  Sometimes, watch with them.  Teach them to resist bad influences they see.
  • The kids will say, “All the other kids act that way.  I’m just trying to fit in”  We can say, “If the other kids told you to murder someone or commit suicide, would you?  We don’t do what jerks or losers do.  We’re better.  We (last name) set higher standards.
  • They’ll say, “You’re just forcing me; you’re just blackmailing me.”  Answer, “Yes.  Of course I am.  I’m showing you how much I care about teaching you good behavior and what behavior I allow in my personal space.  I’m showing you that good behavior is so important I’m willing to make you unhappy.  Usually I try to make you happy.  There’s a price you pay for getting what you want from me.”
  • They’ll say, “I can say what I want.  It’s free speech.”  Answer, “Actually, there’s a lot that we as a society have decided you cannot say, like joking about carrying a bomb on an airplane or insisting you can play ‘Words With Friends.’”  Answer, “What you’re really arguing is that there should be no consequences for your being nasty; that no one should get upset when you’re a jerk.  I’m saying that there are consequences for expressing yourself any way you want.  People might not like you; people might not want to do nice things for you.”
  • Some other ideas to share with them
  • Treat the people you’re closest to, the nicest.  You know you have to be polite with strangers, teachers and cops.  Be even nicer to your parents.
  • If kids are left to create their own society, without wise adult input, you get “Lord of the Flies.”  Read it.  Would you like to be the target of those tweens expressing the worst of themselves?
  • No matter what we do, our kids will grow up disliking something about the way we raised them.  So what?  Say, “Do differently when you’re a parent.  Be prepared to be shocked when your kids protest about you even though you think you’re a wonderful parent.”

Even if they’re better debaters, require the behavior you want.  You don’t have to convince them you’re right or to get their permission or acceptance for your standards before you demand compliance.

Signs that you have a real problem child. It's a bad sign when children fight to the death to resist reasonable rules of polite, civil behavior.  Civility requires some effort compared to selfish, spoiled behavior and childish temper tantrums to get their way.  Therefore, I expect kids to push back at first.  Tell them that this battle is a waste of their precious time.  Encourage them to put their energy into struggling to succeed in school, to develop good friends, to prepare themselves with skills for being effective adults living a wonderful life.  If they still focus on fighting us, they have a real problem

What if you get no support from a bullying spouse? Again, this simply adds to the degree of difficulty.  Two very bad situations are if your spouse actively encourages and participates in abusing you, or if, for example, your extended family culture supports male children in abusing females.  Stand strong and openly set high standards.  If they won’t change, you may have to get rid of them.

What if you’re just beginning to set standards now that they’re teens? Of course, it’s always easier to start when they’re young.  If you let them get away with mistreating you when they’re five, you’re setting yourself up for a very big problem when they’re fifteen.  If you’ve let an older child grow up to be a rotten teen, don’t hesitate to learn from your mistakes with the younger children.  You can be open and honest, “I was wrong when I allowed your older brother or sister to act rotten.  I’m sorry I let them grow up spoiled, selfish and arrogant.  But I’ve learned and I’m doing better for you.  I know it may seem harder on you, but you’ll be much better for it.”

Prepare your children for being adults in a world where bosses and spouses won’t be permissive and all-forgiving.  They will require high standards of behavior.  They won’t plead with you and negotiate forever and neither should will I.

If your children have already become teenagers who think they’re entitled to do what they want, set boundaries immediately, as long as they’re under your roof.  And then demand good behavior toward you when they move out on their own.

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.

Teenagers do things behind our backs.  They hide things from their parents just like we did.  But suppose they’re involved in cyberbullying?  Even if they’re not the original perpetrator, suppose they simply get drawn in to pile-on? Are we liable when they’re cyberbullies?

Sometimes, people make nasty, sarcastic, critical remarks to a friend about someone else but they don’t expect it to get forwarded to everyone at school.  Lesson learned, I hope.

But how about our children being relentlessly nasty and vicious to everyone they don’t like on social networks?  How about if they tell people to kill themselves?

How about our children sending obscene remarks to lots of people under the name of someone they don’t like?  How about our kids asking people to pile on to call someone they don’t like obscene names?  How about our teenager setting up a fake Facebook page in the name of someone they don’t like, filled with altered pictures of the person, a fake history and rants about all the other kids at school?

About 50 percent of teens with internet access report having been bullied online.  About the same number report doing the cyberbullying.  More than one in three report having received cyber threats.  Only 10 percent of kids who are bullied tell their parents.  Only 15 percent of parents know what their kids doing online, especially on social networks.  Of course, these numbers are rough estimates, but in my experience, they’re low estimates.

If these things are done at school, schools will get involved.  What might a permanent record of these actions do to your teenager’s chance of getting a good job or getting accepted into college?

If the cyberbullying is done from our home computers, the school will probably not get involved.  But the police will.  And our liability as parents will be increased.

Notice, I didn’t approach cyberbullying as a moral wrong.  We grownups know that.  But how far would we go on moral grounds to stop cyberbullying by our children if that meant a pitched battle with angry teenagers.  They will object because we’re spying on them or we’re stopping them from joining some “in-crowd” they desperately want to belong to.

So I approached stopping cyber bullies by asking about our liability.

Suppose the bullied kids and their parents go to the police about our children as a cyber bullies?  Do we want the police coming to our door?  Do we want to defend ourselves by saying that we didn’t know?

Suppose the targets file a suit against our children and against us for damages?  Even if we win, how much money will the lawyers cost?  How will we stand the publicity on every television and newspaper in town?  Suppose it goes nationwide?

The lines of responsibility are in flux now because the area of law is so new.  We don’t know where a judge or jury might come down in our case.

Suppose the target of our children’s venom commits suicide or gets a gun to wreak vengeance?  Suppose we could lose our house in a civil suit?  Suppose we could go to jail?  Does that change our willingness to limit the freedoms our children want when they’re living in our home and using a computer we bought?

The bottom line is that we’re responsible for our children.  They live under our roofs.  We must know what they’re doing.  They don’t have privacy.

If we don’t set limits when they’re younger, they’ll grow up to be teens who think they can do whatever they want.  They’ll know they can wear us down if we try to limit them.  Even though we may pay the price.

If they’ve become teenagers already who think they’re entitled to do what they want, we’d better set boundaries before they do something that can ruin our lives as well as theirs.

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.

Work bullies can ruin a culture, destroy productivity and make your life – and the lives of everyone else they target – miserable. And it’s not just bullying bosses who are the problem.  Co-workers and employees also use bullying behavior that creates a hostile workplace.

Excluding lethal weapons, here are the top dozen techniques bullies use to ruin a workplace.

To read the rest of this article from the Dallas Business Journal, see: Don’t let bullies create a hostile workplace http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2008/06/09/smallb3.html

Most bullies use combinations of these methods.  The relentless application of these harassing, abusive techniques reinforces humiliation, pain and fearCliques and mobs rapidly form. Bullying can make the targets feel helpless and situations seem hopeless.

These methods cause increased hostility, tension, selfishness, turf wars, sick leave, stress-related disabilities, turn over and legal actions.  People become isolated, do busy work with no important results and waste huge chunks of time talking about the latest episodes of bullying.

Effort is diffused instead of aligned.  Teamwork, productivity, responsibility, efficiency, creativity and taking reasonable risks are decreased.  Promotions are based on sucking up to the most difficult and nasty people, not on merit.  The best people leave as soon as they can.

Your operational system may look wonderful on paper, but the wrong people in the wrong culture can always find ways to thwart it.  Your pipeline leaks money and profits plummet.

A common mistake in dealing with repeated bullying is to spend much too much time and effort trying to educate, explain, understand, accept, forgive, beg, bribe, ignore, reason with or appease themThese approaches won’t convert dedicated bullies into reasonable, civil and professional people. These approaches only stop people who aren’t really bullies, but have behaved badly one time.

During the time well-meaning or conflict-avoidant supervisors, human resource and civil rights professionals are trying these techniques to educate or rehabilitate bullies, they’re actually victimizing everyone else in the organization.  The monetary and emotional cost of tolerating or enabling bullies can be astronomical.

Determined bullies don’t take your understanding and acquiescing as kindness. They take your giving in as weakness and an invitation to abuse you more.  Bullies bully repeatedly and without real remorse.  They might appear to apologize sincerely, but you should accept only behavioral change, not good acting.

The best way to stop a bully is to stand up to them.  Expose and isolate them.  Or catch them doing something outrageous or illegal in front of witnesses.  Stopping them and having serious consequences for repetitions are also the greatest stimuli for change.

Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of hostile attitudes, behavior and performance.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

Of course, it’s easy to sympathize with most people.  If someone has been abused, bullied or worse as a child, our hearts go out to them in sorrow for their suffering.  Or we can see someone’s beautiful spirit, the spirit of God, in them and our hearts will go out to them with compassion and empathy. But if a friend, neighbor or co-worker comes to you full of hurt, anger and outrage, does that mean that someone else actually did something wrong to them?

Maybe or maybe not.

For example, Linda recently moved next-door to Carrie in their friendly, family-focused block. It was a cul-de-sac and all the families had kids approximately the same age.  They’d organized many activities, birthday parties and car pools in order to create a community feeling.

Carrie and Linda started becoming close friends.  One day, Linda came to Carrie crying and angry.  As Linda struggled to stop her tears, Carrie felt herself becoming angry on Linda’s behalf.  Who’d caused this much pain and suffering to her friend?

Linda explained that one of the other women had made cutting remarks about Linda’s husband not being as successful as many of the other husbands and that Linda’s children weren’t as athletic or smart as the others.  Carrie was furious.  How could that woman say such things and hurt Linda so much?  What kind of neighborly welcome was that?

In an act of sympathetic friendship, Carrie said she’d never liked the other woman, who was always pompous and inflating her husband and children.  Linda shouldn’t pay attention to what the other woman had said.  Linda should know all the other women liked her much more than the other woman.

None of that was true.  Carrie actually liked and admired the other woman.  She’d never been negative, insensitive, righteous or arrogant before.  She’d always gone out of her way to help everyone.  Actually, Carrie couldn’t imagine the other woman saying those things to Linda.  But, obviously Linda’s pain meant that she had, indeed, said those things.  And Carrie thought it was her responsibility to comfort Linda and make her feel better.

The tactic worked.  After Carrie’s statement, Linda seemed to feel much better.  She thanked Carrie and left.

Two days later, Carrie noticed that the other woman had snubbed her in public and was whispering with Linda and a few of the others behind Carrie’s back.  Linda seemed to be accepted as part of the group and Carrie was glad for her.  But she still felt the cold shoulder.  Over the next week, it got worse.  She felt defeated, being cut out by the other women.

Episodes like this were repeated, sometimes with Carrie as the target and sometimes with other women as targets.  Carrie realized that it was like being back in junior high or high school again.  There was the clique of “in girls,” now led by Linda, and a shifting group of “targets-of-the-day.”

Carrie later discovered that after she’d sympathized with Linda, Linda had gone to the other woman and told her what Carrie had said behind her back.  Of course, the woman had reacted and had started snubbing Carrie.

In this article, I won’t go into how Carrie learned what Linda had been doing to each of the women or how Carrie managed to combat it.  Carrie might have been Linda’s first target, but she was not a victim.

Linda’s narcissistic, sneaky, manipulative, back-stabbing behavior was her tactic for breaking in to a new group and taking control of it.  Linda was a Queen Bee.  She wanted to control the turf.  She wanted everyone to be either so worshipful or so afraid that they sucked up to her and did what she demanded.

If Carrie had let herself be ruled by her sympathy for a friend trying to break in to a new group, she’d have never been able to protect herself.  Instead, she did not accept defeat.  She took power over her actions.  She was able to bring the women together in friendship and to return the block to a friendly, activity-filled community.

Carrie and the other women found that acts of friendship did not change Linda’s behavior.  She could not be won over to acting nicely.  All their sympathy and compassion didn’t stop Linda from harassing or bullying.  She would not be a true friend.  She remained a “mean girl.

As Carrie discovered the hard way, sometimes sympathy can be a trap.  Her sympathy only aided and enabled a bully to spread her poison.

Just because someone is hurt and angry does not mean that someone else really did anything wrong to them

Carrie should have been more careful of what she did to make Linda feel better.  And she should have trusted her knowledge of the other woman’s good character.  She should not have believed Linda’s report, no matter how convincing.  She should have spoken face-to-face to the other woman in the beginning.

If a person who’s hurt, angry and complaining is a snake or go-between, who likes to pour gasoline on fires and stir up trouble between other people – who plays the game of “Uproar” – they’ll use any sympathy, opinions or information to enmesh you in a fight with someone else.

I haven’t mentioned the “Linda’s” in our extended families because we already know who those manipulative tricksters are.  We’ve already been sucked in to their manipulations so many times that we’ve learned to protect ourselves and to maintain good relations with the other people who act nice in return

A big learning for Carrie was that we may see someone’s shining, Godly spirit, but we’ll probably get to deal with their personality and the consequences they cause us.

It’s not the sympathy that’s a problem.  It’s how we express that sympathy or the dumb ways our sympathy can lead us to act in order to make someone feel better.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” 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.

It’s easy to dislike stalkers and snitches with personal vendettas.  But you can’t fire them just because they’re relentless, stir up conflict and waste your time and energy, can you? Most of us dislike snitches.  And there are rules and laws against stalking someone in the workplace.

But if you’re a manager, someone who tells you about things your other employees are doing wrong can seem helpful.  A snitch doesn’t always look like a snitch if you’re the beneficiary, not the target or victim, of their tattling.  And they can provide useful information about serious problems you may not be aware of.

For example:

To read the rest of this article from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, see: Snitches, vendettas hurt productivity http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/print-edition/2011/11/04/the-human-element.html

Did Hazel do her boss a favor by being a snitch?  Maybe – if there weren’t more to the story.  Snitches are toxic, bullies who often beat others with trivial rules.

What can you do if you have a sneaky, manipulative, control-freak like Hazel working for you?  Even though they’re toxic, the answer can be tricky.

You certainly don’t want to discourage employees from reporting serious problems – criminal activity, safety problems and the like.  But you should be wary of any employee who’s always telling you about the faults of other employees.  There’s a good chance you have a snitch and stalker on your hands.

Where and how do you draw the lines?  You may want to put some restrictions in place.  For example:

If you manage an employee with Hazel-like obsessions, you’re not helping her or your team by encouraging stalking and snitching.  You’re creating a scenario that will destroy your teamHarassment, bullying and negativity will increase, other team members will start abusing each other, meetings will become charades with hidden agendas and character assassination, and morale will plummet.

Instead, stop stalking, personal vendettas and snitching before they start.  Focus on individual and team performance.

Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of snitches’ low attitudes.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

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.

Overt bullies easily get our attention.  And we know exactly what we’re up against when they attack. Stealth bullies, who stab you in the back in public with a friendly smile and a laugh designed to disguise their attack as a joke, are much tougher to deal with.  In fact, it took a lot of teamwork and determination to neutralize a smiling backstabber we were asked to help rein in.

To read the rest of this article from the San Antonio Business Journal, see: How to deal with the smiling, stealth office bully http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2010/05/31/focus6.html

Chuck was “Mr. Cheerful” when he cut down people.  For example, in front of co-workers and bosses, with his arm draped around Joe’s neck as if they were best friends he’d smiling say, “Joe is always the last person in and first to leave. Ha, ha, ha.”  Or he’d jokingly remind everyone that, “Frank lost that sale because he’s too shy, but we’ll try to put some life into him.”  Or he’d cheerfully say, “Harry dresses like he doesn’t care or maybe he’s colorblind.  We’ll have to show him how to look more professional. Ha, ha, ha.”

Everyone was confused and stymied by the mixed messages in Chuck’s hostile words delivered with a jovial tone.  He appeared totally insensitive to people’s looks of hurt and pain.  And his coworkers were too polite or afraid to say anything.  So they hesitantly laughed at his nasty, bullying, abusive remarks.

Smiling backstabbers such as Chuck usually target everyone except the bosses.  Chuck was more selective.  He rarely targeted women.

How can you stop a Chuck without looking super-sensitive and petty?

There was a way Chuck’s team could eliminate the high cost of his low attitudes.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

Many bullies succeed in getting what they want by being angry.  Even if they don’t hit physically, they beat their targets verbally, mentally and emotionally.  And the threat of physical violence makes other people give in.  These bullies have enough control that they haven’t been arrested and sent to prison.  That’s why I think of their anger as a tactic. I’ve coached many of these bullies through the stage of anger management to finally ending anger and creating a different way of Being in the world.

But let’s focus here on what the spouses of these bullies can do in order to have bully-free lives.

For many of these bullies anger is a whole way of life.  Their rage is a tactic operating 24/7.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what we do to try to please them, they always find something to be angry about.  Any moment of peace is just the calm before the storm.

However these bullies got that way – and there are only a small number of typical scenarios – they mastered the use of anger years ago so it feels natural, like that’s who they are, like it’s their identity. They love “revving their engines.” They feel strong and powerful when they’re angry.  They always find good reasons and excuses to be angry, they always find people who are wrong and dumb in the news of the world or in their personal lives.  And they always focus on what’s wrong or dumb, and respond to it by getting angry and enraged.

If something in the moment isn’t worth getting angry about, they think of bad things that happened or that might happen so they can get angry.  Then they “kick the dog” – whoever happens to be around and does or says something wrong, or does or says nothing and that’s what’s wrong.  You or the kids think you’re having an innocent conversation when suddenly you’re attacked for being dumb, stupid, ignorant, wrong, insulting – or simply breathing.

The attack escalates into a listing of all your faults – which loser in the family you’re just like, you’ll always be a loser, you’re lucky to be alive and with them because you’d fail without them.  Their anger is never their fault; you’re always to blame.  Even if they don’t brutally beat you and the kids, the verbal and emotional abuse takes its toll.

Victims feel blame, shame and guilt.  Victims suffer anxiety, fear, frustration, panic and terror.  They lose self-confidence and self-esteem. They feel like they have to be perfect in order to deserve good treatment.  They feel isolated and helpless.  Targeted children often grow up with negative self-talk and self-doubt; they often move on to self-mutilation or rage and revenge of their own.  They often grow up playing out the roles of bully or victim in their marriages.

Seven tips to keep anger out of your personal space:

  1. Don’t be an understanding therapist. Your understanding, forgiveness, unconditional love and the Golden Rule won’t change or cure them.  And you’re not being paid as a therapist.  Those approaches simply prolong the behavior and the typical cycle of anger and rage, followed by guilt and remorse, followed by promises and good behavior temporarily, followed by the next episode of angry and rage.  Or the typical escalating spiral of anger, rage and self-righteous justification.  The reason the bullying continues is not that those bullies haven’t been loved enough; it’s that the behavior is a success strategy.  It’s never been stopped with strong enough consequences that the bully has enough reason to learn a new way of Being in the world.
  2. Don’t minimize, excuse or accept justifications. See anger as a choice.  If you accept that anger is a normal or appropriate response to what they’re angry at, if you accept that anger or any emotion is too big to manage (e.g., that they’re in the grips of something bigger than themselves) them you’re right back to “the devil made me do it.”  That’s the same excuse, even though the modern words for “the devil” are heredity, brain chemistry, what their parents did to them, how they never learned better.
  3. The best thing you can do to help both of you is to have consequences that matter. That’s the only way to stimulate change.
  4. Face your fears. Don’t be defeated by defeat.  Protect yourself.  Be a good parent and model for yourself and your children.  Emotional control – control of moods, attitudes and actions – and focus of attention are the first things we all must learn.  These bullies haven’t learned.  Lack of success in this area gets big, painful consequences.
  5. Make your space anger-free. You and the children are targets, not victims.  Their anger is not your fault.  Dedicate yourself to protecting yourself and the children.  Decide that only behavior counts, not psychoanalysis.  Clear your space.  Don’t give an infinite number of second chances.  Either they leave or you and the kids leave, depending on the circumstances.
  6. Promises no longer count. The lesson for your children is that when we’re very young, we get by on a lot of promises and potential, but when we become older than about 10, only performance counts.  Let these bullies learn to practice changing on other people’s bodies.  How much time do you need before you become convinced that they’ve faced a lot of potential triggers and mastered a different way of dealing with them?  A year?  Two?  Three?  Forever?  Do this because you want and need to in order to have a chance at the happiness you want, in order to have a chance to find people who treat you the way you want.
  7. Be smart and tactical. Of course, the longer you’ve known them, the harder it will be.  Dump angry jerks on the first date; don’t hook up with them.  Get legal advice.  Get help and support.  Get witnesses.  Don’t listen to people who want you to be a more understanding therapist.  File for divorce.  Get custody of the children.  Get the police on your side.

Post #176 – How to Know if You’re Bullied and Abused

Men aren’t the only angry bullies.  We all know about angry, vicious women on dates or in marriage.  There are clichés about venomous wives and mothers-in-law because there are so many.  Everything I’ve said applies to them also.

Many people still have friends that use anger to control interactions.

At work, angry, bullying bosses and co-workers are also clichés because there are so many.  Anger often succeeds at work.  Both the feeling of power and the success at making people do what bullies want function as aphrodisiacs.  And the addiction must be fed.

Be strong nside.  Ask for what you want.  You’ll get what you’re willing to put up with.  So only put up with good behavior.

All tactics are situational so expert coaching is required.  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).

Theresa Marchetta, Investigative Reporter for Denver ABC-TV station, KMGH-TV reports on the response of the principal of Roxborough Intermediate School, Douglas County, Colorado to a serious case of bullying. “Irene Rockwell reports that her 6th grade daughter, who had been a peer mentor, choir member, A+ student and student body representative, was made to sit in the hallway so she could hear the lessons while the bully was allowed to remain in the classroom.”

“That was four months ago and until the investigative broadcast, nothing was done to remove the bully from school even though there were many further incidents.”

“The Rockwells said they were in constant contact with Ashley’s teacher, school principal Rick Kendall and other school officials, as the bullying continued.  Yet all along, the Rockwells said Kendall allowed the bully to remain in the same class with Ashley.”

"[Ashley] was sitting outside her class for almost 30 percent of the day hearing instruction because she could not sit in class without being tormented and harassed by this kid," Rockwell said.

“Rockwell read the instructions her daughters received from the school, Ashley and Victoria will sit on the north side of the cafeteria and will sit so she is facing the north wall."

“Soon, Rockwell said, the situation escalated from verbal assaults to physical threats.  My husband and I talked about it and quickly decided we'd be calling the police the next day, Rockwell said.”

If you find this hard to believe, see the video and read the article.  Of course, when principals like Mr. Kendall don’t stop bullies, the bullying and violence increases.

Obviously the principal has not resolved the situation effectively.  Why does the target have to be the one to make all the adjustments and the bully get away with the harassment, taunting, abuse and bullying?

The Rockwells will have to work hard to keep their daughter’s spirits up.  Principal Kendall’s approach makes the targeted children feel helpless and that their situation is hopeless.  It starts them down the path to being victims for life.  It destroys self-confidence and self-esteem.  It stimulates anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation.  It starts children toward isolation, depression and suicide.

Whatever Mr. Kendall’s reasons, excuses and justifications, would you want to pay him to be responsible for your child’s safety?  I wouldn’t.

Oh yes.  Remember that the Colorado legislature is now considering a bill to raise public and private funds to educate teachers in how to stop bullies and bullying.  I strongly support the measure, but it’s a drop in the bucket.  It doesn’t require principals like Mr. Kendall and school district administrators to stop bullies.  And there are no penalties for principals like Mr. Kendall who allow bullies to continue attacking our children.

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).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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You may be the target of a bully, but you don’t have to be a victim. Bullies can go after you in many ways; physically harming you or threatening to hurt you; inflicting emotional pain through harassment, relentless criticism, taunting, put-downs, cutting out, manipulation, controlling, back-stabbing, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing you or generally mean behavior; cyberbullying.

In all these situations, the first step in defending yourself and in stopping bullies is the same and always has been.  This is the first step, even before you use any programs that are designed to stop bullies in schools or at work.

For instance, we can go back to Homer’s “Odyssey.”  At the end, after Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, have killed all the abusive suitors, they flee with two faithful servants to the mountain home of Odysseus’ father, Laertes.  They know they will pursued by all the older men of the city, the fathers and uncles of the dead suitors.

In the final confrontation, hopelessly outnumbered, Laertes kills the father of the most evil suitor.  Odysseus loses control of himself and goes berserk.  He advances in a murderous rage to kill all the fathers and uncles.

Athena suddenly appears and speaks the words that that exemplify a central belief of the Greeks about how to face whatever the world throws at you – whether overwhelming odds, verbal and physical abuse, unfairness, your fear and hesitation, your loss of self-control, bullies.

Take Athena’s command out of context – it’s not about the trigger; it’s about your necessary first step in response to any situation.

Athena says, “Odysseus!  Command yourself!”  And when Athena commands, we best listen.

There it is; the key to all success; the start of everything we must do – “Command yourself.”

Begin by commanding yourself.  In Odysseus’ case, commanding himself meant not starting a bloodbath, which would lead to generations of vendettas that would ruin the country.

In the case of facing a bully, we must take charge of ourselves, gather ourselves and command ourselves.  Even when we don’t know how things will turn out, we do know that we want to act bravely, resolutely and greatly.  Therefore, command yourself and go for it; 110%.

If we give in to fear, anxiety, perfectionism and self-doubt, we’ll do nothing to protect ourselves – we’ll become victims of our own panic and terror.  If we give in to anger and rage, we’ll explode, act unskillfully and do things we’ll regret.  If we don’t command ourselves, we’ll lose confidence and self-esteem; we’ll get depressed and become easy victims of the predators.

If we don’t command ourselves, nothing we do will have the power and energy needed to succeed.  We’ll be weak, hesitant, vacillating.  We’ll become victims.  We’ll take our first steps down the path to suicide.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can learn to command ourselves.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.

We can become strong and skilled enough to resist being targeted by bullies and to stop bullies in their tracks.  We can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

When we command ourselves, we can overcome whatever confronts us.  We will let nothing crush us; our spirits will remain strong.  We can plan and take charge of our actions.  We can act with strength, courage and skill.  We can act with perseverance and resilience.  We can get the help we need.  We can succeed.

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).

 

One of the favorite tactics of sneaky, stealth bullies is to set traps for you.  When you fall into their snare, they’re gleefully smug, “Gotcha!  See, I told you!”  Their hidden agenda is to prove you’re wrong, dumb and bad and they’re right, smart and good.  They’re not interested in truth or equal relationships; they’re interested in putting you down and dragging themselves up. For example Micky and Donald comment in the blog post, “Repeated Bullying Tolerated by School Officials,” (http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2008/03/24/repeated-bullying-tolerated-by-school-officials/) “Just out of curiosity are you a single parent?”  I don’t know them and their hidden agendas, but I’ll use their comments because their typical of that type of stealth bully.  They never ask, “Just out of curiosity.”  They’re always setting traps and they always have hidden agendas.

They’re waiting to pounce with, “I told you so!  You’re over-reacting because you’re a single parent.  Normal people wouldn’t make such a big deal out of their daughter being tormented, bullied and abused.”  They think the bullying behavior was mild or negligible or normal and that we should ignore it, which to me means that they’re just like the school officials who ignore the torment, harassment, bullying and abuse.

But they won’t be straightforward and declare their opinion.  They won’t get into a discussion in which they might be proven wrong and have to change their ideas.  For example, they won’t say that they believe you’re over-reacting because you’re a too-sensitive, single parent or because your mommy and daddy were bad to you or because you’re afraid of the dark.  That’s too open for them and doesn’t have the payoff they want.

Instead, because they’re sneaky, manipulative, controlling bullies, they’ll simply, almost innocently ask a leading question, “Are you a single parent?” or “Were your mommy and daddy were bad to you?” or “Are you afraid of the dark?”

They’re hoping you’ll say “Yes.”  Then they can sneer and pounce – “See.  I’m right.  You’re merely over-reacting because mommy and daddy were bad to you” or “You’re only over reacting because you’re a foolish single parent.”

They feel safe and smug.  Since they didn’t declare their opinions openly, if you say No” to those questions, they won’t have to admit that their theories or opinions were wrong.  They won’t have to change their beliefs.  Their harassment, bullying and abuse won’t stop.  They’ll simply move on and try to lead you into another trap.

If you want or have to keep dealing with these covert manipulators, maybe because one is your boss or spouse and you’re not ready to leave yet, some tactics to try are:

  • Pin them down to expressing an opinion before you answer the question.  You might ask directly, “What’s your point about whether I’m a single parent?  Tell me directly what you think.”  Or, “What’s your point about whether or not mommy and daddy were bad to me years ago?  Tell me directly what you think.”

Be persevering.  Wait for an answer.  Then follow-up with a statement about their belief and whether your evidence will change their opinions.  “So you think I’m overreacting because I’m a single parent?  So if I’m married, will you change your opinion and will you accept that I’m not overreacting?”  Or, “So you think that people get upset about bullying because their mommies and daddies were bad to them?  So if my mommy and daddy were good to me, will you change your opinion and will you accept that I’m not overreacting?”

  • Laugh at the hidden connection.  “That’s really silly to think that only single-parents get upset when heir children are bullied.  You sound like a person who thinks bullying is fine.”
  • Simply ignore the question.  You don’t have to answer every question that someone asks you.
  • Reverse the question onto them.  “Oh, so you think we should ignore the pain inflicted on that defenseless target.  Were you a bully when you were younger?  Were you bullied when you were younger?  Were you afraid to fight back?”
  • Laugh at the entrapment.  “Oh, you really got me with that question.  You look smug, superior and righteous.  As if that means you’re smart and right.  How childish and silly to play that game at your age.”

Challenge your date, partner or spouse to stop tripping you up or putting you down, or vote them off your life if they keep trying to:

  • Trap you to prove you’re dumb, silly, wrong or bad.
  • Further hidden agendas to put them in charge of all decisions.
  • Convince you that you’re too sensitive and that their sense of humor is fine.
  • Convince you that they don’t have to stop being nasty because once you were nasty to them.

Better than cluttering your space with stealth bullies is to clear your life space so someone good can come into it.  If you don’t, the constant putdowns and “Gotchas” will undermine your confidence and self-esteem, and lead to negative self-talk, self-doubt, anxiety and depression.  It’ll stimulate your own self-bullying patterns and make you weak, immobile and easy prey.

See, for example, the case study of false friend Helen trying to destroy Tammy’s success with her diet in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks”  Or Grace dealing with her husband in “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest through this web site.

Of course, you’ll need expert coaching to design an action plan that fits your specific situation.

Where do school bullies go during summer vacation?  Do you think they take the summer off and stop bullying until September? School bullies enjoy the summer.  Usually there are fewer adult supervisors at camps, recreation centers, pools, playgrounds or in the mall to stop their bullying.

Bullying is often, but not always, by older kids against younger kids and by bigger kids against smaller kids.  Bullying can be physical, relational and verbal, and it’s always emotionalMean girls are adept at gossip, put-downs and exclusion.  Boys use relational and verbal abuse just as much as girls do.  Boy bullies are masters of put-downs, excluding and leading malevolent gangs. Check out summer camps and organized activities where the same kids go for an extended period of time.  Usually the staff at summer camps and recreation centers is too busy and too swamped to stop school bullies on vacation.  Often, staff tolerates or condones bullying.  You’ll hear them say, “That’s just kid stuff.  It’s a rite of passage.  Kids need to learn to deal with bullying by themselves.”  Oh, some staff might lecture or yell if they observe bullying and they care, but their attention will be drawn away by other concerns and the target will be left unprotected.  There won’t be enough consistent oversight and you won’t know what’s going on.

Find out ahead of time if staff is trained to detect and stop bullies.  Do they have a policy and training program?  What specific behaviors are staff trained to observe?  Have they ever sent a bully home?  Do they train the kids how to witness and standup for each other.  What’s the refund policy if you pull your children out because they’re being bullied?  Express your concerns in writing so there’s a record.

Prepare your children to tell you what’s going on.  Being a target of bullying is not their fault.  Not defending themselves or not getting help will create long-lasting problems for them.  Telling is not tattling.  Convince them that the bullying will get worse if they don’t tell you.

If they’re sleeping over, have them send letters home, not postcards.  Is there an increase in anxiety, stress and nightmares?  Are they suddenly uncommunicative?

If your children are in a day activity, stay and observe it.

If there’s an incident or you’re suspicious, talk to the counselor, teacher and head of the organization in person or by phone.  Follow up in writing.  Don’t be put off by promises and platitudes.  What concrete actions have they taken?  A chat or lecture is not an action that will stop a real-world bully.  Don’t accept, “Ignore it and it’ll stop.”  Do bullies still have unsupervised access to your children after a lecture?  The Golden Rule doesn't stop real-world bullies.

If you hear the administrators say that they’re trying to build the bullies’ self-esteem or increase their empathy, or if they think that the bully will benefit from therapy or counseling while they’re still at the activity or camp, or if they appeal to your understanding and sympathy for how difficult the bully’s life is get your children out of that place immediately.  They’re more concerned with the bully than the victim.  They’ll sacrifice your children in order to help the bully. Check out supervised areas like pools and water parks where your children go but where there can be different kids each day.  You have much less control here.  Usually staff is focused on physical safety.  You may have to go a number of times despite your children’s protests.  You’ll probably have to analyze the situation and train them how to escape bullies and get help.  Help them identify lifeguards who will protect them.  Teach them how to elicit those lifeguards’ help.

Check out unsupervised areas like parks and malls where your children hang out.  Are you afraid of the other kids who hang out there?  Do your children know how to get a police officer and what to say to get that officer on their side?  Are you available in emergencies? Make sure your children go with a larger group of friends.  Let them go only if you trust the group to stay together and protect each other.  Of course, your children think that the most important thing in their lives is being accepted by their friends or the crowd they want to be liked by.  But that’s not your primary concern.  First and foremost, you’re not your children’s friend; you’re their protector and your better judgment counts.

Let them earn the privilege of going places without you in a step-wise way.  When they’ve proven to you that they know how to stop bullies or to escape in a fairly safe situation, then and only then, give them a little more freedom that’s age-appropriate.  Encourage them to make those steps, but don’t give in to nagging.  Whining and complaining aren’t evidence of good decision-making.

Bystanders-observers-witnesses can make all the difference in protecting targets.  Teach your kids how to enlist help.  Teach them to be brave.

This article does not include bullying of kids by counselors and staff, or the bullying of weak counselors by a gang of kids.  But you must be aware of the possibilities.

Remember, despite the lack of action by so many principals, teachers and staff during the school year, it’s still more dangerous during the summer.  Be careful out there.

Just as many girls as boys are bullies but girls more often target other girls. Girls do bully other girls physically.  One publicized example is the Florida girls who beat up a classmate and then posted the video on YouTube.

However, most girl-girl bullying is verbal and emotional.  Seven of the nine bullies were girls in the publicized case that led to the recent suicide of Phoebe Prince.  Their attacks on Phoebe were choreographed, strategically planned and relentlessly executed.  The abuse was verbal, physical and through cyber space.

“Mean girls” are masters of catty remarks, put-downs, scorn, mockery, criticism, sarcasm, cyber bullying and forming cliques led by a Queen Bee.  Mean girls are also masters of covert, “stealth bullying;” backstabbing, rumor-mongering, telling secrets, cutting out and spreading gossip and innuendo while pretending to be friends.

Girl bullies often are control-freaks and emotional blackmailers.  Common bullying statements are, “If you don’t do what I want, you’re not my best friend, “ or “My best friend wouldn’t talk to that other girl,” or “You hurt my feelings, you’re a false friend.”  They often set up boys to attack their targets.

Boys tend to use overt physical tactics more than girls.

Girls: it’s easy to tell if you’re being overtly bullied; it’s harder to tell if the bullying is stealthy.  You’re probably being bullied if you’re feeling controlled, forced to do things you don’t want to do, scared of what another girl might do to you, afraid of getting ostracized or ganged up on, or not wanting to go to school at all.  Trust your gut and talk to your parents no matter how reluctant you are.

Parents: the major signs that your daughter is being bullied are unexplained, 180 degree changes in behavior.  For example, no longer talking about school or friends, not wanting to be with classmates, spending all her time in her room, avoiding checking text messages, social web sites or answering the phone, no longer doing homework, not eating lunch at school, stopping after-school activities, wanting to change or quit school, loss of weight, chewing fingernails, not caring about appearance, can’t sleep, nightmares, loss of confidence and self-esteem, emotionally labile (crying suddenly alternating with explosive anger and temper tantrums alternating with despondency and depression – “I’m helpless, it’s hopeless”).  Be careful; teenagers typically go through periods of these behaviors.  Parents must check out the causes.  Be persistent.  Don’t be stopped by initial resistance. If your daughter is being bullied, parents must proceed down two paths simultaneously:

  • Teach your daughter how to protect herself.
  • Make teachers, principals and school district administrators protect targets.

Bullying at school is rarely an isolated event.  Usually there is a pervasive pattern of overlooking, minimizing, denying, tolerating or even encouraging bullying.  Strategies for how parents can proceed depend on the situations they’re dealing with; especially the people.  The bottom line is that most, but not all, principals want to avoid the subject, do nothing, cover-up with platitudes, avoid law suits and won’t confront bullying parents who protect their darling little bullies.

Beware of principals who think that their primary task is to understand, rehabilitate or therapeutize bullies.  You will have to get other parents involved and be very tactical in order to get principals to act firmly and effectively. There is one absolute “Don’t.”  Every female client and every woman who has interviewed me said that they were verbally bullied when they were young.  Unfortunately, their mothers told them, “Rise above the bully.  That bully is hurting so much inside that they’re taking their pain and inferiority out on you.  Understand and forgive them.  You’re better than they are.  If you act nice enough, people will return your kindness with kindness.”

Every one of these bullied women bears deep wounds including stress, anxiety, negative self-talk, lack of confidence and self-esteem problems.  They also bear an underlying hatred of their mothers for those messages.  Those messages are absolutely wrong.  Mothers must teach their daughters how to protect themselves, not how to act like willing victims.

Remember, the Golden Rule doesn’t stop real-world bullies.  Prepare your daughters for the real-world they’ll face in school, at work, in intimate relationships and with friends.

In summer the “Queen Bees” come out in force.  Every neighborhood has at least one. For example, Jill was jealous of Mary.  All the other women in the neighborhood liked Mary.  Her home was always open; she always had treats; her kids are fun and shared their toys and games.  The nicer Mary was, the more the other neighbors liked her, the more jealous Jill was.

Jill made excuses about what Mary had done that made her dislike Mary, but underneath it was simple envy that turned to hate.  In Jill’s mind there was room for only one queen bee in the hive.

Jill’s venom came out in sneaky, backstabbing tactics.

She tried turning the other moms against Mary.  She whispered in one person’s ear that Mary liked someone else better and had given that person better gifts or had brought better food to that person’s picnic.  In another ear she whispered some malicious and catty things that Mary had supposedly said.  In a third ear she whispered that Mary thought that the woman’s children were stupid and nasty.

To Mary, two-faced Jill was sweet and smiling.  She even told Mary some nasty things other people had supposedly said about her.

It took a while for Mary to realize that false rumors and malicious gossip about her were being circulated and even longer to recognize the source.  The neighborhood had been a friendly place in which all families got together, but it soon become a tense battleground in which previously friendly women become suspicious of each other.  Husbands were eventually drawn into the conflict.

Jill was in her element.  She knew how to drive wedges between people and also how to bring people together into a clique with her as the head.  She used Mary as the target and scapegoat for her clique.

At first Mary took it personally.  She assumed that she must have done something wrong to offend Jill.  Stress, anxiety, self-doubt and negative self-talk soon decreased her confidence and self-esteem.  She tried explaining her good motives in response to each charge that Jill leveled at her, but she could never satisfy Jill that she wanted to be friends.

It took Mary a while before she recognized in Jill’s actions the seven signs of stealth bullies.  She finally understood that Jill’s hidden agenda was not personal in the sense that as long as the other women liked Mary more, there was nothing Mary could do to placate or appease Jill.  No amount of begging, bribery or appeasement would stop Jill’s bullying; the Golden Rule wouldn’t stop Jill’s bullying.

Ruling the hive was Jill’s personal agenda and she wouldn’t let Mary remain in the way.

Eventually, Mary went outside her comfort zone.  She stopped being reluctant about creating tension or conflict or making a scene in public.  She decided to shine a light on Jill’s gossip, innuendo and lies.  One at a time, starting with her closest friends who were aware of Jill’s tactics, Mary clarified the situation and repeated what Jill had been saying about them.  Then she got them together so they could compare notes.

She then spoke one to one with every other woman in the neighborhood.

But that wasn’t enough.  When she caught Jill in blatant lies, she made them public at neighborhood gatherings.  Mary was always sweet and smiling when she asked Jill to clarify what she had said about one of the other women or about their children.

Jill was surprised and unprepared.  She’d always been able to hide in the shadows because women where she had lived previously had been too polite to create conflict and tension in public.  Once Mary begun shining a light on Jill’s actions, other women began noticing what Jill had done to them.  They noticed how afraid they’d begun to feel about offending Jill and started figuring out why that had happened.

At first, the neighborhood split into camps.  Over time more and more women moved into renewed friendship with Mary.  They found that they couldn’t stay in the middle.  Jill always trapped them into some shabby, hostile plot.  Jill’s camp grew smaller and smaller.  Mary’s good character and friendliness won out.  Jill’s controlling, sneaky tactics become more apparent.

That was last summer.  By Christmas, the balance had swung in Mary’s favor.  Jill and her family moved away.

Leading up to this summer, the women are planning more family activities.  Tension has decreased, but it will take the rest of the summer before the camaraderie gets close to what they had before Jill moved in.  Maybe one more family will still move.

Stealth bullies like Jill can be difficult to detect and even harder to stop.  Most of their targets have to go through a self-bullying, self-questioning phase before they realize that they’re not at fault, that they didn’t do anything wrong to start the abuse.

Expert coaching is usually required for people to regain their strength, determination and courage, and to overcome their old hesitations in order to create an effective plan to stop the bullying.

Andrew Meacham in the Tampa Bay Times article, “Sexting-related bullying cited in Hillsborough teen’s suicide,” reports on the suicide of Hope Witsell.  Witsell’s death follows the sexting-triggered suicide of Jessica Logan who was taunted, harassed, bullied and abused for similar reasons. Of course, ultimately the choice was Hope Witsell’s, but the principals and district administrators at Beth Shields Middle School and at Lennard High School took the wrong approach.

According to the article, 13 year-old Hope sent a photo of her breasts to a boy she liked.  Bad choice.  A rival girl saw the photo on the boy’s phone and forwarded it to other students.  The photo went viral.  Like piranhas, mean girls and vicious boys at the schools joined the general feeding frenzy.  Hope was accosted as a “whore” and harassed for more nude photos at her school and also at a Future Farmers of America Conference.

Let’s focus on only three aspects of this terrible situation:

  1. The school principals and teachers who didn’t stop the frenzy.
  2. The mean girl who first forwarded the photo, the other vicious kids who passed it on and the predators and bullies who attacked a wounded target.
  3. Hope’s self-bullying.

The middle school has a policy against sexting and disciplined Hope: Suspension and loss of honors and privileges.  But, even though the principal and teachers were aware of the taunting, harassment and bullying, there is no report that they did anything to the predators – No all-school meetings about how wrong the behavior is; no follow-up with the police to see who was illegally forwarding the nude photos; no action in the cafeteria when Hope was being harassed by other students.  Even though they knew what was happening, there was no extra vigilance to protect Hope from the attacks.

They did follow up with Hope’s parents to explain their punishment of her, but they took no action to stop the mean girls and vicious boys.  Also, they never called Hope’s parents when they found out that she was cutting herself.

There’s no much you can do once a feeding frenzy has started, but the legitimate authorities at school and the police can be talking to the kids and their parents.  You must make an attempt to rally parents and students to stop the attacks, even though you think Hope was a dope.

Hope’s diary and conversations with her friends were full of self-bullying.  This negative, critical self talk destroys self-esteem and self-confidence.  Self-bullying makes any kind of setback or embarrassment into a humiliating catastrophe that seems to destroy the child’s life forever.  Looked at through self-bullying eyes, the future will seem hopeless, the person helpless to redeem herself.  As Hope wrote, “Secretly TONS of people hate me.”  That’s the wrong conclusion to draw.

Obviously, there are many places Hope’s parents could have intervened had they known how serious the situation was.  But I think the first one is here: Parenting bully-proof kids begins with helping them stop self-bullying, with helping them build strength, courage, resilience and determination in the face of humiliation, disaster or abuse.

Laws are good, but they aren’t enough to stop foolish girls from sexting.  Laws against forwarding pornographic pictures are good, but aren’t enough to stop people from distributing them.  It takes a concerted effort by adults to set the tone; to create an atmosphere in which all students and parents are aware of the stupidity involved and the harm that can be caused.

Missouri has responded effectively to cyber bullying via web sites and text messaging; has your state? After the Lori Drew case in Missouri, in which a MySpace account was used to bully 13-year old Megan Meier, who committed suicide, Missouri legislators passed laws criminalizing cyber-bullying, harassment and abuse, and schools created zero-tolerance policies.  School authorities and police are determined to enforce these laws.

Last week, …

Last week, a ninth-grade girl was arrested for creating a cyber bullying web site to attack another teenaged girl.  In addition to photos and sexually explicit statements, the online poster stated that the target “would be better off if she just died.”

It’s one thing to say those things in the heat of an angry face-to-face exchange and a very different thing to create a web site that can spread those statements throughout the world.

The ninth-grader has confessed and the case has been turned over to juvenile authorities.  The school has also instituted disciplinary action.

Lori Drew got off because previous statutes were “constitutionally vague” and not specifically directed at cyber bullies.

The law went into effect August 2008 and by December Missouri prosecutors had filed charges against seven people accused of violating the statute.  Hopefully, the new laws are written well.

Although we all want to protect free speech, I think the more important value here is tightening laws in order to protect kids from vicious, false and often anonymous attacks by other disgruntled kids or adults.

There will always be people in angry spite-fights with each other.  And every society draws boundaries about what can be said or done, privately and publically, in these fights.  By trial and error, we’re drawing those lines now concerning the use of new media like cyber space and text messaging.

Part of the message to parents is to check on our children.  Are they engaged in cyber bullying?  Are they being harassed and abused by cyber bullies?  Do you know how to find out?  Do you know how to respond most effectively?

Good for the Missouri’s legislators, school officials and police who are spearheading this effort.  Good for the parents who took effective action.

As reported in the Huffington Post, to focus attention on National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week, Disney star Demi Lovato has gone public.  She was bullied so much in school that she and her parents chose to do home schooling rather than face the bullies at school.  Her story follows Miley Cyrus telling of being bullied, harassed and abused verbally and physically when she was in school. These stories follow the recent publicity given  in the New York Times to the “slut list” at “top-ranked, affluent, suburban New Jersey Millburn High School” that’s been going on for at least 10 years.  In this case, it was the “popular and athletic” girls who went after the younger girls.

Notice that these examples were of girls bullying other girls; a common occurrence that often gets lost in the glare of publicity about boys who bully.  These are often the girls who will grow up to be women who bully women at work.

Cliques of girls are just as brutal as gangs of boys.  And the wounds and scars of verbal and emotional bullying often last a lifetime.

I hope the publicity will stimulate people who can change the situation.  Who do I mean?

  • Bullies and their parents.  Ultimately, bullies are responsible for their actions no matter what their excuses and justifications are.  And their parents are responsible for not teaching or setting better examples for their daughters.  In too many cases, they’re also responsible for minimizing the effects of their daughter’s behavior on the target girls and for protecting their daughters from the appropriate consequences of their actions.

But bullies have been with us forever and will continue to be.  We can’t wait for all parents to socialize their children better or for all children to change.

  • Parents of the targeted girls.  They are often remiss in three areas.  First, if they don’t teach their daughters how to stand up emotionally, verbally and physically.  Yes, sometimes, physical force is necessary to stop bullying girls, just as it is often effective in stopping bullying boys.

Second, if parents don’t organize a core group of active parents to support principals who want to stop bullying or to force uncaring, lazy or cowardly principals to stop bullying at their schools.  When bullies are tolerated at a school, they prey on many targets.

Third, if parents don’t pressure reluctant legislators to make laws that can be enforced.  Often legislators focus on free speech, even when the pendulum is shifting to limit some speech in an effort to protect children.

  • Targeted girls.  They can develop the emotional strength and courage, and learn skills necessary to stand up to bullies, even if their parents don’t teach them well.
  • Principals who won’t act.  For example, the principal at Millburn said that there was no evidence to determine who made the list; no one had come forward to identify the predators.  Funny, I’ll bet almost every kid at school knows who organizes and publicizes the “slut list” on Facebook and through cell phones.  Principals can have proactive stop-bullying policies and programs, vetted by school district lawyers, that enroll all students, including bystanders, in outing and stopping school bullies.  I focus on principals because strong, active principals set the tone.  They involve district administrators and train teachers and staff.
  • Legislators who are willing to victimize children rather than taking a strong stand against harassment, abuse and bullyingMaybe angry parents need to make this an election issue.

Notice that I haven’t focused on understanding and therapeutizing bullies.  Let’s stop them first.  That can motivate bullies to learn other tactics.

I haven’t focused on statistics either.  Statistics may be important in swaying congressmen, but when there’s bullying at your child’s school or your child is being bullied, you don’t pay much attention to statistics.  You want your immediate situation changed.

If Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and the kids at top-ranked, affluent, suburban schools can be bullied, harassed and abused, your daughter can be also.