Conflict is a part of life. We’ve all been there—when we’ve been hurt by an unkind word, when we were not invited to that birthday party, when a friend abandons us for someone else.
All of us have felt the sting of rejection, at one time or another. Conflict and occasional social pain is part of the universal experience of growing up. Bullying isn’t.
Do you know the difference between conflict and bullying? Bullying is peer abuse and anyonecan be a target.
When you think of a bully—who comes to mind?
All of us can conjure up a picture of a big bad boy demanding lunch money from a younger kid, or maybe stuffing some poor unsuspecting kid in a locker! But bullies are not all boys.
Both boys and girls can engage in cruel behavior. Some bullies are popular in school, some are not. Some who repeatedly hurt others do OK in school, others are failing.
There is no one type of bully. But they all have things in common:
- Trying to have power over you
- Thinking they should always win and get what they want
- Wanting attention
- Enjoying hurting others
- Lacking guilt, empathy and compassion
Anyone can be bullied at anytime. That’s why all of us need to have our own personal safety plan with steps you feel confident to take if a bully approaches. If you’ve participated in a Steer Clear of Bullies bully prevention workshop at school, you already know to remember the acronym “Steer Clear:”
Stick up for one another
Travel in a group
Explore your choices
Resist using fists
Enlist the help of others
Assert yourself and act confident
Report incidents that make you feel unsafe
If you are being bullied ask yourself:
- Am I in immediate physical danger? If the answer is yes, get immediate help from an adult you trust.
- Who are the adults in your life you can count on?
- Where can I go to get out of harm’s way?
- Can I stand up to the bully? Perhaps not in front of a group of kids (that might be way too risky!) but, if you got the bully alone, is there any way to talk it out?
- Do I have friends or allies who can stick by me? Remember there is strength in numbers!
- Is there any way to come up with a funny response? Sometimes saying something funny interrupts the bully’s “script.” This takes practice. See if you can practice this with others!
- Is it possible to walk away? No, you are not being a wimp! Walking calmly away from a scary situation is a strong, assertive response.
- Do I respond by crying, screaming or fighting back? If so, try and calm down (we know this is easy to say and hard to do). Take a deep breath and say nice things about yourself. If you really need to cry, go some place safe to do it. You do not want to reward the bully by allowing him to see you upset—that’s exactly what he wants!
- Have I looked into joining after-school clubs and activities? Think about things you really like to do and join. Outside activities are great ways to meet others who have similar interests. Who knows? You just might meet a great friend!
- How am I dealing with all these difficult, confusing feelings? Stay in touch with people who care about you. Think about journal writing—there is a lot of power and healing in the pen!
One thing is for sure – bullies can learn to change their behavior!