Many parents, teachers and students struggle to give students direct and positive tools to deal with bullying. According to the National Center for Health, surveys show that 77% of students are bullied mentally, physically, and verbally. Also, adults intervene 4% of the time, peers intervene 11 percent of the time and no one intervenes 85% of the time. Here are some suggestions to help students deal with bullying as they experience it in their neighborhood, at school and in their activities:
1. Observe the behavior. Recognize behavior that seems aggressive, offensive or invasive in any way to you or your friends. What is the nature of this behavior? Does it seem careless and misguided or truly deliberately belligerent and mean?
2. Approach the bully. Approach the bully with compassion, an open mind and strong boundaries. If you disarm the bully by maintaining your self-confidence, self-respect and avoid being in any way afraid or intimidated, you will get a different reaction.
3. Engage the bully. What are you doing? What are struggling with? What are you curious about? Taking an interest in the bully allows her to engage in a way that is unexpected because she is used to dominating every conversation and dictating what happens with those around her.
4. Set boundaries. State what you are or aren’t willing to say or do. Acknowledge that you respect her point of view, but that you know there are many perspectives each of which has a value when being considered.
5. Require respect. If the bully is disrespecting you, you can require respect by asking him to rephrase what he just said. Or you, can simply say, “ I don’t let people talk to me that way, but I wish you the best.”
6. Maintain your sense of self. If the bully is still bullying you, stay strong even if you are nervous. Stay strong in your strength and move away so that you are not by yourself. If others are nearby, ask them to join the conversation.
7. Recruit an adult. If you experience bullying behavior one or more times, let a parent, teacher or mentor know the details of your experiences. Adults cannot solve problems that they don’t know about, so keep them informed so that they can intervene if the steps above are not helping.
8. Know that your behavior makes a difference. Whether you decide to help the disabled students get on the bus, learn sign language to communicate with a deaf student, or simply voice to your friends that you want to stand up for the rights of students who don’ t have a voice, your leadership will make a difference. Doing nothing creates no sustainable change in anyone’s behavior.
Bullies learn to stop bullying when their behavior is not tolerated or reinforced in any way. When people act by themselves or with others to stand for the rights of all, respect for others, and a positive and proactive outlook only then will change come. When you use calm and measured language, maintain your confidence, work quickly to problem-solve to keep yourself safe, involve and protect others and recruit adults to aid you, you will be able to turn the tide of unruliness to the calm of composure. If you are not able to impact this ideal outcome, you will at least be able to pave the path for correct punitive actions which will need to be taken by school staff, activities advisers or adults in charge.