Today at Parenting Cents, a topic that I’m not very excited about. Bullying has become an enormous problem. We’ve got to do something about this.
As a parent, bullying is probably something that you’ve thought about as it relates to your kids. Maybe you have memories of your own experience with this. It’s become a much bigger problem now in our information age. Because the information can travel so quickly.
Someone could be bullied in school “A” over here, and everybody in school “B” knows about it before class is out. That’s one of the problems that we’re dealing with because it travels so quickly. So, what are we gonna do about this bullying?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what NOVA is we train police officers and deputies in sheriff’s departments to go into schools and teach kids a curriculum that includes some things about bullying.
We’ve also got some of the traditional alcohol and other drug education and awareness that helps these kids to make better choices.
One of the distinctions that we make in the NOVA program is that there are different levels of bullying. In fact, we use that as a general term. Let’s break it down into some more specific terms. Some kids, maybe all kids are going to tease each other, right? It’s just a normal part of childhood, that’s not what we’re talking about, we’re not talking about the friendly, good-natured, right humor kind of teasing and pranks that can happen as a natural part of childhood, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
When we move beyond that into something that is more mean-spirited, in fact, let’s take teasing for a minute.
Teasing could be either friendly and playful or mean-spirited meaning that it intends to tear someone down or to cause them to feel uncomfortable rather than being good-natured and playful. So mean-spirited teasing, now I’m going to use bullying as a separate concept that involves either assault or destruction of property or some kind of extortion, you know, like the bully who beats up the kid or holds him hostage for his lunch money. Okay, that’s what we’re talking about.
Bullying is it a level that the behavior is illegal in its nature. Assault, stealing, property destruction, extortion, those kinds of things are what I’m referring to when I say bullying, and that’s a little higher level than mean-spirited teasing.
Either of them mean-spirited teasing or bullying, we don’t want to have to happen, and it’s potentially dangerous and hurtful to kids, at least psychologically, sometimes physically.
What are we going to do with mean-spirited teasing? Actually, this works with any kind of teasing, but I want to share with you a concept that I learned years ago called the tickle factor. Sound fun? Yeah. What happens when you tickle somebody?
When you get in there, and they’re just really super ticklish, okay, and you start to tickle them, what happens?
They freak out, and that’s what makes it so darn fun, right?
Because you get a little sense of power that you can push buttons and do a little manipulation there and they lose it, that’s what makes tickling fun. Have you ever tried to tickle someone who’s not ticklish? So you come in at that little hands, and they’re like… That’s weird.
What are you doing? And then you feel awkward because it’s not fun to tickle someone who’s not ticklish.
The tickle factor can help us with teasing, whether it’s mean-spirited teasing or even playful teasing. The reason people do it is to get the reaction right, so to deal with that or to stop it or to discourage it from happening, we simply take away the reaction. We do not respond in the way that they are hoping that we will. That’s kind of like paying them off, okay.
So with that mean-spirited teasing, and this is not easy, okay, not easy to take away the reaction but that’s the most effective way that I know to end the teasing.
Now let’s go to the bullying because like I said, that is a whole other level and this is a really troubling problem in many of our schools today.
Here’s where I come down on bullying, it’s not okay. It is not okay to hurt or intimidate or threaten or steal from or destroy the property of other people, that’s not okay so we need to take a strong stance against that, And my strong personal preference in dealing with bullying is that we handle it head-on, that we do not allow it to become the manipulation that it often is in, especially our kids lives.
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So this involves a skill set of being able to probably, first of all, break the silence about it. A lot of times, bullying comes with threats about telling okay because they don’t want to get in trouble, right?
But that is precisely the power that we have against the bully because they are the ones who are breaking the law. Assault is against the law, so is stealing, so is hurting anyone in any way, that’s against the law. So who do you tell?
Parents who are reading and watching, please be the kind of parent that your child can come to tell you if something like this is going on and let’s have the courage to make it known to the authorities, that might mean the police, that might mean the personnel at the school, we have to make it known so that it can be handled in an appropriate way.
That’s how we’re going to deal with bullying. Now beyond that, there’s a lot of skill sets that we can use in terms of communication and resistance and self-defense, there are all kinds of things that can be learned, And I’m really an advocate of those things.
For a child to learn some basic things about self-defense, that just increases their confidence. It makes it less likely that they’re going to be confronted by a bully. To have some communication skills that allow them to assertively call someone on their behavior and put them on notice.
I remember, I was working with a junior high kid not too long ago, there was a bullying situation going on, and we practiced here in the office, we practiced some wording that said, “The way you are treating me is not acceptable, and if it happens again I will report you.”
Bullies aren’t expecting to hear that kind of a thing and there are other ways to word it, obviously, depending on the context but let’s empower our children to take care of themselves and to have some skills that will allow them to handle these kinds of threats in a way that is productive and that they can keep moving forward. Bullying is not okay.
It’s a severe problem, but I think as we work together, we’re going to make some progress with this bullying issue. So glad that you’re here and that you’re part of the conversation.