Monday, June 30, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: NICKI ELSON SHARES VERY DEEP THOUGHTS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Our BULLY FOR YOU guest postess today is Nick Elson, who blogs at Nicki Elson's Not-So-Deep Thoughts. When Nicki read some of the other guest posts, she became concerned because other guests said that "try ignoring the bully" doesn't work. I told her that I thought her post was fine, and I still think so. Ignoring the bully is the first thing I'd do. Occasionally, it works. Some bullies back down more easily than others. If the bully won't give up, then we need to move onto something else, and Nicki recognizes that.

And now, Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell, here's the talented author Nicki Elson:



I’m the mother of two teenaged children, so the topic of bullying has been prominent on my radar. Not because my kids have been bullied or are bullies, but because the schools around here have assembly after assembly on the issue. But here’s the thing—assemblies don’t stop bullying.

The group lectures & video watching may have some small positive impact, I don’t know, but what I’ve personally witnessed is my kids coming home either feeling like they’ve just been yelled at for something they didn’t do or worse, they suddenly start interpreting every incident of teasing or snide comment as bullying. To me, a mass approach to the issue just doesn’t make sense. I think the teachers and staff know exactly who the bullies are, so I wish they’d take those kids aside, look them in the eye and tell them, “We know what you’re doing. Knock it off.” Bullies often turn to wimps when they know someone with authority is on to them.

But the risk of the look-’em-in-the-eye approach is that the troublemakers’ parents firmly believe that their little poopsies would never ever do anything wrong, so they’ll get all over that school’s arse, and yadda, yadda, yadda. And so the school treats everyone equally by pulling the students into impotent mass assemblies, and the bullying goes on…

And it’s not just kids who bully. I come across adult bullies all the time. Since bullying is a fact of life, my opinion is that we need to focus less on helping kids to define themselves as victims and more on teaching them how to deal with the inevitable bullies. I loved Janie’s bullying post about the Hurricane—that little girl handled the situation she was in and prevailed by growing into a kickass adult.

Sooooo, here is my stab at a three-step approach to dealing with bullies. But please note, the first two steps are for dealing with low- to mid-grade bullies—the ones who are fairly harmless and mostly sting with words. Those dealing with high-grade bullies—the ones who don’t relent and threaten or follow through with physical violence—should go directing to stage three.

First: Ignore them.

Bullies want a reaction. It’s what feeds their need to feel superior. It’s their way of knowing they have impact on this world. So don’t give it to them. Walk away if you can. Click off your Facebook or whatever. Don’t read the nasty things they say. If forced to sit in the same room with the bully, tune them out, as hard as that may be. They might persist for a while, but eventually many will give up.

In Junior High, cute Jimmy used to break my pencils. Every day he’d ask to borrow one, and then he’d snap it in two and laugh with his friends. He’d apologize the next day and promise he wouldn’t do it again, and then he’d do it again. I decided Jimmy wasn’t cute anymore. I stopped giving him my pencils, but his desk was directly behind me, and all through class he’d whisper nasty things to me. I didn’t turn around, I didn’t give him any reaction, and eventually he either stopped or I was able to successfully tune him out, I don’t remember which, but after that class ended, he never bothered me again.

Second: Bite back.

If you’re stuck with a bully who doesn’t relent, it’s time to bite back. I’m not suggesting you throw punches or do anything that will escalate the problem, but find some way to let the bullies know you won’t be messed with. Sometimes it’s as easy as calling them out on their behavior. Stay perfectly composed and become their psychotherapist by asking, “Does putting me down make you feel better about yourself?” or “What do you hope to accomplish by saying/doing that?” Maybe you’ll cause them to actually reevaluate their behavior, but even if you don’t, you just might stun them into a few moments of silence, long enough to walk away.  This sort of thing works all the time on a low-grade bully I have to regularly deal with, and I daresay I’ve nearly driven the bully right out of him.  

Several months ago I had to bite back at a coworker who’d become aggressive with her dislike of me doing my job without catering to her obsessive need for control of every little thing. First I laughed when she told me straight to my face (while flanked by two of “her people”) that I have a lot of nerve—full disclosure: that was a happy accident. Totally thought she was joking. I mean, who talks like that?—and then I started cc:ing the big boss on my communications with her. She backed right down and doesn’t mess with me anymore.

Third: Tell Someone

If either the threat of or actual physical violence is involved, or if the first and second approaches to stop the bully haven’t worked, tell someone about it. Actually, tell someone about it even before it comes to that point. In my example above, it was pulling in the big boss that got the bully wannabe off my case. If you’re a student, parents seem like a good first stop, but I realize not every relationship makes this a good option, so think about what adults you’re comfortable with. Who will have your best interests in mind? Even if this person isn’t someone who can directly intervene, they can make a wonderful coach for dealing with the situation.

My daughter used to work at a bakery/coffee shop that’s owned by a psycho who makes himself feel like a man by intimidating teenaged girls. When his bullying tactics weighed heavily on my daughter’s nerves, I was a safe place for her to vent and a sounding board for her ideas about how to deal with his volatility. He eventually crossed a line, and I’m so happy that she understood that it was his problem, not hers, and she had the confidence to quit and walk away from the bully. If she’d kept all of her anxiety to herself, I’m not sure she’d have been able to keep such a healthy perspective.


I realize my three-step approach is fairly simplistic and limited to my minor experiences with bullying, but maybe it’s a start. It’s also only one side of the equation. “How to Not Be a Bully” is a whole ‘nother post…who’s gonna write it?  

THE END :)

--
Nicki Elson
Author
www.nickielson.com






Please be sure to leave Nicki some bloggy love in the comments, and consider visiting her blog and reading her books. Three Daves has a great eighties college vibe, and Divine Temptation is quite sexy without an embarrassment factor (it's not too graphic). Nicki will have another book coming out before long, and I look forward to it.

Thank you, Nicki!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

44 comments:

  1. Well my daughter is been subject to bullying the last few months. I have asked her to ignore but she keeps telling me I cant ignore. When I walk away she comes behind me and says things. School is over in 4 days so I asked her to just bare for few more days. But I feel guilty saying that. I told her if they fall in the same class next I will get her changed. I have thought of approaching either the mother or this girl and telling it but as I can see this mother will never believe her daughter with her friends are bullying my daughter. I have informed the teacher twice but he has kind of said he will speak to her about it and it never stopped. So may be I need to go to someone with more power next term if this continues. But these articles have really helped me to see it in a different way. Thanks
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. I'm so glad school is almost over. It's a good idea to keep a journal and write down everything these kids do to your daughter and when you talk to the principal and what the outcome is (nothing). Then if you have to go to someone higher up, you will have specific cases. One of the happiest days of my life was when my daughter finished elementary school forever.

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  2. You call your approach "simplistic" but it makes total sense. Having grown up the youngest of four, I leaned heavily on step 2. My siblings taught me (baptism by fire) how to craft the most cutting of comebacks. Which would often diffuse the situation, but sometimes escalated things to the physical level. So I learned how to verbally cut others while being self-deprecating. That would often take care of things.
    Practical advice, Nicki, well done.

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    1. So we have your siblings to thank for your hilarious posts.

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    2. Thanks, PVP. :) Little did the bullies know they were helping you to hone some valuable life skillz.

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  3. Hi, Nicki! Your three step program makes perfect sense to me. People who become the targets of bullies do not have to become the victims of bullies, not if they are resourceful enough to devise constructive ways of handling the situation. We should not teach children to become part of the problem by engaging in physical combat with a bully - not until all nonviolent solutions have first been explored.

    I played on the high school basketball team. One of my teammates, the biggest, tallest, strongest of the bunch, routinely got his kicks picking on the smaller, meeker, less macho members of the squad. When the locker room bully launched his verbal missiles in my direction for the amusement of his buddies, there were three different ways for me to respond. I could have rolled up in the fetal position and cried, letting him know how badly he hurt me. If I had a death wish I could have charged at him and thrown a punch, again letting him know how much power he had to control my state. My third choice was to use the techniques of Aikido. Instead of accepting the role of victim or becoming an enemy combatant, I went along with the guy's harsh remark, laughed WITH him and fired back with a funny, noninflammatory, self-effacing remark. I found that in doing so I was able to disarm him. He even seemed to appreciate the fact that I could give as well as take and that fact alone established rapport between us. The wolf pack identifies the weakest member of the buffalo herd and relentlessly stalks it. By proving that I could take his verbal jabs and put downs, use them as comedy material and turn them into humorous, entertaining remarks, I showed the bully that I was not the weak, wounded member of the herd. I have found that when I lighten up and show a willingness to poke fun at myself, I am able to turn enemies into friends or, at the very least, cause bullies to get off my case.

    Step 3 is essential and you're right, Nicki. Some kids can't rely on their parents or teachers to come to the rescue. When bullying escalates beyond the inevitable trash talking stage and becomes a serious threat, kids need to report it to an adult they can trust, adults who aren't afraid to get involved and intervene on a child's behalf. It's safe to say there's a bully in every neighborhood. I choose to believe there is also at least one adult in every neighborhood who knows how to relate to kids and is willing to step up, step in and help them.

    Thank you very much, Nicki, for sharing your ideas for dealing with the problem of bullying at all levels of severity. Have a great day, my friend!

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    1. Creating a "friendship" with a bully through joking is a great idea. I know because I've done it, too.

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    2. Hi Shady. How awesome that you were able to turn the situation around so much that the bully actually became a friend of sorts. That was quick, witty, and fearless thinking on your part.

      I've found that self deprecation goes a very long way in many social situations. It's a gift to be able to laugh at yourself - and in my case, there is just soooo much laugh-worthy material.

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    3. Hi Shady and Nicki (great post, BTW)—
      I agree with you guys that verbal Aikido is a great response to bullying. True Aikido, as I understand it, is a martial art that practitioners use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.
      What a great concept. Kinda like paying stuff backwards so things don't escalate.
      Low level bullying provides a great opportunity to turn the other cheek. As you, Shady, know tho, there are disabled/shy people w/o the ability to use verbal Aikido. That's when a verbal, witty friend comes in handy or failing that, your Step 3, Nicki, telling someone.

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  4. I can write the other side of the post!

    "How Not To Be A Bully:
    Step One- Only treat people around you with respect, the same respect that you want to be treated with.
    Step Two- Never, ever attack, harass, assult, tease, or intimidate anyone.
    Step Three- Don't be an asshole."

    I did enjoy your post. I'm not sure it would work for every single bully out there, but it is a good start for low grade bullies. I do have to say though, I don't think step 3 should be the last step. If somebody feels as though they are being bullied, I think that they should tell whoever they trust and make some sort of log about it. I guess, leave a paper trail and witnesses. That way, if anything physical does happen, there's at least a chance that the bully will be the one who is punished instead of the victim.

    I've never had much luck with ignoring them, but I do know that it works for some people. I had some luck with biting back, but I know some people who had bullies who fed off that. In the few physical confrontations that I had, I was extremely lucky that my defending myself wasn't seen or that I had a long list of complaints to back me up, but I would never recommend using physical violence, unless it is literally the only way to defend yourself. It's so hard to give advice when each bully is different, but you did find some of the key aspects in trying to be the bigger person in it all.

    Love,
    Rachel

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    1. I love "don't be an asshole." That really says it all.

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    2. Hehe, I love "don't be an asshole" too - if only everyone always lived by that rule.

      Every bully is his/her own special flower so I totally agree that "tell someone" should be moved up higher. Creating a paper trail & witnesses is a brilliant idea.

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    3. This is a brilliant plan. How can we make it part of common core?

      Love it!
      Cherdo
      www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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  5. Well done.

    The only time I have dealt with a bully was through facebook. A kid set up a fake page for one of the underdogs formerly at the middle school. Lies and filth. The victim and the bully had both moved to other states, so it was cyber bullying in multiple states.

    I notified facebook and the prinicipal. It took two fucking weeks for that page to come down. A lot of kids knew what was going on. It was sick.

    Hate FB. it needs to go.

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    1. Wow! I don't think I've seen you write out "fucking" before. I'm impressed by your word choice and your rage. Good for you. More people need to be furious about cyberbullying and any other bullying.

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    2. Cyber bullying is the wissiest form of bullying. It's unbeleivable that the person carried their hate across state lines. Good for you for saying something - it may have taken longer than it should have, but you got the page taken down.

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    3. Yarg, I mean "wussiest"...and I'm still not sure that's even the right spellig.

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    4. I would spell it "wussiest." However, I might choose "spelling" over "spellig." Tee hee.

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  6. Good post! In my kids' previous school, there were lots of assemblies about bullying. But there were still bullies. And yes, the bullys' parents were also bullies. My children's current school does not have bullying assemblies. It's a middle school, and the bullying that goes on there is horrible! My kids literally have to know how to defend themselves physically. There have been many kids who have been seriously hurt by bullies there.

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    1. Wow, Sherry. Even though I'm not sure about the effectiveness of assemblies, it sure seems like that school should be doing something about the problem. Your kids are going to come out of that school as tough, self-reliant individuals, but no kid should have to know self defence just to go to school.

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  7. I hope everyone who encounters bullying develops their own method of dealing with it. I believe every case is unique to the bully involved. Sadly teachers seem to have little to no effect on stopping bullying. They are at the mercy of parents who do not recognize their children are bullies, or else promote it. Yes, promote it.
    My oldest daughter is 49 this year. When she was 16, in her co-ed gym class, as young stud would pin her against a wall, face to face. I called the assistant principal and told him to tell the slime to knock it off. Nothing happened. I called again and said a police officer and I would be happy to watch him tell the young man, because next time I was filing charges. Drastic, but it worked, and the word went around my daughter's mother was a flame throwing bitch. If she had more trouble that year and the next, I didn't hear of it.
    My basic premise is the same--the trouble starts at home and it is a good place to start.

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    1. I can't imagine a better reputation for a mother to have.

      It's sad that teachers and administrators are often limited in what they can do because they've got to deal with the enabling---and like you say, often encouraging---parents.

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    2. Joanne, I knew I liked you, but now that I've read that story I think I'm a little bit in love with you, though not in a lesbianish way.

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  8. Hi, Nicki! Nice job. Your advice is a good start for basic survival, I think.

    You're certainly right that assemblies will never solve the problem. But shining a light is a heck of a lot better than not doing so. Supplying everyone with a common vocabulary is helpful in the long run. It is a part of the work that needs to be done, I think, but certainly not all of the work.

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    1. Very true, Squid, that the assemblies at least accomplish laying some groundword -- and they did spark good discussioin around the dinner table at my house. .

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    2. Assemblies at least point to the elephant in the room and as you say, provide a common vocabulary. These words then become part of talk and conversations about bullying. Talk helps people deal with nasty stuff, as therapists remind us.
      We're probably at the "defining" stage of our awareness of bullying as an important social problem. Just like family violence, it'll take some time before the vocabulary—and misdemeanors and felonies—crystalize and we're all on the same page.

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  9. I forgot to say that I love the term "little poopsies," Veb. It's such a nice way of saying "Your children are pieces of shit, people."

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    1. Hehehe. Love the translation.

      Thank you so much, Janie, for having me over and for the very nice intro. :)

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    2. I appreciate you and your visit more than you'll ever know.

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  10. Good advise here. Bullying is never going away and is a fact of life. Learning how to deal with it is the way to go.

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    1. I'm happy you like my post, Stephen and that you agree with the approach. :)

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  11. I think the internet is proof bullies don't stop after high school. Cyberbullies are present on almost every place online where groups gather. They go on there, insulting people and trying to rile people up. If people ignore them, they may stop, but most of the time SOMEONE gives them attention and it keeps them going.

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    1. And they thrive on the attention, don't they. I've honestly encountered bullies more as an adult than I ever did as a teen.

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  12. Very well thought out, and I especially loved "the troublemakers’ parents firmly believe that their little poopsies would never ever do anything wrong."

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  13. Being a victim of bullying, not as a child but as an adult at his work location in a high school, I can appreciate all three of these approaches. I tried all three but to no avail. You see, my bully, was determined and had 'support' from his 'deputies'.
    At first I did try ignore him and thought I was imagining it. Then I spoke to a few others on staff who were being treated the same way.
    I tried to 'bite back' as well with a little humour and logic.....hoping he would see what he was doing and that there was really need to feel threatened. That didn't get anywhere.
    I told someone after I got another job. I went way above his head in the hierarchy and they had 'file' on him and said they were keeping an eye on him. He continued to work until his retirement....which was for about five more years or so.
    Sometimes, in fact most times, I feel the whole bully situation which permeates our society is so systemic that there is not too much individuals can do or say to prevent it from happening.
    Your suggestions will work for some I am sure of it Nicki.......and it is a good starting point. Your daughter got away from it when she could and got another job. As did I.
    Good post and thanks for sharing.

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    1. Jim, it makes me extremely upset that you were subjected to such intense bullying on the job.

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  14. I remember being bullied as kid (you may find this hard to belive, but I was a little wiseguy) and still remember the meanest SOBs in our neighborhood, the Zowine brothers. It's amazing that almost 50 years later, I can still see their faces. And hope they're either in jail. Or dead. I know that's wrong of me, but...

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    1. I don't want the Zowines to find you, Al.

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  15. Nice tips. I think bullying has gotten way out of hand and needs to be controlled. Where have all the nice people gone?

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  16. When I was at school I was often called names and picked on I never showed any emotion and usually I would just start to think about something else and tuned the bully out and they would just stop talking because I think they realised they were talking to a brick wall and I wasn't taking any notice. That said it is often easier said than done, my daughter got fed up one day at school when a bully took her school bag and hid it somewhere so she took the bullies bag and throw it onto of a roof and went in search of her bag and there was the time she took a knife to school and when the bully went to grab her bag she pulled the knife out and held it against the bullies arm she dropped the bag and ran off and left her alone

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  17. I agree that all those methods are the first to try, but sometimes they don't work. I was lucky, myself. I found a way to use humor the majority of the time. Hard to keep being a bully when you're laughing. ;) But most kids don't have the knack for making people laugh, I guess. It's become a more serious problem because we've taken away the teachers ability to deal with situations. :(

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