Bully, Bully, Time to Stop

There’s been a lot of focus on encouraging kids (and adults) to “hang in there” because it gets better, and the recent encouragement to keep on keeping on is important, as are the calls to end bullying and slurs. But what is a person to do when faced with a bully, right here, right now?

What works, and what doesn’t work to stop bullying in its tracks?

Here are some tips from an opinion piece by Patricia Kelley Criswell, a licensed master social worker, which recently ran in The Christian Science Monitor:

Don’t ‘just ignore them’
Bullying is about power, specifically the imbalance of power. If someone can silence you, that’s pretty powerful.

Don’t mind your own business.
This condones bullying. It assumes the bully has so much power that it’s useless to try to intervene. In fact, the opposite is true.

When bystanders speak up, half of the time the bully backs down. Even when the behavior doesn’t stop, its effect is deflated. As the number of bystanders who speak up increases, the amount of bullying will decrease.

Telling isn’t tattling
We need to repeatedly teach our children the difference between telling and tattling.
Tattling is meant to make someone else look bad; there’s not a victim involved. Telling, or reporting, is done in the service of others; it’s meant to help someone.

‘Just be nice’ doesn’t work
Being kind is important, but what’s crucial is setting boundaries. Doing so, without being mean, helps make a child “bullyproof.”

For example, when a child is the target of a cruel remark, a brief response such as “Why would you say that?” takes the focus off the insult and places it back in the aggressor’s lap, without bullying back. Saying something as simple as “Really?” or “Seriously?” can have the same effect. A bored-sounding “whatever,” a confused “what?,” or humor is often enough to derail an aggressive interaction.

A few more suggestions on how to deal with bullying:

* Tell your parents or other trusted adults. They can help stop the bullying. Keep telling until someone listens and acts.
* If you are bullied at school, tell your teacher, school counselor, or principal. Telling is not tattling.  It is their job to protect ALL students, including you.  You deserve a safe place to spend your day.
* Don’t fight back. Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
* Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
* Calmly tell the student to stop…or say nothing and then walk away.
* Use humor, if this is easy for you to do. (For example, if a student makes fun of your clothing, laugh and say, “Yeah, I think this shirt is kind of funny-looking, too.”)
* Try to avoid situations in which bullying is likely to happen. You might want to
o Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around.
o Make sure you aren’t alone in the bathroom or locker room.
o Sit near the front of the bus.
o Don’t bring expensive things or lots of money to school.
o Sit with a group of friends at lunch.
o Take a different route through hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes.

Sometimes, bullies need help too. Are you a bully? Here’s a hint: If you are hurting or threatening others in some way and using your size, strength or popularity to do it … you’re probably bullying someone! Making other people feel bad should never make you feel good. If it does, or if you’re not really sure why you bully others, you need to talk to someone about it.

If see a bully in action, speak up for the victim.  If you are being bullied, speak up for yourself.  If you are doing the bullying, stop for a minute and think about how you would feel if someone was treating you – or your younger sister or brother – the way you are treating those you bully.

Today is as good a day as any to make a change for the better.  What’s worked for you?

13 Responses to “Bully, Bully, Time to Stop”
  1. fiona64 says:

    Just a reminder for the adults who might have kids come to them: advice like “they’re just jealous” and “ignore them and they’ll stop” doesn’t work.

    You are the adult that these kids came to with their very real fears and concerns. Don’t blow them off. Do something.

  2. Dave Hoen says:

    Two points I would like to make:

    1. Set a good example. Once with my two kids in tow, I made a mean comment about an overweight lady. The woman did not hear my comment and she didn’t know I was making fun of her. But after I thought about it, I felt really awful. By example I was teaching my kids that it is okay to make fun of people who are different and at the same time I was teaching my kids that if one of them were overweight or different, I would love them less. I apologized to my kids and told them if I ever do that again, I hope they would call me on it.

    2. The person being bullied, usually doesn’t know who he/she can trust, including the adults. Teach your children that if they ever see someone being bullied to come and tell you about it, then do something about it by following up with the school officials or those in authority.

    Dave Hoen

  3. fiona64 says:

    You know, I noticed something very interesting. There surely were a lot of people on here to defend Boyd Packer’s unfortunate remarks … but not one of those people bothered to come over to this thread and stand up against anti-GLBT bullying.

    I find that fascinating.

  4. fiona64 says:

    A 13-year-old boy, Brandon Bitner, committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train two days ago. He was bullied about his *perceived* sexual orientation, and because he played the violin.

    So, where are all of the “good Christians” who came here to defend Boyd Packer and his remarks?

    Why aren’t they speaking out against the bullying?

    I continue to be puzzled about this. People remain silent in the face of bullying … and show up to support a bully.

  5. Sheri says:

    Fiona, I couldn’t agree with your question more. I was on a PFLAG panel last night in Orange County. One hundred and fifty students sat in the crouded lecture hall. Usually it seems that we, the panel, are singing to the choir, but not last night. When I became rather emotional in talking about why I do this, even though I’m not gay and have no gay children, and explained that the recent deaths due to bullying of “perceived” gay students MUST STOP, we were shocked by a reply from one of the students. He rambled for 5 minutes aboaut how if gay students would just act normal they wouldn’t be bullied, but when they act like f***ing f**s then they deserve to be bullied. He is sick of having their disgusting ways thrown in his face. I was not prepared for that. The teacher intervened and then we had to end the class because we were over time. I simply did not know what to say. That’s the first experience I’ve had face to facce with someone so misinformed.

  6. Sheryl says:

    And you know that he learned that attitude from adults in his life. I guess we do give him some credit for speaking his mind, now the teachers know who one of the bullies is.

    Until the adults change, the children will continue to think it is OK.

  7. Irela says:

    I’ve been bullied in the church and it’s the main reason I no longer attend. I’m really grateful for this article, really grateful, and for this website generally. I’m not LGBT but support those who are and support same-sex marriage. I was a single woman when I joined the church and that’s when the bullying started – I’m now married and a mother. Recently someone asked me why I don’t enjoy church and all I could say was that I couldn’t enjoy being somewhere when I have to avoid that person; I don’t even feel I can make eye contact. At one time I stopped attending church for close to two years but returned when I was invited to a church event. Was in the building less than five minutes and the bullying started again. I tried to talk about it, many times, and was simply condemned for “criticizing a person in authority.” I wrote the individual a letter in an attempt to resolve the issue – it didn’t work. We didn’t actually marry in the church because the intensity of the bullying increased while we were trying to organize our wedding. This led to people we considered close friends withdrawing their friendship from us and refusing to attend our wedding. At one point this person was bullying me in the chapel in front of most of the members and not one person did anything to help. I know I’m going on a bit here but I just want to illustrate that bullying does happen in the church to a wide variety of people (including adults), it shouldn’t but it does. And I also want to point out that the churches response to bullying can be very poor, it certainly was in my case (the focus is so often on forgiving the bully rather than on stopping the bullying, and, while forgiveness is important so is helping stop an abusive situation). For a long time I was embarrassed to admit I was bullied, I felt that as an adult I should have been able to handle it. It does not surprise me that young people end their lives because of bullying, there were times I felt suicidal because of my experience. Things do get better though.

  8. Joshua says:

    I wish I had this in High School. I followed the links and watched the clips and cried. It brought back so many painful memories. I never understand how human beings could do that to each other.

    I have noticed that a lot of bullies are suffering themselves. In High School, many of them come from really tough backgrounds.

    Thanks Laura, for putting this together.

  9. fiona64 says:

    Joshua wrote: I never understand how human beings could do that to each other.

    The ultimate bullying was Prop 8, Joshua. It took away existing rights from people and sought to force them to silence and invisibility.

    Just food for thought.

  10. Mike says:

    I believe the problem that the Mormon Church has with “gay marriage” really has little to do with the same sex issue. The real problem is that if gay marriage is permitted by law. Then what would the argument be against polygamy? Think of the consternation for the contemporary LDS church, if polygamy is no longer illegal. Would the general authorities be pressed to end the “suspension” of the practice? Remember that historically there were those that tought that only those that practiced polygamy were fit for the highest places in the Celestial Kingdom.

    Personally, I think legalized polygamy could become an internal issue that would tear the church asunder. The general authorities are not willing to put that theory to the test.

  11. fiona64 says:

    @Mike: Talk about a straw man. We are talking about civil marriage between two (count ‘em) consenting adults.

    The argument against polygamy (more properly, polygyny … since at no point did the LDS church support/promote polyandry) is that it so frequently involves non-consenting parties (the women).

    So, can you come back with a non-religious argument against civil marriage between two (count ‘em) consenting adults?


    Didn’t think so.

  12. Laura says:

    Well, technically, Joseph Smith did practice polyandry (when he married women who were already married to other men), but it certainly wasn’t preached, taught and practiced like polygyny was (in which thousands of Mormons participated).

    The LDS church already has congregations and missionaries in places where polygamy is legal. In those countries, as in the United States and Canada, living and breathing practicing polygamists cannot be baptized.

    Whichever way the pendulum swings, you can rest assured that any changes in modern marital practices will be couched in terms of revelation received and members will choose to stay, leave or return based on what’s affirmed over the pulpit in Salt Lake City.

  13. Sheryl says:

    Good points, Laura.

    I, personally, am looking forward to the day when the acceptance of equality for all is couched in terms of revelation.