Tip of the Week: Bullying
The CDC estimates that 5.7 million teens in the United States are affected by bullying, either as the target of the bully, as the bully, or as the bystander who happens to be in the area. To help the numbers trend down, the McMillen Center for Health Education has several different programs to address this problem. Please also mark your calendars for the June 19, 2014 McMillen Health Lecture Series on Bullying and Ostracism, featuring the movie Reject! The event is presented in partnership with Great Kids Make Great Communities at IPFW.
Bullying affects everyone who is part of a community, whether it is a school, a neighborhood or online. Because everyone is affected, it becomes everyone’s job in that community to stop the bullying problem. Unfortunately, bystanders – both students and adults – want to leave it up to the next guy to solve the bullying issue. The assumption is that if the bullying does not affect them directly, then it someone else’s problem. With this approach the problem does not get resolved.
McMillen Center programs use the “bullying circle” to point out that everyone is affected by bullying and everyone has a role in solving the problem. We teach skills to use whether you are a target, bully, follower, bystander, or upstander, to improve what you can do to stop bullying. When these skills are used, we can have those CDC numbers trending down rather than up.
As I teach these bullying programs, I want the bully to ask themselves some questions before they bully someone else. Why am I going to bully that person again? What will happen if I bully that person? Will I get into trouble, is it worth it? Does this show respect to the person, if not, what else can I do? We want the bully to think it through before they just act.
We teach being a good communicator includes using body language by standing tall, looking confident, and speaking assertively. Ignoring the bullying and walking away without getting upset will make for a boring target. The bully usually wants the target to get mad, so when youth learn to walk away, they take the power back into their hands. Encourage the children in your life to get adults involved, to report bullying incidents to adults, and keep reporting until the problem is resolved. The most important thing the target can do is not let the bully get to them. Discuss these ideas at your next meal and let your children know that you are supporting them. Encourage them to not believe what the bully says. If they believe what is said, then the bully wins. Help them to find friends who will support them outside of school or the situation in which you are bullied.
Most bullies are smart enough to bully others only when adults are not around, so encourage your children to let adults know what is going on, when it happens, and who is involved. Reporting is NOT tattling; it levels the field so that adults can step in and prevent the bullying. Bullies can learn friendship skills, if an adult makes time to help them learn other ways to handle their anger. Adults can help by pointing out the positive characteristics of the children involved and encouraging them to consider the long term. Adults can also help by not allowing bullying, insulting comments to be made within the environment.
Friendly teasing when the comments or jokes go both ways in a relationship is NOT bullying. Nor is bullying an accidental comment or injury. Bullying is when the teasing or comments or physical interaction is on purpose, and only one way, with the intent of hurting, embarrassing or scaring the target. If everyone in the community does their part, we have a greater chance of tackling the bullying that plagues our communities. Bullying can be stopped, but it takes everyone making positive choices.
David Ward, Program Manager