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Last week, Jeff Franklin talked about bullying in childhood.

When I was a child, there were those "body by Atlas" ads in the back of comic books where the bully kicked sand on the skinny guy at the beach. All the skinny guy had to do was bulk up with some muscles, slug the bully, and voila! - self-respect and a happy ending. So simple.

Not so simple nowadays. From bullying on the playground to sexism to bullying on the job to cyber-bullying, we've found so many more ways to bolster our own egos by being mean to others.

Jeff provided us some wisdom for coping with being bullied.

So how do we develop the strength and resiliency in ourselves and in our children to avoid both being bullied and being the bully in the first place?

Let's start by looking at what operates underneath this apparently growing phenomena.

Both victim and bully tend to lack a positive sense of self value and a sense of belonging. Both tend to fear others and to feel defensive and unsafe in their world.

The bully needs to push others down in order to raise him/herself up. The bullied unwittingly presents a "victim persona" that makes her/him an inviting target for the bully.

Truth is, neither the bully nor the victim really wants that role but somehow believe it's the only way to survive.

If a person has gained a positive sense of themselves as worthy, they will be more able to dismiss a bully's words as irrelevant and will be less likely to take the comments personally.

You can help your child or your friend believe in their self-worth by treating them with respect and by expecting them to function effectively.

If someone calls you a stupid cow, do those words make you a stupid cow? Are you a stupid cow? No? Actually you're a talking human.

Then the words are the bully's, not yours and not the rest of the world's. The key is to not get upset because that's exactly what the bully wants and needs; i.e., for you to get upset and notice him/her.

You're getting upset re-affirms to the bully that they are notice-able and therefore have status.

So instead, you "notice" them in a non-confrontational and respectful way, "Oh, hi, George. How ya doin' this morning?" or "Ya know, there's a cow on Grampa's farm that's trained to do a trick I could never do."

If you choose to ignore the bully, do so in a non-upset way. Don't act upset. If they persist, respond with, "Oh, sorry, I didn't hear you the first time." and go on your merry way.

Pushing back, fighting, and telling on them usually just gives the bully ammunition or "reason" to continue harassing you.

Don't waste your energy getting mad or upset because that just rewards the bully. No amount of words can make you a stupid cow. Set aside your need to fight back (it's just your fear) and believe in your own self-worth.

Check out Izzy Kalman's "Bullies to Buddies" program at www.bullies2buddies.com for easy to understand common sense and powerful guides to freeing yourself from bullying.

Parents and teachers can find more help from the "Discipline without Stress, Punishment, or Rewards" program at www.marvinmarshall. com.

JUDY ASHBY is a licensed clinical professional counselor, is executive director of LifeSavers Training Corps and a mental health counselor at Catholic Social Services in Carbondale. She also is a member of the Jackson County Healthy Communities Coalition/Southern Illinois Behavioral Health Team.

 

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