Unfortunately, bullying really is a fact of life for kids of school age. This is not to excuse it; it’s just the way it is. There probably isn’t an adult in the world who won’t tell you that, at one point or another, they were bullied as a child. For the most part, most kids get by that stage of life relatively unharmed. But, the consequences of bullying can have a lasting impression on a child on into adulthood if they don’t learn how to handle it. About the worst advice you can give a kid who tells you he’s being bullied is to ignore the problem. The child needs to face the problem, but how to face it can vary depending on the situation.
The psychology of the bully himself can vary, but it helps to understand where (s)he’s coming from in order to address the situation effectively. A lot of the time, the bully is an outcast himself. After years of the other kids calling him names, making fun of her or just leaving him out, the kid who ends up being a bully gets tired of being left out and starts to push back. Generally, these kids do have a low sense of self-esteem. They may pick on others to feel better about themselves. Some kids come from broken and abusive homes. For them, bullying is actually a learned behavior. They feel that pushing around the little guy is okay, because at home, they are the little guy and they get pushed around by dad or big brother/sister or whoever. If the one being bullied can figure out why the bully is the way (s)he is, it may help the victim in developing a strategy.
Now, the psychology of the kid being bullied can vary as well. Often, the victim is a kid who has low self-esteem as well. (S)he may be a loner or one who really hits the books hard and doesn’t pay that much attention to the other kids. The bully can sniff these kids out and make them easy targets. But, even a medium popular kid can get bullied. If a child is in a class where he doesn’t have many friends and some other kids already have a sort of clique. These kids may then “gang up” on the one left out. Knowing the situation can aid in one’s advice.
Of course, the age of the child can be a factor, also. It’s a little easier to tell a kid who’s closer to grown up how to deal with things than a very young child. The best general advice a grown-up can give is, “I don’t want you starting any trouble, but I have no problem with you defending yourself.” It might make it a little easier to make sense if you can throw in a personal story. Here’s mine.
I had gotten picked on by a bully about three different times throughout junior high school. I largely avoided the bullies and, I guess I got lucky. After a while, they got bored. None of them ever stalked me or really tried to press the issue-like starting a physical fight or taking my lunch money. I got past these earlier situations, but I never felt that great about it. Like the saying goes, “A brave person dies but once, while a coward dies a thousand deaths.”
At any rate, during my senior year in high school, I had to deal with it again. By this time, I thought we were all past that kind of nonsense. But, I was wrong. One day, a teacher I had took about twelve of us over to the park for a game of pickup football. There was no particular occasion. We just had a small class; the class had been doing good work and the teacher decided to give us a couple hours break. So, we went to a nearby park for the game. During the game, one of my classmates started really giving me a hard time. It started with name calling and then he was kind of pulling on my hair. This made no sense to me, as we’d been kind of buddies throughout the semester. It didn’t matter, though. He was really trying to embarras me and I was getting tired of it. I really didn’t feel like being picked on. After one more time of his trying to hurt me, I made up my mind. On the next play, the bully was going out for a pass. I lined up across from him to defend him. As the play began, I blocked him three times, real hard, then I put up my fists and said “let’s go.” He ran past me and went out for a pass as if he hadn’t heard me. In the end, though, he never said another word to me.
Now, I don’t delude myself that I would have beaten him up. In fact, quite the opposite was true. I really expected him to clean my clock, but by this time, I didn’t care. I would rather have gotten physically hurt than to put up with his picking on me. I hated how small he was making me feel and I wanted it to stop. But, as it turns out, he just dropped it when I showed I wasn’t going to be pushed around. And, that was a life lesson I’ve taken home with me from then on. To this day, I will never start trouble with anyone. On the other hand, I will never let someone push me around, ever again.
Again, this story may be helpful for some and it may not. A lot of it depends on age, the reasons for the bullying and a host of other factors. But, in the end the kid being picked on has to find some way to stand up for himself. This is the only way to stop a bully in his tracks.