Bullying behavior is stupid and its repercussions resonate many years into the lives of victims AND offenders. Fortunately for the victims, stupidity can be thwarted by education. Children need to learn that bullying is NEVER acceptable under any circumstances and they must be given the proper tools to avoid lasting injury.
Bullying should be treated like any emergency situation. Ensuring immediate physical safety is the first priority followed by a plan to guarantee ongoing personal security. Children should not be expected to bear this burden alone; however, they will need to learn how to remove themselves (on their own) from a bullying situation.
To teach children how to deal with being bullied, use the acronym STOP. It helps them remember these four steps: Shout, Tell, Order, and Patrol.
S – Shout
It is a misperception that bullies LIKE an audience. In actuality, bullies like a ‘particular’ audience. A child being bullied should shout, scream, and make as much noise as possible to immediately draw attention to their predicament. Bullies lose their ferocity and determination as soon as uninvited eyes interrupt their moronically scripted tableaus. For added stopping power, teach children to shout ‘naughty’ words such as ‘hell’, ‘crap’, or ‘ass’. Adults will stop to observe what’s going on when they hear a child yelling, “Hell no! Stop that crap you ass!” (But not more graphic words as they tend to aggravate the confrontation.) The ultimate goal of garnering attention is to escape harm. So as soon as the bully is defused or distracted, the child should get away.
T – Tell
A bully’s main goal is to sequester their victims and their brutality escalates the longer victims remain isolated. When victims tell others about their plight, they begin breaking this destructive cycle of isolation. The stigma associated with ‘tattling’ should never be tolerated in bullying situations. Children should be encouraged and rewarded for telling their parents and other trusted adults about bullying situations. After a child informs an adult, rewards help legitimize the ‘telling’ and comfort the child’s battered self-esteem.
O – Order
The preferred form of communication for bullies is via direct demands and orders. They view a victim’s request as an acknowledgement of their power. Therefore, children should not “ask” bullies to stop bothering them; nor should they remain silent for fear of ‘inviting’ further torment. Children should ORDER bullies to cease and desist. The order should be short and direct with the structure of Command [Stop!], Behavior [of the bully], and Consequence [to the bully]. For example, a commonly repeated bullying behavior is shoving a child around. In that instance, the victim would order, “Stop shoving me around. The principal knows about you and I will tell if you do it again.”
P – Patrol
If the bullying continues, it is important for victims to follow through with their stated consequence. So empower them to be on patrol and report bullying activity. This can be a fun process that can exponentially boost a child’s self-confidence. Start by ‘deputizing’ the child with a special ceremony and a token item they can easily carry with them. An old key on ball chain necklace or a used watch can serve as items imbued with super hero powers. Next, make reporting updates an eagerly anticipated time. Set a regular time to report in and whisk each other away into a quiet corner dubbed “the secret lair”. After the child shares about their day, acknowledge their boldness and honesty by sharing a small, simple treat. Make it a lasting positive memory by coupling the treat with encouraging words and a secret handshake, a goofy superhero pose, or even just a lingering hug.
In order to stop bullying, the steps above only provide a framework for children and the adults in their lives. This framework together with sound and reasonable judgment from adults can stem the escalation of bullying behavior. However, to completely stop the bullying, it may be necessary to involve authorities including school administrators and potentially law enforcement. When taking such steps, it is important to remember that bullies thrive when victims are isolated. Therefore, involve as many adults as necessary to ensure the shroud of isolation is removed for both the victim and their custodial adult.