It’s a hot topic these days, you can’t turn on the television or log onto the Internet without reading a story about kids and bullying. Bullying is a hot topic on my mind as we finish our April issue, which features a story on how to “Zap” bullies and a column about the bullying policies of metro-area schools.
My son grabbed a book that I was reviewing for this issue, The Skinny On Bullying: The Lesson of Gretchen and he read through it twice. It’s a funny, cartoon-style book that addresses the very real and scary issue of bullying. After reading, I asked his opinion of the book & he said he really liked it. He didn’t know why, but he really liked it. And he sat still for a little bit, deep in thought. I could tell he was chewing on the information that he read, trying to make sense of it.
But it’s that video of the kids from Australia that’s been all over the news that has me really thinking today. It was put forward as a clip that showed a bullied kid getting revenge – and then getting in trouble. You saw a shy-looking boy, teased for his size, being taunted and punched by a smaller kid who was cheered on by the kids in the crowd. The shy boy, eventually, has enough; he fights back, ultimately picking up the smaller boy and tossing him to the ground.
But who’s the real bully?
Every news outlet that ran the original clip was happy for the shy boy, for fighting back and not taking it anymore. But today I saw an interview with the smaller kid, who was also bullied and was fighting back or striking out as a result.
So who’s the real bully?
That’s the problem with bullying. We get angry and want to fight back against bullies, but in my experience, kids (and people in general) bully others because they are bullied.
I’ve tried to prepare my kids against bullies. I’ve told them that they should try not to react; that they should tell a grown up to get help, to not let the bully win. And I’ve told them that if they are in a situation when they are being bullied and there is no other option they should fight back and get away.
But what’s the right answer?
I was a kid once – and I was both the bullied and the bully. I’ve tried to make amends for the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve tried to forgive those whose bad choices affected me.
One of the tactic for beating a bully is really sticking with me: show them kindness. Don’t react with anger or fear or aggression; understand that these people may be acting from a place of fear themselves and might benefit from understanding.
Is this a way to deal with all the bullies your kids may encounter? Probably not. Am I a bullying expert? Not at all. I’m just a mom, who used to be a girl, who used to be directly affected by bullying.
We feature two bullying-related books in our upcoming April issue: the above-mentioned The Skinny on Bullying by Mike Cassidy (theskinnyon.com, paperback, $13) & 15 Ways to Zap a Bully by Jackie Humans (legworkteam.com, paperback, $13). Both of these are great, engaging reads to include your kids in the bullying conversation.