Looking Bullies in the Eyes: Bullying Tips for Teens & Adults
Michele Sherman, MFT
Many parents are looking for answers and ways to help their children from becoming a target of bullying, a bystander or a bully. In this article, Michele Sherman, MFT, who has worked with families for more than fifteen years, stresses the importance of teaching and encouraging children to develop their communication skills in order to help them resolve internal and external conflicts.
How can you help a shy and withdrawn child who is bullied?
A shy and withdrawn teenager who struggles with feelings of insecurity and anxiousness may benefit from several different techniques. Keeping a journal and encouraging your child to write about their feelings, may help them to better understand themselves. Michele also recommends teaching your child to make new friends and to stop looking for approval from people who don’t appreciate or accept their gifts and talents.
Why is my child so angry all the time? Could he/she be a bully?
Michele says it important to understand why they are angry and the source of their pain. Sometimes youth turn to bullying to assert influence and power over others when they’re feeling hurt or push others down that they perceive as different from them or mimic behavior they see from adults.
Many youth experience distressing thoughts, stressors and feel pressured in many areas of their lives, so their aggressive actions often express vulnerabilities that aren’t expressed in effective ways. In essence, they are acting out because they are unable to express their feelings and deal with their emotions in constructive ways.
Are there key words or phrases that can help my child when they are being harassed?
Working with I statements helps a person be more direct in their communication, focus on the issue and not be manipulated by other people’s negative comments. Teach your child so say No, I do not like being called names. If you role play with them at home, you will give them more confidence to go back to school.
- Pretend you are the bully. Poke your child gently and have them say very firmly and loudly, NO. Stop. I don’t like being pushed around! If you don’t stop then I will walk away.
- Be sure to teach them to look the bully in the eye and walk away with confidence.
- Encourage them to report the incident to an adult.
What should I do if my son or daughter is too afraid to go school?
Parent’s need to get involved and talk to their teenagers about what is going on at school As a parent, Michele says, I would talk to my child about his/her feelings while developing a plan of action. That may consist of talking to a school counselor and pursuing activities that can take momentarily take their focus away from their negative feelings about themselves and their personal lives. Having distractions and/or activities can often help children & adolescents feel better about themselves, which enables them to think and behave in more neutral ways.
Michele also recommends giving children articles about bullying and showing what other kids have experienced, and how they got through it. The bottom line, she says, they are not alone and there is life after high school. As a parent, your involvement in their lives at home and at school can help them overcome bullying.
For more information about therapy for individuals or families contact Michele Sherman.
Michele Sherman, M.A., MFT
16055 Ventura Blvd., Suite 719
Interview with Cyberbullying expert Les Parsons
Q: What exactly is cyberbullying?
A: Cyberbullying is the intentional attempt to harm someone else through information and communication technologies. Usually, harmful texts or images are posted via email, cell phone, instant messaging, Blogs, or chat rooms. Cyberbullying usually occurs more than once. A single episode, of course, can be devastating to the targeted individual.
Q: Â How are cyberbullying and bullying related? Â Â
A: Â While cyberbullying may be related to other forms of face-to-face bullying, each Â incident needs to be understood on its own terms. One person, for example, may be targeted at school as well as online. Another student may be targeted at school and retaliate online. Still another individual, targeted at school, may disclose online their anger or depression.
Q: Â What forms can cyberbullying take?
A: Â Young people need to understand the kinds of bullying they may meet online. If they have met any of the following kinds of behaviours, they are being bullied:
- harassment (repeatedly bothering or tormenting someone, often with hurtful and offensive notes)
- bad-mouthing (claiming that someone is a bad person by attacking their character or reputation, often by posting rumors or gossip)
- impersonation (pretending to be someone else and trying to get them into trouble)
- rejection (trying to turn a group against someone and repeatedly leaving them out of things)
- outing (posting a secret or embarrassing information or image)
- threatening (trying to frighten someone by revealing that you may say or do something to harm them; if someone is bothered, tormented, or threatened so badly or so often that they become afraid for their safety, the term cyberstalking is sometimes used)
(Flaming or sending messages with extremely angry, disgusting, or mean-spirited language are an inappropriate behavior that is relatively common online; in extreme or repeated occurrences, it may be deemed to be cyberbullying.)
Q: Why are people so reluctant to get help with cyberbullying?
A:Â In spite of the distress, fear, and emotional and social damage suffered by students online, they are notoriously reluctant to report incidents of cyberbullying. The number one reason, of course, is that they expect that parents will unduly supervise or severely restrict their online activity. Â Some teenagers believe not using their cell phone or computers, seems to be a fate worse than the bullying they endure while they are there.
Many students hold the mistaken belief that there are no rules on the internet: therefore, bullies think they can say anything they want. In the same vein, students may have been targeted while engaging in risky or unwise behaviours online, behaviour they may rationalize as permitted in the â€œwild westâ€ environment of the internet but still punishable by their parents. Finally, just as in real life, targets may feel that if the bully gets in trouble, the friends of the bully might retaliate.
Q: What can teenagers do to protect themselves from cyberbullying?
A:Â Young people should â€œcyberproofâ€ their behaviours, from protecting personal information of all kinds to â€œnetiquette.â€ The number one rule, of course, is never to put anything online that would allow someone to find the person in real life. Young people need to understand that they aren’t invisible online.
When a person is bullied, they should not immediately respond to the attack; the cyberbully loses power if the attack has been ignored. If the targets want to respond after an interval has passed, they should reflect on what they want to say, in what form they want to say it, and why they want to say it. Then challenge the bully from the strength of that reflection.
Les is the author of numerous books, including The Classroom Troubleshooter and Grammarama. His latest book is, Bullied Teacher: Bullied Student.Â For more information, contact Les at email@example.com.