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Book: Install#16 Ch3/Bully Mask

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Installment #16                                               

H20 TO GO!

Growing Emotional Resiliency & Navigating Through Childhood

with Heart, Humor & Optimism

By Margo Judge

H20-Updated 2009
Copyright, 2004
By Margo Judge

Installment #16
Gaining Perspective One issue At A Time-Issue #1-Bullies
Definition of 'bully' in the Oxford American College Dictionary:

'A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.'


Taking off The Bully Mask Via A Conversation

Taking off The Bully Mask Via A Conversation
It was right before Christmas break of 2nd grade. The idea was for a group of 2nd graders and parents to have lunch after the Christmas Pageant.
As far as my son was concerned, not a good idea at all. Brian, who had stalked and teased him and made his life miserable throughout the school year, was going to be there. But, parents were going to be there too, I reassured him, including us. Nothing would happen that we couldn't handle.

Lunch went well. My husband then left to go back to the office. I sat longer to catch up with other room parents. My son and his friend needed to go off to the bathroom which was not far from the table. Brian wanted to go too. My son had his friend, and he seemed fine. Brian had been on his best behavior at the table, so off they went. We continued to talk about winter break, presents, travel, what schools our kids might attend after 3rd grade when, suddenly, out ran Brian screaming!
"He broke my nose, Mommy, Mommy, look, he broke my nose!!

He was, in fact holding his nose that was, in fact, bleeding. Broken? I thought not. I was right. I looked at my son and said let's take a walk outside.
Ok, what happened?
He tried to punch me mom, and I just slugged him.
My mind shouted YES! GOOD FOR YOU!! My words said, next time try to avoid his face!! He smiled, and I smiled. I had reared a gentle giant, and he knew I would never condone violence. On the other hand, there was nothing wrong with defending himself. I was glad to know he could.

My son was bigger, taller and stronger than Brian so one would wonder why Brian had intimidated him so. When my son punched him, the bullying from Brian ended, but it did not end my son getting bullied until 4th grade. New school. Small class. 2 boys, a little rough, not violent by any means, but predatory on the playground. And again, my son-not a happy camper, wants to change schools.
Not an option. We need to deal with this.
You know, I tell him, there'll always be another Brian, no matter where you go. So, let me ask you something?
Why do you think a bully needs to be a bully?
I don't know.
Well, let's think about it. Let's say, a bully is bigger and stronger and maybe smarter-
Brian’s not smarter Mom, and he wasn’t bigger than me.
That's true, but for right now, let's just say a boy is bigger and stronger, or a girl is pretty and popular--why would they need to bully someone who is not as big and strong, not as popular, not as pretty?
I don't know.
Why don't they just ignore you and pretend you don't exist?
I don't know.
Hmm. It would seem to me that if I were big and strong, and especially if I had a group around me all the time, I wouldn't need to bully anyone. What a waste of my popular time, to deal with a peon like you (assuming you were a peon)
or a fatty, a nerd, whatever, right? So, what's the catch here?
I don’t know.
Well, I will give you a clue.  It does not matter at all how someone looks on the outside. They could big and strong or short and weak.  It is how they feel about themselves on the inside. How they feel on the inside will determine how they treat others. This will be true of people all through your life. So, what if I didn't FEEL good about myself no matter how I looked on the outside? And, even if everyone told me how pretty I was, I was STILL unsure, and on top of that, it's a lot of pressure to stay popular and what if someone else came along and took that #1 spot? Then what? I would be nowhere, with no so-called friends.
Wouldn't I want to do whatever I needed to do to keep you from knowing that I even had any doubts or fears about myself?
I guess so.
And how would I go about making sure you didn't find out I wasn't really THE WIZARD OF OZ?
Well, I'd make it my business to find some weakness in you to focus on, first. So, I look at you and I know you're tall–don't like that because I'm not as tall. And I'm not sure if you're strong, but you are a good student and certainly don’t like that! But, you're also a bit shy, and you blush, and you don’t pick fights, so I decide you are a pushover.  Ah Hah! OK, now I 'm safe because I have found things to tease YOU about. Remember this. Bullies are very good people watchers. They can zero in on someone and figure out pretty quickly where he or she is sensitive. And boy, are they going to take advantage of that, and do you know why?
Because, bullies need to protect their true identities. You see, if they can make you feel bad first, you will be so involved with feeling hurt or scared (Remember how you used to feel about Brian?) that you won't be able to focus on the real person behind the bully mask. Take a long look at Brian. He was smaller, and weaker, and not as smart as you. What do you think was going on with him?  Do you think, perhaps, he might have been a little jealous of you, and the fact that you had good friends and he wanted to make you feel bad because HE was feeling bad? Perhaps, he really didn't know how to make friends, and that was his way of getting attention, Even though it was bad attention? And you want to know something else?
Bullies are not very brave. Ever notice in cartoons and movies that a bully always needs some sort of support--a sidekick or a group to follow him or her around? You know why?
Because, a bully won't feel strong or self-confidant without them and absolutely needs them to feel important. A bully cannot stand very well all alone. Think about it.  If he could, he wouldn’t need to bully. He doesn't have a lot of self-confidence and so he needs others to think he's terrific, to do what he says and be followers
so he can be the leader and feel powerful. And he needs them around him to help scare or insult you. And, if he cannot do it with sidekicks then he will hide behind the computer screen and create sidekicks by text messaging.  Girls do this a lot!

That was it. The bullying stopped completely.
Cut to Middle School--
My son came home and told me, he looked this kid, who was constantly going after a much shorter friend of his, square in the eye and said-
You know your problem? You don't feel very good about yourself, so you have to make someone else feel bad, in order to make yourself feel stronger, And you know what else? You're a coward because you always have to have a sidekick with you, and you'd make more friends if you just stopped being such a jerk!

 That worked! All these boys, went on to high school, shared classes and if not friends, gained respect for one another.

There can be disturbing and sometimes tragic consequences to bullying and I am not suggesting that in the event of serious physical threat or continual psychological intimidation, one should not seek professional help. But my feeling remains that whenever we, as parents, can give our kids the tools to deal, and help take focus off of what they get "stuck" in at the moment, we are doing them an enormous service. We know how overly conscious they are of their weaknesses and their looks, and their personalities, their athleticism, their abilities. And while it might be difficult at times to convince them that it will all be ok, we can at least redirect their view.

Once they discover the real person behind the bully, the bully will no longer loom quite as powerful. Then, they can telegraph that they are no longer available for the fooling, the threats, the taunts or the tease. They can see behind it.

The reason this is so important for kids to understand is that a fundamental part of human nature is to avoid, or take control that which is too difficult to just accept. Bullies are not happy people and they do not want to be unhappy alone. They are not willing to accept letting others be. They want to avoid exposure and they some control over their unhappiness. So, they will set their sights on someone who they think they can intimidate. Their whole purpose to make someone else feel as badly as they actually do. If they cannot find something concrete, they will make something up. They will spread vicious gossip. They will create a reason to get even--anything to have an excuse to play with someone else’s emotions.

You can be pro-active, sit down and have this conversation with your child BEFORE something comes up. You can say:
 Listen I want to tell you something about people just so you know, and this goes for anyone, anywhere. (Again Perspective—this is not particular to you or your personal experience) Bullies are people who…
If you have a daughter in middle school, ask her to tell you something really terrible a cyber bully might say?
Then ask-what if someone texted a vicious rumor about you to everyone!  What would you do?  How would you feel?
Again, continuing the what-ifs from Chapter 3.2 Introduction-Taking In The View
Do not wait until the situation is upon your child. Talk about it before so that he/she can be prepared.

I remember one of the first things I was told in a self-defense class I attended was that women were not used to screaming.  So, the teacher had the class scream as loud as they could.  Well, it is no different with mean statements. Let your son and daughter actually hear what might be said.  It really does diffuse the shock. End by saying the following so it is firmly planted in your child’s mind:
Someone who feels good about himself or herself does not need to bully.
And even though bullies might want to make you feel ugly, or fat, or stupid, or clumsy, or nerdy, bullies can't make themselves feel good without their bully mask. It's all pretend. Pull back the mask, and it is just like pulling back the curtain of the Wizard of Oz.

The life lesson in this is that real strength and power do not come from bullying. They come from self-confidence and accomplishment. If someone has to bully and intimidate, they are insecure and afraid. Simple. And you can tell your child that there are plenty of grown-ups like that. Again, you are offering Perspective.

Then, take out a dictionary.  Have your child look up the word Bully.  Have him/her read the definition out loud:
'A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker'
And then ask your child the million-dollar question?
A bully is 'a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker…BECAUSE?
If children can answer that question themselves, they have gained invaluable perspective to carry on their journey towards emotional resilience.


Installment #17

Installment #17-Issue #2/Popularity

H20-Updated 2009
Copyright, 2004
By Margo Judge

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Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)


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