Bullying. It’s one of those topics that has been talked about time and time again, yet nothing really seems to change. All throughout my school career I’ve had to sit through wellness classes, teacher lectures, and school events that teach us the consequences of bullying. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, I have been both bullied and the bully before, and even after experiencing both sides I still find myself making catty comments about people who haven’t done anything wrong to me, and I still put up with people saying mean things about me as well.
I know that there are technical definitions of bullying, but in my mind I see it as picking on another person for doing something that has no effect on the bully. Whether it’s being said behind their back or to their face, it seems that most of the time the end result is the same. Bullying is often different between boys and girls, which is summed up a website on bullying statistics, stating:
“For the most part, boys prefer to use physical intimidation tactics in their bullying. They will use physical aggression to force others to do what they want, or to feel in charge of a situation. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to use the subtle methods of child bullying like verbal abuse. Girls are also more likely to be adept at emotional bullying by ostracizing their victims or finding some other way to make harass or belittle others.” (http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/child-bullying.html)
So what do we do to stop bullying? This was a question I asked middle school girls at our Girls In Real Life session yesterday, and we came up with a multitude of answers. One of the girls told me that she confronted a friend, saying that if she was going to bully her, she didn’t deserve to be her friend (I was amazed at her confidence and bravery in that situation!). Another girl said she made nasty comments back so the person would feel as bad as she did. Yet another girl just ignored the comments, pretending she didn’t hear them.
Each of these responses has its merits and downfalls. From my own experience, what I’ve found to be most effective is confronting the ringleader of the bullying group. I’ve pulled them aside, usually starting with a question along the lines of “Is there a particular reason you don’t like me?” and leading into a conversation about how I’ve noticed – and don’t like – the things they’ve been saying about me. The person is usually caught off guard without their friends surrounding them for support, and the majority of the time they’ve stopped saying nasty things.
For anybody that knows me, they know that I can get really worked up about things that make me angry, and it often results in some serious attitude and yelling. But when confronting a bully, it’s best to keep that attitude in check, as tempting as it may be to let it all out. Like one of the girls at the session yesterday, I’ve also responded to mean comments by saying even meaner ones back. But how does that make me any different from the bully?
If we want to truly stop the cycle of bullying, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Learning to stand up for yourself and for others is not easy, but the reward makes it all worth it. The next time someone says something mean either about you, or someone you know, trying asking a question like “so what?”, and see how people respond. Most of the time the person will recognize the pointlessness of making fun of someone. Bullies aren’t mean people, they just say mean things in order to feel better about themselves. Rather than focusing on making others unhappy, bullies and the people around them should focus on making themselves happy without putting others down.
Some statistics on bullying:
- Some of the top years for bullying include 4th through 8th graders in which 90 percent were reported as victims of some kind of bullying.
- About one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.
- A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation.
For more information, go to: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/