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Bullies

Posted Jan 27 2009 7:16pm
I've been trying to think of how I would handles bullies if I could do it all over again.

A parent was asking me how his child should deal with bullies. I was at a loss in a way, but then I had some ideas on the way home.

A bully is an abuser, just like a man who beats his wife or a guy stalking a single woman. There are patterns of behavior that can be isolated and examined. I believe that his process will work for most any age (with modifications).

Let's start out in the bully's mind. What are the bully's general objective. I believe that there are three:

Isolate (this is key)
Dominate
Control

The bully must remove you from any kind of support system (isolate) so that they can seem more powerful than you (dominate), and then determine you actions (control). This gives them a sense of being powerful, when actually they are pathetic and deserve your mercy. If you really could find out everything about the bully, you might find that they are bullied by their parents or something.

That doesn't matter right away though. What matters at first is making it stop.

Here's what came to my mind:
  1. Identify and categorize the event(s)
  2. Own the event
  3. Brain storm alternatives
  4. Pick a solution
  5. Own the solution

1. Identify and categorize
When you have interactions with a bully they probably happen the same way every time or maybe there are two or three different scenarios that take place. Think about it. Right down or talk through what happens when you are bullied. Treat it like it is a play or movie.

Scene 1: Where does it take place. Who is there. What do they say. What do they do with their bodies and tone of voice. What do you do and say? Go for as much detail as you can.

Is there a scene 2 or 3? Do the same.

Now you are no longer isolated with the monster. Now the vague amorphous blob of bullying has been reduced down to the repetitive behavior that it is. It doesn't mean you've solved it, but it means that you can realise that you don't have 1,000 problems to solve, but the same problem over and over again. The bully is thriving because he provides you with a stimulus and gets the same response. It's like when you tease the cat, the cat reacts, you laugh. It's funny to you, so you do it again. You don't do something different. You want the same reaction out of the cat, so you do the same thing again, and it's funny again.

The same holds true for bullying.

Most children could do this with assistance and guidance.

2. Own The Event
Use a video camera or make it into a play or reader theatre, and act it out. Your child must play the part of the victim and the bully. They should do it convincingly. I think this is called role playing. Obviously a teen or young adult will feel silly acting out a play, but they could do a read through. If they are playing the bully's part, they need to match the tone of voice and body language of the bully. They also need to teach you how to match their voice and body language when they are reacting.

It's important that your child make an effort to really play the part. This will help take away the bully's power. It will also help them understand and think through the situation.

3. Brain Storm Alternatives
Talk through different things that they could do. Don't put limits on this discussion, anything goes. If your child is hiding some rage and thoughts of violence, they should talk about it. You then react as if it's no big deal, and you talk about consequences and feelings of everyone. Chances are instead that your child will come up with some good and bad ideas of how they could react differently to the bully.

4. Pick A Solution
Pick one alternative that might work better. There is no right one. Just grab one that might work.

5. Model The Solution
Just like you did before, read through or play act the solution. Talk about how well it would work. How will the bully act? Will this help?

6.Score
Give the child a goal to do the solution three times in a row. If faced by the really bully situation that they have practiced for, and they use the solution they practice, that counts as a point. Three in a row and they get a prize. Then shoot for five in a row.

Each time you do this your child (or you) will internalise one way to break the bully (abusive) cycle.

Let me know if this helps.

When the bully sees that his/her old ways don' t work, the bully is going to try a new approach, so you have to start the process over, and come up with new solutions.
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