With October being Bullying Prevention Month, for this week’s blog, I will focus on an issue which has and still does affect teenagers, bullying. Today we are going to talk about what it means to be the target of a someone who bullies and what one should do if they find themselves in that position.
What is bullying?
The dictionary definition of bullying is:
The use of superior strength or influence to intimidate someone typically to force him or her to do what they want.
When the definition is adjusted for the school version, according to StopBullying.Gov bullying is
the unwanted aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.
Types of Bullying
There are different types of bullying. The four main ones are
Most bullying was taking place during or after school until cyberbullying became more popular. Now it can happen twenty-four hours a day with the internet and social media.
Bullying and teasing others isn’t a new phenomenon, it has been going on for years. Why do we continue to let it happen? One of the common reasons we hear is, it is just letting kids be kids. What? It is letting kids be mean to other kids. I think my mom always told me to be nice to others. And do on to others as you would have them do onto you.
Many of the stories I have read about how kids are responding to being a target of a bully, is they kill themselves. Why? They feel that there is no way to get away from it. We as a society haven’t made a safe place for them to go nor done a lot to stop it. And what about the one who bullies? Since it seems so hard to prove who does it, we have so many rules protecting them, they wind up not being punished for what they are doing to others. So, in the end, the bully is not only protected by the system but also by a fear of retribution if the person being bullied chooses to report it.
So, let’s take a look at two of the outcomes a target may face when they are being bullied by someone else.
Two Outcomes of Bullying
There are typically two outcomes of being a target of a bully. One is the bully stops the behavior, whether on their own or by being influenced by people around them. Sometimes things can be worked out between the one who bullies and the target, but in a lot of cases they wind up going their separate ways and find new circles of friends.
By looking online, I found many stories from targets of bullies who share their stories. One was on a YouTube video. She shared her story about how her best friend and her got into a big fight. Her friend started posting mean things about her on her Facebook page and sending mean texts. She didn’t want to tell her mom about it, but wound up doing so. Her mom’s involvement helped the harassment to stop.
The other is the bully continues their behavior until the target leaves, either by relocating to another school or city. Or they commit suicide because they can no longer deal with being the target. They may or may not have sought help from an adult or outside source, but it didn’t affect the behavior of the one who bullies. I saw even more stories online about situations like these. These outcomes are more common because of the lack of consequences there are for the ones who bully.
The best advice is to coach your teen to reach out and talk about what is happening with you or with someone they trust. That is the best way to get help and get the bullying to stop. But what are some other things we can do?
What can adults do to help stop bullying?
With only about 20% to 30% of students even talking to an adult about being bullied, if our teen comes to us for help, they have taken a big step. When you are faced with this situation, here is some information from stopbullying.gov to help your teen stand up to those who bully.
Coach your teen to confront the one who bullies
- If your teen feels confident enough, have them look straight at the bully and tell him or her to stop. Be clear and speak calmly. Let them know you are not playing around.
- If you don’t feel safe standing up to the bully, just walk away. Don’t fight back and don’t respond with anger. Walk away and find a trusted adult to talk to about what is happening.
Coach your teen to talk about how they feel
- Have them talk to a parent, teacher, or an adult they trust and to be honest about how they feel. This helps them feel less alone and the adult can help come up with a plan to stop the bullying
- Remind them to be aware of their surroundings: don’t go somewhere where bullying can easily occur and stay close to adults and other students.
- Keep talking! Don’t keep feelings inside. Keep the communication between parents or trusted adults open. Don’t face it alone!
- Don’t be afraid to check in with your teen to see how things are going. Sometimes even asking a simple question can get a conversation started.
Reach out to the one who bullies
One of the least talked about ways that adults can help stop bullying is to talk to the one who bullies and find out what is bothering them. Typically the ones who bully aren’t just doing it to be mean to someone. Many of them have things they are trying to deal with and are taking their feelings out on someone else. Let’s not just make a place for the target to talk about what is happening, but let’s make space for the one who bullies too.
According to StopBullying.gov, when adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.
Available resources on Mentoring A Dream
If you are looking for more ideas on ways to help your teen navigate being a target of a bully or bullying in general, take a look at our quarterly feature page on my website – Bullying
If your teen is dealing with a challenge other than bullying, please check out our Resourses page for a list of organizations and articles that may help.
Shawn’s Way is about teens and bullying
Do you know about The Way Series? It is a series of coming of age novels for teens and young adults about the challenges they face. Shawn’s Way focuses on the teen challenge of bullying. The second book in The Way Series, Shawn’s Way, is a novel about Shawn Townson who attends Mulston High School and is the target of Josh Alberts, one who bullies. During National Bullying Prevention Month, we will be talking about ways to deal with and prevent bullying by promoting the message that is portrayed through Shawn’s Way.
As a follow up to the story presented in Shawn’s Way, I published a short story called Josh’s Story. It provides insight into how Josh became a bully and tells what happened from his side. To get a copy of his story, sign up for my email list (form is found on my website) and a link to get your free copy will be sent to you.
Follow this link to my books tab to learn more about the series and to pick up your copies!