Don’t blame the child

Many adults — including experts — have lots of advice for children who are being bullied. They counsel children to hold their bodies assertively, maintain a strong circle of friends, learn how to speak up to a bully in a strong, assertive tone, and on and on.

That’s all fine and good. But the bottom line is it’s not the kid’s fault he/she is being bullied any more than any other crime victim is at fault when they are victimized by a criminal. As I’ve read the scores of news stories about bullying I’ve come to realize that bullies don’t target kids with low self-esteem. Bullies target any kid who is different, and often because the bully is jealous of the child for one reason or another. Witness the many celebrities and sports figures who say they were targeted as kids because they stood out in the crowd for their achievements.

Teaching children strategies to implement in the face of bullying probably won’t do any harm. But it’s terribly naive for adults to believe those efforts alone will stop the bullying. Children know it won’t work. These strategies reveal what children already know: Even adults are powerless in the face of the bully.

So what will work? This site has links to many different programs and experts with many different ideas. The strategies that seem the most realistic from my family’s personal experience and which I’d personally give a thumbs up are those at Back off Bully.

Adults who don’t come up with a solution will find that children devise their own solutions. And these are not pretty, much less desirable. Some of the solutions my son came up with: He was in the advanced learning group of his class so he figured a good way to escape the bully, also in that same group, would be to get himself moved into the slower learning group. Right. Then he had the idea of forming a “safety patrol” with his other friends so that they could walk the halls in a large group to deter the bully. Yes and I believe school administrators call those “gangs.” But the strategy he found most effective? Stop talking or doing anything at school so that he wouldn’t be noticed and would provide the bully with less ammunition. That’s a great idea at school, where a person is expected to demonstrate his/her abilities. Some folks teach their kids to fight back. That’s a good way for us to send our own kids to the hospital or landed in juvie for criminal assault.

Come on parents. We’re the grown ups. We’re the ones put in charge to find solutions so let’s do it — before our kids do it for us.

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