If you want your school to be a safer and friendlier place, it’s up to you to do something to stop bullying—starting right now. The formula is STOP: Support, Tell, Options, Prevention.
Stan Davis has been working with teenagers for over forty years. During that time, he has done a ton of research and written several books on bullying behavior and the kids involved in it. His website, www.stopbullyingnow.com, has some excellent insights and information on handling it.
“Getting support includes asking for help from parents or guardians, other students, or adults at school. If you ask for help and the person you ask won’t help you or says you are “tattling,” ask someone else until you find someone who can either stop the behavior, or at least support and encourage you.”
But support goes even further. If you’re not the one being hurt, you can position yourself to support someone who is. Saying something like, “Wow, people can be mean sometimes, I don’t like what they did either,”* can remove the isolation and strengthen a kid who is being picked on, and thus make them less vulnerable to future bullying.
There is always a place for talking—to someone who can help you and also directly addressing someone who is mistreating you.
“Don’t keep someone else’s mean behavior toward you a secret,” says Davis. “Get help when someone bothers you. Even if the person you seek help from can’t stop the behavior, they can help you see that you are not at fault, that you have strengths, and that mean behavior doesn’t have to ruin your life.”
Addressing someone who is hurting you is tricky, but you do have to give it a shot, because it just might work.
Kyle, an eighth grader, was being ‘bumped’ by another student in the hallways, but he kept quiet, in the hopes that it would stop—it didn’t. Ignoring bullying is usually a sure-fire way to ensure that the aggressor ups his ante, and that’s what happened.Soon the bumping turned into shoving, and eventually escalated to the point that Kyle was being slammed into lockers and walls.
“That’s when I told my mother, and she contacted a school administrator—without mentioning any names—and he suggested I tell the other student, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing so knock it off,’ ” the student said. “Maybe because he was just trying to see what he could get away with or because I talked to him in public, but it worked and he quit bothering me.”
Kids who hurt other kids can be manipulative and too often they make the excuse, “I didn’t know I was hurting him.” Don’t leave any room for their excuses—be courageous and tell them to stop.
You can even intervene when someone is talking mean to or about someone. Saying something like, “That may be your opinion, but it is not what I know,” acknowledges a person’s right to an opinion but diffuses the situation by suggesting that theirs may not be the only one.
What you do in a bullying situation is your choice. If you’re seeing bullying behavior, you can choose to talk to the players, support those being hurt, or tell an adult. If you’re being bullied in any way, you can choose to speak up and ask for support. If you’re bullying someone, understand that you are choosing anti-social and unkind behavior, which may even be illegal in your state, and it is within your power to choose to behave differently. Get some support or talk to someone you trust who can help you understand your behavior. You have options other than to stand by and watch or take abuse from someone else—choose to exercise those options!
Prevention may be better than cure, but when it comes to bullying we clearly need to do both. It’s like stopping a flood in your house: you have to turn off the water as well as mop up the mess. Adults are intervening as much as they can, but you’re in the hallways, the cafeteria, and the school bus, and you’re in the best position to prevent bullying behavior before it gets out of control.
An eighth grader in New York did just that, “A girl was being cornered at her locker by a few other girls who were bullying and scaring her. I went up to one of the bullies and started a conversation. When I did this, the girl being bullied slowly left the situation.”* Intervention takes boldness and courage, but it can be done.
Your choices can influence others, and you can stop something before it starts or goes viral. You have the power stop bullying. Start now!
* Safe School Ambassadors, Rick Phillips, John Linney, Chris Pack
If you need help or support, share in the comments below and we’ll hook you up. Got a success story from trying something from this post? Let us know!