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Charge for Change

“Don’t talk to her,” she said as she motioned to the girl sitting next to me to leave her seat and go sit with her. I was completely taken aback as a girl I thought was my friend tried to keep a girl from talking to me. Yes, let me take you back to my life as a second grader in church choir! And that is where it all began…the taking of friends who talked to me, talking badly about me at church camp in 3rd grade, and even throwing a basketball at my back! Yikes! I laugh now, but even at seven years old, bullies are on the hunt looking for the next victim! That girl was the bane of my existence until we moved when I was nine! You may have had a “mean girl” in your life too! Maybe there are some even now!

One of the biggest topics in my counseling office is bullying! It seems to affect most people, even to those of us who don’t like to admit it. How do we prevent it? In reality, there is no way to avoid it. Bullies can mess with anyone, however, there are ways to help becoming a victim and letting bullies succeed. Although there is no exact science to totally get rid of bullies, there are ways to help combat that nasty treatment.

Acknowledge bullying hurts. It is not weakness to admit that a bully exists! Nothing can be done for a problem unless a problem is acknowledged, so be real and honest about it. After first opening up, only then can plans can be made to assuage the problem. Tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell a coach, tell a boss. Bullying is not limited to one location. It can happen anywhere. It does not stop with children or teenagers either, so if an adult is experiencing a problem, tell a boss or friend who can provide support.

Realize Whose you are. In this world, attacks on personality, looks, talent, and popularity come from everywhere. People are sized up, evaluated, and judged from all places and people. This world is unforgiving when it comes to looks, talent, personality, and intelligence. This world has crazy standards for what cool is and what success is. The world’s standards are also often contrary to God’s standards. What God places value and priority on is often flipped upside down from what the world says is valuable and important. In the end, what matters is to Whom one belongs. As a children of God, each person is valued and loved unconditionally by the Creator Himself! To truly understand this, provides freedom to where other things that were so important before do not seem as important anymore. Belonging to God Himself, a loving Father, puts the focus on eternity instead of immediate worldly things we think are so important but do not last.

Create distance from the bullies as much as possible. Not to be confused with avoiding activities or going the long way to class instead of passing by certain people. There’s no reason to go out of the way to avoid them, but at the same time, there’s just no reason to place yourself in their way to possibly create a conflict situation either. Stand your ground, go where you need to go, but don’t volunteer to be in a bully’s project group at school or a task group at work.

Fake it till you make it. There is something to be said for this old adage. Let me clarify, though, what I don’t mean. I don’t mean pretend it isn’t happening or pretend it doesn’t hurt. BUT keep in mind that bullies prey on people they view as weak. This is true. Bottom line. Don’t allow them to see your fear. Keep your chin up. Walk proudly. Smile. Keep talking with your friends. Do what you need to do. Go where you need to go. If you need to cry, let it out at home, with a friend or trusted adult. Let them hear what the trouble is.

I often talk with clients about how behavior greatly affects feelings and how feelings affect behavior. We may have to smile, take a deep breath, and go to school, while inwardly shaking, but taking these actions can help our feelings catch up with them so we actually feel calm and confident. Smiling has been proven to actually making a person feel happier. In the same way, acting confident when we are not, can help us feel that confidence!

Stand up. For yourself, that is. Speak up. Tell someone to “stop” if necessary. Role play situations that may happen with the confrontational people to be prepared to answer with confident responses. Preparation will help deter fear and dread from conflict whenever and wherever it happens.

Get up and get moving. Find activities that make life fun! Discover interests and talents that make you unique! Take a dance class, play in the band, learn karate. No matter what activity catches your interest, it is super important to do some sort of physical activity, since exercise has been shown to keep away depression. Don’t allow that person to overtake your thoughts! Enjoy life and take that dog for a walk after supper!

Tell someone – share your story. Sometimes a friend who will listen will make all the difference in the world. Talk to parents who listen and empathize. Tell a teacher who can stay aware of the circumstances and help avoid conflict. Sometimes a counselor to talk to can provide a safe place to talk and receive ideas for bullying by meeting regularly, especially if circumstances are particularly challenging.

Choose supportive, loving people. People who love and support and know what is happening can be crucial in avoiding feeling like a victim. Knowing those people have your back and will listen provide a place to speak when it gets rough. They can listen and provide help when needed.

The Andy Griffith Show is absolutely one of my most favorite tv shows ever created! Anybody? I especially appreciate it when I am sick in bed because it makes me feel better! Every episode has deep meaning and lessons to be learned, so the one called “Opie and the Bully” stands out to me. As a child, I related to Opie who has to prepare to face Sheldon, the kid who insists on taking his milk money daily. Now as a parent, I can relate to Andy, who chooses to teach Opie how to stand up for himself even when he may have simply wanted to fix it for him. Andy chose to painfully watch his son learn a valuable lesson, while knowing it was the best for Opie in the long run.

This list is not a guarantee to fix every problem out there, but is a place to begin. Sometimes situations are extreme and may warrant counseling or other interventions, depending on unique situations. For those parents who hurt while watching their kids be treated unfairly, keep your chins up! Let your kids know at the end of the day, they get to go home where you care and it’s a safe place to land. Also remember that by allowing them to learn how to deal with bullies now, they will be able to remember your wisdom for the future. Hug them tightly, pat them on the head, and let them know you have confidence in them as they head out into the world! You get to be the one to greet them when they come home!



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