How to Deal with Bullies

January 7th, 2019

Here’s what one mom has learned after her daughter stood up for a friend in a bullying situation at school . . . and what you can learn from it, too.

-By Karen

When the phone rang and I looked at my caller ID, I saw that it was my daughter’s school. My heart skipped a beat. All sorts of things run through a mom’s mind.

Was she in trouble? Was she injured? Or maybe even something good?

As it turns out, it was a little of all three. Sarah, a high school junior, had been beaten up pretty badly in a fight on the school bus, and she ended up getting suspended. That was the bad news.

The good news was that it started because Sarah stood up for a friend who was being bullied. I’m proud of her for that, though she could’ve handled it better. And looking back on it now, Sarah realizes it, too.

Here’s what happened…. Some girls on the bus were verbally abusing one of Sarah’s friends. When those girls started aggressively moving toward the friend, Sarah intervened and told them to back off. That’s when the fight broke out, though it was quite one-sided. Sarah didn’t fight back, and got some bumps and bruises. But she also said some awful things to her attackers, things she shouldn’t have said.

So, it’s one of those things where, as a mom, you’re proud of your child for trying to do the right thing. But you also see it as, well, let’s just call it “a teachable moment.”

We’ve talked about the situation, and we both feel like we have some good advice to share with others—parents and children—about how to deal with bullies. And they certainly should be dealt with, because bullying is not to be tolerated. Not by our schools, and not by our kids.

Practical help

My daughter already had some great coping skills in place for dealing with any stressful situation—whether bullying or something else. Sarah had been through the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program at David Lawrence Center, which teaches kids (and adults) how handle difficult situations.

DBT is sort of a blend of therapy and meditation to help decrease stress, anger, and depression. I would love to see schools incorporate DBT into their programs, whether through assemblies, their counselors, or even in their curricula. But I admit that’s more of a long-term solution. One can’t master DBT overnight; it takes time.

So, what to do in that spur of the moment when you’re witnessing a bullying incident? Absolutely call attention to it. Tell the bully (or bullies) to stop, using your words firmly but wisely. In other words, don’t cuss at them. Simply say “Stop it” or “Quit harassing her,” and see if they back off. If they don’t back off, do not escalate the situation by yelling or getting more confrontational.

Instead, find an adult—preferably a school employee like a teacher or counselor—and tell them immediately, asking them to intervene. If you’re on the school bus, tell the driver right away.

If you can’t quickly find an adult, you can alert the sheriff’s department. I know you’re thinking, Seriously? Call the cops in a bullying situation? That was my gut reaction too. But yes, seriously.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is serious about putting an end to bullying. They have partnered with DLC on a number of initiatives, including working with schools. Sheriff Kevin Rambosk himself encourages you to call his office about bullying incidents.

You can either call 911, or if you want to remain anonymous, you can text DNTH8 to CRIMES (274637). The texting solution has been a joint partnership between the Sheriff’s Office, Collier County Schools, and Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers 2012. Learn more about the program here and here, and watch a video here.

Encourage your children to add that number to their contacts in their mobile phones, so they can access it quickly in the event of a bullying situation. That also applies to cyber-bullying, when kids bully one another through social media.

If your child has been bullied and is having a hard time getting past it, I highly recommend David Lawrence Center as a source of help. They also have personnel in the schools that can help victims of bullying.

Working together, as parents and children, we can make a difference when it comes to bullying. Maybe we can even put an end to it.

Please join me in this important effort. I thank you. And our kids do, too.

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