A BULLY-PROOF VEST FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Since 9-11, our cultural climate has been filled with fear and hate. Our children are exposed to more and more bullying on television, in movies, in social media, and even in political ads and debates. When the police or FBI go into a dangerous situation, they wear a bullet-proof vest. When your children or grandchildren are subject to the abuse of mean people at school, they need to protect their hearts too, with a bully-proof vest. Here are ten tips that will serve as protective layers in your child’s very own flak jacket.
- Never think or talk like a bigot. Imitating or getting even with bigoted bullies will only provoke them, or other bullies. So treat everyone alike: be polite to them from a safe distance, and don’t gush on them. When you think about things other people can’t much control, like their race, health, size, beauty, gender, income level, cultural background, or academic, musical or athletic ability, don’t treat people special or ignore them based on these things.
- Make your peace with any visible flaws you can’t hide. This is how God made your body, and it’s where life has placed you—make the best of it. Focus on your strengths. People in general will tease you about something until you show them it doesn’t bother you. That’s the good you can bring out of the bad situation of their nasty teasing. “That’s the way I came into the world, the way God made me. Is that a problem for you?”
- Be kind to your enemies now and then. Realize that bullies have been badly bullied themselves at home. Remember that “it’s hurt people who hurt people.” Since they are at their worst when they are most insecure, pray for them, and build up their confidence with smiles, greetings and little compliments when they are not acting badly.
- Play it cool—don’t run or walk away. When bullies come at you, acknowledge them briefly with eye contact, a little smile and nod, then walk on by. Don’t give them the pleasure of turning on their headlights and watching you act like a deer and hightail it.
- Never let ‘em see you sweat. When they attack you, don’t give them the pleasure of seeing that you are hurt, scared, mad, embarrassed, or even surprised. Showing any of these feelings is like blood to a shark. So practice your comeback lines before going to school, like, “Is that what you think? . . . OK, whatever.” Then smile, shaking your head slightly, and rolling your eyes as you walk off to save face.
- Don’t surrender territory, money or possessions to bullies. This would only encourage the bullying behavior. If they insist, let them take what they want by force, and turn them into the authorities. Be sure you have witnesses (see 9. below).
- Break the tension with a smile and even a little laugh. Act like you expected to be disrespected, and show that you are amused they would try this again to get you to lose your cool. Imagine you’re standing back from the scene, watching with amusement the sport of them trying to make you lose your cool.
- Don’t let your parents overprotect you. Instead of playing the helpless, innocent, stupid victim, and letting them fight your battles for you, stand up for yourself. If you need back-up support, use what’s at hand (peers, school authorities). Calling on parents first just opens you to more teasing about “Mommy and Daddy’s little baby.”
- Do use the protection of your peers. Think of things to talk with your fellow students about, and continue your conversation as you walk between classes. Bullies like to pick you off when you’re alone. With a buddy, there will always be a distraction, so you can pay attention and talk to your friend instead of the bully. When that fails, your friend can serve as a witness to what happened. This will empower school authorities to discipline the bullies when their abuse is over the line of what’s punished at your school.
- Choose friends who try to follow 1 through 9 above. They will be good role models and coaches to help you figure out just how to apply these tips in your situation. If your current friends have many of these bad habits, see which of your buddies want to grow up with you. Don’t hang with those who don’t. Otherwise, you’ll be exposing yourself to even more harm, the collateral damage from bullies’ aggression against your wimpy friends.
See peacefulschoolsinternational.org for more help. Tips like these will be needed for life later on, because bullies don’t disappear when you graduate from high school. These same techniques work wonders for adult bullies wherever you find them, at work, at home, or at parties.
When you practice these tips long and hard enough, they will become second nature to you. “Fake it ‘til you make it” means that once you learn to act like bullies don’t bother you, they won’t. They won’t even bother with you, and even if they do, it won’t really bother you anymore. That gives them the smack in the face they deserve—a life well lived is indeed the best revenge.