According to Dictionary.com, a “bully” is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.”
My 9-year-old son has been bullied, both physically and verbally. One day, he expressed that he wanted to talk about bullies. I asked him what specifically he wanted to talk about, and he said he wasn’t sure.
So, I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer for guidance, and found myself saying:
1. You should have compassion on kids who use bad language, are mean, or make fun of you.
Why do kids do these things? There are many reasons: they have friends or family who set bad examples; they don't feel loved or encouraged at home; they are abused by parents or other family members; they have been bullied before; their media choices champion bullying; they don't have many friends; they don't realize that true joy comes from helping and loving others. It could be any of these reasons, or others.
Look at the list. Though their behavior should not be excused, they are not just bullies. They have pain and struggles too.
That being said…
2. You are not what these kids say you are. You can get to a point where you won't feel bad when kids are mean to you.
It is so important not to believe what bullies say. They don't know you. They either pinpoint one quality they don't like about you and define you by it, or they make something up just for laughs and to see you flinch. Do not let someone who doesn't care about you define who you are.
Just say to yourself, “I know that this isn't who I am. I have a family who loves me. I have good friends. I do my best in school. I am not going to let this bother me. I am not going to let them pull me down and try to change me. I know my self-worth.”
3. Don't let someone else try to change you.
Sometimes kids take it to heart when people say mean things. If they are bullied about their clothes, they want to wear cooler, nicer clothes. If they are bullied about being nice to an unpopular kid, they stop being nice to that kid. If they are bullied about being helpful in class, they stop helping their teacher. Some kids even think that if they become bullies, they can then escape bullying.
Don't bend to them. They will not suddenly be your friend if you change. They will just laugh and realize they have exercised power over you.
Always remember you are special. Remember what matters. Remember who you are.
4. Kids will always find a way to make fun, whether it is clothes, body type, intellect, values. Sometimes kids make fun of qualities that are good.
Oftentimes, kids bully because they are jealous. That is why they sometimes make fun of good things, like being a nice person or doing well in school. Never assume that you are doing something wrong if you are bullied.
5. Don't lie to avoid being made fun of.
As a teen, I remember sometimes lying about silly things, like saying I had two pairs of the same jeans when in reality I wore the same pair two days in a row. I lied many times in high school when I was asked out on dates, and I wasn't allowed to date yet. Every time I lied, it was because I was afraid of the mockery, the gossip and the finger-pointing at my expense.
You should never lie. What I did was wrong. I may have avoided one wrong, but I invited another. Have integrity. Tell the truth and don't be ashamed of it.
6. Never pick a fight.
If bullying goes beyond harsh words, and a kid wants to fight you, you should not engage in a fight. If a kid hits you, defend yourself if you must. Do not get angry, and do not continue the fight. Make sure to tell a teacher and always tell the truth.
7. Not all mean words are curse words. Never call kids bad names.
Never use curse words, whether in conversation or to bully. There are other words that are not necessarily curse words, but are meant to put others down. For example, when I was in school, I was often called a “goody goody” because I got good grades and helped my teacher willingly. Basically, don't use any words that have a damaging intent.
8. When someone else is being bullied, you should take a stand.
Sometimes when you see a kid being bullied, you might be afraid to do or say anything for fear of retaliation. You never have to be afraid to do the right thing, though, and showing support for a victim is always a good thing. Ask the mean kids to stop. If they don't, talk to the kid and make sure he/she is okay. Be that kid's friend, even if it means you are also made fun of. Think of what good you can do.
9. If you set an example by not being mean, and not participating in bullying, others may follow.
Not all kids want to bully, or be quiet when they see it. They are just afraid. If they see you standing up for others, you will be surprised how many will follow you instead of the bully. You be a force for good.
10. You can talk to me and your dad any time, about anything.
There is nothing that you can't talk to us about. We will be understanding. We will listen. We will give you a hug. We will talk you through it. We will pray with you and for you.
We love you. You are a good boy. Thank you for coming to me and talking about this today.
Mandy Al-Bjaly lives in Mebane, NC, with her husband and three boys, who bring her a world of happiness. She would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.