Do kids pick on you? Do they make fun of you, spread nasty rumors, or make insulting gestures? Do they hit you or threaten you? Do they exclude you from their group?
Wouldn’t it be great to live a life in which no one bullied you? Schools all over the country have been adopting anti-bully programs so that kids won’t have to experience bullying. But there’s bad news: these anti-bully programs don’t work very well. Recently, a psychologist named David Smith looked at all the scientific research on whole-school anti-bully programs to see how they are working. You know what he discovered? They usually don’t help, and often even make the bullying problem worse.
You may be able to get your school to punish kids for bullying you, but that is not going to make anyone like you, respect you, or want to be your friend. But I also have good news for you. You can make people stop bullying you, and you don’t need anyone else’s help. In fact, you are the only person who can get rid of bullies from your life. You can’t stop anyone from picking on you once, but whether they keep on picking on you depends on how you respond to them. Think about it. Would you really want to have to rely on other people to protect you from bullying? Wouldn’t it be better if you could do it all by yourself?
There is a psychological theory called “locus of control.” “Locus” means “center.” There are people who have an “external locus of control.” This means that they believe that what happens to them in life depends on forces outside of themselves. Other people have an “internal locus of control.” They believe they are in control of their own lives. People who are happy and successful tend to have an “internal locus of control” while those who are miserable tend to have an “external locus of control.” So if you want to be happy and successful, it is a good idea to stop blaming bullies and start taking responsibility for yourself.
There are two things I want you to think about: 1) Winning and losing. 2) Friends and enemies.
Winning and Losing
Do you think of kids who upset you as “bullies”? You probably do. In fact, your school may even be encouraging you to think this way. But is the word “bully” a compliment? No. It’s an insult, just like “wimp”, “nerd”, or “loser”. Would you like people to think of you in this insulting way? Of course not. Then you shouldn’t be thinking of people as “bullies” either. Why should they want to be nice to you if you think of them so rudely?
Do you have someone in your life that gets mad at you often – a brother or sister, a parent, a friend or another kid in school? If so, why do you think they are getting mad at you? Is it because you’re being nice to them? No. It’s because you are bullying them. Yes, almost everybody in the world is a bully, but we don’t realize it. Bullying is not something that only happens between kids in school. It happens throughout life, and the worst bullying goes on right at home. There is no such thing as a life in which everyone is always nice to you. The sooner you learn to deal with bullying, the sooner your life will improve.
Rather than seeing people as “bullies” and “victims”, it’s more useful to think of them as “winners” and “losers”. Life is like a game; the bullies are winning, which is why they’re having a great time, and the victims are losing, which is why they are miserable. To win, you don’t have to be bigger and stronger than your bullies. All you have to do is understand the rules of the game.
Friends and Enemies
You want people to treat you like a friend. Enemies hurt you and make you miserable. But can you get people to treat you like a friend if you treat them like an enemy? Of course not. They will treat you right back like an enemy. The only way you can get people to treat you like a friend is if you treat them like a friend.
Now, it’s very obvious to you that your bullies are treating you like an enemy. What you don’t realize is that you are treating them like an enemy, too. Do you get angry with your bullies? Do you defend yourself from them? Are you afraid of them? Do you hate them and try to get revenge? Do you try to get them in trouble with the teacher or principal? If so, you are treating them like enemies. Just because they may have been the first to treat you like an enemy, it doesn’t make it right to treat them back that way. You must treat them like friends even when they treat you like an enemy. You will discover that before long everyone likes and respects you, and they stop trying to be mean to you.
So how do you treat people like friends when they bully you? The single most important thing is to refuse to get angry or upset. The following are some winning ways to handle situations:
Someone calls you “fatso.” Respond: “I wish I could be skinny like you.”
Someone insults your race or religion. Respond, “You know, a lot of people think that way about us. Do you have any idea why?”
A kid calls you “Gay”: Respond: “Oh, really? What about me makes you think I’m gay?”
A kid pushes you or hits you. Respond: “Are you mad at me?” If they aren’t mad, they’ll realize they have no good reason to keep on attacking you, and they’ll leave you alone. If they are mad, they’ll tell you why. Then apologize if you did something wrong.
A kids threatens you, “Give me you lunch money or I’ll beat you up after school”: “I wish I could buy you lunch, but I can’t. If you want, though, you can come over my house for dinner. My mom’s a really good cook!”
Kids bring you a rumor, for instance, “I heard that you wet your bed at night.” Respond: “Do you believe it?” If they say, “Yes,” answer, “You can believe it if you wish,” and you win. If they answer, “No,” you also win.
Kids tell you, “You can’t be in our group anymore”: Respond: “Then I won’t be in the group.” If they see you don’t care, they are more likely to want you to stay in the group.
Kids try to force you to choose between friends, for instance, “You can’t be my friend if you’re going to be Jamal’s friend”: Respond: “I will always consider you my friend, but if you can’t be my friend because of Jamal, that’s your choice.” You must refuse to choose. Make it clear that it is the other person’s choice, not yours.
Izzy Kalman is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who lives in Staten Island, New York, and gives seminars throughout the country on anger control, bullying and relationship problems. He is the author of the book, Bullies to Buddies: How to turn your enemies into friends, and the website, www.Bullies2Buddies.com, which is full of free information on how to end the problem of bullying.