Magazine article Working Mother

The Bully Solution

Magazine article Working Mother

The Bully Solution

Article excerpt

If your tween or teen has ever complained about being bullied or picked on, he's far from alone. Almost half of middle schoolers in a new UCLA study said they'd recently been harassed by peers. Although this is a chronic problem not to be taken lightly, the majority of bullying incidents do not get physical. And even when a bully gets rough, it's rare that a victim is seriously hurt, says veteran school psychologist and bullying expert Izzy Kalman, a member of the National Association of School Psychologists and author ?ι Bullies to Buddies. Still, bullying is prevalent in schools and needs to be addressed. "It's a serious problem, with a simple solution-if you do it right," says Kalman.

His solution stems from knowing what motivates one child to pick on another. Kalman asserts that kids tease and harass because it's fun. The feeling of power and control they get from dominating another kid makes them feel good. These kids are not necessarily bigger or stronger than their victims. "There is no bully archetype," says Kalman. "It could be a boy or it could be a girl." While boys tend to taunt and push, girls often practice what's termed "relational aggression," when they form cliques and exclude-even ostracize-other girls. A recent spate of books on RMGs (really mean girls) and films like Mean Girls have put girl bullying in the spotlight. But whether it's a boy or girl bully, "it's always a kid looking for power," says Kalman.

If you make the simple mistake of letting someone make you mad or upset, you become a victim. It's the reason that some kids get bullied and others do not, Kalman says. So if your child complains of being harassed, you can help him understand that the primary reason he's getting picked on is that he gets visibly upset. Explain that this encourages the other kid to keep at it to pump up his feeling of power.

Try explaining this to your child by saying: "When a kid calls you stupid, do you get upset? Do you think that makes him feel happy or sad? Do you want him to be happy when he calls you stupid? What if it didn't bother you? Would he enjoy that? When you get picked on, you're miserable and can't concentrate in school. So letting the kid know it bothers you, or being nasty back to him, doesn't help. But if you act like you don't care, in a few days he'll probably leave you alone."

It may be hard to convince kids that this will work, especially since they don't always believe their parents about such matters. …

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