It’s roughly three months into the school year and thankfully we are not personally dealing with an bullying but I have friends who have been dealing with this in some form since the very beginning of the school year. By now, friendships have been established and the same groups of kids can be seen hanging out day-after-day with each other. According to noted bullying prevention expert Brooks Gibbs, it’s about this time in the school year when we typically start to hear more about bullying. That’s because, he says, the power structure within the student body is becoming more pronounced - and the bullies have had time to, in a sense, mark their prey. This to me is so scary. My son is truly an innocent boy who cannot tell when he is being bullied or when people are not his friends. On the spectrum he doesn't read social cues and his innocence makes him an immediate target.
Gibbs is a youth crisis counselor and bullying prevention expert who is the national spokesman for the Office Depot Foundation’s “Be The Difference.Speak Up Against Bullying!” Program. He’s on a national speaking tour holding school assemblies for middle school students on how to put a stop to bullying. The program was made possible with the support of Office Depot and the phenomenally popular band One Direction.
His tips for anyone who finds themselves the victim of a bully:
1. Refuse to get mad – Disable the anger button in your brain and show the bully he can try all he wants, but he won’t get you mad. The natural response is to get angry, but you can decide not to.
2. Treat everything as the words of your best friends – This sounds crazy but it works. No matter how nasty or angry people can be, tell yourself the only reason they are talking this way is because they love you, care about you and want to help you. It doesn’t mean you have to treat them as if they are right or do whatever they tell you.
3. Don’t be afraid of bullies – Our bullies will never stop bullying us if we continue to be afraid of them. Even if they are bigger and stronger than you, most of them are not the evil villains you have been imagining them to be. (if they have a history of violent behavior, they are criminals or have other issues and stay away from them).
4. Don’t attack bullies – If we attack bullies, even if they attacked us first, we are letting them know we consider them enemies. So we can expect them to treat us like enemies.
5. Don’t defend yourself – The harder we defend ourselves, the bigger we lose, and the bully will continue attacking to force us into the losing defensive position.
6. Don’t tell on bullies – Despite what most people say, telling on bullies, except under rare circumstances, is the worst thing you can do. It’s the best way to make the bullies despise you. The bully will respect you more if you can work out the problem with him or her on your own.
7. Show you are hurt, not angry – If you show the bully anger, he or she will respond with anger. Show the bully you are hurt and he or she is more likely to apologize and avoid hurting you again.