Can you turn a bully into an ally or friend?
Most people might be satisfied just to stop bullying when they, or someone they love, is a victim of bullying. When we recently encountered bullying with one of our children, we aimed a little higher and strove to help our son turn a bully into a friend once again.
Bullying is a widespread problem that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), around 20% of students in the United States report being bullied at school. And that’s just the ones who report it! Bullying can take many forms, including physical bullying, verbal bullying, and social bullying.
Research also shows that bullying can have serious consequences for both the victims and the bullies. Victims of bullying are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They may also have difficulty sleeping, suffer from headaches and stomachaches, and have a harder time making friends.
Bullies themselves are also at risk for negative outcomes. They are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, and are more likely to have difficulty in school and in relationships. They may also be at greater risk for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
There is also a correlation between bullying and suicide. Studies show that victims of bullying are more likely to have thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.
It’s important to note that the above statistics are from before the pandemic and the shift to virtual learning. With the shift to virtual learning and the rise of cyberbullying, the statistics might have changed.
1) What are some strategies to stop a bully?
There are several strategies that can be used to stop a bully:
- Speak up: If you are being bullied, it’s important to speak up and tell someone about it. This can be a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor. They can provide support and help you come up with a plan to stop the bullying.
- Stand up for yourself: Bullies often target people they perceive as weak or vulnerable. By standing up for yourself and showing confidence, you may be less likely to be bullied in the future.
- Use humor: Sometimes bullies use humor to put others down. If you can come up with a witty or clever response, you can defuse the situation and take away the bully’s power.
- Ignore the bully: Bullies often seek attention and thrive on a reaction from their victims. By ignoring the bully, you take away their power and they may eventually stop bullying you.
- Get involved in anti-bullying campaigns: Many schools and communities have anti-bullying programs and campaigns. By getting involved, you can raise awareness about the issue and help create a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone.
- Document the bullying: Keep a record of the bullying incidents, including the date, time, location, and what was said or done. This can be helpful if you need to involve authorities or if you need to provide evidence of the bullying.
- Seek professional help: If the bullying is affecting your mental health or daily life, seeking professional help such as counseling or therapy can be beneficial.
It’s also important to remember that stopping a bully is not always possible, especially if the bully is unwilling to change their behavior. However, by using these strategies, you can take steps to protect yourself and create a more positive and supportive environment for yourself and others.
2) Strategies to help turn a bully into an ally
There are several strategies that can be used to turn a bully into an ally.
- One approach is to try to understand the underlying reasons for their behavior and to get them assistance to help address those situations that are fostering their bullying behavior. Sometimes bullies bully because they themselves are being bullied, or because they are dealing with personal issues at home or in their own life.
- A second approach is to build a relationship with the bully and try to find common ground. This can be done by showing them kindness and understanding, and by finding ways to connect with them on a personal level.
- Finally, a third approach is to involve authorities such as a teacher or counselor to help address the situation. They can help mediate a conversation between the bully and the victim, and can also provide support and resources to both parties.
It’s important to remember that changing someone’s behavior is a process that may take time, and it’s not always possible to turn a bully into an ally. However, by using these strategies, you can create a more positive and supportive environment for yourself and others.
3) What are some resources to help dealing with a bully?
There are many resources that can help you deal with a bully:
- Hotlines: Many hotlines are available to provide support and resources for victims of bullying. The National Bullying Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) is one such resource.
- Online resources: There are many websites and online forums that provide information and resources for dealing with bullying. Organizations such as the National Bullying Prevention Center, StopBullying.gov, and the Cyberbullying Research Center offer a wealth of information and resources.
- Professional help /Counseling & therapy: If the bullying is affecting your mental health or daily life, seeking professional help such as counseling or therapy can be helpful in dealing with the emotional impact of bullying. A counselor can provide support and teach coping strategies to help you or your loved ones deal with the effects of bullying. They can also help victims of bullying to work on building up their self-esteem and resilience – to better function and cope in the face of bullying.
- Support groups: Many schools and communities offer support groups for victims of bullying. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where you can share your experiences and learn from others who have been bullied. They can also help you feel less isolated and alone in dealing with bullying.
- The Authorities: It’s important to report bullying to the appropriate authorities such as school administration or local law enforcement. They can help mediate the situation and provide support and resources to both the victim and the bully.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone in dealing with a bully, and there are many resources available to help you.
4) Our Recent Experience With Bullying
Building a relationship with the bully and trying to find common ground with him (highlighted above, section 2 point #2) is the approach we took recently after our son Dominick was the target of a number of bullying incidents by another student at his school. The boy bullying Dominick was both a classmate and a basketball teammate. Before reaching out to the school administration, we decided to reach out to the guardians/grandparents of the individual that was bullying Dominick. I had a brief conversation with the guardian one night after basketball practice before the boys were dismissed. The guardian listened intently and assured me he would take care of the situation.
2 days later the gentleman came up to me and explained what he & his wife understood to have happened and the steps they had taken in dealing with their boy. He also indicated that Dominick had a group of friends that had, and continued, to relentlessly tease & bully the “bully” over the course of the last year.
I immediately took this information from our conversation and met with my wife. We talked about the situation and then called Dominick into the room. The first thing we did was tell him what the guardian of the boy told us. We weren’t looking for comments from Dominick at this point.
We then listened to what Dominick had to say about the broader circumstances. Dominick took issue with some of the characterizations the guardian had relayed to me. We respectfully acknowledged this and told Dominick that we believed him. However, we did also tell him that, in our experience, we have learned that people can sincerely & genuinely perceive things differently – and that is why such things as eye-witness testimony is so notoriously unreliable. We decided not to wade into those waters and get into the nitty-gritty, or a pissing match, with the other boy’s guardians. We wanted to deal with this at a higher level than that – so that is what we did.
Finally, we told Dominick how we expected him to handle the situation. We gave him very specific steps that were unambiguous and clear.
- We told Dominick that we expected him to have a conversation with the boy the very next day, in private.
- We instructed Dominick to shake the boy’s hand, look him in the eye and tell him HE (Dominick) was sorry for falling short of The Golden Rule and for not treating him the way he would like to be treated.
- We told Dominick to also tell this boy that HE (Dominick) expected HIM (the “bully) to also treat him (Dominick) by the same principle and to honor The Golden Rule.
- Finally, we instructed Dominick that if he were to see any other individuals, and especially his friends, making fun of this boy or teasing him – he was to step up and stop the activity.
It took 2 days – but Dominick did as we instructed him.
That same day that Dominick had his conversation with the boy I did see his guardian. I sat down with him and told him how we dealt with the situation and what Dominick did. I made it clear that Dominick had told the boy that he expected that BOTH OF THEM would honor The Golden Rule. He was pleased – and so-far-so-good – the boys have been getting along – and seem to have even re-kindled a friendship.
Bullying is something that is at the top of our minds – as the Catholic schools require us to have Youth Protection training every few years if we are going to be involved in any activities. Additionally, I have to take a Youth Protection class every year for scouting & just recently re-completed the requirement.
We understand bullying to be the root of many of the social problems we see in society today – so when we encounter it – we try to identify it early – and put a plan in motion to stop it.
In our most recent encounter with bullying – we aspired to do more than just stop the bullying – but rather turn the bully back into an ally & friend of our son. Although the incident was recent – we are pleased with the results of our strategy so far – and hope it proves to have decisively terminated the bullying and yield a long-term victory.