How to be a Good Friend, to Someone Being Bullied.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post called “6 reasons why bystandars choose not to intervene to stop bullying.” It was a good article explaining to parents why kids don’t step in. Why they don’t “do the right thing.”   Building off that article, I thought I’d give some additional perspective on the issue and provide information on ways to help them “do the right thing”, to stand up for themselves and others.

1) Research shows that not just kids, but adults too can stand by and watch when something happens to another person. Why? They believe that someone else watching the situation will clearly step in.  It’s a common response. Therefor, what ends up happening is that no one steps in. If you find yourself in a situation of watching someone else being bullied, stand up for them.  Don’t wait for a teacher to show up or someone else to say something. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. End it fast. If your friend is consistently bullied by the same person, create a plan with him/her on how to handle it together the next time it occurs.

2) Fear of retaliation is very real. Kids are not immune to this and neither are adults. If the bully isn’t violent, again stand strong and he/she will see that confidence in you and back down. But if you show nervousness or anxiety, they may decide to bully you too.  You decide. If the bully is violent, you have to tell a teacher or get an adult involved. If you aren’t comfortable telling a teacher face-to-face then leave a note for them.

3) Sometimes your own friend is the bully and it’s tough to address.  Just because someone is your friend, doesn’t mean he/she isn’t someone else’s bully. Remember that. Think about where you ethically draw the line when your friend is bullying someone else. If your friend crosses that bully line, you have a responsibility to say something.  Have a conversation with them privately in an environment where you’re both comfortable so you can help them see or understand how their actions are hurting others. If they’re going to listen to anyone, they will listen to a friend.  Practice what you’d say to your friend before approaching them.

4) Your circle of friends is very important to you when you’re a teen. Sometimes those outside your circle can almost be seen as invisible/as strangers. So when someone outside your clique is being bullied, maybe you see the situation as “none of your business.”  This is an easy defense mechanism to stop you from intervening. We need to teach teens that their school or neighborhood is a whole community and it’s important to look out for your friends as well as those you don’t know in your community.

5) Standing out is the last thing you want to do as a teen. Puberty and hormones take over and you’re always concerned that people are staring at the way you look, the way you dress, etc. Why would anyone willingly have all eyes on them especially in an uncomfortable situation like confronting a bully? It’s completely irrational for a teen brain. In addition, some teens fear that if they are the one to stand up and say something, the other teens will  “possibly” side with the bully. It may seem ridiculous as an adult, but not to a teen. Chances are, if you stand up against the bully, others will stand with you too. (Maybe even thank you.)  Have a few close friends by your side if that helps.

6) Lastly and maybe most importantly, kids aren’t equipped with the right language on how to intervene. They don’t know what to say, how to say it or when to say it.  So, why would they ever intervene?  Schools and parents need to teach anti-bullying language to kids so that bystanders won’t be bystanders any longer. They’d be equipped with the proper language to use if ever in a bullying situation. Practice this language with them over and over. So, instead of standing there in shock , watching the bullying happen and hoping that they aren’t the next victim, they are equipped to step in.

Remember that bullying has many new forms these days. It’s not restricted to the old image of a bully in the cafeteria or on the bus that calls you names to your face.  Now it can be via Facebook, texts, twitter as well as many other forms of social media.  Bullies can hide their identity now, be more sneaky, share damaging photos or bully via indirect ways.  We need to arm our kids with defenses against these forms of attacks as well.

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What Mean Girls Really Think: Confessions of a HS Bully

images

Self-esteem means self-respect. Self-acceptance. Um…self-confidence. Knowing yourself. Knowing your weaknesses and your strengths and striving to manipulate them to serve you best.

Presenting an image is important. Like big time. You portray this image to the world of what you WANT to be. The image that you put out to everyone else is what you ASPIRE to become, not necessarily what you already are.

My mom pushes me hard to be the best. She’s like a total Asian tiger mom. I love her but it’s stressful sometimes. I have high expectations for myself too. I think I should be good at everything. Like I’m not the best at math but I would never admit to that. You wouldn’t hear me talking about how I had a math tutor and stuff. Since I wanted all As and I’m kind of dumb at precalc, I dropped it and went to the easy math. Now I’m one of the best in that class. I’ve maintained that image of perfection.

Me and my friends all have high expectations of each other as well. They’re tough on me and I’m tough on them. Like I’ll ask a girl, “Are you really going to where that to my party?” ‘Cause I don’t want her to give me and my friends a bad name. Or if a girl is slutting around, we let her know. We’re not exactly nice about it. We’re like, “You’re acting like a desperate hoe, so stop. Otherwise you’re not hanging out with us.” We gang up on her, like five on one.

We totally have each other’s back, just not in the nicest way.

Bullying IS real. It’s like the bitchy girl talking to the freshman, saying: “Why would you wear shorts ice skating? It’s cold in there.” And it’s true. Like, why would you? That’s what makes the bully so likeable. She’s totally honest. She’s not making it up; she’s just telling the truth and it’s funny.

I was given a hard time when I was a freshman too. Like every freshman, I was totally retarded. But I learned from that good hazing not to be dumb, how to have street smarts, what to wear or not wear, how to coast through high school, stuff like that.

So if you’re a freshman girl making out with your boyfriend in front of the school, you’re going to get shit for that. That’s honestly unacceptable. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to get bullied for doing stupid stuff.

And if you’re one of the strange girls wearing strange clothes, you’re going to get shit for that too. Like, the one who walked out of the locker room to go to a concert wearing a black tulle tutu thing. I mean, come on. A black tutu?

And me and my friends were like: That outfit is offensive. You need to change.

And she was like: Assholes.

And we were like: No. We have your back. If you walked down the street like this it’d be bad.

Don’t get me wrong, even the weird girls are perfectly nice. We just don’t hang out with them. You’ll often hear me and my girlfriends say that we don’t hang out with ugly people either, which is a really mean thing to say when you think about it. Like that’s a REALLY mean thing to say. But it’s kinda true. I don’t spend a lot of time with people who are, um…yeah. Ugly. It’s not like I’m trying to be a total bitch about it. It’s just that’s not who I find myself with.

Some girls may try hard to be the better person, but when the doors close in the locker room, they’re still like, “What the hell? Did you see what she was wearing?”

Excerpt from my upcoming book: Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image. 

Overcoming Bullying: One Teen’s Story of Bullying and Survival

I believe being comfortable with myself will make me happy regardless of my situation.

This belief could come from the fact that I was bullied during the fifth and sixth grade. I had been friends with a girl for maybe two or three years, but then I decided to hang out with my other friend more than her. She felt betrayed, but I didn’t really notice what I was doing to her and she never brought it up. Then the bullying started. I figured that eventually she’d get over it or she’d get tired and stop. But she didn’t.

My former friend would pull my hair, punch me, and kick me…she even stabbed me with a pen once and broke my skin. I think my other friends tried to intervene as much as they could without getting anyone in trouble. It just wasn’t enough. I try to analyze why I never said anything and I guess it’s because I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble either. Even though she clearly was not acting like a friend anymore, I still felt loyalty to her from our past history. I also thought that if I didn’t acknowledge the situation, then it wouldn’t actually be real. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. The situation got to a point where it was really unsafe. I don’t know what would have happened if my mom hadn’t finally found out.

I guess she had noticed these marks on my body, but I’ve always kind of been prone to bruising so she didn’t think anything of them. Then one day she was walking me to school – which she rarely did – and she saw my friend pull my hair. She forced me to tell her about the bullying, and I broke down crying. She told me to talk to my teacher – which I did – and then the principal got involved too.

It was really awkward for me because we were a small class of about 30 and my former friend and I ran in the same clique of only five girls. I was nervous about what would happen to the friends I did like. Would they get angry at me for snitching on someone or would they stand by me? Surprisingly, the whole clique continued to hang out even though it was really awkward. My former friend and I just avoided each other completely. I’m not sure how we did that considering our group was so small…I guess that’s what made it so awkward.

On the positive side, I finished that year with a better sense of who I was. I learned from the experience.  I’m not going to ever let it happen to me – or anyone else – again. I swore that to myself. Since I was able to beat my problem and grow from it, now I know that I can handle anything.