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Question: My child is getting bullied in school. It started with mental bullying and now he is getting picked on physically in school and the Zero tolerance policy says if he fights back, he gets suspended. I went to the school twice, spoke to the principal and nothing has changed. What do I do?
Answer: If your child is confused, you can’t blame him. Zero tolerance in school says that if a child defends himself or puts his hands up to block, they’re still in trouble. If we did that as an adult, it would be called self-defense. Whether we agree or not, those are the rules. The problem happens when they keep the same mindset once they leave school and get off the bus. I believe the solution exists in opening communication with your child. Your child may feel that if they defend themselves, they may get in trouble by you, so they allow the bullying to continue. This keeps the victim mindset lasting much longer in the mind. Eventually every victim turns into a bully. These days that means they may bully themselves to a terminal level (Bullycide) or turning into an enraged bully that brings a gun to school.
Mental bullying requires mental self-defense. If your child is getting made fun of, you can teach them two effective techniques to walk away with their head held up high. A mental bully is looking for a response or a reaction. If your son shows any facial expression, whether sadness, upset, or anger, the bully wins. The only word in the English language that I’ve found to disarm a verbal attack is “and”. Saying “and” to any verbal attack puts the focus back in the mental bully’s lap. The key is to avoid including an attitude in the saying of “and” so that the bully doesn’t get a response. The second technique to be used with “and” is what I call the “Power Look”. This is the same technique that I teach parents and teachers when I present behavior management workshops. The “Power Look” completely eliminates any and all micro expressions on the human face, taking away all emotional responses from the face of the person giving the “Power Look”. The secret is to look at the top of the forehead of the mental bully and avoid connecting to their eyes. This makes your face go completely blank. Using the “Power Look” in combination with saying “and” will show the mental bully that there is no reaction to the mental bullying. As with anything in life, this must be practiced with your child repeatedly for them to be successful. Try it yourself in any environment that you have an adult bully. Seriously…
In my “Breaking the Bullying Circle” student assembly program, I first use a helper to come on stage with me and practice. I tell them that I’m going to bully them and they agree to it. I then proceed to make fun of their hair, clothing, glasses and anything else I can find. After they successfully give me the “Power Look” and say “and” repeatedly, they walk away and get an adult. I then proceed to mentally bully the children in the audience. I love watching in amazement as the children see and feel the effectiveness of the techniques with new found hope. The only way to become proficient at something is to practice…hint…hint.
Regarding the physical bullying, talk to your child. Tell them your true feelings and expectations. In my opinion, no one has the right to touch anybody else. I don’t teach my students karate so they can allow someone to hit them. My students hit back and hit back hard. I call it the “McFly Principle” bases on the Marty McFly character from the Back to the Future movie. He was bullied and finally punched out the bully and his life changed for the positive. His self-esteem and self-confidence rose permanently. Many parents who live in the real world agree with me. Some don’t and that’s perfectly fine as well. How would your child feel if you were out in public, someone hit you and you stood there and didn’t defend yourself? What lesson are you teaching your child? That is for you to figure out.
Your child needs to know that they have the right to defend themselves. If you agree, let them know as well. Let them know that they WILL get in trouble in school, no doubt. That’s the way that school is. They will get in trouble. And when they come home upset you will not be mad at them for defending themselves. When I present programs for groups like the Boy Scouts and Pop Warner, I am not restricted by what the public schools want me to keep quiet so I recommend that on the day your child physically defends themselves and is suspended, be prepared for one of the most teachable opportunities you will have in your child’s life.
Hug them and tell them that you are proud of them for standing up for themselves. Take the next day off of work and go do something fun. Take them out for pizza and ice cream. Let everyone in your family know how they stood up for themselves. Write on the calendar that date and celebrate that day every year as they day they stood up for themselves. They will never be a victim of anyone ever again. YOU are responsible for teaching your child life skills inside your home. However keep an eye out that the victim doesn’t become the bully that starts the fight. That is a different situation and a different conversation in itself. Prepare your child for the real world out there. There are bullies in school, college, work and relationships just to name a few. It’s up to you if you want your child to go through life being a victim or a powerful human being. Good luck to you.