Most of us have some connection to the topic of bullying. Some of us were bullied, others have had family members or friends who suffered the same sad fate. I certainly was not a bully (actually, I was bullied in one primary school grade by a much older child), but I’m sure some of our readers are reformed bullies, or at least we can hope.
At a Kids Spa Party, kids should have fun. But sometimes bullying occurs, and then the fun quickly ends. Children are freer to interact at a birthday party than in school; girls cannot raise their hands to say that another girl is bothering her. Of course, with parents, and Spa Party Therapists ever present, someone usually ends up taking a proactive approach to helping the situation.
Regardless whether in school or at home, bullying still happens. Even with our best efforts, sadly, this cruel social phenomenon continues. Why are some girls driven to bully? What makes other girls perennial targets of any passing bully? How can these patterns of ‘meanness’ and passivity, respectively, be altered? These are all important questions that must be addressed if we are to arrive at any viable solutions.
Parents differ in approach, but when their own kids or guests begin bullying at Kids Spa Parties, almost every parent we’ve met has said or done SOMEthing. Some parents can be harsh. Others can be more reflective, trying to get the kids to think about their bullying behavior.
We have intervened as well a number of times. I think helping the bullying girl to see that her target is a person with feelings, by treating the girl being bullied with respect, while treating the bully with equal respect, has aided all parties involved.
But no matter what the approach or personal style, it’s important that adults DO SOMETHING, rather than permit bullying behavior to continue, unchecked.
Bullying is a grave danger; children can, and have, committed suicide because they were incessantly bullied. A quick search of Google will bring tears to your eyes. We’ve witnessed firsthand how some girls can bully others, and have seen and felt how much it hurts.
In the supportive and accepting environment that we foster, where everyone gets a turn, everyone gets a cool nail design, everyone gets to participate, and every participant is treated with respect, the dynamic of the kids’ interactions changes…at least for a short while.
Every child walks away from our Spa Parties feeling better about themselves than when they arrived. This is not accomplished by any complex means. Every guest participates, and in the process, is treated as an equal to everyone else present.
This is probably why so many bullied girls like the structured environment of class time at school, because everyone gets a turn, and bullies cannot dominate and say hurtful things in the classroom, where discussion is moderated by the teacher, like they can when kids are unsupervised and can speak freely to one another.
We treat every kid with kindness and personal respect; seeing this, they emulate the behavior. Children are continuously learning; providing a good example to follow seems essential. There are many amazing parents out there whom we’ve learned from, watching how they handle the situation of bullying in many different ways.
When the target of a bully gets a great nail design (I painted it; not to be self aggrandizing, but I’ve done some pretty nice nail art!) and a bully begins chiding another girl, saying that her mani came out terrible, kids and Moms nearly ALWAYS counter this, and with great gusto.
I also counter these barbs, but I choose to do so gently. Honestly, not every mani has come out perfectly, some being quite far from any benchmark of greatness! But when my artwork is good, it’s good. If a young critic has a valid point, I’m always willing to listen and learn. Kids can be really honest, but a bully might make such a claim when it is clearly not true.
Some truly Fab Tween Nail Art has been called lousy by bullying girls! While everyone has their own opinion, it was clear that this was about the girl and not the artwork, when the topic quickly changed to how gross the bully thought the bullied girl’s clothes looked.
The curious reaction is that of the bully. Usually, the girl doing all of the bullying will seem deflated, even hurt that any attention from the other kids is going to the target. It isn’t being told to stop bullying, usually; it’s seeing her victim receive positive attention from others.
Why would this be? It seems a curious phenomenon. I do not know; if you thought an answer was forthcoming in these paragraphs, I must admit, it is not.
My best guess is that many forms of bullying have some component that is about the bully wishing to have her peers view the target as she does: through a distorted lens that the bully created, maybe out of jealousy, maybe something entirely unrelated.
Maybe her Mom or Aunt or neighbor made a comment (that was overheard) about girls with a texture and color of hair that is different than their own; xenophobia does exist. But racism is not at the heart of all (or probably, most) bullying; we know this because bullying happens even within families.
It seems more important that the issue be dealt with, rather than attempting to force a blanket definition for a phenomenon that is so pervasive that it must necessarily spring from various causes.
No matter what the cause, this is one behavior that is definitely NOT cool, and the sooner bullies begin realizing this, the safer our kids will all be. But we can’t wait for bullies to come around and figure it out on their own. Nor can we hope that they’ll begin listening, and leave their victims alone. They may get it; they may not. What really needs to be done is to help the victims to stop being victimized.
We encourage parents to consider that their bullied children should be taught about how NOT to be a victim. The ‘victim mentality’ is what must change. Adult intervention is key.
Whether from parents, a teacher, the school lunch aide, or any other person working with children in a position to positively affect change, feedback and education will alter the course of these patterns. Even classmates or kids on the block are in a position to help, that is, if they themselves have been properly educated regarding the topic of bullying.
Girls need to learn how NOT to become victims of bullying. Bullies must come to understand that bullying is a detestable behavior that we will not accept. Assertiveness is important, and feeling self-worth as well, in preparing our kids to keep bullies at bay. Bullies gain satisfaction hurting those who are easily hurt.
By helping girls to learn how to become more assertive, as well as understanding their own unique, individual worth, bullies will have a scarcer choice of targets to assail with their inconsiderate (and possibly even deadly) behavior.
We have to be realistic: What does a bully aim to do? Consciously or otherwise, bullying behavior seeks to cut off a child from her peers, make her feel a lousy sense of self, and seeks to make the victim feel totally dominated by another person.
I know there are many who feel that ‘kids should fend for themselves’, but when we honestly appraise what the end results would be, if bullies were allowed to do their damage without restraint, we see that bullies aim to destroy their targets, and sometimes they succeed. As caring, compassionate adults, whether parents or not, we just cannot allow that to happen.
In a future article we plan to publish in the near future, we shall discuss specific strategies parents or teachers may employ, as suggested by well-known experts in developmental psychology, as well as other reliable sources.
Two books that we shall review are Bully: It’s Time to Take a Stand, An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis, edited by Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen, and Dina Santorelli, as well as Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in The Early Grades, by Michelle Anthony, PH.D., and Reyna Lindert, PH.D.
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