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There's No Such Thing as a Bully: A Recap

The author shares the basic philosophies of the column.

We can’t control the behavior of others, but we can choose how to respond to it—and how we respond to it reveals our character.

Behavior is a choice.

That’s why I try to avoid using the labels of either “bully” or “victim”—especially in my workshops. Once a child feels everyone has labeled them, it’s been my experience they’re less likely to feel like they can change (for more on that, go ). When we help kids recognize that the behavior they choose creates who they are and influences their future, they begin to take those choices a little more seriously.

That theory has a great deal to do with my choice to call this column “There’s No Such Thing As A Bully”—a title that has sometimes confused a few people—for a more detailed explanation, go .

Part of the reason I chose to share the details of my family’s experience with bullying was to encourage all parents to have respectful, open discussions, learn from one another and work together to help our kids through challenging social situations.

Over time, parents who were going through similar experiences reached out to me and to each other through this column. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they had differing points of view, but that was the goal—to open our minds, learn from one another, work together and lead by example so our kids would see what it looked like to be respectful, even if we don’t agree.

When I asked my son if it was OK to include his story, he quickly nodded, adding that if we helped other children avoid some of the struggles he had to deal with, it was worth it. I was proud of him for that.

A while back, I shared a list of what I've learned helps a child become as "bully proof" as possible. I thought it would be a good time to share this again.

Bully-proof means that over time your children:

  • learn that their safety and well-being is first on the priority list, and that their parents and school administrators will take appropriate action if necessary.
  • have the confidence to speak up if someone is bullying them, and knows that they should never feel badly about doing so.
  • feel that they are heard and taken seriously.
  • are clear that if someone does bully them, it doesn’t make them a “loser” or the “bottom of the food chain.” It reflects on the character of the other person.
  • understand that the negative behavior of others should not weaken their own character. 
  • develop an identity outside of school, which makes their world bigger and prepares them for their future.
  • know that bad experiences can sometimes fuel great achievement if they channel their feelings through art, writing, music, academics, sports or other activities.
  • are focused on their future and know that they can create the lives they want that don't have to include people who are abusive. It does get better.
  • choose friends based on common interests and character.
  • can embrace joy and develop a passion for something positive.
  • understand they cannot change the behavior of others. They can only choose how they respond to it. And how they respond can greatly influence their future and reveals their character.
  • avoid revenge mentality.
  • begin to develop an inner confidence that is not based on the opinions of others.

Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children and 2010's Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.

For more information, visit http://www.ivegotbooks.net

MrsD June 16, 2012 at 04:22 AM
You 'lost' me at, "there's no such thing as a bully", or a victim. Oh wouldn't it be wonderful if these suggestions were applicable, but alas they have nothing to do with reality. As a parent this blogger may feel comforted by her suggestions but they not going to change what the bullied party knows inside himself. Following these instructions is not going to build character it's going to label the kid as a weak mommy's boy, and worse, cement this truth inside the child. My son was bullied badly, beaten up and given a black eye. He stood up to his bully and fought him again, he didn't come out on the winning side of this second encounter either, however, because he stood up he gained the respect of the bully, as well as the respect of his peers. Most importantly he gained respect for himself. He walked through it, not around it with a lot of talk that amounts to a bunch of nothing. When considering the source, it appears this blog is written by a failed actress looking for any outlet for her voice. This advice sounds nice, but is just a mass of cliches which are nothing but empty calories and not very good for the health, especially for a young boy's health.
Harrison Insider June 16, 2012 at 07:10 AM
MrsD. I completely agree. Being a kid in high school that was bullied, a lot, i did get myself into a fair amount of physical encounters. Cliches never work in high school. They are invented my parents or no nothing moms that think they know what high school is about. What they don't realize is that high schoolers don't have the intellectual stimulus to understand the cliches, so they pass them off as a joke, losing respect for the kid that is being bullied. After you confront bullying head on, its usually done with. The bully gets fed up and goes and finds another kid to pick on. Thats what i did at least, and still do. It's worked for me.
Jan May June 16, 2012 at 09:41 AM
As you said, this issue is really a very simple one. It doesn't require this blog or the cottage industry that's been created around it. It's been with us from the beginning of time. It is what it is, this load of kumbaya is a dream. Stand up to the bully and he moves on to another kid, as you said. The victim gains respect, especially of self. This blog is such a disservice and following it's advice, in my opinion, can alter an entire life and turn a kid into a punk when he doesn't have to be one.
MoveOn June 16, 2012 at 10:14 AM
I agree with the blogger on this point -- 'understand they cannot change the behavior of others. They can only choose how they respond to it. And how they respond can greatly influence their future and reveals their character.' Yes, and responding to it by running to mommy, or looking for new friends, or outside your school for self esteem, or writing a song about it, is HORRIBLE advice. Standing up to a bully is not revenge mentality. The fact that you have held onto your bullying experiences is your own fault. I didn't require an apology to let it go. I grew up. This entire issue is such a mountain out of a mole hill.
Aidan June 16, 2012 at 10:53 AM
A pablum article. Of course, there are bullies. And, for a time, they can make the lives of others very rough. Your refusal to call a "spade a spade" is just another example of the slop that's invaded public education. Schools have done away with second place finishes, keeping scores in sports ... some even banning tag as a childhood activity. You don't want to label anyone. Guess what? The world is full of labels. Whether we like it or not. Everyone knows a bully. The question I ask ... as a former teacher ... is where are the teachers in this? A competent teacher can disarm a bully for good ... if the attempt is made. But teachers are now so careful not to offend the offensive ... the wrong message is sent. Teachers need to confront kids who make life uncomfortable for other kids. The problem then usually cures itself quickly. Get on them ... and be as relentless as they are. They never much enjoy it when the tables are turned.

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