Answers to Questions About Bullying

ABCNEWS.com asked readers to submit their questions about bullying to Rosalind Wiseman, educator and author of "Mean Girls."

Your questions, and her answers, are posted below.

Hi! My daughter first became friends with "the bully" a few years ago. We live in the same neighborhood, and at that time the girls attended the same school. The bully was in a grade ahead of my daughter. They were close friends who played almost daily. Soon after they became friends I noticed a lot of jealousy from the bully. She did not want my daughter to have any other friends but her.

She would tell lies to the other girls in the neighborhood and at school in an attempt to make the other girls not like my daughter. And when the other girls were around she would make fun of and be mean to my daughter and then later tell my daughter that the girls made her say and do the things she did. I have put an end to the friendship, and since then the bully has threatened my daughter physically and it's like she is so obsessed with trying to get every friend my daughter has and trying to hurt my daughter in any way she can.

Fortunately, they do not go to the same school anymore, but they do attend the same dance class. She is constantly and secretively doing things in dance class to hurt my daughter, verbally. I've told the teacher, who watches the girls and tries to make sure the bully is not getting away with this. This bully is 10 and my daughter is 8. She has a reputation in the neighborhood as rude and the "mean child" of the neighborhood.

Her parents, whom I tried to talk to because we were once friends, ignore everything their child does. When I was friends with them she would treat her parents rudely and disrespect them on a daily basis. I am concerned, because even though their friendship is ended, she is still just as obsessed with hurting my daughter or trying to ruin things for her. I told my daughter just to ignore her, which she has done a good job at doing. I just didn't know if there were any other suggestions you could give me. Thanks so much. — Nancy

ANSWER: Thanks for writing, and you're doing a lot of good things here, like enlisting the support of other adults who can make sure your daughter is safe.

That said, when you have a situation where there is a pattern of behavior where the bully is continuing the behavior, I would at least practice with your daughter what she can say to the bully to stand her ground. What your daughter should do is say, in her own words, what the bully is doing that she doesn't like, what she wants the bully to do, and end by saying something about that she has the right to be in the dance class without being bullied. But it needs to be in her own words. Even if she doesn't face the bully the next time the girl is mean to her, your daughter is that much more prepared to stand up for herself the next time. The goal here is to help your daughter get used to standing up to people who are treating her disrespectfully — a life- long skill.

Hi, My daughter is 13 and has ADHD/bipolar. She is in a special class for students with 'special needs" one period of the day, and in regular ed classes the rest of the day. She often comes home and says that this kid or that has called her a monster, or good for nothing, that she is stupid because she is in "redirect" and kids like that should not have any friends.

I try to get through to her that those kids have nothing better to do than to pick on someone, and that her value comes from God and he made everyone unique and focus on her good qualities of caring and helping others. But that doesn't help at school.

She tells these kids to leave her alone and she tells a teacher, but there is little else she can do. They never hurt her physically, but she really doesn't have any friends and her self-esteem is very low. How can I help her and kids like her to deal effectively with "bullies" like this? What strategies work? Thanks! — Karen

ANSWER: First of all, this is an issue that the principal needs to address, because no kid in a special needs class should be taunted. It means that the school, or students within the school, are willing to go after whom they perceive to be its most vulnerable members. Administrators responsibility is to do everything they can to ensure they take a very strong stand against that kind of unethical behavior. Second, what to tell your kid. Tell her, "I'm so sorry this is happening to you, thank you for telling me, and together let's work on making it better."

Now, you're not going to be able to stop the bullies overnight (and of course, you know that) but the goal here is that your daughter feels better about herself for the way she is handling this very difficult, painful situation. When she feels mastery of something like this, she is developing social competency. I would also encourage her to take a stand because if they are doing it to her, they will also do it to even younger kids. So she's not just fighting for herself to be treated with dignity but for other kids as well.

Hi-I just last night had a crying 9-year-old because she took a nest into school to show the kids and a boy made fun of her and it shook her up so much. She kept it bottled up inside all day and didn't tell me about it until bedtime. Then she was bawling. I don't know what to do. Should I go to the teacher and have the boy confronted with the bullying?

I comforted my daughter, but I don't think that was enough. She told me she didn't say anything back to the boy and I asked her why. She felt like whatever she said back, he would just make fun of that too. I hate that she felt helpless and want to give her the tools to defend herself verbally against this abuse. Without escalating or embarrassing her, what can I do? Thanks for any advice. — Sara

ANSWER: I'm so sorry that your daughter was teased for trying to bring something like that to school. Here's what I would do. First, tell your daughter you are sorry that happened to her, and thank her for having the courage to tell you. Together I would come up with a plan that ideally would be:

1. She writes down what happened, how she felt about it, and what she wants to happen (i.e., that the boy apologize to her and not tease her again).

2. Because she was teased for something related to school and her education, you should set up a meeting with the teacher where your daughter can explain what happened, how she feels, and what she wants (all of which she will have prepared by doing step one). Tell your daughter that she should speak first but if she gets overwhelmed, she can ask you to help her. You can even have a code word that she can say that means you can step in. Make sure to ask the teacher what the plan is if the boy goes after her again. The best would be that your daughter and the teacher would decide something together.

3. Then debrief with your daughter after the meeting. What she learned, how she felt about it, etc.

4. Follow up with an e-mail to the teacher thanking that person for the meeting and your understanding of what was discussed.

5. Tell her you are very proud of each one of those steps she did and if the problem continues, reiterate how important it is to come to you or another trusted adult.

Hello Ms. Wiseman, As a young girl in elementary school, I was bullied by another girl. It was actually one girl who would bully me and a group of my friends. One week she would turn one of the girls against the rest of us. Even though we were somewhat friends she bossed us around and made us go against each other.

I was wondering if this event in my life could have affected me as a person now in my 20s. Does bullying affect a person long after the incident itself? Thank you. — Azza

ANSWER: It is absolutely true that your experiences as a child with bullying can impact your adult life. From not being able to build and maintain strong friendships with other women, to not being able to stand up for yourself when someone is bullying you at work, to bullying yourself, all of these things are possible.

But the good thing about being an adult, however, is that you have more freedom and wisdom to change your life and the relationships within it for the better. In fact, I think that's really what being an adult is all about — no matter how old you actually are.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...