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Bright Ideas From Our Readers: Dealing With Bullies

Peer counseling and a no put-downs week are some reader-tested solutions for dealing with bullies.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to the many readers who sent in their tips on dealing with school bullies. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

Peer Counseling Works!

A former student peer counselor writes:

"I was inspired to tell you about a program that I experienced in high school that had an amazing impact on the kids, me included.

It was called Peer Counseling. And I know first hand that it works because I was a certified counselor. We would meet in the office, and the two people involved in the fight would sit down and we would give each of them a chance to tell what was going on separately. While they were talking we would jot down their comments, repeat them back to them and after both parties said what they had to say, we would allow them to talk about what happened together. It was a way to acknowledge to both of them that problems like that were resolvable without fighting. It was a way for the weak to be understood, and it was a way for the bully to see that what they were doing was not good. And it is all done by their own peers. I had many meetings and in every one of them the two that were involved came out of that room resolved and with a new understanding of the other one.

It also gave me a great boost in confidence knowing that I could make a difference in the behavior of my peers. (Not to mention how much it cut down on between class scuffles!)"

No Put-Downs Week

A mom in New York writes:

"My daughter's school, Dows Lane Elementary, in Irvington, New York, had a 'No-Put-Downs Week.' Kids kept a record of how many times they were put down or when they put down other kids. Then at the end of the week, they wrote about the types of put-downs and how it made them feel."

The Power of the Pen

A dad in California writes:

"My son is small for his age, and was a victim of a kid who was transferred from another school (for agressive behavior I later was told by the school) by repeated tripping, laughing at and made to flinch, then vulgarities shouted at him. Two of my sons friends were victims, too. Once my son told me, I wrote a letter and signed it, placed it in an envelope and told my son to give this to his teacher at the start of the day. I stated I am 'filing a formal complaint' against this kid, and if I did not see the school react, I would go to the district. I received a phone call from the vice-principal that day. She thanked me for bringing it to their attention, and a written letter was exactly what they needed for a parent conference."

The Key is to Act Quickly

A parent in Pennsylvania writes:

"I picked up my 6-year-old son at his afterschool program, and found he had a black eye from his 'friend.' When I asked what happened he told me, 'You, know, the usual.' When I pressed him, I found out that 'the usual' was kicking, pulling hair, shoving his head into the school bus window. He kept telling me that this kid was his friend, and was afraid if I told on him, that they wouldn't be friends anymore.

I confronted the child immediately, in front of the staff, and told him that if my son came home hurt again, that his mother and I would have to discuss it. Then I wrote a letter to the teacher, and asked that she forward it to the other boy's teacher and to the school bus driver, because that's where the abuse occurs. The teacher and principal both called me to apologize and promise me that they would deal with it. The school psychologist did a lesson for each class on how to treat friends, and why bullying is wrong. It's only been a few weeks, but I've seen no evidence of my son being hurt, physically or emotionally, and the other boy seems much kinder to him when I seem them together.

The key is to get to it quickly, and have an open home and supportive school environment."

Comments from readers

"I just read the Peer Counseling comment . The writer called the person being bullied WEAK . People who are bullied are not weak, that's the whole problem. BULLIES ARE NOT STRONG. This law of the jungle stuff must be cleaned out of our schools once and for all. Until we stop the weak/strong stuff the problem will never be solved. BULLYING IS JUST UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR it has nothing to do with weakness or strength. I will say this however, the writer did bring out the foundation of the problem of Bullying. "
"From what I can tell, the girls are much worse than the boys, and it's been going on since Kindergarten. Most schools are very good about dealing with physical bullying, but the social/emotional types of bullying can be just as damaging (if not more so) and are more difficult for the schools to deal with. Talking to the parents of the bullying children often does no good, since these kids are learning their behaviors at home. You NEED to get the school administration involved. Start with the child's teacher and/or guidance counselor. We have an Assistant Principal at our school whose main job is dealing with disciplinary problems. She's a great advocate for kids who are experiencing bullying. If my child had a problem with bullying and the school didn't do anything about it, I'd go to the school superintendent or school board to get it resolved. Do not let up on this until the problem is resolved. Bullying is a HUGE problem in our schools and will only be dealt with! if you make sure that you will not accept anything but a safe, supportive environment for your child."
"my son is bullied all the time and i try to act quickly but i cant be everywhere at once so im at a loss in what i can do about this."
"Just this week we had a bulling incident. This girl in my daughter's 7th grade class feel 'less than', so she feels the need to lash out, verbally to my dughter. I allow my daughter to handle the situation, as much as possible. Yet, I phoned the counselor, and he had to call 2 conferences with the girl. The third one will be a suspension from the 'in' lunch crowd, the 4th one will be from school. Our school Parrish Jr. in Salem, Oregon was in the newspaper for the most suspensions. I see it as a good thing= 0 policy towards harrasment and bulling. As a parent, you have to stay on top of it. Don't just assume the proble got totally solved. Look at your child's behavior, appetite, grades, are they changed? Could be because of stuff happening at school. My daughter has mentioned girls 'cutting' themselves here in Salem. Oh well, another subject, but something to watch out for. "
"Does anyone know where I can get a 'No Put-Dows' sign to post on my classroom door? I've seen some around, but have no idea where to get one."
"Well I believe you should be in the 3D TEAM to your school(s) My kids loved hearing them speak Thanks 3rd/5th grades my kids loved it"
"I think that so much more bullying happens than schools know what to do with. I get so sick and tired of hearing stories about how one kid gets put down constantly. Sometimes in front of the teachers and they do not do anything about it. Not that they are to blame because I will be the first to say that they have their plates full and this responsibility belongs to the parents. With all due respect to all the parents of these kids that bully, you need to teach your kids that laughing at other people's expense is a cheap shot and it causes a lot of emotional damage. Year in and year out I hear about kids that just get singled out and because they do not dress as good or expensive as the other kids, or because they are heavy, or extremely shy, other kids just tear them apart. It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear this. If you do not hear about it's probably because you do not ask your kids. Even when mine role their eyes at me, this topic is just as important to me as their grades. Please, please, please parents, talk to your kids about this subject and their age does not matter. Make sure your kid is not being bullied or that your kid is bullying and do not be afraid to press for details. Mother from Texas"