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."