I’ve been dealing with bullying a lot this week. Sometimes, people are just plain mean to each other. I am not always sure how to handle it and many times the students involved and the circumstances dictate the approach that you use. Something in me fires up when dealing with kids that are being bullied. When you dive into the issues though you often discover that both the victim and the bully need guidance and support.
This week a girl was crying in the hallway after she got punched and filed a report. I walked her down to the nurse to get some ice and just started asking what happened. She relayed her story and to be honest, some adults messed up in the story too. When she was asking her to tell her story I would make sure to have my phone away and then when she took a breathe I would recap what I was hearing so far. Practicing empathetic listening can go along way with someone who is being bullied. I got the information then I decided to communicate with people that needed to get involved further with disciplinary actions. I just made sure she was safe, she had a need met, and was simply heard.
During mediations with students sometimes kids rekindle past frustrations. When someone is amped up and quickly talking, on the verge of yelling, simply ask “can you slow down, I want to help?” This quick statement helps them to acknowledge they need to slow down but in a way that is non-threatening and allows you to say that you are here to help out. Allow for everyone speak, they should try to stick to their side of the story and how it made them feel and act. I ask a lot of clarifying questions and ask why a lot. It helps students to process their emotions and the situation at hand. I try to bring the bullies into a place of empathy with who they bullied, even with a small connection.
Often times, something is going on in the life of the bully that drives them to bullying behavior. I try to talk with them on the side quietly. I ask them questions about life, the emotions they are feeling and process why they would want to hurt someone else. You would be surprised at home many students lash out simply because they themselves have been bullied or hurt someone else simply to feel better about themselves. These can sometimes be tough because there is a misconception about bullies, being tough, and showing off for peers. Building a relationship with the bully is just as important as showing up for the victim. It can change a life.
When working with students you will encounter bullying. Social media, physical, verbal attacks, groups gossiping and even fights. How you step into the hurts of these students tell them a lot of you and about themselves. Be a bridge builder between people, develop their empathy towards one another and walk with them in the hurt.