A Former Bully Gives 5 Tips for Proactively Addressing Bullies

October 12 2015

Author

  • Paul Osincup, Guest Blogger
    Paul Osincup
    Guest Blogger

I know I wasn't the worst, but I sure didn't help.  When I was in high school and all of my friends were picking on C.L., I joined in without a thought.  He left school a lot because he couldn't make it through the day.  Even then I knew it was wrong because when I saw him one-on-one I was always nice to him, and I only joined in when others were picking on him too.  

The dynamics of every name-calling, harassing, or bullying situation at school is a little different.  Some situations have been going on for years, while others may have recently started over a dispute between students who used to be friends.  It is nearly impossible to keep track of the social cliques and hierarchies that exist at your school, but it is possible to stop some of the behavior before it starts or gets worse.

From my combined experience as a bully in high school and working with students in restorative justice and mediation programs, here are my thoughts on early intervention:

  • Get to Know Your "Bullies": You're probably tapped in to the pulse of your school to know some of the students who tend to bully, ostracize, or dismiss other students.  Get to know them by name.  Know a little about them and talk to them between classes, at lunch, and after school whenever possible.  This gives those students the feelings of support (someone cares about me) and accountability (the teachers know me and are keeping an eye on things) that all students need.
  • Get Them Involved: I might have become more of a bully than I was in high school, but luckily I had other things on my mind.  I was on the wrestling team as well as the speech team (two totally different crowds at my school).  Both of those activities kept me busy, so I didn't have time to linger between classes or after school to mess with other students like some of my friends did.  I also had teachers and coaches in those organizations in the back of my mind that I knew would be very disappointed in me for engaging in that behavior.  Many bullies are leaders, which is why they get other students to join in. Instead of pushing those students away, bring them in and capture their leadership qualities and charisma to do good.
  • Let Them "Save Face": If you want to talk with these students about their behavior, bullying, or anything like that it would be best done privately.  Everything is about image to these students and you are much more likely to be met with resistance confronting them in front of their friends as they will put on a show.  However, in an individual setting (especially if you already have rapport with the student) they will be much more likely to cooperate and internalize the conversation.
  • Praise the Good Behavior: If you see a bully-prone student do something nice- praise them!  Even little things that model inclusivity should be recognized.  Did they let the kid who always gets picked on borrow a pencil in class?  Let them know you appreciate it.  Depending on the situation and the student, praise can be public or private.  
  • Communicate with Teachers/Parents: If there is a student you have taken the time to work on the first four bullets above with, then talk with other teachers and the students' parents about it.  Students will compartmentalize their experiences and behavior.  They know the relationship they have with you and that you expect model behavior, however, they may act a completely different way at home or even in a different classroom because the social dynamics change and they may not have the same relationship with that teacher.  Developmentally, it is great for students when those compartments begin to disappear and their behavior becomes more congruent with their values in every situation.  

The kid in high school that we picked on, C.L. is doing well these days but it doesn't change the fact that he had to endure that in high school.  I hope we can find more ways to redirect the energy and behavior of bullying before it even starts. 


Paul Osincup is a motivational speaker and consultant based in Santa Rosa, CA. His website is www.paulosincup.com.

For more information on how to stop bullying and mistreatment on your campus, see our Safe School Ambassadors page, and our Program & Services page.



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