My almost 8-year old recently came home sharing how she has been struggling with another kid in school that has been teasing her. She described the embarrassment she feels when he does this, and the way it often embarrasses and upsets her classmates as well.
After listening, I asked her if she’d like to watch a video about how we might respond to bullies. She agreed, so we watched this one by Brooks Gibbs that I’ve shared here before:
Our favorite part was when Brooks responded to “You’re ugly!” with, “You have the face of an angel, sweet-cheeks” (it’s now an inside-joke we share, quoting it pretty much daily).
We talked about everything Brooks explained: power, not playing the game, resilience, not caring what others think. It all seemed straightforward enough.
But as much as my daughter enjoyed and seemed to understand the video, she still had some hang-ups on all those concepts. Responding that way seemed too embarrassing. And how could she really just not care about what other kids think?
And it hit me. Even with all the love and support my daughter receives, this still gets really complicated for our kids when it comes to the actual process of building resilience skills. It takes a lot more than the occasional fun pep talk and advice. Building resilience skills is hard, messy work.
So here’s what our process looked like:
First, we discussed weighing the embarrassment. “Would you rather respond in a way that might make you feel a little hesitant or embarrassed now, but that will get the bully to stop in the long-run, OR would you rather just keep feeling humiliated and embarrassed again and again and again as the bully decides he/she can get to you?”
Second, we rehearsed some role play, as advised by Josh Shipp. It actually surprised me how tricky this was in practice, which is probably why Josh describes the kinds of responses we shoot for as counter-intuitive. So, we went with the baseline bully insult, “You’re gross!”
Response idea #1: A casual, “Hm. I don’t think so.” But we realized that the bully might take that response as an argument and feed off it (“Well, I think so because I KNOW so!”)
Response idea #2: A passive, “Ok.” But then we realized that the bully could still possibly take that as, “Oh, she doesn’t know what to say? Let’s do it AGAIN!”
Response idea #3: With a smile, “Yeah, sometimes I do do gross things.” We knew we were on the right track there, because it shows the bully she’s not bothered by the insult. Of course, we continue to joke about adding, “You have the face of an angel, sweet-cheeks.”
Best part was when she came back and told me she has been training all her friends at school on these concepts! She specifically told them that when they respond with, “Stop, you’re hurting my feelings,” that bullies love that (Brooks’ hilarious bully voice: “That’s the point, stupid“). They even practiced role-playing together!
I know this is the first of many resilience skills-building sessions we’ll need to have. But I’m grateful to understand now the way we need to go deeper and work through a messy but worthwhile process!
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto