Expert shares tips for battling bullies
February 21, 2012
HOHENFELS, Germany (Feb. 21, 2012) -- "The old adage 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,' is a lie."
So said Barbara Coloroso, best-selling author and internationally recognized expert in the areas of parenting, teaching, conflict resolution and bullying, when she visited Hohenfels, Jan. 27.
Coloroso conducted a series of lectures across the garrison, focusing on recognizing and responding to bullying. Bullying, as defined by her, is "a conscious, willful, deliberate activity intended to harm, where the perpetrator gets pleasure from somebody else's pain."
According to Coloroso, there are three types of bullying: verbal, physical and relational. She said verbal is the most common, and often the most destructive. She cited many examples of children who had committed suicide due to constant verbal tormenting by bullies.
"Verbal torment is so devastating, it dehumanizes another human being. It makes them into an 'it.' It's a short walk from school yard bullying to hate crimes it's no giant leap," she said.
Coloroso pointed out that today's bullies have tools that were not available when today's parents were in school; cell phones and the Internet.
In her book "The bully, the bullied and the bystander," she writes, "Bullies are using high-tech tools to threaten, stalk, ridicule and spread rumors about their targets. Faceless and nameless electronic transmissions make it easy for bullies to torment their targets anywhere and at anytime."
Techniques for dealing with cyberbullying include the "stop, block, copy, and tell" method. Stopping refers to not interacting with the bully.
"On the other end of that Internet connection is one person, or a group, laughing -- watching as they send ugly messages to you and waiting for you to respond. Don't give them the pleasure," advised Coloroso.
She also advocates blocking the offender's address from your phone or e-mail, copying the offending message, and telling someone.
She said children often don't tell when they are being bullied because they are ashamed, afraid of retribution, don't think anyone will help them, and may believe that "ratting" on a peer is not cool.
"We have to make them feel safe," said Coloroso. "Kids have to trust that telling an adult will make a positive difference. Once they have shared information with you, talk with them about what they can do and what you are going to do."
"I think this is a great eye opener for the community, for everybody," said Sharron McKinney, USAG Hohenfels school liaison officer. "Not only is she drawing awareness to the problem, she's giving kids tools to use in these situations."
During her talk at the Hohenfels Youth Center, Coloroso got the children actively involved through role play in a "bully circle," with various children taking on the role of bully, victim, bystander and defenders.
"They were right in there," said Coloroso. "They were willing to tell me terms that they've heard here and things that have happened. And I gave them tools for standing up to that."
"It was really interesting," said high school sophomore Andrea Grantham. "As a kid I was bullied, and I learned that I was turning into a bully. But I'm fixing myself, this was quite helpful."
Coloroso's visit came just days after Hohenfels became the 2nd Army garrison to sign an Anti-bullying policy developed between Installation Management Command and Department of Defense Dependants Schools - Europe. The policy clearly defines bullying, the procedures in place both for the bully and the target, as well as programs developed to reinforce the policy and create a welcoming environment for all students.
The policy has become a best practice initiative across all DoDDS schools.
The policy reflects the Department of Defense Education Activities bully prevention campaign, "Stop Bullying now! Take a Stand. Lend a Hand."
Coloroso, who has a long family tradition with the military, said she's not surprised that the military is taking a tough stand against bullying.
"Historically, the military has tended to get against discrimination first, dealing with spousal and child abuse first, before general society has come along. There been a real concerted effort to deal with the bullying on our military bases. They've made a big commitment," she said.
To learn more about preparing your children on how to deal with bullies, visit Coloroso's website: www.kidsareworthit.com or DODEA's site, www.stopbullyingnow.com.