Thinking about bullying

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We talk about bullying–sometimes called social aggression–pretty much. The Parent Education calendar includes an upcoming conversation, “Helping our Boys Find their Way: Boys and Relational Aggression” with social worker Bob Blazich on Dec. 3 at 8:30 in the MS Dining Room. (Note change of location)

Early in November, Jon Hisgen from the DPI talked about bullying on our webcast, Parents as Partners.

I asked Jon, “Is there really a bullying problem in today’s schools?” His response is noteworthy:

“In my life, I look back at my teaching career and say, ‘What were things I did as a teacher that were power and control like over students?’ I’ve pondered this forever since I’ve been involved in this whole issue, because I think there is a component that we all have in looking at how we respond to others that could be detrimental in our relationships to others. I think that there are teacher bullys, there are administrator bullys, sadly enough, there are parent bullys, both their own children and the school system as well.”

“We need to look at our own behaviors as teachers. . . . We need to look at parents in terms of this issue of maybe modeling some questionable behavior in terms of bullying-like behavior themselves.”

I’m hoping I can use Jon’s approach when thinking about bullying in our community. Look in the mirror. Ponder how I’ve used power and control over other people. Recognize that, like all people, I’m capable of behaving in ways that are detrimental–hurtful, controlling, just plain mean–to others.

If I expect this behavior from my children, I have to expect it from myself first. Then, I have to expect it from the adults around me. This approach, I hope, will go a long way toward contributing to a bully-free community.

(Bob Blazich’s session is geared toward parents of boys in 4th-8th grade. Wondering about girls? Let me know!)

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4 responses to “Thinking about bullying

  1. Great post Cindy- something to get us all thinking before the presentation on Wednesday. My mom and dad are coming over to watch the girlies so I can be there and hear what Bob Blazich has to say. As a teacher and student dean I think a lot about the causes and nature of bullying in both boys and girls and am interested to hear Blazich’s thoughts on this.

    This fall Paul Salerno and I started a series of “Guys Lunches” with the boys in the 5th and 6th grade to talk about issues that were on their minds and also talk to them about skills and strategies to use when they are in a situation where they may be picked on or witness someone else being picked on.

    Based on the data collected via student surveys, the boys seemed to find these beneficial and also gained something from them. One of my goals is to empower bystanders in bullying situations to be positive and proactive student leaders. This is no easy task, but the power of the bystander is great, and could be a means to trying to change behaviors.

    I am looking forward to the presentation on Wednesday and to thinking more about this topic in the weeks ahead.

  2. Cindy,

    Thanks for including me in this discussion. I hope we are able to carry this through to our meeting on Wednesday morning — and beyond.

    Like Jon, I’ve seen all kinds of bullying adults over the years, and I’ve seen plenty of parents who unabashedly encouraged their children to “… be tough, dish it out, and don’t take any *** from anybody”. And yes, I’ve seen teachers as bullies as well. Children certainly do Learn What They Live.

    When I was a middle school social worker, I often enlisted the support of high-status peers, Will’s bystanders, to intervene in bullying situations. They were trained to confront the bully with the simple but humbling question, “What did he ever do to you?” Since the bully was often working to impress peers, this simple question from someone who was generally respected and most likely wouldn’t be bullied, was very effective.

    Bullying girls? I think the strongest bully I ever saw in my school career was a girl. This girl was so powerful that she appeared to be the most popular kid in the class. In reality, everybody wanted to stay on her good side to protect themselves from her venom. She was one powerful 6th grader!!

    Like Will, I also ran several groups including one called “The Good Guys”. Many of these boys were active targets for the aggression of others and had few skills to cope. Each meeing included group problem-solving discussions and a time for individual members to lead a fun activity. Together, the discussions and activities resulted in genuine cohesion and support within the group. Since people being bullied are often overwhelmed with strong feelings, and it’s very hard to think clearly when experiencing strong feelings, we rehearsed “Snappy Comebacks” to have at the ready. I remember kids coming back to the group expressing their disappointment that they hadn’t been bullied and thus weren’t able to try out their new skills!!

    I would encourage people to either add to this discussion strand or send me their questions, comments, or concerns directly (and confidentially!!). My office number is 262-241-8265 x113, and my email is

    I’m looking forward to our meeting on Wednesday morning and the discussion which I hope will lead up to it.

    Bob Blazich, LCSW
    Mequon Clinical Assoc.

  3. I really liked Jon’s remarks and especially your suggestion to look into the mirror. I know if I were to be honest, in my well meaning attempt to “run a tight ship”, I have been guilty of this. I suspect I’m not alone.

    In preparation for Bob Blazich’s talk, I asked my son what he thinks goes on at school and his reply was telling. He said (something to the effect of) “Mom, there are some kids who are jerks, but you know who they are. The problem is that when they act like jerks, nobody likes them and then they act more like jerks”

    His comment just emphasized for me that any solution to this cycle has to address both the perpetrator as well as the target. (I hate the word “victim”) I’m wondering what breaks the cycle. I’m also curious about how we can help our boys learn to navigate the unwritten code about “tattling”, “ratting” or “snitching”. Whatever you call it, I think any discussion about RA has to address this. I’m looking forward to hearing what Dr. Dr. Blazich has to say about these issues.

    Jenny Achuthan

  4. I know there are no end of books on the subject, but Frank Peretti’s books on the subject are excellent. He grew up with a facial deformity that made his school experience terrible. His first hand experience makes his thoughts on the subject very compelling.

    Jenny Achuthan

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