Bullies and Victims: Is There Hope?
Writer / Tia Nielsen
Mary Kay Jones ears perked up. The summer 2014 TV news story was about bullying. Suddenly, forgotten painful memories rose to the surface. Her years of being bullied in early elementary school banged again on her soul. Trapped, panicked feelings reminded her of hiding in the bathroom stall from her tormentor. Quietly, words began to form in her mind—words that needed a voice. Listening, the thoughts came forth as a poem: “My Bully Francie B.”
Her healing picked up where it left off years earlier. “Writing is healing for me.”
Jones moved into adulthood as an educator for 22 years and now serves a church ministry. She is also a pastor’s wife. Her types of experience with her bully motivated her to help both victims and the person bullying.
“Over years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask many bullies, children and adults why they bully,” says Jones by email. The following are some of their answers:
No one would listen to me unless I was bullying.
I liked the feeling of power I got.
Bullying became a habit, my style of interacting with people.
I didn’t know how to deal with the things that were making me angry.
I was trying to be accepted by the ‘in crowd,’ so I just did what they did.
Jones continues, “If a person in authority is present at the time of bullying, it always means intervening on behalf of the victim. However, everyone knows that bullying does not usually occur under the watchful eyes of those in charge.”
Where is the hope?
Center Grove residents Joyce Long and Karen Daniel invested years as teachers. Both dealt with many bullies and their victims.
In her eight years teaching middle school, Long often caught on to the bullying game. When her eighth graders acted out, she was able (in those days) to take them out in the hall. “I would have them look at one other silently for 60 seconds. That usually softened the bully a bit. Then I would ask them, ‘Do you have anything you want to say to one another?’ Apologies were usually exchanged, and attitudes simmered down.”
Daniel has taught in Mooresville Schools for 23 years, all at the elementary level. “I see bullying as a repetitive behavior,” she says. “It’s getting the students to understand you can’t always say, ‘I’m sorry. It was an accident.’ An accident happens once, not three or four times,” she tells them.
She observes it is important that adults take seriously what children are telling them. “A bit of what helps the victims is you listening to them.”
Two words can change a life
Brian Myers and his wife Rose use a successful program developed internationally to help bullies and victims. The owners of Pilsung ATA Martial Arts teach their students to be “Agent G.” “We train the kids to be the ‘Agent G,’ the one to step in and extricate the victim.” To remove them from the presence of the bully, kids may invite the victim to play with them or lead them to an authority figure.
“Bullies mimic what they see or hear,” Brian Myers says. “They may be imitating a sibling or an adult.” Red flags appear even in very young children:
– Removing a toy from another child or taking the physical space of another
– May be the first to hit or shove
– May be physical with adults
– May use ‘adult’ words they do not understand but can grasp the tone of voice used by older family members
Brian Myers teaches two words that have turned lives around. They are “I can.” I can tackle this school project. I can finish my homework. I can deal with this bully. The resulting growth in self-confidence over time has helped high school dropouts return to school. It has turned cowering victims into radiant young people that ooze confidence. In addition, confidence drives off most bullies.
Jones echoes those thoughts. Training in assertiveness and equipping children with methods to handle both physical and verbal abuse empowers them to defend themselves.
The rest of the story
Jones learned about more than bullying; she discovered grace and the power of forgiveness. Walk through her poem to find out the rest of the story.