At the 29th Intercourt Conference held in Columbus, Ohio last week, James Bisenius, Child and Adolescent Therapist delivered a 2-part workshop on Bully Proofing Youth. He has taught the workshop to over 450 schools, nationally. The workshop was sponsored by The Village Network. Bisenius explained how to deal with verbal bullying and physical bullying, including body language, movements and walking, voice, behavior, and material things. He said that physical bullying is actually a small percentage of the bullying that happens- most is verbal and social. There were some key points, among them that ‘Parents are always the last to know what is going on’, and ‘Almost all kids who target others tell their parents they are being targeted by the victim.’
It’s not advisable for a victim’s parent to call the bully’s parents. He explained that ‘One in ten incidents are caught by adults when the bullying is blatant name-calling or physical. Only one-in-fifty incidents are caught by an adult with the sneaky sophisticated social/exclusion type of bullying.’
‘Patsy’ remembered a sneaky bully from kindergarten who bit her on the wrist before a special movie on trains. He was always creating drama, causing grief to others, emerging as the hero-victim, as the teacher did nothing. The other kindergartners were intimidated and kept silent. The bully’s prominent parents were ‘snowed’ by his sweet and bright demeanor. Patsy’s mother said, ‘I wouldn’t put up with that, bite him back! Don’t be a pushover.’ This was not good advice. When bitten back, the bully screamed and carried on, in puzzling excess, to enlist the teacher’s favor and vilify the 6 year old girl. There were negative consequences for ‘Patsy’.
Bisenius outlined how small group dynamics work in a bullying situation- from the leader kid, to the social, ‘under-the-radar’ sneaky bully (who snows everyone), to the followers, to the outsiders, to the blatant stereotypical bully. Each role was identified and unpacked in detail, with percentages given for each, based on his work over 17 years. He outlined how to disarm different situations with specific examples.
Bisenius spent considerable time in part two, explaining how sneaky social bullies operate (often, but not always girl bullies). The leader is usually ‘sucked in’ like a host/parasite situation with the sneaky social bully type. He expanded upon how control strategies are used similar to a diabolical game of chess, and how rumors are planted by the social bully with a ‘gossip’ so that a ‘weasel’ girl will repeat them. Often, the attempt to break up close or emerging friendships within the group is based upon jealousy. All the carefully calculated maneuvers by a social bully become a power trip. Social bullies fear solid/strong friendships and friends who stick together. Ignoring the commands of a bully dis-empowers them. As Bisenius expanded upon his presentation with examples, audience members appeared to be engaged in recognition of their own life examples.
A significant part of the presentation came at the end of part 2, when Bisenius explained that this behavior typically continues into early adulthood, marriage, and family. Many social bullies have marriage problems, many bring similar relationship dysfunction into a family, making their children compete for their love. The behavior can even continue into senior years in a nursing home setting. The presentation offered cyber-bullying facts and resources, what not to do and what to do. Some of the statistics Bisenius presented showed the prevalence of cyber-bullying among teens. For instance, 43% of teens have been victims of some form of cyber-bullying in the last year. See http://www.cyberbullying.org and prior posts on Pomegranate Cares. Read more about Bisenius’ Bully Proofing Youth workshops at: http://bullyproofingyouth.com/#/presenter/4525501146
[Photo credit: Image by Christy Thompson, Dreamstime 11699801]