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Tips to ease the torment
By Times Staff Writer
Published July 28, 2003
Jodee Blanco suffered taunting and teasing that turned into physical abuse during much of her teens. Now, she offers tips to teens who taunt others to get them to understand that what they are doing is wrong; to the parents of those who are subject to the harassment; and to teachers. And for those who are targets, Blanco says, "Standing up for yourself in the moment abuse occurs is your human right. Seeking vengeance later on is a mistake."
For teens who target others because they are "different"
* Try to recall a moment in your life when you were hurt or humiliated. Really think back on how it made you feel. Was your stomach in knots? Did you feel hurt, angry, sad, scared? How you felt in that second is EXACTLY how the person you're picking on feels now. EXACTLY. Next time, stop and think before you say or do something that could scar someone forever.
* Even worse than a bully are the people who stand by and watch someone else get hurt. If you see someone being picked on at school, stand up and say something. Tell the bully off. Don't be a bystander. Stand up and be strong. You'll be a hero.
For parents of teens who are harassed
* Fix the problem, not your kid. There's nothing wrong with your child; it's all the things that are right about him or her that's making your child a target.
* Don't ask your child, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you have any friends?" Instead, TELL your child how much you love them and encourage their individuality. Tell them it's okay to be different. They already are being rejected at school; don't you reject who they are, too.
* Don't tell your child to ignore the bullies, that they'll go away. Adult logic doesn't work in teen situations. Tell your child to look the mean kid in the eye, don't show fear, tears, or anger and simply tell them to stop.
* Find alternative social outlets for your child where they can meet other kids their own age outside of school. Church youth groups, YMCA, youth community theater, and arts and crafts clubs for kids are a few examples.
* Look for the warning signs that your child may be a victim of peer cruelty: change in appetite, depression, fits of rage, afraid to ride the school bus, frequent illness or faking of illness, and spending too much time alone in their room.
Tips for for teachers
* Punishing a bully only makes him a hero to his friends and eager to seek vengeance on the snitch who got him in trouble. Teach empathy to the bullies and reward the bystanders who stick up for the underdogs.
* Start a support group in your school for victims of peer cruelty and bullying.
* Don't have the attitude that teasing is okay and that it's just kids being kids. If you see verbal or psychological abuse, reach out to the victim.
* Contact the National Crime Prevention Council. Its antibullying program, Be Safe and Sound, is helping teachers and parents across the nations address bullying in school effectively.