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Registered Play Therapist,

          Certified by the Association for Play Therapy

Family Therapy Session

Steps To Overcome Bullying

Bullying is a common problem in our society; it is extremely cruel since it can potentially traumatize the victim for the rest of his/her life. Therefore it is the obligation of both the school and parents to address this crisis when a child is victimized; the school must invoke a zero tolerance policy and help the victim identify why she/he is singled out as a victim. The parent must address the issue with the child and help him/her find coping strategies which might necessitate therapeutic intervention so that the child is able to implement these skills confidently and successfully. Therefore, it is urgent that the parents contact the school administration when they discover that their child is being subject to such malicious treatment in school; however, the parents need to be open-minded and realize that although bullying is inexcusable, their child is being targeted as a victim for a specific reason. Therefore, they must address the behavior triggering the bullying so that the child is able to succeed socially. This article is assuming that these measures were already addressed and the victim needs coping strategies to stop the harassment. 

Bullies are cognizant of which children to single out since they instinctively know that they will cower from their insults; therefore, it is imperative that children who suffer from being bullied are empowered with skills that build their confidence which changes their demeanor and transforms the victim’s vulnerability into empowerment. Humorous sarcasm is a highly successful skill in combating bullying, the victim does not defend himself/herself, rather he/she agrees with the bully. The victim must realize that defending himself reinforces the bullying, therefore, the victim should agree with the bully using humorous sarcasm and refrain from directly insulting the bully. The following example illustrates this point.

Bully: “How can anything look good on you? You are so fat!”

Victim (smiling and speaking calmly): “You are so observant! I didn’t think anyone would notice. I am touched by your concern.”

This is a sharp contrast to arguing with the bully whether the victim is subjectively overweight; the bully is the butt of the joke instead of the victim. Furthermore, the victim did not insult the bully; she/he models kind yet assertive behavior. He/she does not allow the bully to tarnish his/her sterling character, rather his/her impeccable character is his/her greatest weapon needed in combating the bully. His/her reply gains respect and evokes laughter from bystanders who are impressed with the humorous and witty retort.

Miriam was a patient who entered therapy complaining that the girls were ridiculing her for being rich; this was surprising since the patient was coming from a home of very modest means. The therapist explored the issue with the child who initially was unable to recognize that her behavior evokes resentment. Therefore, the clinician met with Miriam’s mother and encouraged her to contact the principal since it was pertinent that these children should be dealt with wisely; the principal needed to investigate why Miriam was being targeted. Children who are victims are usually targeted as a result of certain negative behavior; therefore, in addition to putting the bullies in a difficult position to continue his/her behavior, the victim must discontinue his/her annoying conduct. Miriam’s principal wisely drafted the bullies as her allies; the principal told them that they were singled out because she trusts them and needs their assistance. The principal shared with the bullies that Miriam was being tormented by girls in the class and would appreciate if they would report anyone who ridicules Miriam; she then proceeded to inquire why they think that Miriam would be victimized. The girls abashedly replied that she brags about everything that she has which is annoying her peers.

The therapist modeled for Miriam sharp retorts and had her role play this strategy until she mastered the skill. If they asked her how much she paid for a particular item, a direct answer was not given. The therapist taught her the skill of humorous sarcasm since the question was used as an excuse to ridicule; if that is the intention of the girls then the victim will be tormented regardless, either she is too rich or too poor. Therefore, the victim should reply sarcastically, “It was $500.00 and I would not wear a cheaper _____.”

The new skills Miriam mastered using role play in therapy while simultaneously stopping her annoying behavior ended the bullying. Furthermore, the principal’s clever intervention was conducive to Miriam eventually forging friendships with these very same girls.