On Monday, September 23, we were very fortunate to have child advocate and best-selling children’s author, Trudy Ludwig share her books, research, and words of wisdom with the Tuscan community. Since 2002, Ms. Ludwig has been writing books that provide children with insights and strategies to deal with bullying behavior. And not just the classic case of bullying that involves physical aggression, but verbal aggression, and relational aggression (using relationships to manipulate or harm others). According to Ms. Ludwig, research indicates that relational aggression is much more of a concern to children and teenagers than the physical kind. Ms. Ludwig’s mission is to give children mental tools to deal with bullying behavior in safe and effective ways. Her book, Confessions of a Former Bully, for example, presents the “toolkit”- eight strategies that can be employed to deal with bullying behavior. These strategies include:
· Saying “Stop!” (Only if you feel safe doing so.)
· Using humor or acting silly in a harmless way
· Walking away or getting away if you can
· Saying “Who cares? or “Whatever” using a neutral tone
· Changing the subject
· Agreeing (Only if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.)
· Confusing the aggressor with continuous “Why… “Why…?” “Why…?” questions
· Turning an insult into a compliment, only if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.
Her message? Find a strategy that allows you to be in your own corner. One strategy might work better for you than another. If it doesn’t work, don’t stick with it, but above all, don’t allow your “buttons to be pushed.” These tools are not meant to end bullying, but rather provide options to targeted individuals, so that they are empowered to help themselves during a possible confrontation.
During her evening meeting with parents, Ms. Ludwig shared some of the current research and statistics on bullying behavior. Researchers have found that bullying can often be stopped in a matter of seconds through appropriate action. While it is often difficult and inadvisable to confront an aggressor during an event, a bystander can find ways of mitigating the situation by providing comfort to the “victim” (or target) soon after the event has taken place. How? Bystanders can comfort targeted individuals when it is safe to assure them that the bully’s behavior was unwarranted and uncalled for. Bystanders can invite the victim to join a group; and report the event to someone who can help protect the injured party from being hurt again.
During her well-researched presentation, she delved into issues of brain development, cyber bullying, differences between girls’ friendships and boys’ friendships, and provided additional resources for information. She also provided a helpful three-tiered guide in distinguishing hurtful behavior:
· When someone says or does something unintentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s RUDE
· When someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s MEAN
· When someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they keep doing it – even when you tell them to stop or show them that you’re upset – that’s BULLYING
The message was clear, when bullying takes place, a web is created and that web extends beyond the bully (aggressor), and the target (victim). It envelopes the bystanders and members of the community. Everyone is affected. Bullying is a choice. It is often a behavior that has been modelled and learned. Anyone can choose to be a bully. A bully can choose to change his or her behavior. It is by reaching out, with an awareness and concern for one another that an environment of respect and safety can be fostered.
During the first week in October, we will be celebrating the Week of Respect. During that week, we will launch the Tuscan ROAR Book in a Bag program for the third year. Our books were selected to address bullying and to celebrate character traits that help us to recognize the beauty of our individual differences and uniqueness. They also celebrate strengths, such as determination, empathy, and acceptance of differences.
As Ms. Ludwig reminds us, “every person has value. While we may not agree with others’ opinions, we all deserve to have our presence acknowledged and to be treated in a civil and respectful way.”
If you are interested in receiving handouts from Trudy Ludwig’s presentation, please contact Roberta Baltin, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit Trudy’s website at www.trudyludwig.com.