In 2009, Julie—my wife and publisher—heard the stories of Allem Halkic and Richard Plotkin, and said, “Andrew, we have to do something. We need to write a book to help stop bullying.” From that moment Julie has been the driving force behind this project. She has done research, made phone calls, jumped on planes, and interviewed all the people to make this happen.
Julie is actually the co-author of Stop the Bullying! We wrote this book together, sentence by sentence. But Julie is too modest to take the credit she deserves and refuses to have her name on the cover.
Julie, once more, thank you my darling. You are an inspiration. You are my inspiration.
I didn’t experience bullying in school. It was only when I graduated and started working to earn an income, to work with people in an office setting did I experience bullying in different shapes and forms. So it was really a culture shock to learn that in an environment where people are expected to behave in a professional way is actually filled with all sorts of demons! (Mine included) So when I began reading Andrew’s book, I stopped and got disappointed upon learning that the book is about bullying among children and youth. I had mistakenly thought this also covers bullying in the workplace, like what was said at the back cover. I grabbed the wrong book!
Or so I thought.
I knew Andrew Matthews. He is the author of Follow Your Heart and Being Happy! which my sister has a copy. The said books were fun and relaxing to read, talking about, you know, life in general but because of those funny illustrations because they’re so true and texts that are well-researched and intriguing, the name Andrew Matthews became, to me, unforgettable.
I said I may have grabbed the wrong book but Stop the Bullying! still provided me helpful insights in understanding the psyche of bullies, how parents sometimes create bullies, and why bullied kids don’t tell their parents, some of them even committing suicide. Though I somehow understand why teenagers had taken the extremes in getting rid of their pain because of the bullying, I only learned now the scientific explanation behind it taken from the book:
Seventeen-year-old Kevin is intelligent, loving, and respectful—he is an A student with a bright future. One Saturday night he hit the town with his mates and they all got drunk.
The guys spotted their teacher’s car parked in an alley. One said, “Hey, just for a laugh, let’s steal his hubcaps!” At that moment, just by chance, a police car drove by. The boys sprinted into the bushes and Kevin was left holding the hubcaps. He was arrested and charged.
Isn’t it a typical story? Why do intelligent teenagers do stupid things?
Research since 2000 has surprised the medical community. Scientists now tell us that the brain of a teenager is only 80% developed. The frontal lobe of the cortex doesn’t fully connect to the rest of the brain until somewhere between ages 25-30.
You say, so what?
Here’s what: the frontal lobe of the cortex handles REASONING, PLANNING, and JUDGMENT. There’s a reason why teenagers do crazy things! There’s a reason why teenagers are impulsive, there’s a reason why they sometimes drive fast and take risks. There’s a reason why they care so much about what their friends think.
Teens aren’t wired to think of long-term consequences. Mary breaks up with Toby—she thinks it’s the end! Dave fails an exam and wants to quit school. We think that just because a fifteen-year-old is bigger than his dad, he should think like an adult. But he doesn’t—he can’t.
Teenagers have powerful brains but they are still learning to drive them.
After all those research and interviews, collecting stories (to help readers understand what goes on in the mind of a bully and what their targets are going through), consultations, and synthesis which now became a book (which I feel only became possible because of the sincerity and diligence by the authors, a husband-and-wife team, Andrew and Julie Matthews), I would like to share with you a short list of information about bullying that are important for us to know:
-Everyone Lives Life the Best Way They Know How
If you follow obese people into greasy hamburger joints and tell them, “You should eat bean sprouts,” will they quit eating junk? If you tell a heavy smoker, “You should quit smoking!”, will he quit? No!
Telling people how to live doesn’t work. When you tell heavy smokers or heavy eaters to do it less, they do it more! It is no different for people who bully. People do what they do for serious, deep-seated reasons. You telling them to stop makes no difference.
-So When Do They Stop?
Alcoholics quit drinking when they finally believe that life can be better without being drunk. The same principle applies for smokers—and bullies.
Some people believe that bullies will stop if you just tell them how the victim feels. “Usually not,” says Katherine Newman in her book Rampage: The Social Roots of Schools Shootings: “The desire to behave better is a weak motivator compared to the status that comes from teasing and harassment…”
Begging bullies to be nice doesn’t work. Punishing bullies usually doesn’t stop them.
-Bullies enjoy power.
Bullies don’t pick on people because they are upset with them, they pick on people they regard as inferior. They look for a weak target and then find excuses for why that person deserves to be attacked, “She’s ugly, she’s fat, he’s a cry-baby.”
Bullies believe: I’m better than you are. I can be as cruel as I want because you are worth nothing.
-It’s Not Your Fault
If you are being bullied, YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. You are not being bullied because there is something wrong with you. Often, bullies attack you because there is something right with you. For example, a bully may not like it that:
you are smart
you are a computer wizard
you come from a happy family
you study hard
you have more money than he has
you look happier than she is
you are a decent person!
you have the courage to be different
-Tips to Deal With Bullies (Strategies That Most Often Helped)
Tell one of your parents—or any adult at home. Even if they don’t do anything, you will probably feel better. Telling someone doesn’t mean you are weak. In life you often need to get help from other people. When you have a broken leg, you get help from a doctor—it doesn’t mean you are weak. If you are being bullied you need to ask for help.
Tell a friend. Bullies want you to keep quiet. When you speak up, you refuse to play the bully’s game. Telling others about the problem is a brave move. You don’t have to do it alone.
Make a joke about bullying. You might even agree with the bully. Bullies feel superior when you get upset or argue. Sometimes it helps to agree with them. Let’s say you have skinny legs. You know you have skinny legs—you wish you didn’t, but it’s a fact. So the bully says:
“Hey, your legs are like chopsticks.”
You, with a smile, “I know!”
“Man, they are really skinny!”
The bully is hoping that you will take the bait and argue, burst into tears.
Bully: “Hey four-eyes!”
You: “You don’t like my glasses?”
You: “I don’t like them either!”
Pretend it doesn’t bother you. Not easy, but some students, particularly older teenagers found it useful.
Leave the scene. Just because a bully starts an argument doesn’t mean you have to hang around and finish it.
Ignore the bully. Visualise all the insults just bouncing off.
-How Do You Create a Bully?
LACK OF WARMTH, LACK OF INVOLVEMENT from the parents, particularly the mother.
NO CLEAR LIMITS on aggressive behavior. If the child is allowed to hit and bully his brothers and neighbors, he will become more and more aggressive.
PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT. Children that are disciplined with violence learn violence.
THE TEMPERAMENT OF THE CHILD. Hot-headed children are more likely to become bullies.
-BULLIES ARE ACTUALLY COWARDS. They only pick on people who look weak or smaller than them.
-People who don’t like themselves are a pain in the neck!
Usually, people with poor self-image use one or two irritating strategies—they either:
a) Criticise you a lot—which is what bullies do, or
b) They criticise themselves a lot.
If you remember that they are actually hurting inside, you won’t get so upset by their behavior.