Saturday, June 18, 2016
Now you are probably thinking, I knew there were adult bullies I work with several or listened to one rant on the phone last week. Of course, you can just turn on the TV or listen to talk radio and find bullies too. I guess I always thought of those things as adults with opposite views loudly expressing their opinions. Although I know bullies are not just children making fun of or excluding one another, it was my mother's predicament that got me thinking about the bullies at every age and the grown-up bullies I realized I have dealt with this past school year.
As I considered my Mom's experiences, and my own, I came up with 4 types of adult bullies I have dealt with this year. Your experiences, however, may have taught you there are more.
The Boss: This person thinks they are the boss of you, the teachers, the school. and well, the world actually. They "know" what is right for you and everyone else and are not afraid to tell you to your face. They point out everything that is wrong with a situation, but fail to take any responsibility for their part in it. They are part of the problem, never part of the solution. I think of a recent phone call with a mom regarding the "bullying" of her daughter. This parent DEMANDS I set up a meeting with the offending child and her mother so they can all meet and deal with this. She tells me there is no law that prevents me from doing that. And I will do it. Now you and I both know THAT is a recipe for disaster! This mom was quite insistent until I quoted district and state statute about the process for handling complaints of bullying. Then she backed down. Strategy: Remain calm and know your state and district policies. Always do what's best for all kids no matter what the adults want.
The Condescender: This is the most closed-minded of bullies. They are visibly angry most of the time and their tone of voice is frightening. Everyone who is different than them is a target. Whatever your gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, it doesn't matter. If you are different than the Condescender you are a target for verbal abuse and ridicule. My poor intern and I had to meet with a family where the dad was a Condescender. She was quite sure he would pull out a gun and shoot us, he was really that hostile. Very little was addressed about the problem with his child, but we heard plenty about all the other "losers" in our school and in the world. Now personally, I love this kind of conference. I take it as a personal challenge to turn the situation around. Did I change this Condescender? No, but we were able to reach an understanding. Strategy: Show no fear, be the best listener you can be, and find some common ground you can agree on. It is not important to be right.
The Thug: This bully is not necessarily a thug like you might think of in a stereo-typical-criminal sort of way. I use the term to denote power, might, and intimidation. Like an enforcer. This person may be physically large or hold an important position in the school or community, or think they do. When meeting with you they refuse to sit, but rather stand over you looking down, making references about who they know, who will hear about this meeting, what their attorney has said, and which TV station they are going to call. Stategies: Always match their posture whether sitting or standing, listen more than you talk, remain calm, take notes, and only say things you can back up. Remember, in most cases, it's all just a lot of talk.
The Sneak: This bully is a very dangerous grown-up bully. The trouble with the Sneak is you don't know about them until it is too late. This person is nice to your face, always polite and respectful. You may not see this person as a friend, maybe more like a friendly acquaintance, but you certainly don't see them for the toxic "pot stirrer" that they are. However, what is said behind your back, in emails, texts, Facebook, and in private conversations to other faculty or parents is shocking. You wonder what did I do to them? Maybe they didn't get their way, they don't like the way you responded to a situation, or who knows? Maybe they have issues of their own or just like the attention. After all, why does anyone bully? Strategies: Stay out of the fray. Maintain your dignity, rise above their petty gossip, and trust that your honest and trustworthy actions speak for themselves.
Have you encountered grown-up bullies? At home, at work, in life? Maybe you just thought of them as difficult colleagues or parents. How would you describe those you have met in your role as a School Counselor or even as member of the grown-up world? It's easy to get discouraged and feel threatened in our jobs and personal lives by these bullies. I know that's how my Mom feels. Now she just wants to hide in her apartment and not come out. So what did I tell my Mom? What any good School Counselor and daughter would say. Stand up for yourself, use your words, and stay strong! I'm here if you need me!