When my son was very young, he tried to play with nearly every kid in the neighborhood that would play with him. He just loved being with other kids and being outdoors. For the most part, everyone Jeremy Punchin the neighborhood got along well. But there was one other boy who would, from time to time, just be a complete jerk. On one particular day, Jeremy came to the house visibly upset. I asked him why and he told me that the other boy was being very demeaning to him, calling him names and pushing him around a bit. “You know what to do, don’t you?” I asked. “Yeah,” Jeremy snarled. “PUNCH HIM IN THE NOSE!” I started laughing. “NO, NO, you don’t have to do that. Just don’t play with him. And if you are playing with him and he starts acting like a jerk, just look at him and say he is being a jerk and you are going home.” Jeremy looked at me with a puzzled look. “How will that help?” “Look,” I said, “NO ONE likes rejection. The best way to punish anyone is to deprive them of your time and attention. That is why time out works for parents. Never spend time with anyone that wastes it by being mean or abusive to you.”
I wasn’t sure our little talk worked at first. Then there was the day I found out he perfectly understood what I was talking about. The doorbell rank and the boy from down the street was at the door. Jeremy opened the door, looked at him in the eye and I heard him say “NO, I don’t want to play with you today because you were a complete jerk last time.” He didn’t even give the boy time to respond as he slammed the door in his face. Talk about a statement. Jeremy just bounded up the stairs like nothing was wrong and went to his room to play like nothing happened. “What was that about?” I asked. “Oh, he was a jerk yesterday when I was at his house. So I’m not going to play with him.” I couldn’t help but smile. Over the years, a certain level of respect was established between the boys. They were friends. But it was well known, treat Jeremy well or he was done. He wasn’t wasting his time with you.
Bully Prevention and Awareness month is in October and I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t address the issue here in my blog. I could point out all the facts and delve deep into all the facts and figures that everyone else is already talking about. I could rail against this or that and sound like all the other people writing about it. But I won’t because; bully defense is actually quite simple. It is about saying NO.
People are programmed to say YES. YES is how we cooperate in a civilized society. YES gets up accepted. YES makes other people happy. So saying YES becomes a habit. YES is the easy answer. If we say YES, people will like us and we will have more friends. It doesn’t matter if we really like someone, respect someone, or want to be with someone, we will say YES to make them happy even if it doesn’t make us happy because, after all, if we say YES they will like us.
That may sound ridiculous at first. But the more you think about it, think about how many times you said yes…But wanted to say NO! Now imagine being a kid. Someone is playing rough with you. Or they are not treating you well. You want to say NO, but you want to be liked. So you assume saying YES will make it all better and go away. But the more you say YES, the worst it gets.
I love the word NO. My kids, my wife, or my staff and they will tell you I LOVE the word NO. I will say it at least twice before I say YES. Why? Because you can always say YES after you say NO; but you can’t say NO after you say YES.
Now, imagine you are that same kid. Someone is disrespecting you or being more physical than you would like. You say NO, and walk away. Refuse to play. That refusal of acknowledgement and rejection is hard for someone to take. Even if that someone feels superior and like they have some reason to treat you poorly. It adjusts their thinking. NO is a powerful word. NO is a word of assertiveness. More than anything else, NO means you value your own opinion and have respect for yourself. NO means that if you do not make me happy, I will not make you happy. NO reestablishes order and puts things in balance. NO means, I will control what I am doing in my life and whom I will be doing it with.
If you want to make a kid bully proof, teach them it is perfectly fine to say NO! Show them how to say NO! Then show them how to back up that NO with action! Then back them up when they do!