About a month ago, I received a very heart-felt Ask Scarlett question from a mom (let’s call her Susan) and her 5th grade son (let’s call him Keith). There were so many layers to their questions that their e-mail to me was a full page – you know, if I printed it – and my private response to them was 4 pages! Now, how am I going to summarize this Q&A in a blog post?! Well, I decided I would need 2 posts.
Today, I’ll answer Keith’s question. In a few days, I’ll answer Susan’s question. Keith writes:
Last summer I was in a professional musical theatre show with mostly adults and only 6 kids (3 boys and 3 girls). After the show opened, one of the boys decided my spot on the stage was better than his and told me he deserved a turn to stand there. He even tried to push his way into my spot! My mom and I got the director involved which helped for like a day, and then it got worse. He criticized my voice, told me I had no talent, and even tried to mess me up by hiding my costume. He pretended like he was going to hit me when no one was looking. It completely ruined the show for me, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I’ve never been so excited to go back to school! Then, the worst thing imaginable happened: on the first day of school, there he was – a new student at my school! Now I see him everywhere and feel like I can’t catch a break. Anytime I see him, he looks at me like he hates me, says rude things to me and about me, and does everything he can to intimidate me. We’ve talked to the school, but things don’t seem to getting better.
How can I escape from the bully who seems to be everywhere I go?
Keith, I am so sorry that you’re going through this. You absolutely did the right thing by telling your mom and getting other adults who you trust involved. Definitely continue to work with the school and see what they can do to help. But you and I both know there’s more to it than that. Bullies seem to have an uncanny way of always being there in the background, don’t they? Based on my experience, I think that’s all part of the game they are playing. Somehow, it’s either fun for them to torment you or it makes them feel they are cool and in control. So I have 2 suggestions:
1. Make it so it’s no longer fun for him: Reread Baffle That Bully and follow the steps to (a) help you stay calm when the bully is nearby and (b) get him to lose interest in you as a target.
2. Change the way you “see” the bully: We can’t change what happened in the past, but what happens in the future is within our control. I’m going to teach you a trick I’ve learned: Sometimes when I’m at the end of my rope, feeling like I can’t get away from a bully, and I’m completely exhausted from worrying about encounters with this kid, I change the one thing I can change: my thoughts. You are in control of how you look at the situation and how you feel about what he says or does.
So every time you see him, I want you to say to yourself, “It’s time to play the game.” If you convince yourself that your encounters with this kid are a way to try out what you’ve learned in Baffle That Bully, it will make it less personal – it becomes a game. So make sure you re-read the book and brush up on the 3 Steps of the strategy.
One of the most important things I want you to realize is this kid doesn’t really matter. He can’t take away your talent. He can’t change the dreams and goals you have for your career. He can’t make you sing or dance poorly. He can’t take away all the wonderful things that make you – you!
I understand that he’s hurt you, and that never should have happened. But now, it’s time to take the emotions from that experience and turn them into something positive. I know you can do it!
To anyone reading this post: I know there are days when you feel like you can’t escape the person who torments you. On those really tough days, try to remind yourself that emotional and verbal bullying is a mind game, and you absolutely CAN refuse to play along. Unfortunately, you can’t change where this kid shows up, what he says to you, how he looks at you, or whether he stands next to you. But you can change how you’re looking at the situation and how you feel about what he says or does.
Psyche yourself into this mindset:
Other people do not get to decide what kind of day I have – only I can do that!