In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, Chase Anichini, Co-Author of Baffle That Bully, decided to share her story in her own words with our readers. Chase’s story first appeared on My Kindness Counts; we thank them for their support and for spotlighting youth who are making a difference in other people’s lives. Chase believes it’s important to share her experience so other kids know they are not alone, it can happen to anyone, & you CAN play a role in stopping it. Chase is living proof that you don’t have to be a victim of bullying just because you’re a target of bullying.
My Experience With Bullying:
Hi! I’m Chase. I’m 10 years old, and I’m in 5th grade. I want to tell you about my experience with being bullied and what I did about it.
For me, school was great until 2nd grade. None of my close friends from 1st grade were in my class which kind of bummed me out, so I was really excited to make friends with a girl in my class. We liked each other so much that we spent all of our time together. And then one day out of the blue, she started being mean to me. She criticized my clothes, rolled her eyes when I talked, made fun of my name and told me I was stupid. I was so confused! This girl was my friend, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I kept thinking, “What happened?” and “Did I do something wrong?” My feelings were very hurt, and I think what happened with her made me kind of sensitive and defensive.
One day some boys in my class heard her telling me to stop being so sensitive, and that must have made them think it would be fun or easy to pick on me. So then those boys started saying mean things to me. They would tell me to shut up whenever I talked and said that nobody cared about me and no one wanted to hear about my life. I didn’t really want to tell the teacher, because I thought that would be giving them extra attention. So I tried to pretend like I didn’t care and tried to ignore them.
But they wouldn’t leave me alone! During lunch and recess I tried to find my friends from 1st grade, but this girl and these boys followed me around constantly pestering me and picking on me. So even on the days when I did find my good friends, those bullies were still there in the background trying to ruin my day. Some days I hid in the bathroom so they couldn’t find me. I was so sad.
I talked to my parents about it, and they talked to the teacher. My desk was moved away from the bullies, and the school agreed not to put the girl (who was the worst bully) and me in the same class in 3rd grade. Then came summer, and it was so wonderful! I had months away from those bullies!
On the first day of 3rd grade, I saw that the boy who was the head bully boy from 2nd grade was in my class again. He had OK behavior during the first few weeks, but then, like clockwork, it all started again. And just my luck, he got two other boys involved, and the three of them started to try to ruin 3rd grade for me. They picked on me constantly, mimicked me and messed with the things in my desk.
I told the teacher and she got the principal involved. The boys got in trouble for one day, and then it all started again. I felt like I had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. I was miserable, and nothing was helping.
What I Did to Make Things Better:
That was when I got fed up! I decided I had had enough, and there was no way they were going to win. All along I had been talking to my parents about how to handle the bullies, but now we decided to change things up and created this strategy – these three steps – that I would follow every time one of these kids was mean to me. Now, I can’t tell you EXACTLY what the 3 steps are (you’ll have to read the book for that) but it’s a combination of (1) How to maintain your cool while (2) Doing or saying something that will confuse (baffle!) the bully. By combining these 3 steps, I hoped to stay and calm and happy no matter what they said or did.
I went back to school armed with my new strategy; I decided I’d call it a game, because that would make it seem more like fun. I was actually kind of nervous the first day I tried it, but it worked! Here’s what happened: this boy started saying mean things to me, and rather than react or try to hide, I did my calming stuff (read the book!) Then I said to him kindly, “Hey, you play baseball, don’t you? How’s the season going?”
I’m telling you, you have never seen a more confused kid! He kind of screwed up his face, scrunched his eyebrows, and started stammering, “What … What… What are you talking about baseball for? I didn’t say anything about baseball!” Then he just walked off shaking his head!
After that, the next day, I was sort of looking forward to going to school so I could try it again. Day after day, my game continued to work! After a couple weeks, I was excited to go to school because I felt back in control, and I could handle anything! I made it impossible for the bullies to enjoy picking on me! And guess what happened next? They decided to leave me alone!
One of the most important things about the game is that when I played it, I was not only calm but nice – sincerely nice. That’s all part of not sinking to their level and not letting them change me. Maybe by treating them with kindness, they might even see that is a better thing to do? Well, at least I hoped so!
How I Realized I Wanted to Help Other Kids:
I was happy with the situation for a while, but then I noticed that my old bullies had started picking on some other kids. I remember coming home one day and saying to my mom, “Those other kids should do what I did to get rid of those bullies.” And my mom asked, “Well, would you like to tell them what you did?” Right now, I would for sure just walk up to one of those kids and tell them about my game, but then, I wasn’t really ready for that. It was still too recent you know? So I said, “Not really. But I’d still like to help somehow.”
Then we brainstormed: should we make a video and put it on YouTube? Should we tell the school what we figured out? Should we write a book about my experiences? How about a book with a cute fictional character? Now, you’re talking! It seemed easier to share my personal story through a cute cartoon character than as myself.
My mom and I wrote the first draft together. My sister and I named the characters while we were swinging on the swings in our backyard. Then my sister offered to draw the characters exactly how I described them. I said I would have to be the one who colored them in. That is pretty much it!
To tell the truth, when our book Baffle That Bully! first came out, I felt a little funny telling people about it, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was saying something bad about my school, and I didn’t want people to be able to figure out who I was talking about. I didn’t want to make those kids lives even more difficult – even though they had been so mean and rude to me. That’s not the way to make things better.
Then I realized that the point of my game and the point of the book is overcoming bullying by sticking up for yourself, believing in yourself, and treating everyone with kindness – not ever sinking to their level. So, by telling people about the book I was telling them about something positive and helpful – I wasn’t saying something bad about those bullies. Over time, I have realized, that it’s really not about the bullies at all; it’s about me! What matters is how I feel about myself, how I treat others, and how I react to others when they do something I think is “mean.” Thinking someone is mean is just that: a thought. And my thoughts are something I can control.
The first time I read my book to someone else was when my teacher at my new school invited me to read it to my 4th grade class this past spring. It was awesome! The kids in my class were literally on the edge of their seats as I read each chapter – it was very cool! Then everybody sat down and did some of the activities that Scarlett (the main character) asks them to do. Everyone was excited to go out to recess to see if there were any opportunities to try out the game. Some of them came back very excited because they had tried the strategy and it worked! Kids who had been mean to them had literally walked away kind of confused because of what my classmates did. The kids in my class felt pretty in control!
What’s Next for Scarlett & Me:
Now, we have a website where we blog and my mom and I take questions from kids who’ve read the book and we answer as Scarlett – helping individual kids with their own bully problems. It’s called Ask Scarlett. My mom has been creating some happy positive art work and quotes that can help people feel like they aren’t alone. Everything we do on the website feeds through to Facebook and Twitter; my mom does all of that, because I’m too young for all of that stuff!
We are already thinking about other friendship and school kid troubles that we’d like to write about. Scarlett and her friends are going to tackle some other topics soon; maybe it will become a series. I also think it would be really cool to have lunchboxes with Scarlett on them saying, “I’m a bully baffler!”
Our exciting news is that my mom and I are going to be speaking at the CSROA Bullying Conference 2013. It will be held in San Diego on Oct. 28th & 29th. I’m so excited!
I never want anyone to go through what I went through. I wanted to write the book and share what I learned, because it changed my life and helped me be happy again. If I can get through it, other kids can, too.