Dealing with bullies best done with others’ help

By on November 5, 2010

by Kaneland Krier staff

Dear Edi,

As a parent and a teacher, I have a question. We often talk about bullying in schools, but usually the bullies aren’t what we’d think of as our friends or teammates. How should kids handle a situation where someone on their team is making fun of them in front of other people, telling them they stink at the sport and that they shouldn’t be on the team? I know what I’d say as a parent, but I’d be really interested in how you’d respond. (Like—how far out of touch from reality are we as adults?)


Dear Wondering,

In nearly every teen movie created, the big, mean bully torments good, innocent characters. Every day, the same situations occur throughout school, ranging from mild teasing to downright cruelty.

But the reality that often isn’t portrayed is that everyone is potentially a bully and victim at some point.

Before students consider themselves victims, they must decide whether the person giving them grief truly fits the description of a bully and how serious the situation really is. In sports, underclassmen and those new to a team are the most likely targets, and they should remember that teammate’s respect must be earned. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: all the seniors feel superior to everyone else, the benchwarmers are frustrated and the superstars feel on top of the world. It’s not fair, but it’s sports.

If the bully’s comments and actions are tolerable enough to ignore, do just that—teens can’t be so sensitive that every remark leaves them in tears. Work on earning respect by practicing hard and contributing to the team, and the remarks will probably fade.

But sometimes the bullying is severe and ignoring the problem doesn’t work. In such cases, teens should ask for help. First try a trusted friend or the team captain, if the captain seems approachable. Captains especially often have peers’ respect, and they may be able to help put an end to it, sometimes even subtly.

If all attempts to handle a situation independently have failed, those still being tortured should bring it to the coach’s attention. Bullying rarely occurs in front of adults—precisely why we recommend trying to solve the issue independently first—but sometimes coaches can help.

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