How Kids Can Handle Ridicule by Sabras

April 27, 2017 - 7 minutes read

I am glad to see that my first blog on bullying with Get Help Israel, titled “The ‘Dirty Little Secret’ About Bullying in School,” attracted interest. Some readers, though, were disappointed that the article ended with the assertion that kids can be taught to handle bullying on their own but didn’t say how.

And these readers are right! It didn’t give any practical tips for dealing with bullying. There is a limit to how much can be put into a short blog piece. I had written about the unfair but increasing tendency for adults to blame schools for failing to stop their children from being bullied. Schools generally do try to make the bullying stop, but their efforts are likely to be counterproductive. However, kids can be taught how to deal with bullying without having to rely on school authorities to help and protect them.

But how? That is the big question. A comprehensive answer requires a book, and I have written one, Bullies to Buddies: How to turn your enemies into friends. But I will do my best in this blog to give advice that can set you on the path to helping your children.

Most bullying is verbal

\r\nWhile the term “bullying” is commonly being used today for all aggression, from insults and eye-rolling to murder and genocide, this practice is unhelpful. It obscures the behavior “bullying” is referring to and conjures up images of the most demoniacal behavior. It is important to realize that the great majority of what’s called bullying today is verbal – insults. And even most physical fights begin with words; one child insults another, the insulted child gets angry, and before you know it fists are flying. So if kids know how to handle insults, more serious aggression is usually averted.

The most tempting way for Israeli children to bully immigrants is to make fun of their accents. While we may think this is evil on their part, we should realize that it is normal human behavior. When we hear others speak our language poorly and with heavy accents, we also find it funny. By adulthood, most of us have learned to appreciate that foreigners do not deserve to be laughed at for the way they speak, but children are more likely to succumb to their gut instincts and laugh at those who sound strange.

The best solution: treat them like friends

It is contrary to our nature to be nice to those who are mean to us, but being mean in return entrenches them in the role of enemies. We need to use our brains and realize that by treating people like friends even when they are mean to us, they are more likely to treat us like friends.\r\n\r\nSimply explaining this to children may not be enough to convince them of its wisdom. So I use lots of role-playing, and you can try the same with your kids who are being bullied. I ask the child who is asking me for help to insult me. I enact the situation twice; first the enemy way, and then the friendly way. There are countless ways to respond like enemies or friends, so the following are only suggestions for dealing with a hypothetical situation. It is the attitude that counts.

Enemy way

Child: Your American accent is so funny! Ha, ha!

Me: No it’s not! There’s nothing wrong with the way I talk!

Child: What are you talking about? You sound so funny! [Child mimics American accent.]

Me: I don’t sound like that!

Child: Yes, you do! Haven’t you ever heard yourself?

Me: Yes, and I don’t sound like that!

Child: Yes, you do! Ha, ha, ha!

Me: Shut up already! Leave me alone!

Child: [Continues to mimic American accent.]

Me: Shut up already!

This, of course, leads nowhere but to continued ridicule and an increasing rift between the kids. There is no way they will become friends.

Now I will demonstrate a friendly way. I particularly enjoy injecting humor.

Child: Your American accent is so funny! Ha, ha!

Me: I know! I heard myself on a recording and I couldn’t believe I sound like that!

Child: Well, you do! And it’s so funny!

Me: I know! I wish I could talk Hebrew like you!

Child: But you never will, because you are American!

Me: Yes. I’m afraid I will always sound like an American.

Child: Yes, you will.

Me: Well, I hope the accent goes away eventually! You want to come over my house and play my new video game from America? And you’ll get to hear my parents. They sound even funnier than I do!

Child: Okay! Sounds like fun! When can I come?

You see, just because kids are foreigners, it doesn’t mean that Sabras can’t enjoy being their friends. In fact, they are probably very curious about the foreigners and would welcome the chance to get to know them better. They are likely to even feel proud to have an exotic friend, as long as that friend is comfortable with him or herself.