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Assertive attitude key to dealing with bullies

Ellen Abbott

Educators and parents can always use advice on how to deal with bullies. A conference on bullying in Syracuse this week brought in a national expert on the issue, Barb Colorosa, who offered some clear strategies on how to identify bullying, as well as how to deal with it.

To start with, Coloroso says people have to realize what bullying is.

"It's a conscious, willful deliberate activity intended to harm, where we get pleasure from somebody else's pain," she says.

Coloroso says this bullying comes in three different ways. It can be verbal, physical or through a relationship.

Once bullying has been identified, Coloroso recommends that the, "first thing we as parents or educators have to say to a targeted kid is, 'I hear you. I'm here for you. I believe you. You're not in this alone.'"

In terms of her advice for the bullied, Coloroso says that an assertive attitude is the key.

"I teach them how to stand in an assertive posture, how to use assertive comments," she explains. "Aggression begets aggression, so you don't want aggressive comments coming back. ‘Well it takes one to know one’ - he'll get his clock cleaned! Or passive [comments such as], 'Please stop, that hurt.' That won’t work."

"Bullies love to know that the kid is feeling pain. So we need to teach them assertive comments like 'that was mean, that was cruel, that was bigoted, that was racist, that was sexist. I don't need that. I'm out of here,’” says Coloroso.

Bullying is not only an issue in schools, but online as well. Bullying in a digital world means kids who are bullied need to have a special set of tools to deal with this form of bullying. Colorosa identifies three things a child must have in order to deal with cyber-bullies.

"One is to have digital savvy and know how to navigate the digital world; digital civility, how to behave civilly [online]. And many of our politicians could use some help in that regards too, but that's modeling, and we parents have to model in that civility. The last is safety," she says.

She also says parents need to be digitally savvy as well. She noted while talking with parents that recent anti-bullying legislation in New York state offers a good start in dealing with this perennial problem.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.