Scott Graham Speaker Presentation Content

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“Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never harm you” is a phrase passed on from generation to generation. Children are led to believe that words don’t hurt, but in reality, they do. Words can have a profound effect on a person’s life.  Blacks first uttered this phrase in the American Civil War in 1864. The phrase focuses on the physical assaults these individuals had to endure. We have repeated it so often that we have given the phrase “sticks and stones” a new meaning. We infer that words do not hurt, but we know they do. They can leave life-altering scars that can affect our entire lives.

To help children deal with a bully’s taunts, we often tell them to walk away, ignore the words or tell a teacher. These are all good strategies, but children need more. What happens if a bully follows you or you cannot ignore what the bully is saying? As children get older, they don’t have the confidence that telling will lead to a solution.

“What happens if I tell and I don’t get the help? Now my problem will be worse.”

As a youth, I was often the target of bullying. There were many things that I was teased about, most of which I could ignore. It wasn’t until the bully found out that I couldn’t read and write that the bully had any lasting effect on me.

I was in grade 7 and very sensitive about my learning disability and attention deficit disorder. It was my little secret. Well, the bully found out my secret and realized that if he made fun of the fact that I couldn’t read and write, he would be able to get me to react and believe his lies. The word he used to taunt me was “dumb.” The funny thing was that he didn’t have to call me dumb. I was already using the word on myself. This word that was not supposed to hurt was destroying me. But I was determined not to allow the bully to win. I first found out everything I could about my learning disability and my ADHD. I discovered many famous and successful people with the same diagnosis. This gave me hope. I realized what you did with what you got made the difference. I worked hard at improving my ability to read and write. It wasn’t easy, but worth it. After a few years, I became a really good reader. This led me to become a storyteller. I genuinely loved storytelling, so I wrote my own stories. Years later, I became a bestselling author. I wrote books, a script for a television show, and songs I later recorded with Kenny MacLean of the rock group Platinum Blonde and Alan Frew from the band Glass Tiger.

We must teach children strategies to help them retain their self-esteem and build confidence.

The key strategies to help children retain their self-esteem and build confidence are:

1) provide opportunities that will lead to success.
2) self-understanding of a label they have attached themselves to.
3) an understanding of why children bully. It’s not because there is
something wrong with you. It could be that there is something right with you.
4) teach children how to be assertive and avoid the stock answers.

The next issue will discuss the anti-bullying strategies that help children deal with bullying.

When children deal with a bully, they often hear the same answer: Walk away, ignore it, or tell a teacher or a trusted adult. These strategies sometimes work, but children need more. What do you do if a bully follows you? What happens if you cannot ignore a bully’s taunts? What do you do if you tell and still find yourself alone on the playground dealing with the bully?

First, children need to understand why bullies do what they do. People bully others for various reasons: 1) The bully gets bullied at home and repeats the learned behaviour, 2) The bully receives power and attention, or 3) distracts others from their flaws.

Your Reaction Feeds the Bully

The biggest reward a bully receives is their victim’s reaction. If you freak out, start to cry, show fear, tease or fight back, the bully gets their reward: your response. Here are a few steps to help you deliver a robust and confident message. After all, the best defence against a bully is confidence.

STEP # 1 – Make Eye Contact

Before you tell the bully how you feel about their actions, you must look the bully directly in the eye. Making eye contact with a bully is crucial as it shows confidence. If you look at your shoes when talking or have not made eye contact, your message could be stronger and more effective.

STEP # 2 – Body Language

Your body can convey a strong message depending on your stand and what you do with it. You communicate more with your body than with your words. Standing straight with your shoulders back would be best to convey a strong, believable message. If your shoulders are curled and your hands are in your pockets, you may deliver a message that empowers the bully. To understand how body language conveys information, think about how someone would know you are angry, happy, confident or shy. How would your body look? What would your face look like? What would your hands be doing? Crossing your arms across your chest may convey anger. Putting your hands in your pocket may be interpreted as insecurity. Fiddling with your clothing makes you look nervous. Please keep in mind the messages your body is delivering.

STEP # 3 – Tell the Bully How You Feel

Could you tell the bully how you feel about their actions? You must also use your body language to show you are confident in who you are. You’ll have to look the bully in the eye and deliver the message that you WILL NOT stand for put-downs of any kind. You need to look this person in the eye and use a believable tone. You should not need to yell. Instead, could you use an assertive tone? Doing this delivers the message that you are confident and believe in your words. You are saying that you are not afraid or interested in sticking around to waste your time listening to such nonsense. You are showing tremendous courage! You need to tell the bully how you feel to remain in control and retain your self-esteem. You should never feel as if the bully has won because you are the winner. After you have stood up to the bully, WALK AWAY. Please don’t let the bully tease you again. Walking away after you have told the bully how you feel is more effective than just walking away.
One common mistake is using too many words when directing a message to a bully. You could look the bully in the eye and immediately walk away or look the bully in the eye and say, “WHATEVER.” You do not have to deliver a speech on why you are upset. It may be more effective to say as little as possible. Less can be more.

STEP # 4 – Walk Away

There is nothing wrong with walking away, but assert yourself first. A bully may try to get you back in front of him so that he can tease you more; however, after you have said what you need to, you should walk away and keep going. Don’t fall for the bully’s tricks. They would like nothing more than for you to come back so they can have another chance to get you to react. You do not want to get sucked back into playing the bully’s game. To get you to come back, they may shoot words at you like: “loser,” “wimp,” and “chicken.” Please do not go back and react to their comments. It is a trick to get you back so they can dig for the reaction they are looking for. Do not fear your peers will believe what the bully says about you. The people who matter in your life know who you are and are not likely to believe a bully.

STEP # 5 – If They Follow You?

I am sure you have heard the line – “Just walk away if someone is bothering you.” This response has only one problem: bullies have legs and probably will follow you! If they follow you, remember not to react. Look at them in the eye, use a voice that commands respect and repeat steps 1 and 2. Repeat your message as often as it takes until the bully realizes that they will not get a reaction from you. You can say, “I guess you didn’t hear me the first time. Let me repeat it for you. I do not like what you’re doing and will not waste my time listening to you. Good-bye.”
When you walk away, this time, walk toward a “safety zone:” a teacher or another helpful adult, your friends, or the school. Bullies are not as brave as they pretend to be. They will be long gone if they think they may get in trouble.
You may have to repeat these steps until the bullies understand. They will eventually understand; when they do, you will know you handled this negative situation positively. You may have even helped someone else learn how to handle a bully properly.

Step # 6 – Tell and Keep on Telling

The Tattletale Syndrome

In my last two columns, We discussed why children bully and what to do about it. These strategies are available in my Heroes of Hope book at my web store. It is time to discuss how children can become part of the bullyfreeME solution.

Children often tell me they are accused of being a tattletale when talking about a bully. This discourages children and usually leaves them feeling helpless. Children need to understand the difference between tattling and being assertive. A child who is a “tattletale” tells on other children with the sole purpose of getting people in trouble. The attention the child receives from this behaviour is their reward. Being “assertive” is telling to get someone out of trouble. If, for example, a friend is important to assert yourself and tell the bully, your friend will be helped and led away from trouble. If you are being bullied and have delivered the appropriate anti-bullying strategies, you need to tell. By telling, you are helping yourself and all the other children affected. You may even help the bully realize their inappropriate behaviour and steer them onto the right road.

What if you tell and your requests are dismissed? This is a common question for children. They are afraid that they will tell on the bully and not be helped. The bully is angry, and the child’s problem worsens. This is why many older children will never tell. They are not confident that their problem will be solved.

Why should you tell and keep on telling? Children need to realize the importance of telling a trusted adult about a bullying situation affecting them or someone they know. I have known five children in the time I have been running my Kids 4 Kids Leadership Programs who have ended their lives due to the effects of bullying. If only someone stepped up to help these individuals, their situation have had a different outcome.

If a child tells and does not receive an appropriate solution, they must keep telling until a solution is found. By telling them they are helping stop the bully from bullying one individual and hopefully much more.

We must stand together, get involved, help anyone needing our help, and not be afraid of telling. Helping involves 1) teaching the strategies you know to the individuals who are getting bullied, 2) Allowing the individuals being bullied to play with you and your friends, and 3) telling a trusted adult about what is happening. We are strong when we work together and support each other. If we all stand up to bullying, bullies will be forced to relinquish their power. We must stand together for this to happen and persist in our search for solutions. In my next article, I will discuss anger management techniques.

Step # 7
Walking Home

When you walk home, always keep your route the same. If you believe a bully will hurt you on the way home, tell your teachers, phone your parents or walk home with your friends. If you change your route home, you may create a vulnerability. Could you make sure you travel in a public area? Don’t walk through forests or behind buildings….make sure you are visible so others can help if you need it.

If you are confronted by bullying, and you feel you are in danger of being assaulted, make a lot of noise. Yell: help, police, or the word fire. You want to bring immediate attention to you if you believe you are in danger of being physically assaulted or you are in explicit danger. You never use these words at school, especially the word fire.  You have adults at school that are right there to help you. If you need help at school, ensure you are visible and close to a teacher. Don’t play in an area where you cannot be seen. I suggest only using the word “fire” as a last resort. IMPORTANT: This strategy is only used if you are walking home and in danger.

Step # 8
The Contagion Myth

There is no evidence to indicate that talking about suicide causes children to commit suicide. Studies have been done on the copycat issue, but no definitive proof exists. I have researched this issue and spoken with leading authorities on the subject. Do not glamourize the issue. I would also avoid movies that glamourize suicide.  We do need to talk to children so they know that people and community resources are available to help them. It’s important to help children realize they are not alone and that help is available. It is irresponsible to avoid these conversations as it leaves children feeling vulnerable and helpless.

Step # 9

Cyber Bullying

  1. Please don’t respond to a bully online. If you respond, you are feeding the bullying. They will continue to bully you if they know you care and know their presence.
  2. If the bullying continues, could you take screenshots and document times, dates, and conversations?
  3. Could you tell your parents, the school, or the police if necessary?

Remember that if you are getting bullied, chances are that someone else is a victim, too. When you tell yourself you are helping not only yourself but others as well,


Remember that everything you put up on the Internet is forever: words, photos, comments, etc. Some people may want to check out your social media when you are looking for a job, applying to a school, or joining a club or team. You can only allow them access if they will allow you the job or opportunity if you do. Think before you upload. Everything counts. Everything matters. Build your brand.

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