The bullying epidemic is one of the biggest problems facing our children today, causing many of them to skip school on a regular basis and sadly some are even attempting suicide. If the first half of the school year included drama from bullying, it's time to take immediate action. There is a powerful and easy-to-implement strategy that will ensure the rest of the year runs smoothly. This holiday season when we focus our attention on love, friendship and family, let's not forget showing kindness and extending a hand to our bullies. Confused? Let me explain.
To put a stop to the vicious cycle of bullying, a victim must rid himself of his bully, take back control of his happiness and develop the emotional resilience needed to not be bullied again. One of the most powerful, yet seemingly upside-down strategies that works time and again is giving your bully a well thought-out gift. After all, it is the season of giving, so why not give your bully a holiday gift? Sound strange? It works because it's the last thing the bully is expecting - and it makes it much more difficult for the bully to push you around and be mean after showing him this level of kindness.
The great thing about this strategy is it's not the price tag that matters, but the thought you put into it. I have personally witnessed entire groups of mean girls transform their attitudes towards a victim through a simple gesture of $5 gift cards from Starbucks, with a note of encouragement to each in the group. It only cost that victim about $20 to get the mean girls to leave her alone for good. How can this be? Gifts throw bullies off their game and create a crisis of conscience within them. It's extremely difficult for someone to remain mean to a gift giver.
Dr. Seuss illustrated the transformational power of a cheerful Christmas spirit in his story about the Grinch. The green creature was a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling bully with a heart "two sizes too small." From his perch high atop Mount Crumpit, he hears the noisy Christmas festivities that take place in Whoville. Annoyed, he decides to stop Christmas from coming by stealing their presents, trees and food for their Christmas feast.
As dawn breaks, he expects to hear the Whos' bitter and sorrowful cries, but is confused to hear them singing a joyous Christmas song instead. He puzzles for a moment until it dawns upon him that perhaps Christmas is more than presents and feasting: "Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more." Memories of the town's kindness and little Cindy Lou's thoughtful gifts haunt him. For the first time, kindness creates internal conflict. The Grinch's shrunken heart suddenly grows three sizes larger.
Just like this classic Christmas story, a similar transformation is exactly what happens when you give a bully a gift. Most bullies aren't mean-spirited by nature; they simply crave attention, want to be part of it all and enjoy the limelight. It's simply a matter of redirecting their actions into more useful and positive situations. By showing the bully love, attention, compassion and friendship, the power of kindness can work miracles in the hearts of bullies.
Social scientists call this phenomenon "The Law of Reciprocity." When you treat a person with kindness, no matter how mean they are, they will naturally want to reciprocate kindness back. Although it may seem that your child's bully has no heart, it simply isn't true. Give a bully a well thought-out gift, and you will witness his or her heart grow.
The best way to choose the right gift is to simply ask yourself, "If I was the bully, what would I want to receive?" The Golden Rule will guide you to pick the appropriate gift that will be a transformational tool to help your child start the New Year bully-free.
Brooks Gibbs is the national spokesman for the Office Depot Foundation's "Be The Difference. Speak Up Against Bullying!" Program. He's on a national speaking tour holding school assemblies for middle school students on how to put a stop to bullying. The program is sponsored by global pop sensation band One Direction.