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How to stop bullying

January 2, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

stop bullying


Although bullying has long been a part of playground dynamics, media coverage has shone a national spotlight on it that has heightened the awareness of the problem among parents, teachers, school officials, and students. With roughly one in three schoolchildren in grades six through 10 having at least one encounter with a bully, more people than ever are looking for effective ways to stop bullying among schoolchildren.

Opinion is also changing substantially concerning the best ways to stop bullying. Victims of bullies used to be told to ignore the situation or to fight back, but today’s experts don’t agree that either of these are viable solutions.


Stop bullying with body language

Bullies are generally very insecure people who use their powers of intimidation to give themselves the sense of power that they lack deep down. They have almost perfect radar when it comes to selecting their victims. The best way to avoid becoming targeted by a bully is to exude a healthy sense of confidence. Body language speaks volumes, for instance.

Those who stand up straight and walk with purpose are less likely to be approached and harassed by a bully. The average bully is looking for easy targets, so the most effective ways to prevent bullying all involve not being vulnerable to their attacks.

The type of confidence that generally stops bullying in its tracks can be expressed in a variety of ways. Good posture, with shoulders back and head up, is a great indicator to a bully that his or her attentions will not be well-received.

However, its wise to be prepared in case the bully doesn’t get the message. Self-defense or martial arts classes can work wonders to dissuade bullies.


Stop bullying through bystander intervention

One of the best ways to prevent bullying is for those who witness it either online or in real life to speak up.

Some people think its a problem if it is only happening to them or to one of their friends and therefore fail to say anything if they see it happening to someone else. However, one of the most powerful forces in nature when it come to adolescents is peer pressure, and the disapproval and intervention of the bully’s peers can go a long way toward preventing bullying.

In short, the most effective ways to prevent bullying include exhibiting an aura of confidence, being aware of surroundings, developing some self defense skills, and bringing the behavior of bullies to those with a ability and the authority to put a stop to it.

When teachers bully students

December 6, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



We often think of bullying as a peer-against-peer offense, but many times it can happen between two different age groups or levels of authority. One such example of this is when teachers bully students.

It may be hard to believe, but the people you trust to educate and protect your children during the school day may not be the guardian you thought them to be. But what exactly constitutes teacher bullying?


More than a “mean” teacher

Sure, most children believe a teacher has it out for them at one time or another. They may feel that a bad grade or a public scolding was mean or unjustified when truthfully, the teacher was simply doing his or her job.

When a situation becomes more than a case of a mean teacher is if they

  • go above and beyond what was necessary to punish a student
  • systematically pick on or harass one or more students
  • downgrade a student’s work for malicious purpose
  • physically harm a student


Detention time

If your child complains about their teacher (who doesn’t?) how can you tell if the child is misreading a situation or truly the target of a bully teacher? The best solution is to have continuing and open discussions.

Talk with your child about their experiences at school and about their teachers. If they complain that a teacher doesn’t like them or is mean, be sure to ask them more about it to get an understanding of the situation.

If you hear about a situation that concerns you, have a sit down meeting with the teacher but DO NOT make it confrontational. Nothing like alienating your child’s teacher if they have done nothing wrong or put them on the defensive.

The goal of talking to the teacher should be to come to a mutual understanding so the situation does not happen again. If this does not work it is time to take your concerns higher.

Meet with the principal or even the school board if necessary, but be sure that if there truly is an issue with a teacher bullying students that others are made aware of the problem.


Lesson over

Lastly reassure your child that if they are the victim of a bullying teacher that it is not their fault. They can change classes so they will not have to sit through abuse at the hands of their teacher.

When teachers bully students, it can be a daunting issue to address.

What if bringing it to the teachers attention only makes your child’s situation worse? What if no one believes you and your child? Will their grades suffer as a result?

If there truly is a problem teacher, chances are that other parents have noticed the same thing. If the school is getting numerous complaints, it adds legitimacy to the claims and should push the school board to investigate further.

At the end of the day, it is important that all students have a bully free environment. Even when the bully is the teacher.


Practice word blocks to help manage verbal bullying

November 27, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Just like blocking a punch or kick in a physical altercation can prevent injury, so too can having blocks against hurtful words. We call these “word blocks,” and they are an important tool in managing verbal bullying.

Also just like blocking a physical attack, you must learn to use word blocks reflexively and immediately, without any trace of emotion. The goal of these word blocks is to stop a verbal attack by showing that you are listening to the other person’s concerns and initiate a redirection.

Some examples of word blocks are:

  • “I hear what you’re saying and I’m listening, but…”
  • “It seems that way and I agree it’s difficult, however…”

Using these simple word blocks can help take the heat off of you and give you the opportunity to steer the interaction into a more useful direction where the two parties might be able to come to some sort of mutual understanding.

Next time you find yourself in an argument, try using a word block to stop it and shift the focus of the conversation to a more constructive place.


When dealing with bullies, confidence is king

November 14, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



The easiest way to deal with a bully is to never have one in the first place. Although this may seem like common sense, most people don’t know how to keep themselves from becoming a target. The key is to project confidence.

Bullies look for easy targets; those who look like they won’t fight back or challenge their authority.  They look for targets like this by paying attention to how other kids carry themselves, how they speak and how they respond to adversity.



The easiest thing for a bully to pick out is the body language of a potential target. Several factors combine here that display what the person is feeling about themselves or their surroundings. Someone showing weakness or a feeling of intimidation is going to be much more likely to attract a bully than someone who shows that they feel self-assured.

Here are the body posture cues they look for:

  • Head and eyes – are they looking at the floor or scanning the area ahead for potential trouble?
  • Shoulders – slumped shoulders typically indicate submissiveness. Hold your shoulders up and slightly back.
  • Chest – when your shoulders move back, your chest moves forward
  • Back – slouching or walking slumped over indicates that you are unsure of yourself or your surroundings. Stand up straight and the rest will feel more natural



In many cases, displaying more confidence will help to deter some bullies but others may still decide to test your confidence by verbally interacting with you to gauge your response. Here it is important to speak assertively and decisively.

  • Volume – imagine a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being a whisper and 5 being a shout. Your volume should be at a 3.
  • Tone – talking loud but sounding unsure won’t help your cause. Speak with confidence and assertiveness.
  • Speed – too slow and it sounds like you’re stalling, too fast and it sounds like you’re in a hurry to run away from the conversation. Speak at a natural, even tempo.
  • Preparedness – have a preplanned practiced response to what a bully might say about you.



Looking and sounding the part is a great start to displaying confidence, but if you fold at the first sign of resistance all that work will have been for nothing. This doesn’t mean that you should be ready to get into a fight, instead knowing how to quickly and appropriately respond to situations will show bullies that you are well prepared.

  • Scan your surroundings – stay out of harm’s way by looking out for potential trouble. If you can’t avoid it, scan for the nearest exit in case something does happen.
  • Self defense – martial arts training is a great way to learn to keep yourself safe
  • Know who to speak with – if something serious happens to you or someone else, knowing who to report the incident to can put a quick stop to it.


More proof that cyberbullying is serious

November 8, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



As I was looking through the news of the day, I ran across an article that illustrates just how serious cyberbullying really is.

The article by CNN talks about a cyberbullying case in Florida that actually led to the arrest of a 15 year old girl. This comes shortly after another Florida girl committed suicide to escape the torment she was receiving by two online bullies.

Police arrest 15-year-old girl accused of cyberbullying in Florida

For those who still believe that cyberbullying is no big deal, I hope the stories in this article help to change that perception.


Ed Holpfer

Vistelar Group

NFL Bullying Incident Shows it Can Happen to Anyone

November 6, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



There’s no doubt that to play in the NFL you’ve got to be tough. But as the recent bullying case involving Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins shows, all the physical strength in the world can’t protect people from the torment of bullies.


Beyond stereotypes

The bully/victim stereotype is of a bigger, stronger child picking on a smaller, weaker child who may be younger than the bully. And while that size and strength disparity may be true for many bullying incidents, it surely doesn’t hold true in all cases.

Perhaps that’s part of why people are so shocked by the news that bullying was enough to drive Jonathan Martin to quit playing for the Dolphins. At 6′ 5″ and weighing in at 312lbs, Martin doesn’t fit into our preconceived notion of a bully victim which causes people to be taken back at the thought of this happening to such a person.


Skills that should be universal

But the fact that bullying can – and does – affect those we don’t typically think of as victims means that everyone should know how to prevent and control bullying.

In a recent interview, bully expert Dave Young points out “Bullying happens everywhere,” and not just to the small kid with glasses. You can see the story here:

Expert says NFL bullying incident can be lesson for all

Everyone should know how to:

  • project confidence
  • create and use deflectors
  • address the situation before it gets out of control
  • speak up for themselves and others


The need for change

If you or your child is being bullied, you’re not alone. Anyone can become the victim of a bully and should learn the skills needed to lower their chances of a bullying encounter. As a society, we are doing ourselves a disservice by not addressing the full scope of the issue.

Schools, companies, government agencies and individuals need to have the tools in place to address bullying because as the case in Miami so clearly demonstrates – it can happen to anyone.


The Shocking Numbers Surrounding Bullying

November 4, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



With all this talk about bullying and how much of a problem it has become, it made me wonder just what the statistics were regarding bullying rates in America. What I found was staggering.

A quick Google search revealed the scope of the problem and, at least in my mind legitimized the use of the term “epidemic” when describing bullying. Here are just a few statistics from a number of sources:

  • 71% of students report bullying as a problem in their school
  • 1 in 7 K-12 students is either a bully or the victim of a bully
  • Daily, an estimated 160,000 students skip school for fear of attack or intimidation
  • 1 out of 4 kids will be bullied sometime within their adolescence
  • About 35% of kids have been threatened online

Hopefully these numbers help to put in perspective just how serious this problem is. And if you are the victim of a bully, you are not alone.


Ed Holpfer

* statistics sourced from,, National Education Association

Understanding Bullies: Workplace bullying

October 28, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

office bully


Hello, Ed Holpfer with another post aimed at shedding some light on the different types of bullies that people encounter.

When most people hear the term “bully” the image of one child picking on another at school is what comes to mind. And nearly all anti-bully training and awareness campaigns are focused on childhood bullies. But there is a whole other category that gets very little time in the spotlight: workplace bullying.

Many times, the victims of workplace bullies are young employees just entering the workforce, or older employees who are nearing or have returned from retirement.


What it is

Much like youth bullying, workplace bullying is defined as the repeated targeting of one or more people to gain control over or cause physical or mental duress. What makes this form of bullying so difficult to manage is partly because it takes place in the work environment where careers could be on the line.

Workplace bullying can take many forms and includes some stereotypical traits as well as some unique qualities to the workplace such as:

  • joking at others’ expense
  • purposely excluding someone or ignoring their contributions
  • continually being criticized
  • being put  down in front of others
  • verbal assaults


What can be done

Here too there are some convergent properties. Just like we teach children, projecting confidence can go a long way to showing others you aren’t an easy target. You also need to vocalize and address your bully. Let him or her know that what they are doing is unacceptable.

Now what happens if the workplace bully is your superior? Confronting your boss about inappropriate behavior is certainly a stressful proposition, but ultimately is something that does need to happen. If you worry that coming to your boss and telling them that they need to stop their bullying will make things worse or push them to fire you, get your human resources department involved.

Workplace bullying is counter-productive and unacceptable no matter the authority that the bully holds within the company. Telling other co-workers or better yet, your HR department will ensure that people are aware of the problem and may level disciplinary action against the bully while protecting your workplace rights.

Remember that no job is worth enduring emotional or physical hardships from workplace bullying.

Understanding Bullying: Verbal Bullying

October 28, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



Welcome to the second in a series of blogs aimed at shedding some light on the types of bullies and providing strategies for solving the problem.

My name is Ed, and today I want to speak with you about verbal bullying.



Of the many types of bullying, verbal bullying is typically where problems with a bully begin. The verbal bully wants to bring down your mood and shake your self-confidence by mocking, taunting and teasing relentlessly. Through sharp words and unyielding messages, this type of bully’s goal is to embarrass, humiliate and degrade their victim for personal gain.

Often, this type of bully is looking for an easy way to:

  • impress others
  • feel better about themselves
  • compensate for a feeling of inequity in their own life

The victim of choice is someone who will present an easy target and not resist.


What can be done

Conventional wisdom is to simply ignore such a bully, after all “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Alas, there are several problems with this approach.

First off, that’s just foolish.  No one should have to subject themselves to verbal abuse and emotional distress in the hope that it resolves itself. Standing up for yourself will not only help your self esteem, it will also show bullies that you are not going to be the easy target they pegged you for.

Which brings me to the next point. If a bully puts you down and they get away with it, don’t you think they’re just going to keep on doing it because they CAN? Staying quiet against verbal bullying is akin to a boxer refusing to defend their body against another boxer in the hopes that their opponent just gets tired of punching and gives up.

Lastly, verbal bullying can escalate. It might start with a threat of violence, then progress to a physical attack. Nipping the problem of verbal bullying in the bud may prevent more serious forms of harassment from progressing.


The Wrap-up

The effects of emotional bullying can be quite serious. Bruising will fade and embarrassment will subside, but the emotional toll of repeated verbal abuses can last a very long time and crush your self esteem. Don’t be fooled; just because verbal bullying doesn’t leave any physical scars doesn’t make it harmless.



Understanding Bullies: Cyberbullying

October 14, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)



Hello, my name is Ed and for the next few weeks I would like to devote every Monday to shedding a little more light on the types of bullying, what causes it and what can be done if it happens to your child.

I’d like to begin with the newest form of bullying.



Cyberbullying involves repeated harassment or threats online. This can also spill over into the real world and has caused a number of high-profile suicides with many more being tied – at least in part – to cyberbullying. Although it is done online, the effects can be just as devastating as when endured in person.

Born from the digital revolution, cyberbullying is a truly unique problem faced by the current generation. And therein lies one of the biggest challenges in addressing the issue: the generation gap between parent and child can make it difficult for both sides to relate to what is happening when someone is facing cyberbullying attacks.

What is important for parents to understand is that kids are very emotionally invested in what happens online because:

  • what they post about themselves reflects who they truly feel they are
  • what is posted about them is always accessible through the proliferation of mobile devices
  • the eyes of their entire peer group is on them

Just like in the real world, most kids are eager to tell others about their interests with the thought and hope that others will be as excited about a topic as they are. When that doesn’t happen, it not only opens the possibility of ridicule, but also plants in the child’s mind that the things they enjoy are in one way or another socially unacceptable.

That feeling can be crushing to a child who gets all excited about posting something only to discover that they seem to be alone in that train of thought. Then there’s the scope of the ridicule and embarrassment.a stop bully

Earlier I wrote about how I had a childhood bully who liked to tease me in front of the rest of our classmates. When a joke was made at my expense to a classroom of 25, it really hurt. Now imagine that multiplied to the thousands.

The level of embarrassment and the many directions that the insults come from give cyberbullying some serious emotional punching power. And because everyone and everything is connected to the web, those reminders are always on hand and always capable of being updated minute-by-minute.

That presents a lot of pressure on a child to either endure or conform.


What can be done

The occasional hurtful comment or putdown can and should be ignored. Don’t encourage others by posting a response to a negative comment, tempting though it may be. But if things become more serious, it is not an overreaction to bring it to the attention of others such as other parents, the school or even the police. So how do you know if this is happening to your child?

As with any problem, communication is key.

Talk with your children and ask about their day. Are they having problems with bullies at school, on the playground or on the bus? Chances are those same bullies and more are also giving them problems online.

Check your child’s phone for mean or threatening messages. Same goes for their social media accounts. If your child suddenly tries to avoid using the computer or phone, it may be a clue that they are being victimized.

Cyberbullying may often times be anonymous, but it is very easy to keep a record of. If your child is repeatedly being harassed online, keep a log of what is being said and where it is coming from. It may be useful down the road and at a minimum establishes the fact that there is a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Learn how to tell when a comment or picture crosses the line and becomes criminal. Sending a message to someone saying “I hate you!” may be mean, but a message saying “I will kill you!” becomes criminal. Your children should also know how to spot when something becomes more serious than just another mean comment and bring it to the attention of an adult.



Although the delivery method may be different, it is important to recognize that the impact on a child is no less real than “traditional” schoolyard bullying. It is also not something to be taken lightly. If the messages your child receives turn from hostile to violent or threatening, it’s time to contact the school and potentially even the police.

There is no doubt that the Internet  has the potential to educate and entertain, but it also provides easy access to targets for a bully. And it’s important for adults and children to recognize that whether it’s said in person or online, no one deserves to be put down and verbally abused.