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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Bullies In The Office.

Usually, adults consider bullying a childhood phenomenon. A normal part of growing up and parenting. We focus on solutions for our children: how do we teach them not to bully others? What productive, effective ways to stand up for themselves can we pass on?


But what about adult bullies? A few days ago, I watched a parent pile four kids into his car after basketball practice and drive off without having anyone buckle their seatbelts. Two weeks before, in front of at least 30 kids waiting patiently in the sun, a mom at the park told her son it was okay to bump the ice cream truck line. Two summers ago, a human resources manager at my office derided a single mom with four kids for taking too many sick days when school was out. I doubt anyone realized bullying occurred. I'm not proud to admit that in all three cases, I did nothing.


Bullying happens when one person, of any age in any environment, uses physical power or hierarchical or social status to coerce others. Bullying exists in many work places, governments, and professional environments. Sexual harassment is bullying. A boss who asks a secretary to work late on a snowy night when she needs to get to daycare to pick up her kids. Countrywide Home Loan managers who ignored whistleblowers concerns about risky lending practices. Robert Mugabes election in Zimbabwe. As helicopter parenting evolves and we get more enmeshed in our childrens lives, adults bullying children seems to become more prevalent. When the power struggle is adults vs. children, the adults have an unshakable advantage. Kids can do little but complain to adults later. The results can be tragic. In 2006, 49-year-old Lori Drew of Mississippi created a MySpace page to manipulate her teenage daughters friend, Megan Meier; her actions allegedly contributed to Megan's suicide. It's up to adults to set an example and stop bullying by children or adults as it occurs.


Cathie Deadrick, the coordinator for Youth Education Outreach at the Frederick, Maryland Mental Health Association, teaches the D.I.G. plan to kids facing bullies. D for defend yourself. With words, eye contact that lasts until the bully feels uncomfortable, jokes, silent protest, leaving the playground or the boardroom. I for ignore taunts, teasing and belittling. And finally, G for group -- use a group for protection and support against bullies.


All of these components work for adults, as well. I could have stopped the basketball parent, for instance, and asked pointedly if he'd forgotten something important. I should have lightly embarrassed my friend for bumping the ice cream line by asking the crowd of children if going to the head of the line was fair. And I could have made a supportive comment about how hard I'd seen my single-mom colleague work when the human resources manager questioned her commitment or at the least given the manager a good long, silent stare.


My solutions sure sound easy now. But at the time, I worried about offending a well-liked parent, or causing the HR manager to make fun of me next. What about you? What have you done to stop bullying of kids, co-workers, or yourself? How does bullying play a role in your life?


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