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Bully-Proof Your Child

The school bully is an age-old type, but in the 1990s there's a new solution for their traumatized victims. Paul Von Essen, social worker for Colorado's Cherry Creek schools, helped develop a program and a book called Bully Proofing Your School. The strategy boils down to an acronym: "HA, HA, SO." Von Essen explains to CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen.



A big part of the Cherry Creek program is to "empower the victims" by teaching kids how to deflect bullies, says Von Essen. "If kids are good victims, then it makes bullying a lot easier," he says.

The program he uses assumes that you cannot change a bully's behavior. Instead, you should try to change the victim's reaction to the behavior.

The acronym for his program, HA, HA, SO, stands for help, assert, humor, avoid, self-talk, and own it. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Help means enlisting the aid of fellow students or an adult, explains Von Essen. But meanwhile, he says, the victim should...
  • Assert. He advises the child to stand up for himself, using messages with "I" in them, such as "it makes me mad when you laugh at my glasses," not "you," as in "you're mean."
  • Humor of the self-effacing sort can be used to diffuse a situation. If a child is called "four eyes," for example, he might respond, "yeah, and if these four don't work, I might go to six eyes."
  • Avoid the bully. Safety is important. A child can take steps to get away from a tormenter. If their lockers are next to each other, the victim should ask to have his moved.
  • Self talk, says Von Essen, is "talk that happens between your ears." Kids can think positively, knowing that what the bully is saying isn't true, and that, in effect, "I'm a good kid. I have friends who care about me."
  • Own It means "basically agreeing with the bully," explains Von Essen. "If the bully says to a child, 'you look terrible, that's the worst outfit I have ever seen,' you want the kid to say, 'yeah, I put it on, it makes my mom happy,' and walk away."

    Another thing for parents to keep in mind, says Von Essen, is that "it's important to make our kids speak up. We want kids to tell their parents, but we want them to tell school personnel."

    ©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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