POWNAL, Vt. -- There is more than one way to deal with bullying, according to Steve Breakstone, who will tell parents how to teach their children to deal with the problem next week at a workshop.
The event is scheduled for the Pownal Elementary School library. Breakstone said this workshop, and others he has done like it, are paid for by a grant awarded to the Project Against Violent Encounters (PAVE), a nonprofit based in Bennington that supplies advocates to victims of violence and tries to curb it in the community.
"I’m going to focus on helping parents understand what bullying actually is," Breakstone said.
Bullying is not when someone does something mean to another person, he said, it’s about the abuse of power. A child, or anyone, can get power over another person in various ways, whether it be physical size, force of personality or number of friends. He said having those things is not bad -- people can have power over another and show respect -- but it’s when people use that power to cause harm that bullying occurs.
Breakstone said he plans to then instruct parents on how to educate their children on dealing with bullies. He said that will include teaching children to be assertive by using body language and tone of voice, as well as when to walk away from a situation or report it to an authority figure.
He said there is no one strategy to cope with bullying and not all will work. He recommends children stand up for themselves, but in cases where they’re outnumbered or physically outmatched, that may not be an option. Going to an adult can sometimes make the bullying worse, so that’s not always an option. When it is, he said, he also teaches ways to report bullying to adults while minimizing the backlash such an action can produce from bullies.
Breakstone said he also goes over with parents how to take bullying issues up with the school, as sometimes the child’s efforts as well as the parents’ are ineffective.
He said bullying has serious consequences both for bullies and the bullied. He said bullies, once they learn to abuse power, can go on to engage in domestic violence while victims of bullying can "implode" and harm themselves or "explode" and shout or yell, or in extreme cases, shoot other people.