Thursday, March 20, 2008

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part 5)

With my final installment in my review of Paul Coughlin's No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps, I will focus on his advice for bullying. Too many children are bullied by other children because:
1. They do not know how to avoid being targets of bullies.
2. They are incapable, because of mental or physical disabilities, of avoiding being targets of bullies.
3. "Innocent" bystanders allow or encourage the bullying of these children.

Mr. Coughlin writes, "Bullies and related criminals look for people who exhibit what they call a 'victim's stance':
*Faces pointed down
*Eyes too quick to make eye contact with others; eyes unfocused
*Hunched shoulders
*Arms that are close to their bodies, revealing a more protective pose
*Short, unsure steps

"The Protectors teaches kids how to tower, not cower. For example:
*Stand up straight
*Chest out instead of in
*Steady eye contact with level chin
*Walk with purpose and energy
*Look confident while seated
*Girls: Don't carry your books by hugging them to your chest, which makes your shoulders curl forward" (pp.177-178).

Those simple tips will go far in preventing bullying, because bullies look for the weak and avoid the strong.

However, some children will not be able to avoid being victims of bullies. In such cases, bystanders must be taught and encouraged to intervene on behalf of victims. "Most bullying would not take place if it weren't for the display of power they want others to witness. Bystanders vastly outnumber both predators and prey...The reason for their lack of intervention comes down to basic human nature. The indifferent, confused, and/or fearful masses who witness bullying are urged from within not to be courageous and protective but to shrink instead" (p. 147).

We have a moral obligation to act on behalf of victims of injustice whenever we can. As the Bible teaches, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act" (Proverbs 3:27, NIV).

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps should be required reading for every parent, school teacher, and minister. It is full of valuable insights. I highly recommend it and Mr. Coughlin's web site, featuring a faith-based response to bullying on campus.

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