IN DEPTH PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Bully-Proofing Youth is a program that empowers students and teaches them how to handle and respond to bullying situations in their lives. This is accomplished by teaching the targeted student how to alter their body-language from "fear" to confidence or "cool", and take away the very specific reactions that kids who target seek. Removing the "fear" reaction is what shuts down the dance, and permanently stops future bullying. These techniques become a tool students can then use for the rest of their lives to deal with intimidating or aggressive people.
This process not only empowers the targeted student, but also re-teaches the person who is mistreating him or her what is and is not acceptable behavior. It benefits both kids involved in the bullying dance, but makes the targeted kid come across "cooler" than the kid trying to look "cool" by taking the targeted student's power.
Child and adolescent therapist Jim Bisenius is the founder and developer of Bully-Proofing Youth. He discovered through working with over 300 targeted kids, that any response technique that did not enhance the “cool” factor in the boy or girl being targeted, was almost always ineffective.
This behavior response change taught during Jim's trainings in no way blames the targeted child for the bullying that is happening. Instead it simply gives the targeted student the tools and understanding necessary to shut down the person mistreating him or her. The techniques are taught assuming the child doing the targeting will try to continue the bullying behavior. It is critical for a targeted student to learn exactly how to alter responses to bullying, because adults unfortunately can only catch the behavior occasionally.
Adult intervention with younger kids (K-2) is much more effective than it is with kids as they get older. The over 400 kids who Mr. Bisenius has worked with who admitted to targeting others, have all shared that they watch adults closely, and continue bullying behaviors easily under adult R.A.D.A.R., even when they know adults are trying to catch them. Many consider it a game to do it right under the noses of adults.
This is why adult threats, guilt, or attempts to convince the child who is bullying to act nice are usually not very effective with kids 3rd grade and up. Kids 2nd grade and younger are again often an exception to this rule. They are still very influenced by adult opinions, and are not nearly as skilled at hiding their bullying behavior from adults. Therefore, direct adult involvement can be much more effective with these younger kids.
After specializing in anti-bullying as a child and adolescent therapist, and directly working with over 400 kids who were targeting other students, and over 300 kids who were being targeted, Mr. Bisenius learned many behaviors that occur during bullying that are not widely understood by adults. During therapy he had to question the kids who bullied others to find out how and why they behaved the way they did. This had to be done in order to help them change their behavior in a positive direction. During this process, Jim learned exactly what reactions these kids look for in the students they target, and even what reactions made them no longer want to target a boy or girl. The following examples are a few of the most important dynamics that must be understood by adults before we can effectively help kids.
Almost all of the kids who targeted others said they could drop below adult R.A.D.A.R., and continue the behavior anytime they wanted. They also said that because they seldom got caught, and were “innocent until proven guilty”, adult threats or punishments never motivated them to change their behavior. (Please don't mistake what is being said here. Strict consequences are still very important when a child is caught bullying, but the reason they don’t generally change behavior (especially in kids 3rd grade and up) is that we as adults can only catch about one out of ten blatant verbal, or physical bullying incidents, and only about one out of fifty sneaky social-exclusion type bullying incidents)
Most of the kids who targeted others also said that they told their parents right when they started picking on a girl or boy, that the targeted child was bullying them. When asked why, they said that they knew they might eventually get caught or told on, and so by labeling the kid they were picking on in advance as the bully, their parents would always have their back. This is why parents and teachers have such a hard time knowing who was really doing the bullying. Unfortunately the more convincing actor or actress is usually the one doing the bullying.
In addition, Jim was told by the kids who bullied, that if a targeted boy or girl told on the one who was bullying, the student who was doing the bullying would convincingly apologize in front of the adults and pretend to be friends with the kid they were targeting. As soon as they convinced the adult everything was fine, they then would drop below all adult R.A.D.A.R. and drastically increase the bullying in order to punish the targeted student who told. They said that once they did this, the kid they were picking on would never tell a teacher or parent again. Not only did almost every child who targeted share this information with Mr. Bisenius, but the over 300 kids who he worked with that were the ones being targeted confirmed that this always happened.
This is why the techniques Mr. Bisenius teaches, not only work, but they also protect the "cool" of the targeted child at all times, so the situation does not become worse. Adults play an important role in helping to stop bullying, but they must understand this retaliation dynamic, or they will accidentally make the situation much worse by harming the targeted student's “cool”. This then sets him or her up for retaliation that they are not prepared to handle. The targeted student then completely quits trusting or sharing anything with adults. Unfortunately this happens with most bullying situations. The intervening adult thinks that he or she fixed the situation because the targeted child when asked about how things are going says, “Thanks, things are great, please don’t “help” me anymore”.
Unfortunately a student who targets others will continue the behavior until it no longer seems to benefit him or her. Taking away that perceived benefit is the only permanent solution to stop bullying. Teaching students who are targeted exactly how to do this, is what Mr. Bisenius has dedicated his life to figuring out.
He would pick the brains of the kids doing the targeting in order to help them change their behavior, and then he would teach the targeted kids exactly how to respond so they would no longer feed the reactions that the bullying students wanted. By teaching kids to alter their body-language and response patterns to bullying in very specific ways, Mr. Bisenius shows targeted students exactly how to no longer give their power away.
Jim also covers step-by-step exactly what to do if the bullying becomes physical. These steps and techniques go far beyond “just tell an adult”. Telling adults of course is one step, but the adult being told also needs to understand how to intervene in the right way. That means that they should not accidentally take away the child’s “cool” or individual power while trying to help the situation. This simply makes things worse in the long run, and the physically targeted student will never trust or share anything again with that adult. The process is much more complex than promising a kid that we will protect him or her. Unfortunately in more than half of the cases the physical bully still gets to the targeted kid even when all adults involved (school and parents) are staking out the situation.
This retaliation, even while adults were trying to catch the child who was physically bullying, was another surprising fact Mr. Bisenius learned from the targeted kids. This fact was also confirmed by the ones doing the physical bullying. All of the physically bullied, and most of the verbally or socially bullied students asked Jim at one point during therapy not to tell their parents what was happening. They said it was because their parents would only make things worse. Instead Mr. Bisenius had them tell their parents with him during a session, but then he taught the parents exactly how to truly support their son or daughter to help stop the situation without making things worse.
Students who are 3rd grade and older will not just learn the previously described parts of Mr. Bisenius' program, but they will also learn how “popular appearing” kids who bully isolate, control, and manipulate their peers. An example of this would be a girl isolating or excluding another girl from her group of friends.
The students who are being excluded will learn exactly what steps a “popular appearing” girl (or boy) takes in order to carry out this social-exclusion style of bullying. They will then be taught step-by-step how to take that group power back. This is all done assuming and expecting the controlling girl to continue her bullying behavior throughout the process. Mr. Bisenius worked with many of these "popular looking" kids who carried out a social-exclusion style of bullying. During the process of trying to help them change, he again had to pick their brains to find out how and why they acted the way they did. He surprisingly discovered that they were all using almost the exact same group manipulation techniques.
The program teaches students how the “popular appearing” kids who target others, fool adults and nice leader students into thinking they are also really nice. As they fool adults and these nice leader kids, they will at the same time calculatedly target other students. They do this to intimidate peers into saying or doing whatever they tell them. This is to feel powerful and create the illusion of being “popular”. In reality they are simply scaring other kids into pretending that they like the bullying student. By excluding, they are simply saying to their peers, "Look what I can do to him or her. I can take away all of his or her friends whenever I want. I can do that to you as well if you don't stay on my good side". This was almost an exact quote from several different girls who excluded others to grab power from their peers.
The social-exclusion part is the most fascinating section of Mr. Bisenius’ Bully-Proofing Youth program. During this section, Jim shows students all of the chess moves that these sophisticated kids use to manipulate peers and adults. He then teaches the targeted students and by-standers step-by-step how to take that power back and checkmate the girl or boy trying to exclude them.
This empowerment is essential for a targeted girl or boy to learn, but it is equally beneficial to the girl or boy who is excluding. The reason is because it makes their negative behavior no longer work and forces the excluding child to change his or her behavior in a positive direction. Students forcing this behavior change is probably more beneficial than even therapy when it comes to benefiting the child doing the social-exclusion style of bullying.
Mr. Bisenius has found (with twenty-five years of experience) that the most effective way to help kids who target or exclude, is to teach the kids around them how to take back their power. This re-balancing of power benefits both students involved, and actually creates an environment where the two kids might become true, equal friends.
Mr. Bisenius is quite open about his definition of an expert. He defines an expert as, "Someone who has made every mistake you can think of, but has learned from each of them".
This program is the result of many students of all ages going through a lot of pain during their learning process. They had to do this in order for Mr. Bisenius to help them figure out what really works effectively. He has thrown out every technique over the last 25 years that does not work in real life. So much information sounds good on paper, or in an ideal world, but it simply doesn't work.
Please do not re-invent the wheel at a child’s expense. During this early trial and error learning, Mr. Bisenius made many of the mistakes that adults reading this may feel guilty about having done in the past.
One of the main goals of Jim's program is to teach parents and educators how to go forward and never make these common mistakes again. At the same time Mr. Bisenius wants to teach them how to rebuild the trust that was accidentally lost with sons, daughters, or students. There is no need for kids to go through the pain that Mr. Bisenius’ early clients went through.
This program is dedicated to all of those amazing targeted students that Mr. Bisenius has worked with over the last 25 years. All of them overcame unbelievably difficult bullying situations, and went on to become confident adolescents and adults. Jim wishes he could have known back then what he knows now, but he wants to acknowledge those brave kids who taught him much more than he ever taught them...Welcome to Bully-Proofing Youth.