Managing Bullies

“A BOY AT SCHOOL IS DOING WHAT?!?!”

Usually, at Coyote Hill, it is the child who struggles to keep their temper in check. This time, however, I was having a hard time keeping my cool.

I only get my kids for a small portion of the week. I love seeing them come into the barn, ready to tell me all about their adventures since I last saw them. Beatrice*, however, walked into the barn with only half the amount of smiles and eagerness for which she’s become well-known. This young lady had been working very hard at strengthening her character since arriving at Coyote Hill. Her Home Parents, other staff and myself were so very proud of her.

So when something had obviously taken some of her joy away, I took notice. As I questioned her about what was troubling her, she told me about a certain boy at school who is in most of her classes. He calls her names and makes fun of her for things that she has no control over. He laughs at her and throws paper wads at her. He steals her joy.

As she told me about this boy, I felt my anger rising. How dare he?! How dare this boy think it’s okay to treat another human being like this?! How could he treat one of MY girls like this?!

“Beatrice, did you tell your Home Parents about this?” I knew her Home Parents protect the children in their home just like they were their own. I knew there was no way they would stand for this if they knew about it.

“Yes, I did. I asked them to let me deal with it.”

“And?”

She said nothing and looked down at the ground.

Her desire to deal with this herself reminded me – that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to teach her ever since she first entered my barn! I want her, and all of my kids, to know that she is in control of herself. That is a very powerful thing.

“Beatrice. You are an amazing young lady. You are strong. You are in control. You are capable of making great choices, and I’ve seen you do the right thing even when it is hard. Let’s figure out a way that you can make this boy leave you alone.”

Together we developed a plan. The next day in school she would turn around, look this boy in the eye and tell him, DO NOT TOUCH ME. LEAVE ME ALONE. We agreed she should do that right before a certain class started. The teacher of this class always stood right outside the door, so if the boy chose not to listen to Beatrice, she could ask that teacher to go with her to the principal to discuss it.

Beatrice wasn’t scheduled to return to the arena for another week. That was a hard week. I wanted to go over every day after school to see how things were going and how she was doing, but I knew that “hovering” was not the answer. The next time she came to the arena, I nonchalantly asked her how school had been, while doing my best to pretend that I hadn’t been wondering about it every day for the past week.

“Ms. Rebecca it was great! You remember that boy I told you about?”

“Umm… Yes. Yes, I think I remember…”

“Well, when he bothered me again, I said in my ‘I’m not joking’ voice (you know, like the one you use) I told him ‘Do NOT bother me anymore; leave me alone!’”

“And what did he do?”

“He left me alone!”

told by Equine Program Manager, Rebecca Buchholz
*name changed for sake of confidentiality

Coping skills are just one of the many things we teach children at Coyote Hill. Children may only be with us briefly, but hopefully the skills we teach will stay with them for a lifetime.