In her forthcoming memoir, “Miley Cyrus: Miles to Go,” Miley reveals that her younger days were spent “being teased, tortured and humiliated by school bullies.”  The “Hannah Montana” star says she was “friendless, lonely and miserable,” and believes she would have been physically harmed if the abuse hadn’t stopped.”  Miley writes, “The girls took it beyond normal bullying. These were big, tough girls. I was scrawny and short. They were fully capable of doing me bodily harm.”

Most of the comments on many sites focus on the wrong areas.  People respond as if the important thing is whether they like Miley or hate her, whether they feel sorry for her or they want to see her hurt because she’s so rich and famous, whether they think she’s a selfish, twit who deserves what she got.

The important areas to focus on are: It happened to Miley, it happens to most kids, it happens to our kids.  What can our children and teenagers do and what can we do?

In my experience, the most important factors in making anti-bullying efforts effective are proactive administrators, teachers and staff.  They set the standards and create the culture.  Principals who are willing to let victims suffer while they attempt to rehabilitate habitual bullies actually create hot houses in which bullies thrive.

Second, we need new Federal laws because too many principals don’t care or are cowards; they’re afraid they’ll be sued by parents who want to protect their little terrorists.  See, for example, the case of Billy Wolfe, from Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Therefore, we need to require administrators to act and also to protect them from suits when they do act.

Third, we need individual school anti-bullying policies with specific behaviors spelled out.  That way, principals and teachers will be supported in proactive programs to prevent bullying and, when bullying is discovered, in tackling bullies and their parents.  And the principals who don’t want to act will be forced to.

Fourth, the best way for kids and parents to stop bullies is to respond immediately.  Don’t let it pass by.  Call it like it is.  Use the word “bully.”  Shine a light on their behavior.  You’re not trying to rehabilitate bullies, you’re trying to alert the rest of us and to rally us to resist.  Find allies.  Get adults to help.

Get coaching to design tactics that fit your specific situation.  Take charge of your personal space.

True bullies will take empathy, kindness and tolerance as weakness.  They’ll think we’re easy prey.  It will encourage them, like sharks, to attack us more.  Bullies will show you how far you need to go to stop them.

On an individual basis, parents must teach children how to face the real world in which they’ll meet bullies all their lives, even if the children are small and outnumbered.  That’s independent of the type of bullying – cyber bullying, physical bullying or verbal harassment or abuse.  Help your children get out of their previous comfort zones and stop bullying.

Sometimes, children can handle bullies by themselves, beginning with peaceful tactics and moving step-wise toward being more firm and eventually fighting to win.  Or, depending on the situation, just get the fight over immediately.  Most times, adult help is needed.

When children learn how to stop bullies in their tracks, they will develop strength of character, determination, resilience and skill.  They’ll need these qualities to succeed in the real-world.

Therefore, in my experience the best way to educate bullies is to help the rest of us stand up to them.  Stopping bullies doesn’t begin with understanding them or their psychotherapy and rehabilitation.  Their education begins when they find out that the old tactics don’t work.  Beginning by trying to educate them means that the rest of the children remain victims until bullies decide to stop bullying (if ever).  Instead, stop bullies first and then educate them.

In addition to professional experience, I learned practical, pragmatic methods growing up in New York City and then watching our six children and their friends and enemies.  And we live in Denver, home of Columbine High School.

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site ( ) and blog ( ).

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