Bully-proofing Children with SE

by: FHE Admin

Eleven year-old Mitchell Wilson took his own life after enduring months of cruel and violent bullying from his peers. Yet another young life lost to bullying— all I can say is “ugh.” This is no small issue. According to the website Make a Sound for a Voice Unheard, 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of intimidation and attacks by other students.

As a counseling psychology graduate student and someone who has volunteered with children and adolescents for more than six years, I'm sorry to report that this is an all-too-common theme for children today. I have seen how a constant barrage of social networks (and the availability of instant communication among peers), provides bullies the unfortunate opportunity to destroy a child's reputation within seconds. Humiliated and with no chance to defend themselves, children are left feeling helpless and defeated. In a conversation with his grandmother days before his death Mitchell said: “My biggest issue is that I can't protect myself, and if a man cannot protect himself, then he is not a man.”

Here, Dr. Peter A. Levine shares his personal experiences with bullying. He emphasizes how we can bring back empowerment to the children who are being victimized:

We need to be dedicating our time to building our youth's resiliency. Guiding them in finding their innermost strength and empowerment is so desperately needed in these times of skewed communication. I hope in Peter's words you can find the optimism we need to help prevent more tragedies like Mitchell's.

Rock on Trauma Healers,


Author Laura Piché has been an employee for the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute™ for over four years and currently serves as the media administrator. Laura has completed the beginning and intermediate levels of the SE training and is the co-coordinator of the 2011 Denver SE training. She is currently working on her master's degree in counseling psychology from Regis University.

Photo by Eddie~S

Comments (7)
  1. Peter Levine speaks about empowering the child in this video on bullying. I have worked with children for years and have created a teacher training called, “Creative Kids Yoga®”, which addresses this very issue in all aspects of the training. We use yoga, movement, visualization, breathing techniques and many other tools to help children discover their inner creativity, confidence and self esteem. I am passionate about this work, particularly in today’s world. I have taught around the world and often at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
    One of the first things I believe must happen is that the parents, teachers, caregivers must own their true balanced sense of empowerment before working with kids. I have done two levels of the SE training with supported me to that end.We address this issue in my training…..

  2. Dave

    “My biggest issue is that I can’t protect myself, and if a man cannot protect himself, then he is not a man.” He took the words right out of my mouth!

    That was my greatest fear, being found out that I didn’t have the ability to punch back.

    Great work you guys are doing!


  3. Dave

    Bullying is not just reserved for the school yard, its in the work place too.
    I don’t know if yoga by its self is an answer? Individuals need to be shown, not taught how to strengthen the mind and how to develop a powerful will. They also need to be shown practical ways of shielding themselves from both emotional and physical attacks.
    Society always tells a child not to fight back. But this is wrong. Some times he has to! That is why every country has an army, and why VIP’s have bodyguards. They are a protection shield.

    As a child no one took the time to show me practical skills to beat down a verbal or physical escalation of violence. My training as a body guard did though.

    It seems that there are several problems with schools. First, is that there is no guardian structure in place. So the child is made completely vulnerable to predators.
    As a bodyguard, my training taught me how to assess situations quickly and what tactics of avoidance to use. But when I was at school, I had no idea how to stop other children, who were 2 or more years older than me, from beating me up.

    If schools sent bullys to a military styled boot camp on weekends, when they were caught, and their parents made to pay a fine ( which went to a fund for trauma counciling) things may change.

    A society that values its children will always institute those kinds of restraits against bullys, that reflect the degree of that value.
    More later!


  4. Charlotte

    Suicide among young kids here in NZ is on the increase and it is usually after being severely bullied.
    Reading this gave me an insight into my nearly 5 year old son. something happened when he was about 2 while at daycare. from that moment he lost his smile and was very agressive towards other kids. he would grimace when faced with kids and put his hands up to hit them. over the years he has changed alot and is a very social kid, but i have a feeling under the surface is apprehension and fear. i feel quite overwhelmed by how to help him. i am looking at enroling him in karate lessons to give him the feeling of being externally strong, but how do I build his inside up? I know if I don’t do something he will be the kid that will get bullied.

    1. Laura Piché

      Charlotte, thank you for sharing your concerns. I consulted with Peter Levine and he thinks karate is a great idea! He suggests that you be sure to check out the teacher and see if they are sensitive and that the school isn’t about machismo but having the kids feel into their power.

      There are certain exercises in Peter and Maggie Kline’s book Trauma-Proofing Your Kids that would be good for you to look at, particularly the safe ways to get him in touch with his anger. You can use foam pool noodles as swords to fight with. The key is to take breaks and encourage the child to really feel his strength. Maybe even try it by slowing down and try to notice when it’s time to take a break. I hope this helps! -Laura Piche

  5. Lubby Martinson, SEP

    I co-wrote a program in the 1990’s for my school district that is now sold by Hazledon publishing while I was a music teacher in the public schools. After my training in SE I still believe that it is a good program in that it creates a resourceful community within the school district where teachers and kids look out for the various victims of bullying. It also looks at the kids who are being bullies and their background which is, of course, often being bullied at home so they bring it to school and try to gain power somehow by harassing kids who are perceived to be weaker than them.

    By teaching the kids who are not involved in either end of the bullying issue to stand up and report or help out a kid who they see is being bullied you have created awareness and resources. Research still shows that these kids can make a huge difference. Bullies often back off when approached by a resilient kid.

    Teachers need to be actively involved in patrolling hallways and bathrooms between periods and before or after school. Each school would also benefit by identifying areas where bullying can take place. The ends of long hallways, nooks and crannies need to have some kind of supervision by adults or by cameras. Also every bathroom should have an adult keeping track of what is going on. In my grandson’s old school (he has high functioning autism and is a major target of bullies) the bathroom right by the office was a main bullying center. A lack of training and awareness allows this to happen.

    I am still involved at the state, federal and even international level. I try to keep up with the research and I try to keep up to date by attending conferences and maintaining a relationship with legislators and others who are trying to keep peace in our schools.

  6. Ellena

    Parents need to be protectors, they also need to teach their children social survival skills. Whether your child is a target or a bully, as a parent you must keep your own emotions in check. As a parent, you should not depend on school programs for such training. To prevent your child from becoming a bully, teach and demonstrate compassion by treating others with respect and dignity. I would like to share this link, about a service on how to protect children from bullying http://safekidzone.com/

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