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Simple Solutions to Mean Behavior

Bullying is a major buzzword in schools and among families.  It seems that everyone has an opinion on how to handle bullies and solve this complex problem.  Typically the solutions offered cause more issues or require programming that’s inconsistent and difficult to implement.  What if there was a simple solution to this complex problem?

While the word “bullying” can be applied to many different behaviors, all incidents start the same – with a simple squabble.  Below I will share the three types of aggression and simple solutions to stop this mean behavior.  Once you learn the motivation behind why someone is mean, the solution will become clear.   The following is based on the SQUABBLES® Theory of Aggression.


Problem:  It can be frustrating to be around who uses humor aggressively.  You often find yourself to be the butt of the joke.  The more you try to get them to stop, the more jokes they make.  It’s likely that they’ve made the jokes in front of others.  How do you stop them?

Solution:  Simply laugh.  An emotionally healthy person can take a joke about his/herself.  If you want to really show them that you’re strong, take a joke and then make a joke back about yourself.  Don’t take yourself so seriously.  If you can one up their joke, it will demonstrate that you have a healthy sense of humor and onlookers will laugh with you instead of at you.  Chances are, people are having fun laughing.  Why not join them?


Problem:  This aggressive behavior’s sole purpose is to psychologically control you.  It comes in the form of name calling, social exclusion, rumors, criticism, poking, and pushing.  The more upset you get, the more fun your enemy has finding new ways to bother and annoy you.  How do you stop it?

Solution:  Don’t get upset and treat them like a friend.  Your aggressor is expecting you to be annoyed.  Show them that you are unfazed by their attempts to annoy you it won’t be fun for them anymore.  They will expect you to say or do something mean back.  Instead respond with kindness.  They will quickly become confused and even look foolish if others are watching.  They can only have power over you if you give them power (by getting upset).  Remain calm and they’ll be unable to control you.


Problem:  Hurting is the most dangerous of the aggressive behaviors.  It comes from a person who feels hurt by you.  Maybe you said something or did something and they are mad at you.  Perhaps you did nothing to them but they believe that you wronged them in some way.  Either way, they feel fully justified being mean to you.  They’ll say things like “You started it!” and “Well, if you wouldn’t have______…”  If they blame you, it’s a clear sign that you’re dealing with someone who feels like a victim.  Solve it quickly and you’ll take away their desire to get even.

Solution:  Apologize.  A genuine apology is the cure for victimization.  What if you really didn’t do anything wrong?  Then, simply apologize that they are feeling that way or say “I’m really sorry that we’re not getting along.  Let me know how I can help fix that.”  Don’t ruin a good apology by adding the word “but”.  As Dr. Phil often says, once you use the word “but” it deletes everything you said before it.

My colleagues and I have created a game called SQUABBLES®.  SQUABBLES® is a card game and conflict resolution system that teaches kids how to respond to aggression through play.