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Mount Vernon News
Binsenius: Bullies can be stopped
By Samantha Scoles
February 20, 2009
MOUNT VERNON — Parents instinctually do anything and everything to protect their children
especially from bullies. According to Jim Bisenius this is one instance when it is better to
empower than protect.
“As a parent, you are a coach. You can never step out on that playing field,” he told Mount
Vernon Middle School parents and administrators Thursday night. “We have to teach them and
coach them to substitute behaviors that radiate confidence instead of fear.”
Bisenius, a child and adolescent therapist, explained how bullies operate in a school setting and
offered detailed examples as to how victims of bullies can change their reactions to
confrontations and eliminate instances.
“If you meet them (bullies), they are really nice kids,” Bisenius said. “In front of their parents they
are angels; with kids they control through fear.”
That, he said, is why it is often difficult for teachers and administrators to catch bullies in the act.
He also added that on average, a bullying attitude develops around age 2 and they often bully
different individuals up to 15 times a day.
“If you practice something 15 times a day for eight or nine years, you are going to get really good
at it,” Bisenius said. “That’s what we are up against — the kid who has been bullying his sibling,
the neighbor kids and even his parents for all these years and has gotten really good at it.”
One of the surprising tidbits of information Bisenius shared was connected to the psyche of the
bully. He said that all the opposites are true when it comes to the stereotype of a bully. In
actuality, they are not popular, they are not secure and they have little self-esteem.
“The bully will light up when he’s attacking you either physically or verbally. Deep down they don’t
like themselves and none have high true self-esteem,” he said.
These facts, Bisenius has learned through years of interviews and evaluations of bullies, both
male and female.
For many parents, just the thought of another student bullying their children often brings image of
physical abuses — pushing, shoving, tripping and even hitting. Bisenius said that 95 percent to
99 percent of bullying is actually verbal or social and it is less common for something physical to
happen than for a child to be teased or belittled in front of their peers.
Judging the difference between whether a child is being teased or bullied is rather clear cut to
“If we are friends and you make fun of the size of my nose, I know we are friends and you didn’t
mean anything by it. Chances are you will let me know you were just joking around. If you are not
my friend and you say the same thing, that’s bullying,” he said.
Bisenius went on the explain bullies feed on fear, attention and things — lunch money,
possessions, homework, etc. When the fear, attention and things are taken away, the bully
becomes bored and move on. The trick, he said, is for everyone to learn to the process to deter a
bully and eventually, he or she will have no one to turn on.
There are several steps to the process and they all must be practiced so they are perfect in order
for the scenario to work.
“Bullies look for a fear reaction,” Bisenius said. “If you show any of these reactions the bullying
Discuss Binsenius: Bullies can be stopped
There are four forms of fear, he told the group: scared, anger, upset and sad. When you display
any tell-tale signs of these emotions, the bully is going to feed on those emotions.
Bisenius compared these fear emotions to the Arby’s sign floating above someone’s head when
they are hungry for an Arby’s sandwich. When bullies test other kids, they can see that Arby’s
sign floating above their target letting the bully know his or her tactics are working.
He has developed a proven plan that allows victims to regain the self-esteem that has been lost
through altercations with bullies and empower the student to put his or herself in a position to not
be a victim ever again.
“In about a month, no one is gonna push you once you know how to stop them,” Bisenius told a
sixth-grader who has been physically and verbally bullied.
When a bully starts, Bisenius said to do the following things:
•Raise your head slowly.
•Lock your eyes on something high; never look your bully in the eye.
•Push your tongue against the back of your teeth.
•Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
•Move your arms naturally.
•Hold your fingers together.
•Walk at a slower pace than normal.
•Slow down all movements but look natural.
•Don’t say a word.
“You will be so focused on the steps that you aren’t listening to what they are calling you,” he
said. “While it is very difficult to keep quiet, the object is to look bored and uninterested. When the
bully is no longer embarrassing you or getting a fear response from you, the thrill he or she gets
Bisenius said to practice these techniques over and over again both at school with friends and at
home with parents. This process along with a simple take down will help victims regain the power
and self- esteem.
“You need to see a martial arts instructor and tell him you want your son or daughter to learn his
five favorite blocking and control combinations — what they would teach police officers to
apprehend a suspect. Once you put your bully on the ground, the tables will turn.”
While Bisenius is not condoning violence as a solution, he feels that empowering students to
defend themselves is one of the keys to successful termination of bullying.
“You might get called down to Mr. White’s office, but in the long run, whatever punishment he
gives you will have been worth it,” he said. “When a bully finds out that he can’t hit you or can’t
verbally get to you, he will move on.”
Bisenius stressed the best way to learn this technique is to learn it yourself and then teach your
friends. When the entire school catches on to the process, the eventual hope is that all bullying
Editor’s Note: Bisenius also discussed social bullying with the group Thursday. Read Saturday’s
edition of the News for a report on how social bullying works and ways to reduce its prevalence in
Bullying by girls is vicious, ruthless
By Samantha Scoles
February 21, 2009
MOUNT VERNON — Girls always seem to travel in packs. They go to the restroom together,
they huddle together in cafeterias, sporting events and, yes, at the mall. But when girls bully one
another, it’s vicious and ruthless and harder to lessen than traditional boy bullying, Jim Bisenius
said Thursday night.
Discuss Bullying by girls is vicious, ruthless
Binsenius: Bullies can be stopped February 20, 2009
Bisenius, a child and adolescent therapist, talked with a small group of concerned parents and
administrators at Mount Vernon Middle School regarding bullying. Topics included what makes a
bully, how they think and what victims can do to shut down the process.
“Groups operate the same for boys and girls,” he said. “Girls are just under the radar more. It’s
more anonymous and control driven. Boys are more direct.”
According to Bisenius, groups of girls are often infiltrated by a bully. When that happens, there is
one leader and a lead bully. When the leader is absent from the group dynamic, the other girls
will try to impress the bully, who Bisenius refers to as “Mildew,” by bullying another girl in the
group. Later, he said, the girl will apologize but Mildew will remain silent.
To continue her role as a bully, Mildew will work on a girl outside the circle, perhaps a loner.
“She will be ruthless to the girl outside the group once a week. Just enough to keep others afraid
of her,” he said. “She will only pick on the kids that don’t matter.”
Once that pattern has been established, Mildew will work the group with a divide and conquer
“If one of the girls gets too close to Lisa, the leader, or likes the same boy she does, Mildew will
spread rumors to other girls saying Suzy said something about Lisa,” he said.
When this happens, Bisenius said, Mildew will swoop in as a hero and proclaim that no one will
talk about her friend like that. The supposed source of the rumor, Suzy, will then be shunned by
the group for a period of time.
“Suzy,” he said, “has no idea that anything is wrong. Mildew just likes to watch Suzy’s face when
she doesn’t know why she’s not part of the group.”
This is just one of the many ways girl bullies operate within a group. While social bullying, as this
is referred to, is far less stoppable than verbal or physical bullying, it can be quelled, Bisenius
said. There are two protocols that can be followed.
The first is simple distraction. If Mildew tries to attack one of the group, another member, other
than the leader, can step in to change the subject and distract Mildew from her task at hand. The
leader can also step in to call off the act.
The second option is what Bisenius referred to as a nuclear option. When the leader is not
around, Mildew will go after one of the girls. Typically, the rest of the followers from the group will
back up Mildew. When this happens, he encourages the girls to make “secret” contact with the
victim and apologize and reinforce the fact that they are still friends.
“Anytime there is a betrayal, you should make that call,” he said. “I wouldn’t suggest to plot to do
this, but once it starts happening, it will spread to the other girls.”
One of the amazing outcomes Bisenius said he has seen as a result of this practice is a stronger
bond between the girls that practice the “secret” calls. This bond then creates a wave that Mildew
“There is no risk to the secret call,” he said. “The victims can wait out a quarantine if they know
you are still their friend.”
It is this call, he said, that really gets the ball rolling to reduce the occurrence of social bullying.
Once the bully begins to see that her tactics no longer work, her behavior within the group will
Bisenius reminded parents that it is the children who need to implement this procedure.
Interference from parents, he said, will do nothing but make the situation worse.