The pain as a result of bullying, whether verbal or physical or online, can last a lifetime. On this Dana Being Dana episode, host Dana Michelle, invites her guests to talk about bullying and discuss the impact it had on each of their lives. Dana is joined by Katie Eskey and her daughter Shana Schutzenhofer, Matthew Kuschert, Owner and General Manager of UFC GYM Naperville, Ricardo Lamas, Former UFC Featherweight Competitor & Owner of UFC GYM Naperville, Kandice Henning, CEO of the Alive Center, and student Brandon Ellis.
How to cope with bullying
Guests Katie Eskey and her daughter, Shana Schutzenhofer, spoke about a traumatic bullying incident that happened to Shana at school and discussed the specific strategies they used in their family to help her cope.
Eskey said, “So I wish I had been more prepared before that incident, but I actually do rely on a children’s book called Confessions of a Former Bully, written from a perspective of a bully. And some of the strategies that this author provides is turning an insult into a compliment. So if someone says, ‘You’re fat,’ you say, ‘Oh, big, it’s beautiful I love my curves.’”
She went on, “And also to say ‘Stop’ with an assertive voice is a great tool. Another tool that I really enjoy, is asking ‘why, why, why?’ Often a bully says something just to be mean. So make them really back up their thinking. Someone says ‘you’re weird.’ ‘Why do you think I’m weird? What makes you say that?’ And they’re going to be stuck in their tracks not knowing how to answer that question.”
“Another one that we really like is saying, ‘whatever’ when someone says that ‘you’re strange.’ That takes their power away because you’re saying your words don’t mean anything to me. And then lastly, probably the most important, because if you freeze and you just don’t remember any of these witty comebacks, and you’re sitting there being attacked physically or verbally. Walk away. Walk away because you’re worth more than that. Don’t ever stand there and take it, if nothing else…walk away,” said Eskey.
Dana asked Schutzenhofer what she had learned from her bullying incident at school, and she replied, “I learned that if you ever get bullied, you should tell somebody right when it happens. Besides keeping it a secret.”
Bullying at school
Matthew Kuschert, who is very active in the local school board community and is the Owner and General Manager of UFC GYM Naperville, spoke about some of the bullying experiences he’s been made aware of in school. “Unfortunately, I hear a number of those similar stories as well. If I had a nickel for every story I’ve heard, I’d probably be retired by now. And so that’s one of the reasons why we’re so passionate about empowering children, empowering them not only with really strong words and comebacks that can take authority back over the conversation, but also, heaven forbid it is physical in nature, and you can’t immediately get out of the scenario,” said Kuschert.
Empowering kids to stand up to bullies
Dana questioned Ricardo Lamas, Former UFC Featherweight Competitor & Owner of UFC GYM Naperville, on what advice he had for kids wanting to take their power back. Ricardo answered, “So me coming from a martial arts background, I’m a big advocate in martial arts and discipline and going out and being social. It doesn’t have to be martial arts. It could be sports. But I would encourage kids to get out there. Be social. Play sports, do martial arts. It’s a way of meeting new people, meaning other people with similar interests, making more friends.”
He went on, “A bully won’t go up to a kid that has three or four friends around them and start bullying. They won’t go up to a kid who’s confident in themselves. Learning these things, and learning how to defend yourself will give you the self-confidence to hold your head up high, to confront a bully if they’re saying something to you.”
Hurt people hurt people
Later in the episode, Dana welcomed Kandice Henning, CEO of the Alive Center, and student Brandon Ellis to talk about a situation where Brandon bullied another student even after experiencing bullying himself. Henning reflected on the conversation she had with him about that incident, “I said, Brandon, you’ve been bullied, right? And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, How did that make you feel? I don’t remember your exact words, but you really felt awful. I said, so why would you want to make somebody else feel that way? And immediately, he had tears in his eyes. And it was just such a special moment because he just really internalized it.”
Dana asked Brandon Ellis what he learned from that experience, and he said, “Well, in terms of, you know, bullying other kids. I learned it’s not okay at all. I learned there are resources out there to help people that are being bullied, and you should never take out your emotions on somebody else because of what you’re going through. I’ve learned, you should always reach out, there’s plenty of resources out there to help bullied kids. And it’s kind of help me change to be better.”