How to Beat Trump, According to Experts on Middle-School Bullies
October 15, 2019 at 2:05 AM - Views: 12 #186054
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The problem with middle schoolers is that they’re “incredibly insecure,” Fagell said. They’re becoming increasingly self-conscious. “They feel vulnerable, and they have no life experience, no perspective,” she said. Then there’s the setting. Unlike in the workplace—or even high school—middle school is a free-for-all, with no established social hierarchy. People are anxious about where they fit in. A scramble ensues. “There’s a lot of norm-building, a lot of cliquishness, a lot of jockeying for status,” Jaana Juvonen, a developmental psychologist at U.C.L.A., explained. “What’s created are dynamics where people want to side with the powerful.”
Bullies rise to the top because they’re able to demonstrate their power in clear, understandable ways. “Unfortunately, for young adolescents, one of the most concrete ways to show your power is to put other kids down,” Juvonen said. “To be mean, laugh at others. Typical Trump behaviors, I’m sorry to say.” What does Trump’s ascension to the Presidency say about the state of American grownup society? “It’s awful!” Juvonen, who gives presentations and workshops to public-school administrators and teachers, said. “I still keep going back to it: How could we have gotten here? What we’re seeing with Trump would happen in the very worst schools—the ones where things are totally out of control.”
Barbara Coloroso, the author of “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander,” said that the first thing to remember is “don’t get in the mud” with the bully. Don’t resort to name-calling, as Ted Cruz did in 2016. (After Trump had mocked his wife, Cruz called Trump a “big-government liberal” and “a sniveling coward.”) “That’s a huge mistake,” Coloroso said. “You can’t do that with a bully. He will be better at name-calling.” Trump had already labelled Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” and called him “a soft, weak little baby.” “Trump tries to draw people into his bullying so he can identify it as a conflict,” she said. She speculated that this might be a risk for Harris: “She’s used to being in prosecutorial mode. She’s got to move out of that.”
When tangling with Trump, Juvonen said, the most important thing to know is “it’s less about content and more about power.” This goes double for the brainier candidates, like Warren, who might be tempted to pick apart Trump’s arguments. “We can’t worry about the intellectual arguments here, which is really sad,” she said. “First and foremost, you have to shift the power dynamics.” She went on, “One of the best strategies for kids who get bullied is to use self-deprecating humor.” This defuses the bully’s insults, and, potentially, helps the nerdy kid seem a tiny bit subversive. Plus, telling jokes could throw an antagonist off balance.“Bullies have very vulnerable egos,” she said. “What gets them angry the most is when someone makes fun of them.”
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