Review by BRIGITTE ROZARIO
STOP THE BULLYING!
By Andrew Matthews
Publisher: Seashell Publishers
This book couldn't be more different from author Andrew Matthews' earlier books – Follow Your Heart, Happiness in a Nutshell, Being Happy! and Making Friends.
The cover illustration, while also done by Matthews, is not in his usual funny cartoon style. And, why should it be? Bullying is a very serious topic and the content of the book is no laughing matter.
Stop the Bullying! is written simply and directly and it's extremely practical. You could even call it a how-to book – isn't that what Matthew excels in?
While his previous books taught us how to get over the small things and learn to be happy and follow our hearts, this one teaches parents and children how to stop the bullying.
It's not just Matthews preaching from the pulpit, either, he and his wife/publisher Julie went out of their way to interview people and get their stories.
There are a few very memorable stories in there. One is the story of Allem Halkic who committed suicide. He was a victim of cyberbullying but he never said a word to his parents.
Here's what his parents wrote:
“Allem received over 300 threatening messages on his phone and his laptop. The bullying was relentless. (His mother) Dina said, 'We would hear Allem bashing the keys of his computer but we didn't realise what he was doing online. We had no idea he was trying to save his own life, the poor thing!'
“We never saw any sign that Allem was struggling and definitely no sign that he might ever take his life.”
Another horrific story is that of Richard Plotkin, 59, who was a loner. The local bullies, aged 18-20, one day set him on fire! Plotkin suffered fourth-degree burns and had no ears, lips or eyelids left after that.
But, this book is not just written to shock parents. It's written for everybody – parents of victims and potential victims, parents of bullies and potential bullies, for children who are victims, the bullies and even the bystanders.
Matthews outlines who gets bullied, why they get picked on and even what they can do to stop being bullied – having self-confidence matters, he writes. When you think about it, bullies don't pick on those who are self-confident; they go for those who walk alone and hang their heads because they're shy or self-conscious.
He also tries to help parents understand that children will often not tell their parents if they are being bullied. It's up to parents to keep the communication lines open and to be there to listen and offer suggestions when there is a problem. There's also frank advice for parents whose children are bullies and who are in denial and don't want to believe that their child could be a bully.
There is information on:
Signs that your child is being bullied;
Signs that your child is a bully;
Signs that your child is cyberbullied;
How to survive in cyberspace;
What do bullies want;
How girl and boy bullies differ;
The difference between teasing and bullying;
Tips for dealing with bullies;
How bystanders can help;
How bullies are created; and
How to make kids more responsible, respectable and well-mannered.
The great thing about this book is that there are stories written by former bullies and victims. This gives readers a better view of what bullies and victims go through and what they are thinking as it happens and years later, as well.
Strangely, while the victim is traumatised and some remember the bullying for life, for the bullies it was just part of childhood and most never even took it seriously.
Matthews' advice is practical, down to what to say and how to respond. He's not just offering theories, he is giving real example dialogues.
I found this to be an enlightening, informative and easy read. The tips and suggestions are easy to follow. Matthews also gives us different perspectives – from the victim to the bully and the parents.
Bullying is a “disease” of this day and age. Bullies don't just come from broken homes; they also come from the best and most “perfect” homes. Matthews' effort to be part of the solution is commendable.
At the back of the book, there are also chapters on how to make your child more responsible and well-mannered. The belief is that if your child is responsible, well-mannered and has a good self-image, he won't bully other children or adults.
It's a good book. Get it for your family and make your kids read it, too!