TODAY   |  March 04, 2011

Parents can prevent kids from becoming bullies

Mom and daughter Amy and Lilly Baldassare, author Rosalind Wiseman, TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas and NBC Dateline’s Kate Snow discuss how parents can help keep their kids from being bullies.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

SNOW: Amy Volvaseri and her daughter Lilly , who tells it like it is; Rosalind Wiseman , author of "Boys, Girls Other Hazardous Materials" and TODAY style editor and bobbie.com's Bobbie Thomas all participated in Kate 's report. Good morning to you all.

Ms. WISEMAN: Good morning.

VIEIRA: Lilly , let me start with you. I mean, you really took them on. You really -- I mean, have you experienced that in your own life in the past?

LILLY: Yeah. I've been bullied since about third grade. And, like, you don't feel good about yourself. But to not have anyone even wanting to stand up for you, let alone invite you over to their house, like, you feel worthless. And so I felt like I wanted to let her know that I know that she's doing wrong and, you know, that the bully wasn't doing the right thing. And I think I might have overreacted a little bit. But I think it's better...

VIEIRA: But your heart was in the right place , is what you're saying.

LILLY: Yeah.

VIEIRA: Yeah. So you weren't scared at all of that.

LILLY: No.

VIEIRA: And, Amy , you're watching this unfold.

Ms. VOLVASERI: Yeah.

VIEIRA: And I 'm sure you've talked to your daughter about bullying in the past.

Ms. VOLVASERI: Yes. Many times.

VIEIRA: But you never know what they're going to do. We saw with Katie , who's a nice kid, I mean...

Ms. VOLVASERI: Sure. And that was my fear. I didn't really fear that until I was sitting in the chair with the monitors.

VIEIRA: Yeah.

Ms. VOLVASERI: And I got a look at the, you know, really beautiful girls who I knew were going to play the role of the bullies, and I thought, they're older girls, they are charismatic, and is Lilly going to want to be part of that, you know, group and forget her qualities.

VIEIRA: Yeah, well, you raise a good point about the pressure that kids are under. Rosalind , you deal with this all the time. Very...

Ms. WISEMAN: Yeah, and I think it's -- you know, a lot of parents want their children to do the right thing . And they think, 'I'm teaching the right values.' I think what's important about this show is it shows it's not enough to teach your kid values. You have to show what it looks like in action, and that if kids get into a situation where kids are charismatic and they're older and you don't want to do anything and you feel paralyzed sometimes, that you actually need the skills to be able to do in the moment when you're feeling absolutely scared.

VIEIRA: So you almost need to role play with your kids then?

Ms. WISEMAN: Well, you want -- and you have to practice.

VIEIRA: Yeah.

Ms. WISEMAN: I mean, this is something, of practicing, a lot of the parents said, 'I want my kid at least to be neutral.' But neutral in the eyes, and in the situation of a bullying situation is not neutral. It actually looks like you're siding with the bully.

VIEIRA: Yeah. And, Bobbie , it -- you weren't probably surprised by this because you see a connection between fashion now and bullying.

Ms. THOMAS: Yeah. Teens are really exploring their identity. I love your sparkle shoes.

LILLY: Thank you.

Ms. THOMAS: You know, and they're experimenting with fashion, and the irony is that, while kids really want to be unique and stand out, you want to fit in. And so that's a tough balance, and that really sets you up to be vulnerable. And unfortunately, it's -- clothing can be a target. And I hate that it's used in that way. Because it's really an awesome way to, you know, empower a young girl and feel confident about who you are about something.

VIEIRA: So to some degree it always has been. Is it getting worse, do you think, Rosalind ?

Ms. WISEMAN: What I think is is that parents feel like -- I think a lot of parents feel like, 'I've taught my child to do the right thing ,' but they don't focus as much on the actual actions. And I think we have to do that and realize that, no matter what, our kids are going to see conflict and they're going to see people abuse power. So there's no way your child can escape this. And so you have to be able to talk to your child on an ongoing basis about it. They could be a bystander, a target or a perpetrator.

VIEIRA: So, Lilly , what would you say to kids out there your age who might come upon this?

LILLY: Well, to kids who are being bullied, well, when I was being bullied, everyone would say to me, ' Lilly , just don't take it so seriously, it's only high school or middle school , you know.' But sure, like you don't have to take it so seriously or personally because they're just angry people, that's the way they're going to be. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do anything. You should always, you know, tell at least your parents or...

VIEIRA: Speak out.

LILLY: Yeah.

VIEIRA: Yeah.

LILLY: Yeah, just tell people. And then if they're still not stopping, you need to say, 'Listen, I didn't do anything to you. You need to stop it. I don't know what I did. Just tell me what I did so I can apologize and we can get along.'

VIEIRA: OK.

LILLY: Which is what I tried to do the other day.

VIEIRA: You're -- and you're a great role model. And, Kate , as you point out, bullying just doesn't involve girls. There are lots of boys as well.

SNOW: Right. And we looked at boys, too. When you watch the hour on Sunday you'll see a whole scenario that we ran with boys as well in a gym. It was a different scenario. No fashion this time. But we had them doing athletic things, and this boy in the stripes is our actor, who's a victim, pretending not to be athletic at all. Also happens to be gay in real life , and had been bullied in his real life . And it's interesting, it's much more physical with the boys. The other thing we noticed is that the role of the coach who was coming in and out of the room to tell them what to do, if the coach condoned what was happening vs. if the coach said, 'Hey, I'm not going to stand for that,' made all the difference. So we parents, we adults, we set the tone for all of this .

VIEIRA: Absolutely.

Ms. WISEMAN: Absolutely.

VIEIRA: Kate , thank you so much . A very important special. Bobbie , thank you, as well. Rosalind and Amy and Katie -- so I did -- Katie , I'm sorry, Lilly especially. I got a Lilly of my own. Did a great job.

LILLY: Cool.

VIEIRA: And you can see the "Dateline" special "My Kid Would Never...Bully" Sunday night at 7, 6 Central time right here on NBC . Up next, she wouldn't tolerate a bully herself, La Toya Jackson . That's right after this.