Show Notes

Bullying is one of the hardest things a parent has to deal with – whether your child is being bullied or being a bully. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one out of every five students report being bullied.

What causes bullying?

There’s no one single cause for bullying. Some children bully to raise their social status, or because they have low self-esteem, or they have issues at home that they take out on their peers. A child may be targeted for bullying because they stand out in some way – maybe their race, or gender, or economic class – or simply because they’re a little quiet.

The causes for bullying are complex, but the goal of bullying is simple: make the victim feel powerless.

Music empowers your child

According to a 2006 study in The Arts in Psychotherapy: “Music is a non-invasive medium that enhances self-expression, self-esteem, motor skills, coordination, and socialization. It facilitates creativity, inventiveness, independence, and success.”

Music strengthens everything that bullying attacks: confidence, self-esteem, personal expression, happiness. The specific musical exercises Mike outlines in the episode particularly help with emotional regulation and decision making.

Talking with your child about bullying

It can be difficult to talk to your child about bullying. Music can help make approaching the topic easier.

If your child is reluctant to talk about their own experiences, try talking to them about song lyrics instead. Here are some good songs to jumpstart conversations:

Mark Wills – Don’t Laugh At Me (Official Music Video)

I’m a little boy with glasses

The one they call the geek

A little girl who never smiles

‘Cause I’ve got braces on my teeth

And I know how it feels

To cry myself to sleep

Rachel Crow – Mean Girls (Official Video)

Who do you think you are

Loud mouth, cafeteria star

Maybe somebody was cruel to you

So you think that’s what you’re supposed to do

One day, it might be you

When you need a friend, but you no longer cool

When everyone leaves when you walk in the room

I just hope they forgive you

Todrick Hall – It Gets Better (Official Music Video)

Hey, you, with your head held high, well

You got him real good, I hope it feels good

Hey, you, trying so hard not to cry, well

I know you’re fed up, but keep your head up

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome to “Music for Life Skills.” My name is Mike Arturi and I am the founder and executive director of Universal Music Center, and we are Red Wing Minnesota’s original non-profit music education organization. And today we’re going to talk about being bullied.

Today’s Topic: Bullying

Being bullied is no fun, obviously, for anyone, and for kids—kids who are being bullied can experience so many debilitating experiences like depression or anxiety or, you know, maybe not having their drive to do something that they want to enjoy. And in the process of being bullied, it’s going to be a natural experience to freeze up and to not be able to think clearly. We’re going to hope to share a simple musical exercise for you today that will give them a tool to control that feeling of being locked up and kind of frozen.

All we need today for this exercise is our hands and something to bang on—maybe your garbage bucket, or maybe you have a drum, your thighs, a table, anything that will make a sound that won’t hurt your hands.

Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to create a simple phrase. And I came up with a simple phrase that might become—and the idea here is that this phrase internalizes or becomes a little bit of, like, a mantra or something that the person could fall back on in times of being frozen up and being bullied.

So the phrase I came up with as an example is “I am me, I am me, no one else I’d rather be.” So the rhythm from that could be 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.

[drumming on thighs in time to words] I am me, I am me, no one else I’d rather be.

That’s a little something that that person can rely on—that some person can rely on and call into action in the event or in the episode of being bullied. So that’s one idea of how to deal with this.

Another idea is to find maybe a simple nursery rhyme. Now for this idea, I chose “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and what we’re going to do is we’re going to put some different lyrics to “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which you can do. You can find a simple nursery rhyme and again: the rhythm and the melody and the idea of this simple little nursery rhyme is something that you can call up in a time of stress. Okay? So for “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” these are the words that I created.

Here’s our lyrics that we created for “Mary Had a Little Lamb”:

I am me and I am great,

I am great,

I am great

All these bullies have to wait

If they think they’ll scare me.

And the reason this works is music and rhythm are a great way to internalize and remember something. The little patterns, the little rhythms, the little lyrics that you set up or you create are internalized so they’re easy to call up in a time of stress. The process of creating these lyrics or a little rhyme or a rhythm will empower your child.

And I feel, most importantly, this a great way for you to sit with your child and talk with them about what they’re going through, and as you create these little lyrics and rhymes and so forth, it’s a great way to do this together. It drops down barriers of fear, it opens up, and it allows you to come into your child’s life and really see what’s going on, and it gives you both a positive way to deal with these issues.

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