I wrote the item below for my blog. But it doesn't fit into an adult skater blog. I've had a lot of experience with bullies and I have my own techniques for dealing with them (of course I was dealing with bullies in the military so not skater specific). I really believe kids need to be trained to deal with bullies rather than be coddled by parents. So I took a stab at converting my bully beating skills into something a kid could use.
PS This has a problem of shifting between Parental POV and Kid POV. I never got around to fixing that.
As a short woman in the military I probably was bullied quite a bit. I say 'probably' because I fought back. I was born with a WTFO attitude and since (for girls) bullying in my day never seemed to mean physical violence, I used my temper and my wit to fight back. Let me put it nicely, no one ever crossed me twice. (I was once bullied by a Colonel when I was a 2nd Lt. I fought back in a really sneaky way, and won. Trust me, you don't have to tolerate this stuff, you have to know how to fight it.)
So, what happens with kids who are bullied? Sad to say, in my experience bullying is part of the social order of humanity. Someone will almost always be bullied. Any adults who step in and try to straighten things out between kids are almost always doomed to fail. I don't think we put enough skills in the hands of vulnerable kids to fight back.
I'm going to make some opinions here, these are things I learned over a long life in an 'unfriendly' environment. Brace yourself I'm going to use language from 40 years ago.
1. You can't make 'them' like you. Kids want to be in the 'in group'. The terminology has changed but the idea is still there. For someone to be on the inside, someone has to be on the outside. Once the inside kids have decided to pick on someone, no outside interference can change them. Outside oversight will just make it go underground. Telling the vulnerable kid that she is on the outside of this group forever, not because she did anything wrong, but because someone has to be on the outside, can be both devastating--and freeing. If they'll never like you, because making themselves feel important means not liking someone, then it's not your fault. You can move on with your life and stop trying to make them like you.
2. If you can't make them like you, ignore them. The mean girls only win only if their jibes and petty cruelties result in visible reactions. The first thing to get a child to do is practice their reactions to the kinds of things a bully would say and do. If this means as a parent you have to sit down with a child and train them to respond by desensitizing them to the bullying words, you need to toughen up yourself and your kid. Telling a kid 'it's going to be okay' is a lie. It's not going to be okay. It's going to be bad and you and your child need to learn how to fight back. First rule, don't run away and cry. Fight back by looking bored. The rolling of the eyes is another weapon. Also witty comments, but alas most people never get these. I think witty comments are for someone older than 13. But you can train a younger kid to look bored or annoyed rather than unhappy.
3. Develop some canned verbal responses for the child to show their contempt for the bullies. Some ideas:
You again?; Show some class, willya.; Whatever. ; So, how's that axel coming? (to a bully who doesn't have one); Oh, grow up. ; What are you? Five? (to a teen); You've confused me with someone who cares what you think. The secret is to have practiced these ripostes until they're automatic and carry the appropriate tone of disdain. Use whatever teen speak you can, but it has to have the tone of arrogance and self-assurance.
4. Toughen up, Buttercup. I talked about self-assurance and that's very important. If the bullies see that their attempts fail, they'll pick another victim. Mind you, bullying's a habit; I don't think it ever goes away, but it can get less. Teaching a young child how to exhibit self assurance is hard. There's a certain quality of stance (don't hunch) and head position (don't look down), even the slow way you turn your head to look at someone who is annoying you that just signals self assurance. I think you can teach 'don't hunch' and 'don't look down', as those are just part of good skating. But that look in the eye, the way you turn your head. That has to come from within. But it can be developed with practice with a parent.
5. Always have good manners. If the bully wins a competition, lands a difficult jump, or passes a test, a brisk "Well done," type of compliment in passing can really throw them off their game. Don't use it as a conversational intro, make sure it's short and done while you're moving so you maintain control of the conversation. If the bully shouts something back--a thank you or a rude comment--just give a polite wave and keep moving. Be polite, but be in control.
6. If the bully wants to talk to you, maintain control of the conversation. Don't let them draw you in. Mean girls/boys don't change their minds about their victims. Stay out of their physical reach if you can. Keep your responses polite but non-committal. In other words, be nice, but don't say anything important. (Parents, you may need to practice this with your kids.) Don't go into confined places alone with the bullies, if you can avoid it. If you have to be in a dressing room with the bullies, make sure you take a seat near the door and away from the center of the group. Keep your back to the wall if you can.
5. Physical violence. If I've done my job here, you'll see the bullying deescalate for your child and be pointed at somewhere else. If it gets to violence--deliberate violence--use your best judgment. Yes, you can call the cops if need be.
6. If the other coach is the problem. Beats me. Ask the skating director to mediate. If that doesn't work, go to the rink manager. Be calm, be cool.