Instead of melting like a snowflake when faced with the heat of opposition, children can and need to learn the art of emotional resilience when they encounter social aggression.
That’s the message Brook Gibbs gave to a group of around 50 parents assembled Thursday night at the Tooele High School Auditorium.
A social-emotional educator with 20 years of experience studying and teaching about bullying, Gibbs has delivered his message of emotional resilience to over 1,500 audiences nationwide.
“Emotional resilience is education,” Gibbs said. “It’s learning why people are mean and how to stop it. It is to realize the intentions and motivation behind the behavior and to have the discernment, wisdom, and clear direction to know exactly how to resolve the conflict.”
Social aggression is not a school problem, it’s a human problem. It exists not only at schools but at home and in the workplace too, according to Gibbs.
“Children have the capacity to learn simple skills to manage their social problems and emotional turmoil,” he said.
Gibbs described social aggression as occurring in an escalating cycle.
“They drive you crazy or make you angry,” Gibbs said. “Their purpose is to upset you. If they can, they win and it gives them power. The more upset you get, the more fun they have and the more fun they have, the more upset you get. Get off this crazy train. Learn to have emotional intelligence to be smarter than your own emotions.”
Social aggression takes three main forms, according to Gibbs.
The first form happens when the aggressor is trying to be funny or to make a joke. This can often take the form of making fun or trying to get a laugh from making fun of somebody’s differences or perceived imperfections.
“People take pleasure from somebody else’s pain,” Gibbs said. “Children need to take a joke about themselves.”
Gibbs suggested that children be prepared with a witty come back comment or a neutral comment, like saying, “so.” The comment refuses access to negative emotions and disarms the impact of the joke, keeping it from eliciting the expected reaction.
The second form of aggression was described by Gibbs as hurting or victimization.
“Look for anger, hatred, or a desire for revenge in what the person is saying or doing.” he said.
A good response is to ask “Are you mad at me?” according to Gibbs.
He suggests that after asking “Are you mad at me?,” the person should listen to the answer and then offer a sincere apology.
“It may be sorry we have this problem or sorry there is friction between us,” he said. “ A genuine apology can vaporize victimization.”
The third type of aggression is controlling or dominance.
This involves a power trip to make somebody angry, and power to make them upset and control their emotions.
“The goal is psychological power,” Gibbs said.
The best response, according to Gibbs, is to “Teach our children how to refuse access to their emotions and not give the other person the satisfaction of evoking a negative reaction. It is in your child’s power to have their emotions impenetrable.”
Gibbs ended his presentation with an appeal to teach kids about love.
“We have to teach our kids how to love, not to hate,” he said. “Not to retaliate, but to love. To be patient and stop getting upset. Treat them like a friend, that’s the golden rule.”