Dr. Brooks Gibbs is a social psychologist who for 20 years, has been a passionate advocate for resilience education within the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) movement. His most significant contributions have been focused on resilience education. He is a veteran youth speaker who's presented 2,500 speeches. His viral videos have been translated into 20 languages and amassed more than 200 million views. He specializes in teaching youth how to be emotionally resilient and inspires them to live by the Golden Rule.
By 7th grader Isabella from Long Island, NY
I was picked on a lot in elementary and middle school. People loved to make fun of me because I was an explosive target. I would get upset and be mean back to people who were mean to me. This trap is so common with kids. It’s why siblings continue to rival and why many kids continue to have social problems at school. It was at the end of the 8th grade I was taught important social skills that helped me enjoy life again. I grew in emotional resilience, not taking the mean words and actions of others to heart. I also practiced the Golden Rule- treating everyone (even mean kids) with kindness.
When I was 18 years old, the Columbine shooting happened near Littleton Colorado. It shocked the nation and caused America to ask “How can we prevent this from happening again.” I lived in Littleton in the aftermath of that shooting and saw the birth of the “anti-bullying movement”. After some encouragement from my mentors, I decided to start speaking in schools as an effort to provide a solution to this major problem in schools.
The word "Bully" is the #1 reason why we have a hard time solving social problems. “Bully” is a judgment term like the word “Jerk”. It’s not nice to call kids jerks, so I don’t call them bullies either. Schools would be wise to retire the word.
From a scientific (sociological) perspective, people are mean to each other for only three reasons.
JOKING: When I make a joke, it’s always at someone’s expense. Humor is very aggressive and when we make fun of each other, sometimes we go too far and end up seeing someone get hurt emotionally. When that happens, we need to stop and realize that this person cannot handle the type of humor we are using. We should save our jokes for people who can appreciate and enjoy them.
HURTING: Maybe someone is hurt by something I said or did. If this happens, they might show signs of anger, hatred, or desire for revenge. When I see that they are angry with me, I realize that I hurt them somehow. All I have to do is ask them if they are mad at me, and apologize for the part I played in their hurt. This almost always resolves the issue. If they don’t accept my apology, I just have to move on and hope that they can heal from the emotional wounds I (or someone else) contributed to causing.
CONTROL: Some people are mean to me because they want to see me get upset. They get a satisfaction of evoking out of me a negative reaction. So they call me names, exclude me from groups, talk bad about me to others, or give me a push or a shove in hopes that I’ll fight back. This type of aggression is all about maintaining psychological power over me. Bosses do this to parents all of the time, threatening to fire them if they don’t perform. Sadly, people have developed the ability to control us by playing our emotions like a slot machine. They push buttons and we payout a jackpot of fear and anger. (This is the type of aggression we commonly call “bullying”). The solution in dealing with this type of person is to “guard your heart” and develop the emotional resilience needed to be around them or avoid them if at all possible. When I do engage in conversation with this type of person, I am extra kind to them- demonstrating that they have no power over my emotions. They will almost always stop the mean behavior out of frustration that they can’t psychologically dominate (or control) me.
My presentation teaches students how to be emotionally resilient so they are not bothered by people’s mean words or actions. I teach students how to identify why someone is being mean and how to stop the mean behavior. What I teach is so simple, fun, and effective- kids of all developmental levels understand and practice the concepts with great success. If every student in schools learns why certain kids are mean to them and how to stop it, there will be a significant decrease in bullying reports.
I am different from most anti-bullying educators. Instead of teaching everyone to be nice, I teach students how to respond to kids who are not nice. This is a backdoor approach to the subject of bullying. In my opinion, it gets to the heart of the issue- curing children from becoming victims. If we victim proof students we are more likely to bully proof schools.
Every age has their special qualities. Younger kids love to laugh- but they have a hard time remembering or practicing the concepts. Middle school kids desperately want and need my teaching, but the fear of rejection by their peers coupled with insecurities about themselves cause them to struggle with practicing emotional resilience. High school students get what I teach 100% and are so tired of struggling with social problems, they practice what I teach with great success. What schools need is not for me to come and teach one-time and leave. They need me to teach and then reinforce what I teach throughout the year so that students can have many chances to re-learn and practice the social skills my colleagues and I have developed. This is why I make an effort to equip schools with plenty of follow-up material for reinforcement.
No. I've made a commitment to my family not to be gone more than two nights a week. Therefore, those who are outside of the Continental USA can use my video training to present to their audience, book a virtual assembly (via SKYPE), or just re-teach whatever they hear me say! The message is far more important than the messenger.
I'm a school psychologist and sociologist that happens to be a Christian.
99% of the audiences I speak to are public schools or student leadership organizations. I do not teach the Bible or share my faith at these events. In all of the 2,500+ stages I have spoken on, I have never once been accused of crossing the church/state boundaries. Any fear that I would proselytize my faith at a non-religious event is silly.
With that said, if I am being interviewed by a religious media platform or speaking at a religious event, I will gladly share my faith when appropriate.
2,400 years ago, Aristotle taught that the Golden Rule was the solution to all social problems. Treat others, not as they treat you, but as you want to be treated. Treat everyone (even your enemies) as friends. I would love kids to get out of the trap of reciprocity. Stop being mean to mean people. Instead, start being nice to mean people. When you do this, they have a hard time staying mean and just might become nice. Try it and see how you are able to systematically transform the mean people in your life. It’s awesome!