A 2016 campaign rally in New Orleans. (AP Photo / Gerald Herbert)
A Delaware boy named Joshua Trump has asked his school to change his last name. His mother reported, “They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid.”
Not only that, the boy now “hates himself, and he hates his last name, and he feels sad all the time, and he doesn't want to live feeling like that anymore.”
The media also reports: “The situation had the parents reaching out to Action News for help, saying their son's bullying wasn't being addressed by the Brandywine School District.” (Apparently, the parents believe that if their son's story makes the news, kids will pay him less attention.)
The article reveals that the allegation that the school district did nothing to stop the bullying is false. It’s just that what it’s done hasn’t succeeded in stopping the bullying. The assumption promoted by the anti-bullying field is that bullying stops if the school addresses it.
But there’s no basis for such an assumption, as research has shown that anti-bullying programs and policies rarely make more than a dent in the bullying problem and often result in an increase. Sometimes school intervention solves the problem. But if it doesn’t, it is likely to make it worse. No one likes to get in trouble. Therefore, students accused of bullying are likely to defend themselves, deny wrongdoing, and blame their accuser.
If the school informs the parents of the involved students, as policies generally require, the situation may escalate into a feud between families.
There are many other children in the world with the name Trump, and it is likely that most or even all of them get picked on because of their name. Should they all change their name to stop being bullied? Should they be ashamed of it because luck had it that a President who is hated by a large portion of the citizenry happens to have the same name?
Kids can be picked on for an endless number of things. Their name is only one. And there are many other names besides Trump that can be the target of ridicule. A couple of years ago I wrote an article of advice for a girl who was bullied because her first name is Isis.
So to help the many kids who are being bullied because their name is Trump, here is my advice:
1. You think that you are being bullied because your name is Trump. But that is only an illusion.
The real reason they are bullying you is because you get upset when they make fun of your name. Anyone can be picked on for any number of reasons and we all get picked on once in a while. But whether people continue picking on you depends upon your response to them. If you get upset, they win and they have fun, so they will do it at every opportunity. But if you don’t get upset, it is no fun for them. You win and they stop picking on you.
2. You think that the kids hate you because you're named Trump. But they don’t.
Even if they have learned from their parents or the media that President Trump is a terrible man who deserves to be hated, they know you are not President Trump and they don’t hate you.
They simply think it’s funny that you have the same name, so they’re happy for the opportunity to make jokes about it. In fact, they probably think it’s neat that they have a kid in their school with the same name as the President. It makes them feel special.
However, if you react angrily and treat them like an enemy, they may only escalate their insults. From their point of view, they’re only trying to kid around with you and now you’re trying to get them in trouble for it. Sure, they are the ones that started, but once you respond angrily it doesn't matter anymore. They will see you as the bad guy and feel justified being mean to you again.
3. Realize that you are not named after Donald Trump but after your parents and their ancestors.
By being ashamed of the name Trump and asking to change it, you are not disrespecting the President. You are disrespecting your mother and her parents. Of course, your mother feels your pain and wants to make it stop, so she is going along with your wish to be called by a different name than hers. But deep down your mother and your ancestors would be happier if you were proud of your name and not be concerned that it is shared by the President. And other people will respect you more, too, if you are comfortable with your name.
4. You are passing up the opportunity to use your name to be popular and well-liked.
Most people need to achieve some great accomplishment in order to be famous. You don’t have to do anything. By the mere chance that the President has your name, lots of kids know about you. In fact, they will remember you forever just because of your name.
Now the question becomes, “How do I want them to remember me?” Do you want to be remembered as someone who couldn’t take a joke, or as a cool kid who has a sense of humor and is fun to be with? This is totally up to you.
If you want to be remembered as the second type, then you must be proud of your family name. Take advantage of the jokes about your name to demonstrate that you are a good sport and are fun to be with.
To show you how to do this, first I will provide you with an example of the “enemy” way to respond to insults about your name.
Insulter: Ha! Your name is Trump! You’re an idiot!
You: No, I’m not! Shut your mouth!
Insulter: Don’t tell me to shut my mouth! You’re an idiot, just like the President!
You: I am not like the President! I am smart!
Insulter: How can you be smart with a name like Trump?
You: I am smart!
Insulter: No, you’re not! You’re an idiot!
This is going to get you nowhere except endless bullying. The kids will hate you and will be convinced that you really are an idiot. Now, for the friendly way to respond:
Insulter: Ha! Your name is Trump! You are an idiot!
You: You noticed! I have the same name as the President!
Insulter: Yes, you do! You must also be an idiot, just like the President!
You: You mean, you believe that if I have the same name as the President, I must be just like him?
Insulter: No, not really.
You: Of course not. I just have the same name.
And the matter is over. If the kid answers that he does believe that you are just like the President, then say, “If you want to believe that, I can’t stop you.” And the matter will also be over.
There are many other friendly ways to respond. Here is another example.
Insulter: Ha! Your name is Trump! You are an idiot!
You: What do you think about President Trump?
Insulter: I think he’s an idiot.
You: Yes. A lot of people do.
Insulter: Do you think he’s an idiot?
You: I don’t know. I'm just a kid. I don’t follow politics.
Insulter: I don’t either.
You: So how come you think he’s an idiot?
Insulter: That’s what my parents say.
You: My parents say the same thing.
Insulter: They do?
Insulter: How can they think he’s an idiot if they have the same name as him?
You: They just have the same name. It doesn’t mean they think he’s smart.
The friendly way obviously comes out much better. And if your parents like President Trump and think he’s smart, you don't have to be upset or defensive about it. You can simply say, “People have all kinds of opinions about the President. My parents happen to like him.” And the kids will also leave you alone.
You see, they are not picking on you because of your or your family’s opinion of the President. They do it to have fun, and if you get upset, you are giving them what they want. And they will disrespect you and continue picking on you.
Here are additional friendly responses you can use:
- Everyone in the school knows me because my name is Trump.
- What a bummer.
- I get to see my name in big letters on tall buildings!
- I sure wish I were as rich as Trump.
- Some people think that I must be just like the President!
- Do you have the same name as someone famous?
If you're adventurous, here is the best way to deal with the situation: Have fun with it by making believe President Trump is your uncle. You can say things like:
- Donald may be a terrible President, but he's the world's best uncle. He takes me in Air Force One every weekend and sometimes he even lets me fly it!
- I spent the weekend visiting with Uncle Donald and Aunt Melania at the White House. It was awesome!
- Uncle Donald is so much fun! He showed me how to use Twitter.
- Uncle Donald is making me his apprentice. He's going to teach me how to become President of the United States.
Some kids might be confused by this and wonder if he really is your uncle. If so, the joke will be on them and you should enjoy goofing on them. Eventually, everyone will realize it's not true, but they will see that you're cool and don't get upset by the Trump name.
So stay calm, be proud of your name, be friendly to whoever makes fun of you, and you will discover that not only don’t kids bully you, they will want to be your friend.
You can be sure some of them will even be happy to boast, “I have a friend named Trump!” as long as they respect you for who you are.
Izzy Kalman is the author and creator of the website Bullies2Buddies.com and a critic of the anti-bully movement.