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Bullying I

Bullying is a common problem and being bullied can be devastating to kids.

What is a bully? An overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller, weaker persons using physical or verbal means.

A bully is almost always male. Bullies are different from other children. Some say bullies have low self-esteem and feel so unsure of themselves that they only feel good when they are manipulating and controlling someone else. In other words they enjoy and seek out this sense of power. Others say that bullies lack social skills to influence others so they bully instead. Everyone agrees that a major factor is that bullies were themselves bullied. Usually bullies have been raised in families where spanking is the method of discipline and combativeness is encouraged. They are subject to physical punishment and are not treated with respect by their parents so they get the message that it’s OK to treat others the same way.

The best defense against bullies is a child who tells the authorities and an adult who says that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Our culture expects boys to fight and to work out problems on their own. Our culture rewards bravery and looks down on telling the authorities because we prize individualism. But little bullies grow up to be big bullies–and raise their kids to be bullies. We don’t need more violence in American society.

We now know that bullying behavior can be stopped. A Scandinavian project to stamp out schoolyard bullying worked. Adults did not tolerate or permit bullying and intervened when such behavior was seen. Children were encouraged to report all violence and bullying. Parents of bullies were called to the school and helped to work along with the teachers to change their child’s method of influencing others. Counseling was recommended when indicated.

If schools are to be successful in stopping bullying ALL children, not just victims, must be involved. Children who ignore bullying or stand by while their classmates are being bullied must learn how to support the victims and report the bullies. How? Role playing both at home and in class is a good place to start so children learn what bullying is and what to do about it. Rewarding children who report bullies for their courage and helping bullies find non-violent ways to interact also help.

How do parents prevent bullying or violent behavior in their own children?

  • Give your children lots of TIME AND HUGS. Children need the knowledge that they are more important to their parents than anything else in the world.
  • Because children learn how to act from their parents, DO NOT TREAT YOUR CHILDREN VIOLENTLY. Don’t spank. Never let your child see you act violently with each other, with a driver who cut you off, or with an annoying person or someone who disagrees with you. Learn and model for your children non-violent ways of resolving conflict.
  • Do not model, encourage, praise, reward, incite, or tolerate violence in any of your children.
  • Teach your child how to handle anger–without hurting people or property–by pounding pillows or shouting in the shower.
  • Limit exposure to our culture of violence. Control which and how many TV programs, video/computer games, and Internet sites your child can watch or use.
  • Help your child grow up knowing there are appropriate ways to influence other children by using social skills, empathy, and good will. Sometimes little kids have to be taught to smile when they walk up to another child. Sometimes bigger kids have to be taught how to make eye contact and talk in a pleasant and friendly way.