Childhood should be a time filled with wonder and joy, but the reality for many kids and teens is often much different. They’re the victims of bullying at school or on neighborhood playgrounds.
Kids who are intimidated, threatened, or harmed by bullies often experience low self-esteem and depression, whereas those doing the bullying may go on to engage in more serious antisocial behaviors. Some kids are so traumatized by being bullied, that they contemplate suicide. Bullies often have been the victims of bullying or other mistreatment themselves.
Despite installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras in schools, many students are still fearful of violence because schools are not addressing bullying as a serious issue.
Bullying has become more prevalent than ever and students are scared!
Security measures to combat gun violence have done little to stop the school bully. The reports found that 9 percent of students said they were threatened or injured with a weapon in 2001, a slight increase from two years ago. The report further showed a 3 percent increase in the number of students who reported being bullied.
Bullying is commonly accepted as part of the school tradition. Schools and parents must work together to end this painful and
at times fatal tradition.
Recent Statistics Show:
• 1 out of 4 kids is Bullied.
• 1 out of 5 kids admits to being a bully, or doing some “Bullying.”
• 8% of students miss 1 day of class per month for fear of Bullies.
• 43% fear harassment in the bathroom at school.
• 100,000 students carry a gun to school.
• 28% of youths who carry weapons have witnessed violence at home.
• A poll of teens ages 12-17 proved that they think violence increased at their schools.
• 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
• More youth violence occurs on school grounds as opposed to on the way to school.
• 80% of the time, an argument with a bully will end up in a physical fight.
• 1/3 of students surveyed said they heard another student threaten to kill someone.
• 1 out of 5 teens knows someone who brings a gun to school.
• 2 out of 3 say they know how to make a bomb, or know where to get the information to do it.
• Almost half of all students say they know another student who’s capable of murder.
• Playground statistics – Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. Adult intervention -4% Peer intervention – 11%. No intervention – 85%.
Most Recent Bureau of Justice Statistics – School Crime & Safety
• 1/3 of students in grades 9-12 reported that someone sold or offered them an illegal drug on property.
• 46% of males, and 26% of females reported they had been in physical fights.
• Those in the lower grades reported being in twice as many fights as those in the higher grades.
Bullying And What You Can Do About It
Bullying behavior is not always easy to define. Where do you draw the line between good-natured ribbing and bullying? Hostility and aggression directed toward a victim who is physically or emotionally weaker than the bully are more obvious signs of bullying. The result of this behavior is pain and distress for the victim.
Bullying is a form of child abuse and the bully is very likely to grow up as an adult who abuses children.
Types of Bullying
Bullying behavior comes in various forms:
• Physical bullying is perhaps the most obvious form of intimidation and can consist of kicking, hitting, biting, pinching, hair pulling, and making threats. A bully may threaten to punch a child if he doesn’t give up his lunch money, for example.
• Verbal bullying often accompanies the physical behavior. This can include name calling, spreading rumors, and persistent teasing.
• Emotional intimidation is closely connected to these two types of bullying. A bully may deliberately exclude a child from a group activity such as a class party.
• Racist bullying can take many forms: making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural traditions, and making offensive gestures.
• Sexual bullying is characterized by unwanted physical contact or abusive comments. For example, many girls experience the embarrassment of having their bra strap snapped by a bully.
Why Some Kids Bully
There are many reasons why a child may become a bully. They may turn to this abusive behavior as a way of dealing with being bullied and abused or living in a home where there is domestic violence. And just like their victims, bullies often have low self-esteem. Whatever the cause, bullies usually pick on others as a way of dealing with their own problems. Sometimes they pick on kids because they need a victim, someone who is weaker, to feel more important, powerful, or in control. They’re often bigger or stronger than their victims and may use bullying as an attempt to achieve popularity and friends.
Bullies will often target someone who is different than others and focus on that attribute. Wearing glasses, being overweight, or being in a wheelchair are all differences that can be game for a bully’s ridicule. A child doesn’t have to be physically different from other children to be bullied. Being insecure, or smarter, or slower than their peers can also make some kids the target of bullying. The bully realizes that these children are unlikely to retaliate.
If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Do you suspect that your child is being bullied? Sometimes the effects of bullying aren’t as obvious as a black eye. Other signs to look for include the sudden appearance of bruises, missing belongings, or the invention of mysterious illnesses or stomachaches to avoid going to school. Your child may be embarrassed or feel weak by admitting he’s the victim of a bully.
To make it easier for your child to talk about it, consider asking some thoughtful questions. For example, you could ask what it’s like walking to the bus stop or home from school. Often a child will unexpectedly change routines to avoid a bully. Or you could ask about what happens before or after school or during recess. You might also try asking if there are any bullies in the neighborhood who have threatened to hurt any kids your child knows. This might make it easier for your child to talk about bullies because he won’t necessarily have to talk about his own experiences. It might also help your child realize that he’s not alone.
If you learn that your child is the victim of a bully, do not overreact. Remember that your child is the victim; you do not want to add to your child’s burden with an angry or blaming response. Although it’s understandable that hearing your child is being bullied would make you sad or upset, try not to let your child see that – he might interpret your sadness as disappointment in him.
Helping Your Child Stand Up To A Bully
First, listen to your child. Just talking about the problem and knowing that you care can be helpful and comforting. Your child is likely to feel vulnerable, so it’s important that you let him know you’re on his side and that you love him.
Talk to your child about why some people act like bullies. Remember that your child may feel guilty, that he is somehow to blame. Reassure your child that he did not cause the bullying. Explain that kids who bully are usually confused or unhappy.
How can your child handle a hostile confrontation with a bully? Getting angry or violent won’t solve the problem; in fact, it’s giving the bully exactly what he wants. And responding with physical aggression can put your child at risk. On the other hand, going along with everything the bully says is not a good way to handle the situation. Your child must regain his sense of dignity and recover his damaged self-esteem – agreeing to be a victim won’t accomplish this.
Empower your child to act first. For example, suggest that your child look the bully in the eye and firmly say, “I don’t like your teasing and I want you to stop right now.” Your child should then walk away and ignore any further taunts from the bully. If your child fears physical harm, he should try to find a teacher or move toward friends who can provide comfort and support.
Because bullies often target socially awkward children, you should encourage your child to develop more friendships. Suggest your child join social organizations, clubs, or teams. Encourage him to invite other kids over after school on a regular basis. Sometimes just being in a group with other kids can keep a child from being victimized.
In most cases, bullying won’t require your direct intervention, but if you fear that your child may be seriously harmed, it’s important that you step in. That may mean walking to school.
Tell Your Child:
• Coping with bullying can be difficult, but remember, they are not the problem, the bully is! They have a right to feel safe and secure.
• If they are different in some way, be proud of it!
• Stand strong!
• Spend time with your friends – bullies hardly ever pick on people if they’re with others in a group.
• They’ve probably already tried ignoring the bully, telling them to stop and walking away whenever the bullying starts. If someone is bullying them, they should always tell an adult you can trust.
This isn’t telling tales.
They have a right to be safe and adults can do things to get the bullying stopped. Even if they think they’ve solved the problem on their own, tell an adult anyway, in case it happens again. An adult they can trust might be you, a teacher, school principal, someone else from your family, or a friend’s parent.
• If they find it difficult to talk about being bullied, they might find it easier to write down what’s been happening to them and give it to you or an adult they trust.
What Can Your Child Do If They See Someone Else Being Bullied?
• If they see someone else being bullied they should always try to stop it. If they do nothing, they’re saying that bullying is okay with them.
The best way to help is probably to tell an adult. It’s always best to treat others the way they would like to be treated.
• Show the bully that they think what they’re doing is stupid and mean. Help the person being bullied to tell an adult they can trust.
If Your Child Is A Bully
• Watch for signs of bullying.
• Don’t allow your child to control others through verbal threats and physical actions.
• Help your child develop empathy for the problems of the victim (target).
• Apply clear, consistent, escalating consequences for repetitive aggressive behaviors.
• Provide anger management counseling for your child if needed.
• Don’t tolerate revengeful attitudes.
• Don’t allow your child to have contact with aggressive groups.
• Limit your child’s exposure to models of aggressive behavior such as violent television, movies and video games.
• As a parent, be a good role model for constructively solving problems.
• As a parent, be a good role model for getting along with others.
• As a parent, help your child develop a healthy physical image.
• Watch for the emergence of feelings of power and control.
• As a parent, know the whereabouts of your child.
• As a parent, protect your child from physical and emotional abuse at home.
You can help modify a bullying child’s behavior by controlling your own aggression, along with the behavior of your children. If an older brother or sister frequently taunts, teases, or bullies your child, it’s likely to damage that child’s self-esteem and make him more likely to model that aggressive behavior outside the home by attacking other kids.
Parents really need to get more involved in their children’s lives. That way they will be more sensitive to problems occurring. Promote honesty. Ask questions. Listen with an open mind and focus on understanding. Allow children to express how they feel, and treat a child’s feelings with respect. Set a good example by showing them a healthy temperament. Settle conflicts by talking things out peacefully. Congratulate or reward them when you see them using these positive skills to settle a difference. Teach them to identify “the problem”, and focus on the problem, “not” attacking “the person.” Tell them conflicts are a way of life, but violence doesn’t have to be. And finally, teaching them to take responsibility for their own actions will make for a healthier child, a healthier self-esteem, and there will be no need for any “bullies” or “victims” in the world.
Set limits for your bullying child. Stop any show of aggression immediately and help your child find other, nonviolent ways of reacting to certain situations. Observe your child in one-on-one interactions and remember to praise your child for appropriate behaviors. Positive reinforcement can be very powerful.
Talking to your child’s school staff may also help. Tell them your child is trying to change his behavior and ask how they can help. It may be helpful for you and your child to meet with an educational psychologist or other mental health professional.
Finally, set realistic goals for your child. Don’t expect him to change immediately. As he learns to modify his behavior, it’s important to assure your child that you still love him – it’s his behavior that you don’t like.
Work With The Schools To Help Stop Bullies and Violence
Many schools already have a way of dealing with bullying. They may:
• Have anti-bullying guidelines and procedures for dealing with incidents
• Encourage anyone who is being bullied, or has witnessed bullying to tell someone about it
• Have ‘bully boxes’ where people can leave notes about what is happening
• Have student meetings or even ‘courts’ where problems like bullying are discussed and dealt with
• Have specially assigned students or teachers who are there to help
If your school has an anti-bullying system, use it to get help. If you’re not sure how it works, talk to a teacher. Some schools ignore bullying. If your school does, don’t be resigned to being a victim. You can still help yourself and ask others to help you.
It’s all about talking it out: Child to Child (Peer Mediation), Teacher to Parent (PTO’s, PTA’s), Teacher to Teacher (in service days), Parent to Child (at home). There should be town meetings involving the parents, students, and entire school faculty to discuss Conflict Resolution. The teachers should also allow the students to give “their” ideas on how they would like situations handled. For younger students, role playing of “victims” and “bullies” in the classroom will help them understand the cause and effect – how it feels. Another idea for younger kids getting picked on could be to have an older student assigned as a type of mentor that he could talk to, and who would step in to settle a conflict or dispute. Groups have also been created where victims and their parents can meet with other victims and discuss solutions. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone, and friendships can be made there. Many schools admit that the lockers are the most common place that bullying takes place. Teachers could take turns standing by these lockers during class changes.
The schools can also pass out questionnaires, and do surveys or polls to find out what students and parents think about what is happening and what they would like to see done. Some teachers have told me that their schools put up a peace flag outside on days when there is no conflict in the school. This promotes a pride in the school, and teaches them that even one person’s actions can have consequences that affect everyone. Other schools are using posters, and having the students wear certain colors on certain days.
A local school in Pennsylvania participated in “Annual Week Without Violence.” One program included, “Hands Around Violence.” Students made paper cutouts of their hand prints and wrote nonviolent messages on them, such as: “I will not use my hands or words for hurting.” The “Pledge Hands” served as a visual reminder that together they can make a difference.
Other activities included a white out, where students wore as much white as possible to symbolize peace, a unity day, where students wore their school colors, and a smile day, where each student received a smile card and handed that card over to the first person to smile at them.
Another great idea schools are using is to have teachers hold up pictures of kids faces while asking the students, “How does this person feel?” This promotes a discussion aimed at helping kids to identify and describe emotions. And for teens, pictures of conflicts or stressful situations can be used to promote discussion & ideas for resolution.
Let kids know it’s OK to talk about problems; that parents and teachers are willing to listen, and eager to help. Also, if your kids/students are “bystanders” to their friends, or other kids being bullied, tell them how important it is for them to help these kids by reporting it. If they are afraid, they can use an anonymous tip, or tell the teachers not to use their name when confronting the bully.
The anonymous tip is only suggested for those victims who fear revenge from the bully in the form of physical abuse for their “snitching.” Yes, in many cases the name of the victim will have to be given in order for the conflict to be directly approached. A bully being accused of attacking a “nameless” child might try to talk his way out of it. But if a name is used in relating to a particular incident with a specific child, and if there was proof, or witnesses, it’s harder to deny.
Telling is not tattling! When a kid or teen reports bullying they may be saving their own life or the life of a friend.
Helping your child cope with either being a bully or being a victim often requires outside assistance, such as from your child’s school or the community. School is the most likely place for bullying to occur, so discuss your concerns with your child’s teachers and counselor and ask what they can do to help. School personnel can be influential in helping a child modify his behavior. Take advantage of any psychological counseling services that may be offered at your child’s school or in your community.
Additional Help Resources
American Academy of Pediatrics
Advice on Communicating with Children about Disasters
American Psychiatric Association
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychological Association
Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS)
The ChildTrauma Academy
National Association of School Psychologists
The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology
visit www.loveourchildren.org for more information