Dealing With Bullies
If you've ever watched a TV sitcom, this should be a familiar scene.
A new kid moves to town and attends the neighborhood school. He's bigger than Johnny and the other boys and scares them into giving up their lunch money or answers to tests. Soon Johnny's dad finds out what is going on, and he sits his son down for a "man-to-man" talk.
He convinces Johnny to stand up for himself, and when he does, the bully never bothers Johnny again. The conflict is solved and life goes back to normal, all within 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, conflicts and power struggles among children are not this easy to solve. Today's bullies victimize children through physical, emotional and verbal abuse and leave scars that may never go away. Bullies are in every school in every city -- there may even be one living in your home.
Getting to the Bottom of Bullying
Who are the bullies? Who are the victims?
As cruel and insensitive as some of their antics may seem, bullies are still just children. Often bullies come from homes where they are bullied or abused by their own parents or an older sibling. Bullying other children is a way for them to regain some of the control they've lost.
Other times, teasing and intimidating other kids serves as a cover-up for the bully's insecurity. She may be sensitive about her weight or height or the clothes she wears and bullying other kids allows her to attack them before they attack her.
Likewise, most victims of bullies share some common traits. Many have low self-esteem or are insecure about their appearance. They lack social skills and the ability to communicate well with other children or adults. Many victims of bullying are also emotionally sensitive or cry easily.
Both bullies and victims come from all types of homes and from all sorts of economic and ethnic backgrounds. They can be boys or girls. A "successful" bully can be found wherever there is an imbalance of power.
How Can We Stop Them?
It takes more than just understanding the psychology of bullying to stop the cycle. Someone -- the victim, a school official or a parent -- must take action to put an end to what can be a terrifying and scarring event for a child.
The U.S. Department of Education offers a free booklet called "Preventing Bullying: A Manual for Schools and Communities," to help parents and teachers become more aware of bullies in our midst. The 18-page guide suggests things teachers and other adults can do to curb the problem at school.
If Your Child Is Being Bullied
The booklet points out the best way to avoid a problem with bullying is to foster your child's confidence and independence. But it is also important to know when to step in and take action.
Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is being victimized:
- Never make your child feel that the abuse is his fault. Stress that the bully is the one who has a problem, not your child.
- Offer support to your child but do not encourage dependence on you. Try not to make decisions for your child that she is capable of making herself. This will teach her independence and self-respect.
- Do not encourage your child to be aggressive or to hit back. While some parents may view this as self defense, it promotes the idea that violence can solve problems.
- Teach your child to be assertive and ask the bully to leave him alone.
At some point you may want to contact the bully's parents. Be cautious in your approach. Don't accuse. Rather, ask why they think their child is behaving this way and explore positive solutions.
Reprinted with the permission of EduGuide. © 2008 EduGuide.
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