National Bullying Prevention Month is a campaign in the United States founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is the use of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power. This imbalance distinguishes bullying from conflict. Bullies do not need to be stronger or bigger than their victims. Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behavior characterized by the following three minimum criteria:
- hostile intent
- imbalance of power
- repetition over a period of time
In the bully experience, there is:
- The bully
- The victim
- The bystander
- The assistant
- The upstander
Types of Bullying
Verbal: name calling, insults, teasing, verbal abuse, racist or homophobic remarks which detrimentally affect’s the victim’s confidence, sense of self-worth, way he/she defines self, activities he/she participates in
- Cyberbullying: using digital technology e.g. computers, phones, social media sites, chatrooms to intentionally bully, harass, threaten, intimidate (will be discussed in Blog #17)
- Sexual: verbal, emotional and/or physical harassment, threats and intimidation of the victim’s appearance (body), sexual orientation, gender type, sexual activity
- Physical: actions such as hitting, tripping, punching, pushing, kicking and/or damaging personal property of victim
- Emotional: humiliation, taunting, threats, exposure, ‘outing’
- Relational (Social/Covert): spreads rumors/lies/gossip; playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate; mimicking unkindly, negative facial/physical gestures, contemptuous looks, deliberately isolates/ignores/excludes from an activity/group aimed at destroying the victim’s friendships, peer acceptance
Dangerous misconceptions about bullying
- Kids need to toughen up
- Adults can’t do anything
- Bystanders don’t have a role in bullying
- Popular kids are bullies
- It’s obvious when a child/teenager is being bullied
Risk factors leading to bullying
- Less parental involvement and/or parental rejection
- Have friends who bully
- Dislikes following rules (see Blog #5: CD/ODD)
- Views violence in a positive/acceptable way
- Aggressive and/or easily frustrated
- Violence issues at home: physical abuse/discipline, spousal abuse
Who is a Bully?
Research indicates that “those who bully everyday are more likely to have experienced something stressful or traumatic.”
Other Indicators of becoming a bully:
- Death of a beloved pet
- Experienced an accident, illness, serious attack
- Parental separation/divorce
- Significant family problems: mental illness, substance abuse, criminal activity, parental abuse
- Abuse or neglect – sexual, emotional, physical
- Type A bully is the cool kid who gains strength by harassing vulnerable kids. These bullies reassure themselves that ‘no harm’ is being done as it is all ‘in fun’ or get others to bully the victim
- Type B bully is aggressive, uncaring, may be from a dysfunctional family, have a conduct disorder OR may be depressed, anxious, easily pressured and isolated
- Twice as many boys as girls are bullies but the victims are more girls than boys.
- Boy bullies can be more physical, violent and destructive, ‘in the moment’, face to face encounters plus cyberbully
- Girl bullies are more covert and subtle, emotional, planned, use alienation and rumours and cyber bully. The latest trend is the pack mentality where a group of girls will bully another at the behest of the main bully
- High status kids bully to main their dominance
- Low status kids bully as they jockey for position on the social ladder
- Socially marginalized kids bully as a result of poor social, coping and problem-solving skills
- There is a strong correlation between boys who exhibit bullying behaviours and dating violence
- Young bullies carry a 1 in 4 chance of having a criminal record by age 30 years
- 57 percent of bullying stops when a peer intervenes
- 1 in 5 boys who are bullies at age 14 yrs. Will still be a bully at age 32 years
- Bullying can occur anywhere, but the most common sites are the classroom, on-line, school bus, hallways, playground, washroom and lunchroom
If you are a bully, there is an increased likelihood of:
- Substance abuse
- Criminal convictions
- Worsening of pre-existing mental disorder(s) is left untreated
- Developing anti-social personality disorder
- Struggling to maintain personal, romantic, family relationships
- Engaging in early sexual activity, risky behaviors
- Growing up to be an unhappy adult with difficulty maintaining a job and/or becoming a workplace bully
What to do if your child/teenager is a bully?
Firstly, if your child/teenager is bulling, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent, nor does it mean that he/she is a bad kid. It is important to remember that there is always a reason for behavior, whether good or bad. Your child/teenager is relying on bullying behavior to exert control, show power and get immediate satisfaction at the expense of another child/teenager. The question you must ask is why? Is he/she also being bullied or trying to respond to conflict? Is your child/teenager experiencing emotional problems, or unable to deal with a problem appropriately? Is he/she being threatened or intimidated? Is the behavior a reaction to a serious problem he/she may be too embarrassed or scared to talk about e.g. sexual abuse.
If you know or suspect your child/teenager is bullying, it is serious and must be dealt with promptly and appropriately.
The key is to be responsive and not reactive, remain calm and objective, listen to the facts, who was involved, what happened, what are the consequences. Talk with your child/teenager privately, do not accuse, threaten, shame, blame others, dismiss; keep tone neutral, observe eye contact, body language and listen to the responses.
If your child/teenager becomes angry/argumentative, do not shout or argue, do not negotiate, you are the parent and role model, maintain your authority and clearly explain bullying is unacceptable and there are consequences. Review strategies to help child deal with conflict, anger, anxiety, etc. If necessary, follow up with physician, counsellor. Speak with school, work together to develop plan of care if bullying is related to mental disorder, stress, being bullied, etc. Be there to support and guide your child/teenager, show love whilst also firmly explaining the ‘rules’ and what is appropriate versus inappropriate behavior.
NB In some states, if your child/teenager is accused of assault, personal injury, malicious acts against another person, you may be found guilty of negligence.
In my next Blog #17 I will Discuss Cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying? And How to Help Children and Teenagers Who are Cyberbullied