Bully - is someone who takes advantage of another individual that he or she perceives as more vulnerable. The goal is to gain control over the victim or over the bully’s social group. This type of behavior occurs in all ages and in all social groups.
Bullying behavior harms both the victim and the perpetrator. If a child experiences chronic intimidation, he or she may learn to expect this from others. He may develop a pattern of compliance with the unfair demands of those he perceives as stronger. He may become anxious or depressed. Finally, he may identify with the bully and become a bully himself.
The bully is also harmed. If he or she is allowed to continue the behavior, it becomes habitual. He becomes more likely to surround himself with friends who condone and promote aggressive behavior. He may not develop a mature sense of justice. If he intimidates others to cover up his own insecurities, his own anxiety may increase.
A bully consciously picks weaker, more vulnerable victims, and repeatedly bothers the same people. He tends to do his bullying when authorities are not around. He may enjoy watching the victim’s reaction. There are a number of reasons that a child or adolescent becomes a bully.
- He or she may need to cover his own feelings of inadequacy.
- He may lack good adult role models. If he sees parents bullying him or each other, he may regard this type of behavior as simply the way one should act.
- Other children fall in with a peer group that uses bullying. They may learn it from these friends.
Which children are most likely to be the victims of a bully? Children who are isolated, physically or socially; children who are perceived as different; sensitive children; those with poor social skills; and sometimes children who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sometimes parents may not know if their child is being bullied. Some children are intimidated into secrecy. They may also keep quiet because they feel shameful that they have allowed this to happen. They may fear that the parents will either criticize them or that the parents will intervene in a way that will make everything worse.
You need to know how to get your child talking about his concerns. It is best to broach the subject at a calm neutral time. Ask general questions about whether something is bothering your child. Avoid interrupting or judging. Try to stay calm and do not make outraged statements while your child is telling his tale. Avoid offering premature solutions. You may not get the entire story on the first telling. Be patient and bring up the topic again later. Finally, if you feel that something is going on and suspect that your child is withholding information, call his or her teacher.
How can you help your child deal with the bullying?
- First, help teach him to avoid being an easy target. Start with posture, voice and eye contact. These can communicate a lot about whether you are vulnerable.
- Tell your child to avoid isolated places where no one can see or hear him. He should learn to be vigilant for suspicious individuals or for trouble brewing.
- If bullying starts, he might be able to deflect it with humor or by changing the subject. He should run over a list of positive attributes in his mind. This reminds him that he is worthy of something better than bullying behavior.
- Teach your child not to obey the commands of the bully. Often it is better to run away than to comply.
- The parent may help the child make more positive friends. If he or she sticks around with a group, he is less likely to be a target.
- Finally, if the child sticks up for other children he sees being bullied, people may get the idea that he is not someone who tolerates bullies.
Some children benefit from a good martial arts class. It is important to select an instructor who talks about alternatives to physical violence and who teaches children how to get out of dangerous situations with the least amount of physical contact. Children who stick with these lessons rarely use their skills in aggressive ways. The discipline often raises their self esteem which makes them less likely to become a target.
These guidelines may need to be modified according to the child’s age or the intensity of the bullying. In general the older the child, the more the parent acts as a coach and the less the parent or teacher intervene directly.