October is Anti Bullying Month and it also coincides with Suicide Prevention month (September , I believe), no coincidence that they are connected. We must continue the discussion about both issues all year long.
- Recent studies indicate there is an incidence of bullying every seven minutes.
- 77 percent of our nation’s school children report they have been the victims of bullying.
- Estimates indicate 160,000 kids are absent from school daily because they are either intimidated or physically fear other students.
- Approximately 42 percent of school-aged kids report they have been bullied on-line.
- 35 percent of these children have been subjected to online threats.
- Approximately 58 percent report being harassed by mean and/or hurtful language online.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students are frequent targets and the number of “bullicides,” or bully-induced suicides by LGBTQ youth is spiking.
What is Bullying:
Bullying among children is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength. Typically, it is repeated over time. Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting and/or punching (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying); intimidation using gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages by phone or computer e-mail (cyberbullying). Many children, particularly boys and older children, do not tell their parents or adults at school about being bullied, so it's important that adults are vigilant to possible signs of bullying. Here's a guide to recognizing the signs of bullying, and getting it to stop.
Warning signs: Possible warning signs that a child is being bullied include:
- Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings
- Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
- Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she spends time
- Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs)
- Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
- Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
- Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments
- Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
- Experiences a loss of appetite
- Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
Why do kids bully?
There are many viewpoints on this but I think we all would agree that children who say mean things and bully others did not come out of the womb that way. Children are great mimics and they are picking up some terrible cues as to how to treat one another. We can talk about the Internet, television shows, the music industry, the impersonal and anonymous social network and texting, and so forth... But no one has greater influence than our families, community,places of religious worship, schools, generally all the adults around our children.
Children also say mean things because they think it might be funny and get them recognized in "the group". Bullying others is an easy path to social status. They also hear it at home or on television and they are trying it out for size. They do not realize how much they are hurting the targeted person OR they might be hurting themselves and want to push that hurt outward. There are many reasons and they all can be addressed.
“It's all about power,” says Bridgid Normand, senior program developer for the Committee for Children, an international program that develops curricula for violence prevention. “Kids who bully others are after dominance. They are often the popular ones, the kids who are throwing their weight around in the schools.”
What can we do?
Begin discussions with your child, ask them to tell you about situations that they see happening at school, on the Internet, on television etc... get the whole family to discuss it at dinner. Enlist your child to be part of the solution, discuss ways they can make a difference. For instance, sitting with someone they notice is targeted by the bullies, speak up or at the very least talk to the school counselors about what they see.
Listen very carefully to clues about how they are feeling and if they are very intimidated by a group of boys or girls. Ask them what they think about the "popular" kids and if that is a desire for them? What makes children popular? Why do they think kids want to be popular? Remember you need to listen to their response and instead of "lecturing them" right then and there. Take some space from the conversation, think about it a little and then come back the next day with your feedback. The more they know we are listening and not judging, the more likely they will share.
Share your own personal stories about popularity and bullying. Share what it felt like to you and if you did bully someone, be honest about that too.
How families can help prevent bullying
- Create a home environment of tolerance, where differences are celebrated and everyone feels valued.
- Encourage your school to develop policies and procedures regarding bullying.
- Ask for a bullying prevention program to be implemented in your school.
- Intervene every time you witness bullying behavior.
- If your child bullies others, provide predictable, consistent, matter-of-fact consequences.
- Support the child who is bullied. Work with the school to provide your child with effective protection against retaliation.
- Encourage bystanders to speak out against bullying behavior and to report it to adults.
- Spend time with your child. All children need a daily, personal connection with parents, teachers and other caring adults.
This is all of our responsiblitity to make sure no child is treated unfairly and no child is not taught the loving way to treat one another. We as a community have to be part of the solution to end bullying!
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. NY: Blackwell.
Olweus, D., Limber, S., & Mihalic, S. (1999). The Bullying Prevention Program: Blueprints for violence prevention. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Your Child: Bully or Victim? Understanding and Ending Schoolyard Tyranny by Peter Sheras