Bullying involves physical and emotional behaviours that are intentional, controlling and hurtful. Bullying is a serious problem that creates a climate of harassment and fear. Victims experience a sense of isolation and loss of self-confidence. Those who bully face rejection, school failure and antisocial behaviour patterns that can continue well into adulthood.
Physical bullying: hitting, poking, shoving, jabbing, fighting, unwanted touching, blocking, stealing, writing graffiti about others, pinching, chasing and cornering, tripping and vandalizing.
Emotional bullying: making fun of others, incessant teasing, name-calling, threatening, mocking, putting down, punching, making offensive racial or sexual comments, ganging up on others, belittling, excluding others from a group or activity, shunning, ignoring and lying.
General Information on Bullying
Bullying is a society problem, not just a school problem.
The strongest influence on children’s behaviour is not the school or what they watch on television, it is the behaviour they observe within their home and their relationship with their parents.
Bullying occurs most frequently from sixth to eighth grade, with little variation between urban, suburban, town and rural areas.
Males are more likely to be physically bullied, while females are more likely to be verbally or psychologically bullied.
Bullies and victims of bullying have difficulty adjusting to their environments, both socially and psychologically. Victims of bullying have greater difficulty making friends and are lonelier.
Bullies are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, and to be poorer students.
Bully-victims–students who are both bullies and recipients of bullying–tend to experience social isolation, to do poorly in school and to engage in problem behaviours such as smoking and drinking.
Who Are Bullies?
Children who regularly bully their peers tend to be impulsive, easily frustrated, dominant in personality, have difficulty conforming to rules, view violence positively and are more likely to have friends who are also bullies. Boys who bully are usually physically stronger than their peers.
Moreover, several risk factors have been associated with bullying, including individual, family, peer, school, and community factors. With respect to family factors, children are more likely to bully if there is a lack of warmth and parent involvement, lack of parental supervision, and harsh corporal discipline. Some research suggests a link between bullying behavior and child maltreatment. Also, schools that lack adequate adult supervision tend to have more instances of bullying.
Who Is Being Bullied?
Children who are bullied are often cautious, sensitive, insecure, socially isolated, and have difficulty asserting themselves among their peers. Boys who are bullied tend to be physically weaker than their peers. Children who have been victims of child abuse (neglect, physical, or sexual abuse) or who have disabilities are also more likely to be bullied by their peers.
My child is being bullied. What do I do?
Tell your child that being bullied is not his or her fault. Help your child find a safe route to and from school. Point out places where your child can go for help. Encourage your child to travel with friends.
Tell your child that using fists as protection against bullying is not effective because someone may get hurt and/or the situation may get worse. Encourage your child to “use his or her head.” Explain to your child that this means thinking about different responses and selecting one that will improve the situation.
Encourage your child to stand up to bullies-be confident and look bullies in the eye. If the bully is a classmate, suggest talking about the problem; encourage your child to speak in a calm and clear voice to name the behavior he or she doesn’t like and state what is expected instead.
Suggest to your child that walking away from a bully, and in the direction of friends or an adult who can help, can defuse the situation. (Bullies want a reaction; it makes them feel in control. Retaliation is not always the best solution. Ignoring a bully is the best strategy when the bully is unknown or is someone capable of hurting the child or when the bullying occurs for the first time.)
Tell your child that sometimes it’s possible to make things better with a joke or a question such as, “Tell me what I did wrong and I’ll apologize.” Most bullies back down when they don’t get the response they expect.
Talk to your child about ways to handle the situation. Ask if help is needed. If not, wait a few days then ask again.
Step in if the situation appears dangerous.
Follow up by quizzing your child on the three different ways to deal with a bully without fighting.
Inform school staff if there is a problem. If possible, keep records of dates, times and names of those involved.
My child is a bully. What do I do?
Reinforce with your child the need to resolve conflict in a non-aggressive way. Ask the school principal or counselor for information on conflict management.
Spend positive time with your child every day doing something your child enjoys.
Monitor your child’s television watching. Limit the amount of TV and monitor the kind of programs your child watches.
Make a point of knowing where your child is and who he or she is with.
Encourage your child to resolve conflict in a positive manner in your home.
Talk to your child’s teacher and school principal about the problem. Work together on a course of action.
Information taken from:
Safe and Caring Schools and Communities (a project linking the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Universities, School Boards and the Provincial Government) (www.sacsc.ca)
American Psychological Association (www.apa.org)
Stephen Carter, Ph.D., Registered Psychologist