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School Bullying

It happens in every school:  one child bullies another. 

According to Dictionary.com, a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.”

What causes bullying behavior in children?  According to Byparents-forparents.com, “Psychologists used to believe that bullies (had) low self-esteem, and put down other people to feel better about themselves.  While many bullies are themselves bullied at home or at school, new research shows that most bullies actually have excellent self-esteem.  Bullies usually have a sense of entitlement and superiority over others, and lack compassion, impulse control, and social skills.  They enjoy being cruel to others. … Bullies dominate, blame, and use others.  They have contempt for the weak and view them as their prey.  They lack empathy and foresight, and do not accept responsibility for their actions.  They are concerned only about themselves and crave attention. … Some children’s personalities are naturally more aggressive, dominating and/or impulsive. … However, having such inborn traits does not mean that a child will automatically become a bully.  Bullying is a learned behavior, not a character trait. … Author Susan Coloraso identifies seven kinds of bullies. … (T)he hyperactive bully … does not understand social cues and therefore reacts inappropriately and often physically.  The detached bully plans his attacks and is charming to everyone but his victims.  The social bully has a poor sense of self and manipulates others through gossip and meanness.  The bullied bully gets relief from his own sense of helplessness by overpowering others. … According to Dr. Peter Sheras, 40% of bullies are themselves bullied at home or at school. … Drs. Kenneth Dodge and John Coie’s research indicates that bullies see threats where there are none, and view other children as more hostile than they are.  The hyperactive bully will explode over little things because he lacks social skills and the ability to think in depth about a conflict.  A bully’s parents may be permissive and unable to set limits of their child’s behavior. … While their lax style may have been fine for an easy-going, older sibling, it will not work on this more aggressive child. … A bully’s parents often discipline inconsistently. … This child never internalizes rules of conduct or respect for authority.”

What is the best way for a bullied child to respond to a bully?  The bullied child will ideally be able to identify the bullying behaviors, know that they stem from personal dysfunction of the bully, and thus not personalize the attack.  A bullied child should report the bullying behavior to his/her parents and school officials.  Greater supervision of the bully and the bullied child will be warranted for purposes of protection.  Depending on the nature of the bullying behavior, perhaps the bullied child can desensitize or ignore the bullying behavior.  The bullied child should practice assertive behavior.  The bullied child should look his/her bully in his/her eyes and calmly say, “That’s not ok.  You should treat people with respect.”  Some bullies respond well to humor used by their victims.  Often, trying new responses that catch bullies off guard can be successful in averting bullying behaviors.  A bullied child should discuss his/her response strategies with parents and school officials prior to engaging in those strategies.  As the strategy is employed, school officials, parents, and the bullied child may want to visit periodically to ensure that the bullying behaviors have been resolved.  If there has been no resolution, new strategies should be planned.  In rare cases, either the bully or the bullied child may need to be transferred to a different classroom.  However, in most cases, with proper classroom supervision and redirection (from school staff as well as the bullied child), bullying behaviors can be remediated. 

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1 comment to School Bullying

  • When I was doing the research for my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs, I was surprised to find out that bullies in general have higher than average self esteem. School bullying is nothing new and was once considered a character-building rite of passage for our children, but now it is seen for what it is–a form of victimization and abuse. As a children’s author, I do a lot of school visits and invariably the students and I end up talking about their bullying experiences. Bullying is by no means harmless and it can leave lasting psychological scars.

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