By Kathy Noll
Did you know that over 6 million boys and 4 million girls are involved in fights every year on school grounds? Many are physically threatened while a large number of students are also robbed.
Bullying has become a very serious "Hot" topic today. It's been in the news, and the theme of several talk shows in the past year. The problem has been around for as long as people have been around, but it's only been recently that we've become aware enough to do something about it.
Mental and physical signs for parents to look for to find out if their child is being bullied include: Cuts, bruises, torn clothing, headaches and/or stomach pains before it's time to go to school, or a reluctance to go to school, poor appetites, poor grades, decline/withdrawal from usual activities, anxiety, not many friends, always loses money, depression, fear, anger, nervousness, and relates better to adults and teachers than children.
It also helps to understand the different types of abuse the bully can inflict. This can vary from physical (juvenile violence) to verbal, and include mental control tactics. (Crushing your self-esteem).
The bully's pattern of physical abuse might include: pushing, tripping, slapping, hitting, wrestling, choking, kicking, biting, stealing, and breaking things. (80% of the time bullying becomes physical).
The bully's pattern of verbal abuse might include: twisting your words around, judging you unfairly, missing the point, passing blame, bossing, making you self-conscious, embarrassing you, making you cry, confusing you, and making you feel small so he/she can feel big.
Children between the ages of 5-11 begin using verbal abuse, and are capable of some physical abuse such as fist fighting, kicking, and choking. However, once a child reaches the age of 12, psychological changes take place and the bullying becomes more violent. This might include the use of weapons and sexual abuse.
Murder between children was up 35% in 1997. Today's 3, 4, and 5 year-olds could grow up to be a generation of serial killers. Some signs to watch for in younger children include setting fires, and torturing animals.
Usually bullies come from middle-income families that do not monitor their activities. The parents of bullies are either extremely tolerant and permissive, and allow them to get away with everything, or physically aggressive and abusive.
However, the parents are not always the cause. There are many very loving and caring parents who do not understand what went wrong.
Other reasons why kids slip into their "bully suits" might include violence on tv/movies, and the influence of "bully" friends.
You can't watch your child while he/she is at school, so there is the possibility of him/her hanging out with a child (or children) of negative influence. Sometimes kids admire bullies for their strength, or befriend them so as to stay on their good side!
So if you're a wonderful parent knocking yourself for what you did wrong, understand what a strong influence other peers can have on your child.
Bullies need to be in control of situations, and enjoy (gain power from) inflicting injury on others. They are not committed to their school work or teachers and may also show a lack of respect towards their families. Usually bigger and stronger than other children their own age, bullies believe that their anger and violent behavior is justified. They see threats where none exist out of paranoia, or fear of facing reality.
The bully might lash out at people because he's (or she's) angry about something. Maybe someone in his life is bullying him. He could be hurting from abuse he received in the past, or maybe he grew up observing those around him using violence as a means of settling differences.
Sometimes jealousy is the culprit. He needs to feel better about himself in order to change, and to stop bullying.
Or, in a worse case scenario, he might actually be a sociopath, in which case he/she would need to get professional help.
What can parents do to prevent their children from getting bullied? Tell your children to walk or play with friends, not alone, and to avoid alleys and empty buildings, especially after dark. Make a list with the child as to where they are allowed to go, and places/phone numbers where they can get help.
Know your child's friends and make sure that everyone understands your view of teasing and violence. Maintain a trusting, open communication with your child while teaching him/her to be both strong and kind.
If your child is a victim, he needs to know that he's ok, and not the one with the problem. Have him tell his school guidance counselor the name of the bully who is victimizing him. Or you might try talking to the principal or his teachers directly. And if you know the parents of the bully, you might try confronting them as well. However, there's a good chance they'll either be in denial, or be as unconcerned as their child.
If physical abuse is the problem, and you're afraid of angering the bully (revenge), tell the teacher, or whomever, not to pass on your or your child's name while settling the situation unless it's absolutely necessary. There's a good chance he's victimizing other children as well, and won't need to know exactly who busted him.
Children who use violence to resolve conflicts, grow up to be adults who use violence to resolve conflicts. However, if a child is backed up against a wall, or into a corner, then he obviously needs to defend himself and should not stand there while getting pounded. He could walk (or run) away. But in order to escape conflict in the first place, the child should ignore, or avoid the bully. Don't play with (or for older kids "hang out" with) the bullies, and don't play or hang out "near" them. Teach your child to only fight back if he/she *needs* to defend himself - - as a last resort.
Young people need to believe in themselves in order to feel better. (self-esteem) Not by winning a fight, or even being part of a fight that he/she didn't initiate. In order to be a strong person, you have to learn what to say at the right time, and believe in what you are saying. ("I won't fight you because it is wrong" or "This isn't what friendship is about") Walking away from the fight, knowing you are the *better* person, is a lot healthier for the body and mind.
If verbal abuse is the problem, your child could try confronting the bully himself. Get him alone. Bullies like to show off by embarrassing you in front of a group of people. They might not be so tough without a crowd. Tell your child to be firm, stick up for himself, and tell the bully, "I don't like what you're doing to me, and I want you to stop."
If the child is old enough to reason, have him tell the bully how it feels to be bullied. Don't stress what the bully did, or the accusations might make him defensive. Then he'd be less likely to listen. If he's willing to listen at all, he might be willing to change. However, if he's unwilling to listen and starts getting nasty, your child is better off staying away from him, or ignoring him. But if his verbal abuse turns into threats, notify someone in authority.
Sometimes having things/property stolen victimizes a child. Putting your child's name on everything is an important thing to do. This means each and every crayon! It also helps to not allow him/her to take things of any major importance or value to school. Again, if nothing else works, have the bully reported.
For the past 10 years child on child violence has been increasing. Physical abuse, sexual harassment and robbery have driven many victims to substance abuse or suicide.