There’s trouble brewing in the locker area. Joey is putting gum in Megan’s hair; Suzie is threatening Laura to stay away from her boyfriend, and Butch just gave Kyle an obscene gesture.
This is what parents want to shield their children from–the sport of cruelty that some kids play. We want to protect our youngsters from the sadistic side of kids who inflict those emotional wounds that never completely
There will always be bullies, meanies, and little nasties who start fights, tie a classmate’s shoelaces to a desk leg, or spread malicious rumors. Some kids will be luckier than others and won’t have to endure anything more than a passing smirk or a crude remark. But for other kids, they will suffer throughout their school years under a young tyrant’s reign of terror.
Why don’t bullies pick on someone their own size? The answer is simple: Essential ingredients for a bully are size and power. They tend to be larger, stronger, or louder than their peers, while potential victims are often the exact physical and emotional opposites. They may be small, weak, shy, or fearful. Also, victims may have trouble relating to their classmates and have few close friends who can rally around for support.
Girls can also be bullies, but they show their aggression in different ways. They may exclude someone from their clique, belittle them in front of others, or spread vicious rumors to ruin reputations.
Bullies and victims seem to be attracted to each other. The bully is drawn to the victim like a snake slithering toward a baby bird, paralyzing it with fear.
Getting a bully to change isn’t easy because they usually come from families where physical force or emotional abuse is used to settle disagreements. A bully is just a small piece of a bigger problem–his/her family.
It’s much easier for victims to stop bullies from pushing them around, but to do this they have to change their “victim mentality.”
Here are ways parents can help their children avoid being victims:
1. If physically pushed, a child shouldn’t push back. Pushing turns to shoving which becomes slamming, resulting in a fight–a fight your child will probably lose. Bullies may not be intellectually blessed, but they know how to fight. Also, when kids are caught fighting in school, both will get into trouble; it doesn’t matter who started it.
2. When confronted, a child shouldn’t look away or down; it’s a sign of weakness. Always look the bully in the eyes without staring too long.
3. A child needs to make it clear to the bully that he/she has no plans to fight. Make a definite stand and leave with dignity.
4. When dealing with verbal bullies–those gossips and name-callers who delight in spewing out rumors–remind your child of this old saying: Intelligent people talk about ideas; average people talk about things; and the not-so-smart people talk about other people. It will help to put the situation in perspective, especially when a child feels as if he/she is being ground up in the rumor mill.
5. Alert the teacher and the principal that the two kids are having trouble getting along, and ask them to intervene.
If in spite of your best attempts, the harassment continues, then it’s time for a parent to step in. Let’s face it, there are some little nasties who don’t respond to reason and common sense. Young children can’t always resolve their own conflicts when they’re being exposed to repeated insults, humiliations, and abuse. Failure to take any action may escalate the victimization. If the problems occur on school property, insist the administration get involved by notifying the bully’s parents. In many schools, a bully alert form can be filled out and placed in the culprit’s cumulative school records, which will transfer with him/her to other schools.
It’s too bad bullies can’t be tattooed with a simple logo: Joey’s My Name, Being a Bully is My Game. Identifying them early would make life easier for lots of stressed out kids.
With help from involved, caring adults, children can learn how to deal effectively with bullies, meanies, and those little nasties who excel at nothing, except intimidating and harassing others.