Effecting children, teens, and even adults worldwide, bullying is now at epidemic levels.
Defined as physical or verbal aggression or any type of hurtful behavior that occurs once or repeatedly over a period of time, bullying differs from meanness in that it is a reoccurring behavior with a characteristic power imbalance, where meanness usually occurs between equals in status or some other demographic point.
Let’s look briefly at the four major types of bullying.
Usually centers around name calling, teasing, insults, or harassment and can do significant psychological damage and result in poor self-image.
Leverages one person’s size or strength against another, and involves aggressive behavior like kicking, hitting, biting, and can include damaging someone’s belongings as well. The boldest of bullying, physical bullying is not typically the first level of bullying a child may deal with.
Is defined as when the person doing the bullying provokes a response from another the portrays themselves as the victim in the situation. This may occur because the aggressor has been a victim at one point.
Occurs when a person receives insults, name calling, or is the target of slander on social media, websites, through email or private messages. This type of bullying can be quite difficult to identify and has a wider audience.
Statistically, half of all children who go through school have been bullied at some point and 10% of those experienced it on a regular basis, even up to every day. Although it looks as if the rates of bullying have escalated dramatically in these recent years, the truth is that we’re only becoming aware of the fact that the bullying is happening. Notorious for their cruelty to each other, children have always had issues with peer aggression. Observations have been made that verbal and physical bullying escalates to and peaks around 6th grade in middle school and slowly declines through high school.
What's the Cause?
Knowing the reasons a bully bullies is the best tool in the toolbox of preventing bullying. The problem with getting picked on isn’t the idea that there is something wrong or inferior with the victim. Rather a problem with the antagonist. This doesn’t however, mean that the person doing the bullying should be excused from their behavior.
Bullying is at its very core, a verb, an action being perpetrated against another. At its heart, it is perpetuated from generally four basic issues: Needing a coping mechanism for stress, insecurities, jealousy, and fear of being rejected, or not included in a group.
Feeling a deficit in their own character or situation, a bully will often engage in a power “struggle” to lift their ego and “control” the circumstances. The antagonist capitalizes on a variety of power sources, for instance leveraging their physical ability to hurt others because of an advantage in size, strength or prowess; superiority in numbers of people; social status with their power of inclusion or exclusion.
Bullying can also be a learned behavior. Witnessing prejudice to certain people can be learned from early role models. As well as a tumultuous home life where abuse is observed or experienced, a bully can learn hostile behavior from what is viewed in television or movies, mimicking these impressions in their interpersonal relationships. A child can also fail to learn adequate self-control learning manipulation tactics instead.
Confronting the Giant
As stated before understanding and having insight into the reasons for bullying can give perspective on how to de-escalate the situation. Obviously, the older the child the better their reasoning skills and understanding on how to do this will be.
For younger children who face bullying, the hardest challenge is to get a teacher or adult to acknowledge that bullying is actually taking place. Teachers report that they intervene about 71% of the time, but students say it’s more like 25%. Because the average duration of an incident lasts less than 40 seconds and often take place in hallways and between classes, teachers may see very little of what really goes on.
Sometimes engaging the person doing the bullying can be an effective method in remedying the situation. This should only be attempted if you determine the risk level to be low and feel safe doing so. If it doesn’t seem like a safe situation find a mediator – someone with authority – to facilitate the needed conflict resolution.
Talking one on one without other instigators or antagonists in a neutral place like a park, empty classroom, or safe place.
Don’t attempt to address the situation if you can’t control yourself. Don’t allow yourself to get angered to the point of shouting. At the risk of sounding trite, stepping back and counting to ten and giving yourself time to calm down really does work.
If the offender begins to shout, let them finish while you stay calm and in control of the situation. Remaining cool in the face of potential conflict puts you in the driver’s seat.
Understand that sharing the conversation and making it a dialog allows the power struggle to diffuse and both parties to feel like they’re being heard. Not everything will be agreed upon, and that’s okay. Agree to disagree! Rather than labeling the bully as such to their face speak from your own perspective and feelings, how the actions affect you. “This is how I feel when you do ___________.”
Knowing your own self-worth and having self-confidence can be the biggest benefit to the person under “attack”. No one can make you a victim without your permission, how you respond to them is up to you.
Many famous personalities have been at the bad end of bullying, and have taken the experience and used it to propel themselves forward in life:
Comedian Chris Rock endured physical and verbal abuse nearly every day being the only black child in his school. Actress Winona rider dealt with physical aggression, being beat up and locked in her schools’ bathroom. Olympian Michael Phelps took the name calling and used it as fuel to meet his full potential and is today known as the greatest Olympian ever. Musician Christina Aguilera was bullied in the form of isolation. Bullying even reaches to the levels of the aristocracy as Prince Harry of the house of Windsor experienced taunting for his red hair, not so much a social stigma in the states, but definitely in the UK.
Among all these and more, we find prime examples of those who have taken adversity and used it in their favor and for some, to fuel their dreams. Dealing positively with bullying is possible. With guidance from the trained professionals at LifeLine for Youth, healthy self-image and a positive outlook on life can be possible.