Sue Scheff: Bullying Victims

This week is STOMP OUT BULLYING  Week.

bullying2Source: Connect with Kids

“They just think that that’s a part of high school, like that’s just the process they go through.”

– Becky, 17 years old

A child is taunted in the hallway, a child is pushed in the bathroom, and another child is punched on the bus.  The latest numbers on bullying show that one in four students is bullied, one in five admits to being a bully, over a quarter of a million kids are physically attacked each month, and eight percent of students have missed school because they were afraid.

“People don’t usually take a stand about that because they’re too scared,” says Brittany, 15.

“And I can remember the names of every single kid who used to kick me, jump me, take my lunch, push me around,” says Nam, 19.

Experts say bully victims often become depressed and isolated and that those feelings can last into adulthood. 

“That they go to work and they can’t stand up and speak for themselves.  They go to do something in their religious community, and they don’t feel empowered to give back – something that they want to do, that will make them part of the community.  They just don’t have it.  It got shut down in school through the systematic abuse,” explains Dr. David Fenstermaker, a psychologist and expert on school violence.

Bullying has been around since the days of the one-room schoolhouse, but kids say parents still don’t understand.

“A large percentage of the students at our school get bullied every day.  The ones that don’t are the bullies themselves,” says Brittany, 15.

Experts say it’s vital that you learn about your child’s school day … every day.  And sometimes, specifically ask about bullying.  “You can be sensitive, have empathy with them so they realize they are not alone.  That’s one of the most devastating feelings is that you feel, ‘I’m all alone in this.  Nobody understands, nobody cares,’” says Dr. Allen Carter, a psychologist.

Carter says parents should take their children’s fears seriously.  They must talk to teachers, the principal, the bully’s parents … do whatever it takes to stop the pain.

“Ten years later, and I still got it embedded in my mind,” Nam says.

Tips for Parents

Parental involvement is the key to reducing and preventing bullying and the problems it brings.  The NCPC offers the following tips to help prevent bullying incidents in your child’s school and community:

  • Listen to your child.  Encourage him or her to talk about school, social events, classmates and the walk or ride to and from school so you can identify any problems he or she may be experiencing.
  • Take your child’s complaints of bullying seriously.  Probing a seemingly minor complaint may uncover more severe grievances. 
  • Watch for symptoms that your child may be a bullying victim.  These symptoms include withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes or the need for extra money or supplies.
  • Tell the school or organization immediately if you think that your child is being bullied. Alerted caregivers can carefully monitor your child’s actions and take steps to ensure his or her safety.
  • Work with other parents in your neighborhood.  This strategy can ensure that children are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
  • Teach your child nonviolent ways to resolve arguments.
  • Teach your child self-protection skills.  These skills include how to walk confidently, staying alert to what’s going on around him or her and standing up for himself or herself verbally.
  • Help your child learn the social skills needed to make friends.  A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
  • Praise your child’s kindness toward others.  Let him or her know that kindness is valued.
  • Don’t bully your child yourself, physically or verbally.  Use nonphysical, consistently enforced discipline measures as opposed to ridiculing, yelling or ignoring your child when he or she misbehaves.

Although anyone can be the target of a bully, victims are often singled out based on psychological traits more than physical traits.  The National Resource Center for Safe Schools says that passive loners are the most frequent victims, especially if they cry easily or lack social self-defense skills.  Many victims are unable to deflect a conflict with humor and don’t think quickly on their feet.  They are usually anxious, insecure and cautious and suffer from low self-esteem.  In addition, they rarely defend themselves or retaliate and tend to lack friends, making them easy to isolate.  Therefore, it is vital that you instill confidence in your child and empower him or her to become a healthy, socially adjusted adult.

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Crime Prevention Council
  • National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
  • National Resource Center for Safe Schools
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