By: Connie L. Speer, MD
Recently, bullying has moved from the shadows into the light. Schools have become aggressive in their policies related to student to student bullying. Bullying is no longer treated by looking the other way. Instead, it is being addressed directly by parents, often reporting it to school authorities and law enforcement.
Simply put, bullying is battery against another person, usually another person within the same general age range. Those who bully have some common characteristics. They often were bullied or abused as children. They were made to feel less than others and because of this abuse, they often hold themselves to be less worthwhile than others. Because bullies feel less worthwhile, the bully acts out inferiority feelings by dominating another who is less capable of defending him or herself. Bullying by boys is often of a physical nature, inflicting harm on the weaker, less capable victim. Bullying by girls is more often manifested by inflicting psychological pain on the victim.
Signs that a child is a victim of bullying:
• If a child becomes withdrawn or isolated
• If a child’s mood becomes pronounced in its sadness
• If a child becomes more impulsive or angers more easily
As a parent or guardian, two levels of communication should occur. First, prevention is an important intervention. Communicate with your children before any signs or symptoms occur. If another child or adult is abusing them, they should talk to their parent or guardian. They should be encouraged to let you know what is taking place in their environment. They should be told that the issue will be confronted and that they will be supported. Fear often accompanies the thought of confronting the bully. “Will the bully retaliate?” “Will I be safe?” These are questions asked by the parent or child but only by exposing the behavior and eliminating the anonymity associated with bullying can there be hope that the cycle will be stopped.
Second, if changes in mood or behavior are seen in the child, the parent or guardian should verbalize that a change has been noted and provide an opportunity for the child to disclose any changes in their environment which may relate to the child having been bullied. If bullying is disclosed by the child, the parent or guardian must take action by consulting with teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators are skilled in dealing with this type of conduct and misbehavior. Be persistent to ensure that the issue is addressed.