It goes without saying that it’s difficult for any parent to come to terms with the fact that their child may in fact be a bully; or at the very least, may be engaging in bullying behaviour. Bullies don’t always take the form of out-and-out ringleaders. In fact, more often than not, bullying behaviour is perpetrated by the ringleader’s by-standers – hoping to solidify popularity and support among their peers. Where any child is concerned – never underestimate the siren song of popularity. All kids want to be liked by their peers – and most will do whatever it takes to acquire this acceptance – no matter the cost.
The tricky thing about bullies is that they can actually be perfectly sweet kids. I remember a little boy in my son’s kindergarten class – he was a polite, well-mannered, well-behaved kid in almost all respects – except when it came to one particular boy in the class. Honestly, had someone told me that this kid was capable of exhibiting such targeted and cruel behaviour, I would have heartily denied it. Except I was a regular volunteer within the classroom and I witnessed it myself. Suffice it to say that this particular incident was especially eye-opening to me.
I will admit that the “b” word is tossed around quite frequently – to the point that it is often over-used and mis-used. Kids can be mean, they may fight and argue and say unkind things to one another – but this behaviour doesn’t automatically fall under the bully umbrella.
In terms of behaviour being classified as bullying – it needs to be aggressive and repetitious. It also typically involves a power imbalance – whether real or perceived.
We’ve all heard bully horror stories, we’ve witnessed bullying, been a part of it, tried to stop it, been a victim of it ourselves. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of misinformation surrounding it.
Here are nine little known facts about bullying:
- Bullying most often occurs at school.
- Smaller and/or private schools still face the same levels of bullying on average as found in larger schools.
- In children, bullying is often worse between Grades 5 and 8. It typically tends to diminish by the time a child reaches Grade 10.
- Boys generally experience more direct forms of bullying (physical, verbal) while girls tend to face indirect forms (rumours, exclusion).
- Believing that bullies suffer from low self-esteem is an outdated myth. Oftentimes, they are actually confident, secure individuals.
- Anyone can be bullied. There is no such thing as a victim persona that will inevitably lead to a person being bullied.
- No matter what anyone says or thinks, bullying is not a normal childhood rite of passage.
- The term zero tolerance is a ridiculous one. Hearing this statement uttered by school administrators makes my blood boil. Where bullying is concerned, zero tolerance is nothing more than lip service designed to give people a false sense of security. If schools want to take bullying seriously (and they should) – then they need to do away with this meaningless blanket statement.
- Last fact – and this is the most important one of them all. It does not take much to make a difference in a bullied person’s life: Kind words, spending time together, listening; as a parent, as a peer, as a friend. Just knowing that someone sees them as a person deserving of respect can make all the difference in the world. For a bullying victim, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Signs that your child is a victim of bullying:
- They rarely bring friends home
- They are reluctant to attend school
- They are experiencing sleepless nights
- They often take alternative paths to get to school
If and when you witness your child engaging in mean or unkind or disrespectful behaviour that just isn’t nice – do everyone a favour and don’t excuse it. Don’t blame it on hunger or sleepiness; definitely don’t blame the victim for triggering your little angel or for deserving it; don’t look the other way claiming that kids need to work it out on their own; don’t smooth it over with a cliché like “boys will be boys” or “kids can be cruel”. Deal with it and have a conversation with your kid about compassion and kindness. Encourage them to be nice – even if they don’t want to be, even if it’s a challenge for them.