- Outstanding talents and intellectual superiority
- A loner with a timid personality
- Physical or mental disability
- Different race or nationality
- Different sexuality
- Good looks or overweight
- Bully to avoid being bullied
Even before my child had reached school age, back when she was still attending daycare, the word “bully” began to terrify me. I noticed as soon as my daughter started daycare that there are some kids that are physically aggressive toward others, even in their preschool and younger years. It is like they express their discomfort not by crying or whining, but by resorting to physical aggression. My daughter once came home with scratches all over her shoulders and face, and I found out there had been an incident over a toy, and the other kid had acted out before the teacher got involved.
As a new mom, facing this type of situation for the first time, I brushed it off as an isolated incident between two kids. Nope. It went on to happen again and again. I still feel sorry for my daughter, that I did not stand up for her earlier. But I did eventually, and the teacher’s reaction caught me off guard. The teacher told me that it was just that child’s personality, and the only way to prevent my daughter from getting hurt would be for her to stay away from that kid.
Kids can disagree and fight. But if a young child is using physical aggression to deal with conflict and no one corrects that behaviour, it is promoting bullying. I demanded to have my daughter moved to another class. That same kid never did stop being physical with other classmates, and in the end, she had to stop attending that daycare. If four-year-old kids can get away with aggressive action instead of receiving guidance on how to express their frustration or discomfort in gentler, less damaging ways while they are still young, it will not be easy to correct the behaviour later on, when they are older and their violent reactions have become habitualized.
Statistically, bullies tend to target certain characteristics in others, but they might target anyone they can find an excuse to harass, particularly anyone who lets them get away with it. Here are some of the typical characteristics of victims of bullying.
1. Outstanding talents or intellectual superiority
Yes, Jealousy is one of the main reasons children can be targeted by bullies. When bullies live in constant criticism, often labelled as troubled children, seeing another kid constantly praised and performing well can make them want to inflict their pain on the more talented child.
2. Loner with a timid personality
Sadly, children who are too shy to express their opinions and unable to blend with large groups can be seen by bullies as weak. Even though these timid kids might not have done anything to deserve maltreatment, bullies can think of them as easy targets, since timid children are highly unlikely to fight back or report the incident to anyone.
3. Physical or mental disability
Unfortunately, bullies do not look at someone’s vulnerability as a reason to extend extra help and care. They tend to think rather that there is all the more reason to torment them.
4. Different race, nationality, or religion
Any difference could set off bullies to target their victims. Physical and cultural differences give them excuses to harass their victims rather than show openness.
5. Different sexuality
Homosexual, bisexual, or any sexual identities that make a child different from bullies can make him or her a target.
6. Good looks or overweight
Even traits that draw positive attention could make bullies find an opportunity to bully, almost as much as physical unfitness
7. Bullying to avoid being bullied
Some become bullies to escape from a targeted group. It shows that bullies can appear to be powerful while victims can be seen as weak and vulnerable. It is sad to say that on a certain level, this is true. There are still very few effective ways to prevent or deal with bullies, and their malicious behaviour can take more discrete and deeply damaging forms, with repercussions extending beyond the social group the bullies and victims belong to. Cyberbullying is a case in point. Many victims are widely exposed to cyberbullying even after they leave their social group to get away from bullies.
What is bullying?
Bullying can be not only physical but also take verbal or more indirect forms. Intimidation and controlling behaviour, as well as verbal abuse and name-calling, and spreading malicious rumours to damage the victim’s reputation, are all examples of bullying.
But why do bullies target someone with a mal intent? Statistics show bullies have their own struggles, whether internal or external, and they are looking for a channel to release their dissatisfaction. Sometimes bullies do not have the conscious mindset to recognize that their actions can deeply damage their victims mentally and physically.
Here are some typical characteristics of bullies :
Parents use extreme punishment at home or even physical abuse
The bullies might also be victims of misleading parenting. When children are under authoritarian parents who undermine their children’s emotions and opinions and force their own way of doing things – which itself can be seen as a form of bullying – many of these kids go out and do the same thing to others.
Receiving harsh criticism from people around them
When children are constantly being criticized, they learn to perceive themselves as problematic and unable to do anything good. This tends to turn them the wrong way, so they give up trying anything positive, knowing they will be let down, anyway.
Bullies are more likely to have low self-esteem since they have already been labelled as troublesome. They may have behavioural issues that make them seem less capable, which can lead to lower performance and lack of achievement.
Some bullies might be high performers academically, at sports or art. But they might have underlying dissatisfaction with their lives that make them want to rebel or seek attention despite the inevitable bad outcome.
Victims of bullying
Some kids become bullies after being bullied themselves, either out of a desire to gain approval from the ones bullying them, or to prove themselves different from their targets.
Oblivious to the results of their actions and harmfulness to others
Some bullies who grow up accustomed to bullying behaviour in the household might not understand the devastating effects their actions can have on their victims. Aggressive, threatening and controlling behaviours are their norm and become almost instinctual to them, which means that they do not feel sorry for their actions most of the time.
In fact, according to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, one in five students (20.2%) in America alone experience bullying. In Canada, around one-third of the population has experienced bullying as a child and 40% of Canadians are bullied in the workplace every week. (Source: Safecanada.ca) These are just the percentages of children facing physical bullying at school, but as children are increasingly spending time online, cyberbullying rates have skyrocketed, with more than half of teens experiencing some form of cyberbullying, and 90% of kids recognize cyberbullying as problematic in their lives, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
The fact that bullying is not only a children’s problem, but one that grown-ups also deal with well after they finish school, shows that once someone becomes a bully, they tend to remain one – even after they reach a mature age. It proves that bullying is not just an aspect of immature children’s conflicts, but a form of violence that should be dealt with as a crime. In fact, starting in 1999, all 50 states in the US have now passed School Anti-bullying legislation as of 2015. Despite these laws, bullying rates have not gone down, but continue to get worse, spreading rapidly through cyberspace. Suspension or expelling bullies from school fails to solve the underlying problems and can even aggravate the situation on both parts, with the bully and the victim both seeking revenge or increasing the intensity of the bullying behaviours.
Bullies have always existed t and are still with us now. Bullying is not a new and sudden social problem, so why do we feel it is so much worse than before?
Because some things have fundamentally changed about our world as we have developed into a modern society.
One thing we should consider is that our children are now living in a much more isolated environment. Children nowadays tend to have fewer siblings and extended family members close by and are more likely to have both parents working. Children have fewer people to interact with and become emotionally attached to.
Second, as parents have increased interest in their children’s wellbeing, some might approach this in a skewed way, resulting in parents that are too closely involved in their children’s life, over-sheltering them and removing any obstacles for them. In the end, these overly protected children can wind up underdeveloped in terms of their ability to face conflict and aggression directly.
Lastly, everything has gotten a lot faster over the past two decades. Kids now have the capability not only to express their aggression face-to-face but also through text messages and social media.
If bullies have more ways to express their malice faster than ever, how can our more vulnerable, less tough children face them? Here are a few tips for you to help your children deal with bullies.
How to Help Your Kids Deal with Bullies at School
Educate your child about bullies and bystanders
When your child starts school there is a high chance he or she will witness or directly experience bullying. More often than not, children do not recognize at first that someone has targeted them and is acting hostile. It is important to recognize unkind and unfair treatment and face it so the bully doesn’t repeat the attempt.
Help your child to stand up to bullies
Bullies invade your child’s physical and mental space, walking into his or her life without invitation, destroying others to make themselves feel better by dumping their anger and violence. If a bully declares war on your child, no matter how timid or introverted your kid is, he/she has to defend and counterattack. Not by throwing fists, but by very clearly, loudly, and confidently saying, “Back off!” If your child loses that first crucial chance to defend him/herself it will be much more difficult with each recurrence. Because sadly, bullies take advantage of any gaps or weaknesses they can find and letting them get away with their first attack sends them a signal that they’ve picked the right target, which is bound to increase the intensity of the bullying.
Make sure your child does not blame themselves
It would be difficult for any child to accept one or more of their peers expressing negative feelings and opinions about them. Your child might question whether there is something wrong with him or her that triggers these bullies to look down on them and pour out their hatred. Our kids need to clearly understand that it is not about them, but an issue with the bullies themselves. No matter how “cool” a person is, there will always be people who do not like them. Everyone has their share of enemies, but the important thing is that no one deserves to be mistreated simply because someone doesn’t like something about them.
Be there 100 percent for your child. Support them and communicate with them.
Do not expect your child to overcome or fight off bullies on their own. After we have worked so hard to raise our children to be independent and loving, we wish our work was done. But in reality, when someone is attacking your child with malicious intent, it is overwhelming to deal with, even just emotionally. Depending on the intensity of the bullying it can be terrifying, lonely, frustrating, and stressful. It makes children feel vulnerable and undermines their self-esteem. Monitor your child’s emotional state and how they are handling any situation involving bullies. Document the actions of the bullies and the effects they have on your child. Make sure your child is not exposed to revenge once the incident is reported, investigated, and consequences have been determined. You should know who the bullies are, what their methods of bullying are, and what the possibilities are that they could take further action to cause greater harm toward your child.
What are the effects of bullying?
Depression and anxiety
Bullying and harassment can take a toll on children’s mental health. The experience of being bullied can cause long-lasting trauma to children that can debilitate their emotional stability, and possibly trigger depression and anxiety that can affect their quality of life and disturb their overall performance at school.
Eating Disorders and health-related issues
When your kids are under persistent stress from bullying that they have no control over, the mental toll can quickly have a visible effect on their physical health and their eating habits. Anxiety is one big factor that contributes to eating disorders. Tweens and teens can be especially vulnerable when it comes to anxiety and eating disorders. Particularly when bullies target someone’s looks or weight, it can easily trigger anxiety that can lead to an eating disorder.
Decreased academic achievement
When school, a place that should be safe and enjoyable for children, turns into a terrifying and stressful place they want to avoid, they begin to lose the ability to focus in classes and perform well.
Increased absence at school
When children want to avoid bullies, the instinct is often to physically avoid them, which can lead to them skipping school. More often than not, when children experience bullying, they do their best to get away, avoiding confrontation at all costs.
Self-harm and suicide