by Jean Henry Mead
Teen suicides, school shootings, and cyber harassment have placed a spotlight on bullying. The dangerous and debilitating practice is as old as mankind but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, although a number of organizations have been formed to study the problem and educate both children and adults in ways to put a stop to bullys’ power struggles.
Psychologists have determined that certain types of people become bullies due to a number of factors. Among them are: victims of poor parenting, children and adolescents who have been bullied themselves, those who are unhappy and frustrated with their lives, lack of respect or empathy for others, and envy of classmates, to name but a few. Examples of family factors that contribute to bullying include not only a lack of parenting skills, but conflict and addictions within the home, domestic violence and child abuse.
Victims of bullies are often shy and lack resilience which hinders their coping skills and sometimes leads to suicide. Resilience studies have been around since the 1950s when researchers concluded that while some children have the resilience to cope with bullies, others do not. However, they can learn from adults at home, school, and their communities.
Parents are advised to take time to talk to their kids about their activities for at least 15 minutes a day and discuss the dangers of bullying. By keeping the lines of communication open, problems can be resolved before they become serious. Experts advise parents to encourage their children to report bullying as soon as it happens and to stand up to the culprits by telling them that bullying is unacceptable and by walking away. If violence is involved, children should tell an adult immediately after the attack.
The website, stopbullying.gov advises adults how to put a stop to bullying by intervening immediatey.
· Separate the kids involved.
· Make sure everyone is safe.
· Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
· Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
· Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
· Don’t ignore reports of bullying. Don’t assume that kids can work it out themselves.
· Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
· Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
· Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
· Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
· Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
· A weapon is involved.
· There are threats of serious physical injury.
· There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
· There is serious bodily harm.
· There is sexual abuse.
· Anyone accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.
There’s currently a campaign to get bystanders involved. School children are hesitant to try to stop bullying because they fear reprisals, but if a group of kids intervene, the outnumbered bully usually gets the message and backs down.
I was one of many children bullied at school and am currently writing a novel on the subject for middle grade students, tentatively titled, The Bullies of Cherrywood Middle School, third novel in my Hamilton Kids' Mystery series.