Bullying is a subject that comes up far too often, and I've been fortunate enough to attend workshops with some of the top experts on the subject in North America. So hopefully this will be helpful to some of the parents out there. This is a pretty big subject, and one that I am going to split into a series of posts rather then one massive one.
The unfortunate truth is the problem is one that often goes unreported. Part of that is failing to recognize what it is, and that there are ways to deal with it. 4 out of 5 cases of bullying go unreported to teachers / parents and everyone.
First, it is important to define what it is we mean when we say "bullying", there are other behaviours that sometimes get confused with bullying, but bullying is a defined sort of behaviour. This is important as how we handle and teach children to handle these different sorts of problems varies as well.
For something to be considered bullying it must be both intentional and repetitive. The behaviour must be aggressive, and with a (real or perceived) unequal balance of power.
Bullying can be physical, but it is mostly psychological.
Bullying behaviours is an attempt to take power from others, building themselves through knocking others down. It includes things such as:
- Hurting others feelings
- Public humiliation
- Spreading rumours / gossip
- Name calling
- physically hurting them
Someone who is annoying, but unintentionally is not using bullying behaviour. With younger kids especially some have a hard time keeping hands to themselves, or respecting other boundaries. But without intent, it is not "bullying" and requires a different approach.
If someone is intentionally rude, but without consistence and repetitive behaviour this is also not bullying. Bullying requires deliberate and repetitive behaviour designed to harm others.
Kids often don't want to talk about being bullied, and find it embarrassing and shameful. The things that receiving that sort of treatment tend to invoke. This can often result in behaviour that comes across as disrespectful or acting out. Faking sick, not wanting to do anything with a group, self isolating behaviour, talking back, etc.
In fact a lot of bullies where once victims of bullying, and the bullying behaviour becomes a way of trying to take back the power that was taken from them.
It is important to remember that people that bully aren't necessarily bad people. They are often people that are hurting and lacking real confidence. They attempt to coup with this through pushing others down to make themselves feel bigger.
It provides a short term and immediate sense of power, but it doesn't help with real happiness. Once bullying becomes a habit it is like an addiction, it is hard for them to have true friends and hold onto relationships that matter, and as they transition into adult head it will be hard to hold a job. Bullying behaviour is an addiction, it hurts the people around the bully, but it also hurts them.
That is in a nut shell what bullying is, and is not. Stay tuned for part 2 and we can start looking at how to deal with bullying.