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Answers to parents' top five questions about bullying

Bullying is a topic that has been getting a lot of media attention recently. Dr. Andrea “Andie” Weiner, a child therapist and author of “More Than Saying I Love You: Four Steps That Help Children Love Themselves,” answers the five questions parents ask most about bullying.

The latest statistics show that 77 percent of students say they have been bullied. Because many children do not like to appear as a “tattletale” or “snitch,” they often do not report a bullying incident to the teacher or parent and that is why half of all bullying incidents go unreported. Here are answers to important questions parents typically ask about bullying:

Why do kids bully?

Bullying is characterized by a power differential between someone who has an unfair advantage over someone else who is victimized. It is an intentional act; someone has the intent to harm the victim. It is not generally a random act or single incident and is characterized by repeated occurrences.

A child who is a bully does it for the power. Research shows that children who bully may be learning to use power and aggression as their way to deal with others. Often this gets carried over into later relationships (dating aggression, spousal abuse, or workplace harassment). Bullies also process social information inaccurately. For example, a common line they often use is “What are you looking at?” This is an incorrect perception of provocation that, to them, serves as justification of aggressive behavior.

What are the typical forms of bullying?

  • Physical aggression: Hitting, shoving, kicking. Physical aggression is more common among boys.
  • Social aggression: Subtle and indirect, usually in the form of alienation, ostracism, deliberate exclusions, and spreading of untrue rumors. Researchers call this relational aggression that attacks another person’s self-esteem, friendships, or social status. Social aggression is more common among girls.
  • Cyberbullying: This form occurs most commonly in social media platforms such as MySpace or Facebook where unkind, harassing comments are made to others anonymously and are intended to embarrass and hurt someone else.

Who are the typical bullies and victims?

Typically, one thinks of a bully as the biggest and strongest kid. That is not necessarily true. Bullies come in all shapes, colors, and genders. Often they can be the popular kids that use power to control others. Although they seem to have a strong self-image, this is usually the opposite. They use fear because underneath the tough exterior they are scared and do not think highly of themselves. Victims that are bullied are often socially withdrawn. They typically are passive and let others be in control.

What do you do if your child is being bullied?

Signs of being bullied include:

  • Reluctance to go to school;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • Vague physical complaints such as stomach pains or headaches;
  • Belongings that are missing or clothes that are ripped.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t ask them about it directly. Use indirect questions to a child like, “How do you spend your recess time?”, “What’s it like walking to school or being on the school bus?”, or, “Are there are any children at school that are bullies?” You need to talk to the teacher to determine if your suspicions are correct. Ask the teacher to observe your child’s peer interactions.

What do you do if your child is the bully?

Most of the time, when parents hear that their child is a bully, it comes as a shock. A parent needs to get all the facts before they can decide on the best course of action. You do need to send a clear message that bullying or any type of aggression will not be accepted and discuss the consequences of any future bullying behavior. Discuss other alternative approaches to aggression when the child feels angry or hurt. It is important not to get uncontrollably angry or use physical punishment.

For more information on bullying, check out the resources available at EdNews Parent.

Source: National PTA

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