“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”
― Dan Pearce
How can we alleviate the pain others hold inside, which can manifest into causing suffering to others? If we could remedy this, maybe we wouldn’t have the problem of bullying. A bully seeks to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable). A bully wants to feel better and empowered by making someone else feel scared and small. I found this quote as I prepared to write this piece, but it states what we all know and why hurt people hurt people.
I have been reading the statistics on bullying and watched a video from the Surgeon General where he reports about 1 in 5 high school students are bullied, but the problem begins a lot earlier than high school and can span into adulthood. Throughout the school years, a child could have the role of a bully and a victim. As parents, when we notice behavior warning signs, we need to know how to address this before it explodes into destructive actions. How would you know if your child is the classroom bully? Caroline Maguire, PCC, M.Ed., Certified Coach with a Master’s degree in Education and Early Childhood Development and 20+ years of coaching experience in ADHD and social skills, has a blog on this topic and lists the following as;
5 Signs Your Child Is The Classroom Bully
- A lack of empathy for others
- Obsessing about fitting in
- Previous experience with anger, violence, or bullying
- A tendency to put other people down
- Recurring behavior problems
When I was in elementary school, I was bullied. I hated school. I dreaded it every day. I felt isolated and depressed, and my anxiety was terrible. I told my mom, and her advice was,
“Laugh at them when they say something. It will catch them off guard and they won’t know how to react. Eventually, they will leave you alone.”
As crazy as that sounded, I did it, and it worked, but there were many times when there were close calls to getting into fights, and it was scary. It was also not a quick fix. The harassment went on for a long time before I told my mom. If your child doesn’t tell you there’s a problem, there are some signs to indicate that they may be a victim of bullying.
Stopbullying.gov lists signs that may point to a bullying problem:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
What can parents do to help?
- Report repeated bullying
- Contact the offender’s parents
- Partner with your child’s school
- Teach your child coping skills
I am a mother to one daughter, who is now 18. In her early school years she attended a parochial school. I expected her to be in a kind, accepting, and loving environment. I was surprised to learn another little girl had been bullying her. My heart hurt for my sweet little girl, who we tried our best to teach to be kind to others but did not consider at that time that we would also need to teach her to stand up for herself. When she attended that school, the little girl who bullied my daughter caused several problems. One was getting my daughter suspended from school. Another time, a boy was bothering her and put his hands on her. Never would I condone violence or initiating any bad behavior, but when it comes to a boy mistreating a girl, that is too alarming to dismiss. The repercussions of that behavior can pave the way for future problems. I told my daughter,
“Next time he puts his hands on you and the teacher isn’t around to help, you push him down so hard that he falls and everyone sees. No one will bother you after that.”
She never had to take that advice, but I wanted her to know behavior like that is unacceptable. My tiger mom instincts kicked in, and my only concern was that she would be able to protect herself.
Ultimately as her parent, it was my responsibility to provide my child with the tools she needed to navigate through life and stick up for herself. Getting bullied as a kid is one thing. Getting involved in a romantic relationship with an abusive person and the stakes are higher. There may be a link between being bullied as a child and later in life being an abuser. These are possible long-term effects of bullying on a person; depression and anxiety, isolation, and emotional and social issues. These issues will impact relationships later if they aren’t resolved early in life.
When I was a kid, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with mean people ever again when I was an adult. Unfortunately, I have, and I have witnessed adult bullying too. I have seen it happen in the workplace and in other situations, and it doesn’t matter the environment, or the age of the victim, the results are similar. Anxiety, depression, and dread for having to go back to work the next day are just a few of the effects.
Cyberbullying is another layer to the present-day problem. Anyone connected to social media, email, or a phone could be a victim and young people need to know that if this happens they should block, disconnect, and not engage in that behavior.
When my daughter was in elementary school, I met Dr. Michael Carpenter, and we briefly spoke about her situation. He offered advice and materials to read. He and co-author Robin D’Antona wrote Bullying Solutions, which compiles more than 40 real-life examples of various types of bullying (including hazing) and explores how they were confronted. These are not scientific case studies, but rather detailed illustrations of actual events. Some have a good outcome, others were not resolved successfully. By examining these stories and reviewing the actions of parents, school administrators, and youths involved in the bullying cases, readers will gain practical, user-friendly advice from the lessons learned by others in handling or even recognizing a bullying problem.
As parents, the best way to deal with this age-old problem is arming yourself with the facts about what to look for if your child is a victim or the offender and know what to do to help. The resources available on this topic are plentiful. Patience, love, and understanding of what your child is going through will be much appreciated too.