Apr-19-2010

Bullying is Not Normal Behavior

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied at her high school. This case is one of at least six recent documented stories of similar teen suicides due in part to reported bullying.

What is bullying?

bully free zoneFirst, a few facts on bullying. Bullying is NOT normal behavior.

Bullying is when someone engages in a pattern of repeated verbal, physical or psychological abuse designed to exert power or control over others. Bullies often choose victims who may be different because of their appearance, race, sexual orientation or even behavior (such as someone who is shy or quiet).

Bullying isn’t new–we have all heard of or experienced verbal  taunts and physical threats or violence. We’re now hearing more stories about cyberbullyingon e-mail, MySpace or Facebook. The abuse can be relentless and intolerable and can lead to victims missing school, illness, depression, and even, in the case of Phoebe Prince, death. Research shows there’s a strong link between bullying and mental health.

 Why should we care about the bully?

Most bullies have a tremendous need to control and dominate the victim. Many bullies were bullied or even physically abused, leaving them feeling insecure and angry. They bully because they often feel weak and out of control.

Bullies learn that putting others down can momentarily make them feel stronger. They often surround themselves with a cheering section to feed their ego (such as the movie “Mean Girls,” where Regina George is looked up to–and feared–by the girls in her clique). Some bullies may be unable to feel others’ pain and may have depression or antisocial traits. If this problem is recognized early, they can get psychological help, which could stop them from repeating their pattern later in life.

meangirls

What should you do if you think your child is being bullied? Or if your child is the bully?

  • Pay attention to your child’s behavior. Kids will not usually tell you right away they are being bullied, and the signs may not be immediately noticeable. So pay attention to sudden changes.  If they don’t want to go to school, seem withdrawn or more anxious, ask them what’s going on. Step in and talk to a school psychologist or a teacher. School staff can be helpful in coming up with ways to help your child cope with the bully or changing the classroom environment.
  • If you have a teen, encourage your child to join a club or a group at school. Helping out a teen is a little trickier as most want to manage their own problems. Most bullies chose victims who are isolated–there is strength in numbers from clubs or groups.  Teach your teen not to react to the bully. Spend time with your teens so they’ll confide in you more and let you know if the situation gets worse.
  • Act right away if things get worse. Remember, bullying isn’t normal; being the target isn’t a rite of passage. Contact the school. Your child may be one of many who being bullied, and the problem could be a much larger one. Your child may be upset that you interfered, but there are ways to work through those feelings.
  • Talk with a school psychologist. Being repeatedly bullied can lead to school absences, illness, depression and worse. If your teen has been traumatized, meeting with the school psychologist can help prevent further emotional scars.
  • Pay attention to signs of your child acting as a bully. Don’t ignore the signs and don’t assume they will grow out of it. Bullying is a learned behavior and it can be changed! Do get help for your child – talk to your school counselor or psychologist for suggestions. Social skills training can be very helpful as well.

Photos by Eddie~S and Pink Rocker.

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4 Responses to “Bullying is Not Normal Behavior”

  1. JAY   November 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I from East oakland and some public school in the 80′s and 90′s where very violent to say the least. There are no gangs except for maybe some mexican and asian gangs, but being african american rarely do you have to worry about them. But school for me from the time I hit kindergarten was on, my first test came then when I was so called bullied for the first week of school( yes it starts that early) two cousins would punch me in my stomach after school, it made me feel like a coward because I didn’t know what to do but I knew I shouldn’t let this happen, first I told my mom, but like alot of mom’s that have their minds preoccupied she just told me to tell the teacher, but thats not practical because now your a snitch, and even some teachers agree with not being a snitch. Eventually I asked my aunt “what should I do if somebody punch you in your stomach”, she replied with a colorfull message that pretty much told me to never let someone put their hands on you without doing anything because you have to respect yourself and protecting yourself is respecting yourself, and when you fight someone it’s not about winning or losing its about respect, that you wont be an easy win. Long story short when I returned to school the cousins looked at me in class and gave me the sign that they were gonna beat me up after school but this time I wasn’t scared because I now understood what time it was and what was going on, so I gave them the sign back they were surprised ( most bully’s are coward’s people). Class was about to let out so I went outside before them and hid behind a door when they came out I punched the first cousin hard, he fell and while I beat him up his cousin just stood there crying like he was being bullied, needless to say I had no probs from them, and confidence grew not that I was big and bad but that if it came down to it I would love and respect myself enough to not let someone demean me. This happened in elementary, by the 6 grade now where seeing our first gun, this changes everything. I said all of this because I think people forget that humans and foul behavior has been hand and hand forever , and you can’t keep tab’s on a person’s consience or feelings about life or the things that happened to them, there are different levels of bullying from teasing at school in Beverly Hills, or terrorism that goes on in the Ghetto’s of america, and this includes hick towns with violent rednecks. Life has never and never will be perfect, because there will never be perfect respect or love for each other in this day and age. It’s like thinking hat racism is long gone, it hasn’t went anywhere just taken a more ellusive form, such is life and bullying.

  2. Alan   November 4, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    good article and great tips on what to do. I wonder if u would explain how u determined that bullying is not normal behavior though. What method did you use? Did you find evidence that it never occurs with sub-human primates? Have you found cultures where it exists and where it doesn’t? Have you found historical periods in which it did not exist?
    Mostly, I am interested in your method because perhaps we could use the same thinking to classify other behaviors as not normal.