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The Informed Parent

The Bully And His Victim

Now that school is solidly in place you can be sure the classroom bullies have found their victims. Who are these kids? Why do they take pleasure in causing pain to others? When will they get their “just rewards”?

Many books have been written on the subject, and advice abounds for the objects of the pain. There is a new body of research developing around the phenomenon of bullying, from the schoolyard to the workplace.

Here are some interesting facts, as reported by Debra Viadero:

  1. Bullying occurs most frequently at school.
  2. Between 10 and 15 percent of children say they are regularly bullied.
  3. At school most of the bullying takes place out of sight and hearing of adults.
  4. Most bullying is verbal, rather than physical.
  5. Boys bully boys AND girls. Girls generally bully other girls.
  6. Boys tend to be both more frequently the perpetrators and victims of bullying. Girls bully in more indirect ways such as manipulating friendships, ostracizing peers and spreading malicious rumors.
  7. Bullies and onlookers both tend to blame the victims for the treatment they receive.
  8. Although the victims don’t look very different from their classmates, they are taunted most often because of their physical appearance.
  9. Two types of children are at particular risk of being bullied; boys who are more passive and physically weaker than the tormentors, and girls who mature early.

From these findings we can determine some avenues for intervention. It is important to get a clear understanding from your child about the type of bullying that he or she is experiencing. Listen carefully and without interruption in order to encourage the unfolding of all the information your child can tell you. Learn about the circumstances under which it occurs. Have a discussion with the teacher, guidance counselor or administrator, requesting increased vigilance on the part of the adults who are responsible for the children at the most vulnerable times. Some schools have required bullying children to remain at a distance from their victims, changed seating arrangements, or took steps to educate perpetrators to the lack of tolerance for such behavior in their facilities.

Another critical finding is the large gap between the amount of bullying reported by the children and the amount the teachers observe. Classroom sarcasm on the part of teachers has also been considered part of the problem by some observers. Bullies seem to think also that when teachers don't confront this behavior it then becomes acceptable. Therefore, raising the awareness of the destructiveness of this behavior within the school can be very useful. Unfortunately many people, including teachers, view bullying behavior as normal for children, and dismiss it as kids (or boys) being kids (or boys).

Children who are being victimized in this way need to be assured that they are not responsible for another’s aggression, and they don’t deserve to be treated in a hurtful manner. They should be taught to avoid being in vulnerable locations, where he or she might be isolated from possible sources of assistance. Some have suggested helping children develop a more confident posture and presentational style, or taking martial art classes, which emphasize using the skills only defensively. Above all, listen carefully for indications that this may be happening, and don’t hesitate to enlist the school in defeating this behavior, which is bad for both the victims and the perpetrators

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