Through the years at Westchester Health Pediatrics, one of the most emotional issues we’ve seen affecting our patients and their parents is bullying. It’s mean, it’s damaging and it hurts, but there are things a child can do to avoid or prevent bullying, and we can help.
Understanding how and why a bully uses aggressive behavior is key to knowing how to handle a bullying situation. A common reason that a kid is a bully is because he/she lacks attention from a parent at home and therefore lashes out at others. This can include neglected children, children of divorced parents and/or children with parents with drug and alcohol problems. Older siblings can also be the cause of the problem. If they’ve been bullied themselves, they are more apt to bully a younger sibling.
Girls who bully usually do so in emotional ways, while boys who bully often do so in both physical and emotional ways. But whether male or female, bullies seek power at someone else’s expense.
Bullies seek to dominate, blame and use others
Bullies lack empathy and see weaker kids as their target. They:
- crave power and attention
- have uncontrolled anger
- have low impulse control
- don’t think about the consequences of their actions
- have a need to control or dominate
- are experiencing domestic violence, emotional and/or physical abuse, and anger at home
- have poor self-esteem and manipulate others through gossip, threats of (or actual) violence and teasing/insults
- plan their attacks, usually when their support group in nearby and an adult is not
- have not learned kindness, compassion and respect
When asked, most bullies will say:
- Because it makes me feel stronger, smarter or better than the person I’m bullying
- Because I’m bullied at home
- Because it’s what you do if you want to hang out with the right crowd
- Because I see others doing it
- Because I’m jealous of the other person
- Because it’s one of the best ways to keep others from bullying me
Bullying can take many forms, but it typically includes:
- Hitting, shoving or tripping
- Taunting, teasing
- Making fun of the way a kid acts, looks, dresses or talks
- Writing mean things or sending hurtful pictures of someone online (cyberbullying)
8 ways you can help your child stand up to bullying
Here are 8 important tips that have proven to be very helpful in combatting bullying:
1) Watch for signs that your child is possibly being bullied.
If your child has frequent somatic complaints with no real origin (such as headaches or stomach aches), or does not want to go to school, this is a strong indicator that something is wrong. Ask your child whom he or she has lunch with or plays with at recess, and the names of his/her friends. If you sense something is wrong, contact the proper administrator at school.
2) Monitor what your child watches on TV, online and on social media (especially violent video games).
These have become important areas for bullying.
3) Talk with your child about bullying.
Many children who are being bullied will open up in the right environment, such as riding in the car or a similar place where you have little eye-to-eye contact. The most important thing is to listen. Don’t promise that you won’t tell anyone, because you may need to become involved. The important thing is to assure your child that you will do your very best not to make the problem worse.
4) Practice role-playing at home.
Help your child learn how to react calmly and confidently to taunting. For example, your child can practice saying “Leave me alone” and then walking away. Help him/her understand that responding with physical aggression or insults will usually only make the problem worse.
5) Help build your child’s self-esteem by encouraging new activities or clubs.
This can be a very good way of making new friends (and avoiding the bully/bullies). Plus, having several friends and interests can boost a child’s confidence and make him/her less likely to be bullied.
6) Encourage your child to exhibit the qualities that make a good friend.
These types of character traits include sharing, empathy, compassion, humor and loyalty.
7) Suggest to your child that he/she join activities that are supervised by a responsible adult.
IMPORTANT: Bullying is much less likely to occur near adults.
8) Encourage your child to talk to a teacher, school counselor or you.
Many children are too embarrassed or afraid to tell an adult about bullying. They may think that involving a grownup will only make the problem worse, but actually, silence only makes it easier for the bully to keep bullying. Telling someone about what’s going on is the first step to stopping it.
If your think your child is being bullied, please come see us
If you know or even suspect that your child is being bullied, please bring him/her to see one of our highly-experienced pediatricians at Westchester Health Pediatrics. Together, we’ll determine the best way forward so that your child can be happy, self-confident and safe.