By Peter Andrew Sacco Ph.D.
So much is made about bullying in the media over the last few years that you would swear that it is some new "disease" that has sprung forth from the bowels of humanity. That is not the case at all! Bullying is definitely a disease in the sense that it seems to be contagious whereby some victims of bullying, or witnessing it too often become the next generation of bullies. Furthermore, it is a "disease" because victims of bullying are always at dis-ease!
Did you know that research into bullying began in the 1960’s? Bullying is a form of aggression in which there is an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. The bully is always more powerful than the victim! Bullying can be physical, verbal, sexual and emotional/psychological in action. Bullying can occur one of two ways: It can be either direct (face to face with the individual) or indirect (when the person isn’t there). Indirect bullying would include gossip, slander, back-biting and purposeful exclusion from a group's involvement, which often happens in schools. Today's generation of bullies are becoming more proficient in indirect bullying as so many are using the Internet via Facebook, Twitter or text messages to attack victims.
Physical bullying is the most visible and appears to be the most common "type" people try to point out. These are physical attacks on the victim which includes incidences from poking to punching to strangling and even stabbing someone.
Some say that words have the ability to damage more! Verbal bullying acted out through the use of words which damage someone physically, mentally or emotionally. Did you know that the average child receives 213 “putdown comments” per week! Do the math folks, that is over 30 put down remarks a day! Talk about damaging to one's self-esteem.
There is also psychological/emotional bullying. Like verbal bullying, this cuts deep, perhaps deeper! This type of bullying involves the systematic diminishment of another individual. It can leave profound, damaging scars. These behaviors would include ignoring, isolating, rejecting or terrorizing another person.
Finally, there is sexual bullying. This pretty much speaks for itself in that the bully carries out an act of a "sexual" misconduct, or sexually-related in nature. This type of bullying can be either aggressive or exploitive in nature. Moreover, an actual "sexual assault/rape" does not have to be committed for it to be sexual bullying. Did you know that displaying sexually explicit material which makes others feel uncomfortable, slander/derogatory name calling, or pulling down someone's pants as a joke, or giving wedgies is considered sexual bullying? It may be fun for the actor or the audience, but not for the victim!
Bullying did not start overnight, it has been around for a long time! What is more recent is the identification of the variety of bullying types, as well as how bullying continues to evolve and become more technological in nature!
I get asked often, "How do I know if my child is a bully?". With that said, these questions are usually from parents who are very concerned versus the ones who are told by teachers, counselors and even police that their child is indeed a bully and they are quick to respond, "My kid? No way!". If you ever wondered what some of the signs of bullying are outside of the direct accusations from others that your child is a bully, then please read on...
First off, just because your child is a bully does not make them a bad person. What they are doing is wrong, but this can readily be corrected with instant and proper interventions put in place. When someone in an authority position, or another parent tells you that your child is a bully, you should best listen and begin collecting information. There are various signs to look for and these are the most common ones which might identify them as being a bully:
1) Their marks suddenly drop and continue to nose dive. They may start to complain that they hate school and "Everyone is out to get them!".
2) The child complains of being treated poorly by teachers and other children. They believe they are misunderstood and that "No one cares!".
3) The child might begin committing acts of violence toward a family pet, or other animals, and may become destructive toward property, even their own possessions.
4) The child creates and seeks out conflicts that lead to violence with their siblings, their parents and their friends.
5) The child is often found hanging around other kids and teens, and/or chooses friends who engage in and endorse violence.
FYI, bullying has to be stopped at a young age in children as most bullies are on a trajectory for increases in abuse or violence later in life. Research and statistics show unless corrected, bullies will accept and believe that violence is the best way to resolve their problems and conflicts.
As bullies age into their teen years, they are more likely to become delinquents and even members of gangs. Research shows that they are more likely to use/abuse alcohol and drugs when they are older. In some cases they drink or drug to medicate to mask their shame and remorse. Did you know that it is estimated that more than 160,000 children miss school everyday due to a fear of being bullied?
If you think your child might be a bully, or someone has told you that they are, you are their best lifeline for promoting positive change. Act now!
Dr. Peter Andrew Sacco is the author of the new kid's book If I Was A Bird...What Kind Of Bird Would I Fly With? which you can learn more about at www.bullyingisforthebirds.com and download the new kid's free book now Bullying Is For The Birds!