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Why We Need to Understand Bullying
Table of Contents
- Why We Need to Understand Bullying
- Let’s Understand Bullying
- How Bullying Hurts the One Being Bullied
- Long-term Problems for Bullied Kids
- Problems for the Bullies
- How It Affects Kids Who See Bullying
- How to Help Stop Bullying
- Supporting Your Child After Bullying
Ever sat down with your kiddos to watch a classic episode of SpongeBob SquarePants? Remember Squidward? The grumpy neighbor constantly at the receiving end of pranks and jokes. While we laugh it off as just cartoon antics, for many kids, it’s their daily reality.
Being a dad to four, I’ve been on the front lines of school drop-offs, play dates, and parent-teacher meetings. I’ve seen those subtle glances, hushed whispers, and the isolated kids sitting alone. Bullying, whether it’s the more overt ‘bully on the playground’ type or the more insidious ‘silent bullying’, isn’t just an abstract concept or a plot for a TV show; it’s happening in our backyards, from bullying in private schools to public parks. Many are advocating to ‘say no to bullying’ in response.
So, when we ask, ‘what is the cause of bullying?’ or ‘is it bullying or just teasing?’, it’s important to know the difference between bullying and teasing. And why should every single one of us, from parents to peers, sit up and take notice?
Let’s Understand Bullying
How Bullying Hurts the One Being Bullied
A. Sad feelings and feeling alone.
Ever had one of those moments when you’re watching a movie with your kids, and a scene unexpectedly chokes you up? Yeah, I’ve been there – trying to discreetly wipe away a tear during Toy Story. Now, imagine that emotional weight, but it’s not coming from a screen; it’s coming from your child’s day-to-day experiences. Emotional bullying, in particular, has this uncanny power to isolate its victims, making them feel like they’re on a lonely island, surrounded by an ocean of whispers, taunts, and laughter. For many kids, it feels like walking through a never-ending rainstorm without an umbrella.
It’s important for parents to be able to recognize the signs of bullying and find ways to support their child if they are being bullied. With awareness and compassion, we can help our kids navigate these choppy waters.
B. Getting physically hurt.
I remember teaching my eldest how to ride a bike. Those inevitable tumbles, the scraped knees, and the comforting that followed. But there’s a difference between the hurt that comes from learning and growing, and the hurt inflicted by another child’s malice. Beyond the immediate physical pain, there’s a lingering fear – a shadow, reminiscent of the bully stereotypes, that follows them, making them constantly look over their shoulder, wondering when the next shove or hit will come.
C. Trouble in school: bad grades and missing classes.
Picture this: You’re at a parent-teacher meeting, and the teacher mentions your child’s declining grades. Initially, you think it might be a tough subject or maybe they’re not paying attention. But then you dig deeper. It’s neither. It’s the anxiety, the weight of being bullied pulling them down. School hallways, whether in bullying in public schools or private, become mazes of avoidance, trying to dodge those who taunt them. And classrooms? Instead of places of curiosity, they become prisons of fear.
D. Hard to make friends.
Back in the day, making friends seemed as easy as sharing a candy bar. But for kids facing bullying, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. They’re tagged with labels – “geek,” “loner,” “weirdo.” And these labels? They’re sticky. They make it hard for other kids to see past them, and even harder for the bullied child to step out and shine. And when there’s bullying on the playground, instead of being a place of joy, it turns into a landscape of loneliness.
Long-term Problems for Bullied Kids
A. Feeling worried or sad for a long time.
I remember my kid once telling me about a dream where he was flying. But midway, his wings vanished, and he was just falling, helpless. That’s the weight of long-term sadness from bullying. It’s not a one-off event. It’s a continuous plummet, where days seem longer and laughter a bit quieter. These kids often wear a mask, smiling outside while battling storms inside.
B. Trouble trusting others later in life.
My daughter’s first diary had a tiny lock. Curious, I asked her about it, and she said it’s to keep secrets from “mean friends.” That tiny lock, for me, symbolized the walls kids build because of bullying. Later in life, these walls grow taller. Every new interaction or relationship comes with a baggage of past betrayals, making trust a rare commodity.
C. Not doing well in school or work.
Last summer, we tried growing tomatoes in our backyard. A few plants just didn’t thrive, no matter the care. That’s somewhat how bullying, especially when they face bullying in schools, resulting in bad grades and missed classes, impacts a child’s academic and later professional life. The constant belittling acts like a shadow, stunting their growth, making every achievement feel like a fluke and every failure a confirmation of their self-doubt.
D. Getting sick because of stress.
A friend’s son once complained of a stomach ache before school, almost daily. Turns out, it wasn’t the food or a bug; it was anxiety from bullying, a manifestation of bullying symptoms. The mind’s turmoil reflects on the body. From sleep issues to constant fatigue, the effects are not just emotional but physical. It’s like carrying a backpack that gets heavier each day, weighing them down.
Problems for the Bullies
A. Acting out even more as they grow up.
I’ll never forget a chat with my daughter. She told me about a student who always seemed to be at the center of trouble. At first, it seemed like typical rebellious behavior. But as months passed, it became evident that his actions were cries for attention. He wasn’t just the kid pulling pranks or the high school bully we often hear about; he was the one escalating conflicts, trying to assert dominance at every turn.
And it made me think – what happens when such kids grow up without guidance? The sad truth is, without intervention, these behaviors often escalate. High school skirmishes can turn into workplace conflicts or even legal troubles. It’s a slippery slope from wanting to be “the boss” in the playground to facing real-world consequences.
B. Using drugs or alcohol.
At a community meeting last year, discussions about bullying and substance abuse came up, and a counselor shared stories of teens battling substance abuse. One story struck a chord. A young lad, known to bully others in school, started using to “fit in” with an older crowd. It wasn’t just about the high; it was an escape from his internal battles. Behind the tough exterior, he faced family issues, low self-esteem, and the constant pressure to uphold his “bad boy” image. The substances masked his pain, but only temporarily. It’s a stark reminder that sometimes, the loudest in the room are the most broken inside.
C. Doing poorly in school.
A close friend, who’s a teacher, once shared a heart-wrenching account of a student. This boy, often labeled as the bully in the class, would often act out in class, becoming a disruption. But one day, she caught him struggling with a simple math problem, tears of frustration in his eyes. It was an “aha” moment. His academic struggles were, in part, driving his disruptive behavior. He’d chosen to be the class clown, the bully, rather than the kid who couldn’t keep up. Over time, this defense mechanism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to a cycle of declining grades and increased behavioral issues.
D. Struggling to make real friends later on.
During a family picnic, I observed a curious scene. A cousin, known for his bullying antics during our childhood, sat isolated. While others chatted and laughed, he hovered on the periphery, an outsider looking in. It dawned on me then – the bridges he’d burned in his youth had lasting consequences. The superficial friendships, built on fear or momentary gains, didn’t stand the test of time. As adults, genuine connections become more valuable, and those built on shaky foundations crumble.
Take our Harry Potter themed “Am I a Bully Quiz“.
How It Affects Kids Who See Bullying
A. Emotional reactions.
At a school play, I once saw a scene that wasn’t part of the script. Off-stage, a group of kids teased a classmate, while another kid, not involved, watched with wide eyes. That expression – a mix of fear, sadness, and confusion – spoke volumes. Witnessing bullying, especially something as glaring as bullying on the playground or in the classroom, can be emotionally jarring. Kids become inadvertent spectators to someone else’s pain, often feeling helpless or trapped in a whirlwind of emotions they can’t fully understand or articulate.
B. Guilt for not stepping in.
My daughter once came home with a heavy heart. She’d seen a friend being bullied but didn’t know how to intervene. The weight of her silence, her inaction, gnawed at her. Many kids who witness bullying grapple with this guilt. They oscillate between the fear of becoming the next target and the regret of not standing up for a peer. It’s a tough spot, especially when they’re unsure about how to handle such situations.
C. Believing bullying is normal.
During a casual chat at a family gathering, one of the younger cousins casually mentioned how some kids in his class get teased “all the time.” His nonchalance was alarming. Repeated exposure, especially to prevalent issues like bullying in public schools, can desensitize kids, making them believe it’s just a regular part of school life. This normalization is dangerous. It sets a precedent that such behavior is acceptable, potentially perpetuating the cycle of bullying.
D. Joining in on the bullying.
Peer pressure is a formidable force. I recall my son talking about a classmate who’d initially been a silent observer but eventually joined the bullies, possibly to fit in or avoid becoming a victim himself. It’s a sad testament to how witnessing bullying can sometimes push kids to become part of the problem. The lines between right and wrong blur, and they might participate in actions they’d never have considered otherwise.
How to Help Stop Bullying
A. Open the lines of communication.
I remember this one rainy evening, hot cocoa in hand, when my second-born, hesitated before spilling about her day. Something was off. She mentioned a friend, Sarah, who’d been avoiding school because of some kids. I realized then: It’s not the big heart-to-heart talks that matter most. It’s those unexpected moments, the pauses, the sighs, the looks they give when something’s amiss. Our job, especially as adults in a bullying culture, is to be there, ready to listen, even if it’s just about a lost pencil or a new song they like. Because sometimes, it’s about much more.
B. Set an example at home.
The other day, my youngest tried tying his shoelaces, mirroring my every move. It hit me – they’re always watching. It’s not the big lessons or the lectures. It’s those morning greetings, the subtle ways we prevent bullying in families with our actions, the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at dinner, the way we handle disappointments. They pick up on it all. So, when I talk about respect or kindness, I try to show it too. Because, as they say, actions speak louder.
C. Build a supportive community.
Last summer, during a gathering that felt like a bullying workshop, at a block party, a group of us parents got chatting. We realized our kids, though living streets apart, faced similar schoolyard challenges. It sparked an idea – why not form a parent group? Nothing formal, just a space to share, discuss, and support. It became our little village. Schools, parents, neighbors – when everyone’s on the same page, it creates a safety net, ensuring no kid feels left out.
D. Teach empathy and compassion.
On my oldest’s 10th birthday, instead of a grand party, she wanted to volunteer at a local shelter. It was her idea, but it made me think about our role in it. It’s those bedtime stories about heroes, the family movie nights with tales of friendships, the discussions about being there for others. It’s a constant effort, teaching them about bullying and its effects, and getting them to walk in others’ shoes. But when they do, they not only stand against bullying, they stand up for kindness.
Supporting Your Child After Bullying
A. Comfort and Reassure Your Child
A couple of months ago, one of my daughter’s trudged in, looking like she’d lost her best friend. Some kids had given her a hard time about…of all things, her bike. I sat her down, and instead of jumping into “dad mode” with advice, I just listened. Then, I told her about that time in middle school when I was the “geeky kid” with thick glasses and a stack of Goosebumps novels. We laughed about it, but the point was clear: we’ve all been there. It’s not about saying ‘it’ll be okay’ but more of ‘I get it, and I’m here.’ Bullying stories like mine help her know she’s not alone.
B. Encourage Openness
With teens, it’s like walking on eggshells sometimes. After the bike incident, my daughter wasn’t exactly chatty. But our kitchen table’s always been this unofficial open forum – talking about our day, the weirdest thing we saw, or that meme about bullying that’s been making rounds. I’d throw in a casual, “So, my girl, how was the bike ride to school today?” Sometimes she’d bite, sometimes not. The trick? Keep the door open, but let them decide when to walk in.
C. Seek Professional Help if Necessary
You know, you can sometimes tell when one of your kids is going through something. Something just seems off – more than just the regular teen moodiness. But, you know what, parenting doesn’t come with a manual. So, we chatted with a counselor who specializes in school harassment. It felt a bit daunting, but there’s no harm in getting a bit of guidance. It’s like asking for directions when you’re lost; doesn’t mean you’re bad at driving.
D. Foster Resilience
One afternoon, we took a detour to the park on our way back home. Watching my daughter pedal ahead, I thought of the bike incident. There she was, riding confidently, the wind tousling her hair, proving that setbacks can be temporary. I recalled my own childhood hiccups, and how they shaped me. We stopped for ice cream, and amidst bites of chocolate and vanilla, we talked about facing challenges head-on. Sometimes, life throws a flat tire your way, but it’s all about learning to patch it up and keep riding. Because in the grand journey, it’s the bumps and detours that make the best stories.
Being a parent throws you curveballs you never see coming. Sometimes, it’s like being stuck in a plot twist from a binge-worthy show, say, Stranger Things. One minute, it’s all laughter over a silly meme, and the next, you’re grappling with issues like bullying in the playground and cyberbullying scenarios. But here’s the thing I’ve realized raising my four: kids are resilient. They have this inner strength, this fire. We don’t need to wrap them in cotton wool. Instead, our job is to fan those flames, to let them know they’ve got this. And as they navigate these challenges, just like Simba in The Lion King, they’ll discover the world isn’t always easy, but they’re never alone in facing it.
Find out the difference between being mean vs. bullying vs. conflict in this Hogwarts infused post!
Want to get more involved beyond your own actions? Here are some great organizations working to eradicate bullying nationwide that welcome volunteers, donors and advocates:
- Leading nonprofit dedicated to bullying prevention, offering educational programs, awareness campaigns, advocacy, and help for victims.
- Major LGBTQ youth advocacy organization providing crisis counseling, anti-bullying education, research, and suicide prevention programs for schools.
- Federal government website managed by the U.S. Dept of Health offering comprehensive research-based information about bullying identification, prevention, and response.