For ParentsGeneral Information
What is bullying?
Bullying may be expressed in many forms. Boys are generally targeted more than girls. Boys tend to use physical aggression when they bully by hitting, kicking, and fighting. Girls, on the other hand, more often use exclusionary techniques to bully-a form of aggression often referred to as relational aggression (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Girls often start rumors, form cliques to keep certain people out, and ignore other children in attempts to show dominance over another child. However, these are broad generalizations and boys and girls may perpetrate, as well as experience, both types of bullying. It is important to regard both forms of bullying as seriously as the other, as studies have shown that they are associated with the same negative outcomes (Tomada & Schneider, 1997).
How prevalent is bullying?
Who are the bully's victims?
Provocative victims often elicit less compassion from others. Sometimes it appears that the provocative victim has "brought on" his or her own fate--but does any child deserve to be the target of repeated physical or verbal aggression? Why might so-called provocative victims actively participate in being the target of bullying: For example, are their provocative gestures simply a clumsy way of attempting to interact with others? One feels compassion for the inhibited child because he is reserved; a social misfortune in our society, but an aggressive child is given none of this.
It is important not to form stereotypic and narrow views of what "bullies" and "victims" look and act like. For more detailed information about the many different kinds of bullies and victims that have been identified, we recommend this site:
Who is Responsible for Bullying?
Just as the bully/victim interaction is maintained and stabilized by many levels of the social environment, so too can those around the bully and victim effect change. For example, peer counseling has been shown to be an effective intervention strategy for many children (Cowie & Sharp, 1996). Those closest to the bully and victim most likely have the greatest potential to change the status quo. For helpful advice on how friends and siblings of bullied children (and others) can help, we recommend:
What can PARENTS do to help?
If a problem is brought up, do talk to your child-but mainly LISTEN. Listen and ask your child questions about what he or she has just said, with the goal of getting an "insider's perspective of your child's playground. Try to understand the dynamics of your child's school playground, classroom and school bus through your child's eyes.
Children are often reluctant to admit that they are victims of bullying and to share their views about bullying. For a great site for kids that serves as a good springboard for parents and their children to talk about bullying, we highly recommend this site:
In handling the situation, it is important not to focus only on the one or two students that are directly involved, but on the playground and school as a whole. Studies have shown that in order to break down the stability of peer bullying you must initiate change on many levels: Not only in teaching the bullied child how to assert himself or herself and to deflect attacks, but also to raise awareness about the problem of bullying and encourage the school community at large to take a united stance against bullying.
Be sure to let the child know that change may not come immediately. When
a victim or bully learns new ways of interacting with peers, he or she may find
others to be rather resistant to changing their old attitudes and expectations.
Because of reputation bias, peers, teachers and others may often notice and
remember behaviors that appear to be congruent to what they expect from the
child (based on prior experience) while not seeing or remembering behaviors
that go against the child's reputation. This can be very frustrating to a bully
who may be trying to reform his or her old ways: The child may find that when
he or she does something "nice," others may not notice or may imbue
the act with negative intentions. However, when the child misbehaves others
may appear to scold the child and point out how he or she "always"
engages in this negative behavior.
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