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Posted: March 22, 2018 12:41 p.m.
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How to beat bullying

Bullying.  We have all heard the word, but do we really know what it means?  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018) vaguely defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance that causes distress or harm in the child being bullied.  In reading that definition, we may conclude that bullying is some form of aggressive physical behavior towards another.  

Maybe some of the confusion originates in our own very basic understanding of the topic.  Let’s think outside of those constraints that often limit our ability to interpret more complexity in a given situation.  If you do a quick internet search you will find information on verbal, social, relational, and physical bullying.  

It appears that bullying takes many different forms and there are many layers making bullying more complex than previously thought.  In reality, bullying can happen anywhere, at any time, and to anyone.  

In looking at the prevalence of bullying, the majority of bullying occurs between school age children within the school setting.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately one in three children report being bullied at school.  Unfortunately, with the availability of cell phones, computers, the internet, and social media children can no longer escape the torment that occurs at school.  It follows them to what we perceive is the safest place for our children.  It comes home with them, occurring at the dinner table, during Family movie night, and in the comfort and privacy of their own bedrooms.  

Our children no longer have a reprieve from bullying and often times we don’t even know it is happening.  Statistics show that only about 20 to 30 percent of those children notify an adult that they are being bullied.

If bullying is so common then why don’t we remember bullying being an issue when we were in school and why is it so prevalent now?  The simple answer is that bullying has been around for as long as any of us has been alive, we just didn’t have a word to classify those behaviors when we were children.  At that time, adults often dismissed bullying between children, minimizing or excusing the harmful behaviors as age appropriate and a normal part of growing up.  

According to 2014 research by the American Psychological Association, these assumptions simply are not true.  Bullying has been found to be related to negative psychosocial functioning among children who are victimized increasing rates of lowered self-esteem, depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, suicidal ideations and higher rates of school absenteeism.    

Now that we know how serious bullying is, how can we fully understand the negative implications of bullying on our children?  Put yourself in your child’s shoes.  Bullying is not a new phenomenon.  I’ll bet that if we take a trip back in time we will all remember some pretty unpleasant experiences as children.  I am sure that at some point in our lives we have all experienced bullying in some form or another.  Think about your adult interactions.  Did you know adults can be bullies, also?  It is possible that we have all experienced bullying in our workplace and didn’t even know what to call it at the time.  We don’t classify adult behaviors as bullying, but it happens!  Remember how bad it made you feel?  How stressed out you were?  How much you dreaded going to school or work?   

So, how do you beat a bully without using your fists?  The answer to the proposed question is actually quite simple.  Educate.  Educate yourself and your children.  There is no shortage of information and research out there on bullying, the impact of bullying, how to prevent it and how to stop it.  

Stopbullying.gov provides information, resources, and guidance on bullying.  Communicate.  Talk to your children and others about bullying.  Speak out!  The two largest barriers to addressing bullying is fear of the bully or the consequences of bringing that person’s actions to light and the shame or embarrassment of being a victim.  The bully feels empowered through intimidation of others, but when the victim(s) take the power back then the bully loses their strength and influence.  Talking about it and speaking out against it will help to destigmatize bullying because without that imbalance of power the behavior eventually stops.  Together we can beat bullying.     

 

References

American Psychological Association (July 2014).  APA Resolution on Bulling among Children

and Youth.  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/bullying.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018).  Bullying.

Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/


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