Is Your Child a Victim of Bullying...or a Bully?
How Well Do you Know Your Child
I know that the minute you read the above sentence your said "Pretty well" or "Oh, I know my child". A great many parents think the very same thing, but they are wrong and you may be as well. Every week these days I pick up a newspaper and see an article about some young girl who has committed suicide due to bullying. Some one's children are bullying these girls. Why not yours?
Perhaps your child is not a bully, perhaps your child is the victim of bullying and you may not yet have been made aware of this. It is a bit hard to tell. The children who are the victims of this crime are very good at hiding it. A few reasons for this are embarrassment, they don't want their parents to think that they are unliked, unpopular and/or cowardly; they are afraid to tell anyone for fear it will only make the bullies angrier; they think if enough time passes the bully or bullies will forget about them and just stop; they think they can "fix it".
Just because your child may be a victim of bullying does not necessarily mean that they are unliked in general, just by a few who think they are more powerful.
Children who bully do so for reasons such as insecurity, a need for power, to have control, to maintain the status quo, to impress their peers, not enough attention at home, or worse, it is what they witness within their own homes.
Of course, some children are just cruel and mean spirited for fun or actually are emotionally unstable.
Cliques or Groups
Children tend to cluster together. Perhaps they were all raised on the same block, or in the same part of town. Perhaps their moms all know each other and have had their children gather regularly for "play dates" over the years. Whatever the circumstances, it is as if these children have known each other "forever" and have now formed a clique or group. To most parents, this is a wonderful thing. Their child has a support group and those around them to travel through the experience of adolescence and teen years with. But is it really?
It is not generally a positive thing if your child tends to run with the same crowd until graduation. This is merely setting them up for a hard time "outside" the circle when they go off to college. They have never really had to learn how to make friendships outside their little circle of friends.
Additionally, their is a downside to being in a clique or group. The biggest one being: pressure.
Once your child is in a clique they are under constant stress and pressure to sustain the personality traits that the clique deems acceptable. If you have a daughter and she is in a clique chances are she is also under a tremendous amount of stress to dress like her friends, act like her friends, be cool, keep up the appearances, is not allowed to hang out with anyone outside the clique for retaliation is ruthless, and does not date anyone who does not meet with the approval of the clique. Sadly, most teenage girls are not even aware that this behavior is wrong.
Boys have it differently of course. They have to sustain either a tough rough guy facade at all times and this means they cannot back down from anyone, especially the weaker types. This also tends to put them in direct conflict with the "jock" clique that already is so arrogant and believes THEY are the force to be reckoned with in school. The Jocks are into their sports and their pressure is to be the best at what they do which makes them top dog, followed by the ones that are good but not good enough as their lackeys. They usually make fair grades, but some are very intelligent. They are also cunning, manipulative and do not date unpopular girls.
In my neck of the woods I have also found that jocks love to drink. This means there is pressure from the "group" to drink with them. This is of course also true for drugs. Pressure from a group or clique is far greater and harder to resist when they are the most popular kids in school. The child knows that declining could get them ostracized from the group and, to them, that is a fate worse than death.
Not all cliques or groups are formed in their toddler years. Some being in elementary school and as young as 4, it is sadly true. But some start later in middle school. And your child who may have had a friend or two that used to be with them often can suddenly find themselves left out in the cold if their friends have joined with others who do not accept your child. This is extremely painful and there is little that can be done to help them.
Most Cliques are groups of friends, that leave some kids out on purpose. Usually one or two popular kids control who gets to be in the clique and who gets left out. Kids may act much differently than they did before they were part of the clique. The kids in a clique can be mean, ruthless, cruel and malicious. And don't think your child cannot be one or all of these things.
I point this out because all parents are shaking their heads and going "oh my son/daughter would never be so cruel". Well someones sons and daughters are being horrifically cruel, who's children are they? Perhaps not your child, perhaps it is the neighbor's children, or your sisters kids, or your friends child.
What are the Signs of Bullying?
As I stated earlier, bullying can start as early as pre-school. One mother was shocked when she watched her 4 year old child playing with a friend the same age when another child walked over and pulled the other girl away. She brought her to another child and all three stood there whispering and giggling about her child. These are four year old children. Can you imagine what they will be like in middle school?
Alas, the mother did nothing. I would have brought my child over to the other children children and we would have all discussed why it is not nice to exclude people from play, as well as the rudeness of whispering in front of others and taking people away in the middle of conversations. But that's the kind of mommy I am. I get involved, I don't care if it will do any good or not, I can not stand on the sidelines and pretend that bad behavior is okay.
In the pre-school year, bullies often rely on direct verbal bullying and physical power to control material objects, territory and sometimes other children. They may lack the skills to interact in more socially appropriate ways.
Once in elementary school, bullies are more likely to use threats and physical force, combined with direct verbal bullying, to make victims do things against their will. At this age, some children begin to use indirect bullying to exclude peers from their social circle.
By the time they are in middle and high school years, bullies rely on direct verbal bullying such as name-calling and making threatening remarks, as well as physical bullying such as pushing and hitting. Although both boys and girls engage in physical bullying, girls are more likely to participate in indirect, relational bullying, such as rumor-spreading and social exclusion.
Now due to our high tech world, female bullies can now use the Internet or cell phones to send their hurtful messages. While boys tend to rely on bullying to enhance their physical dominance, girls tend to use it to enhance their social status.
What Happens to these Children?
People must realize that this isn't outside their world. If you have a child from nursery school to a senior in High School, they know the cliques, may be in one, may be the victim or have been the victim of bullying, and know people who bullied or are bullies.
Bullying is not as simple and random as it used to be. "Kids are cruel" is an understatement. The average tween or teenager that is the member of a clique or group falls into a category that is unattractive. The leaders of these groups are plentiful in hubris but lacking sorely in sensitivity. They are control freaks in need of power and love playing games with other people's lives.They lack empathy. And while I would like to say that they grow up and become better people, that is not always the case. Many go on to form cliques in college and at the workplace. It is a lifetime of power games and control.
Children who were victims of these bullies do not fare well in society. As we can see from the latest headlines, some of these victims don't even finish high school, they commit suicide. And while you may be saying "well, that's not usually the case"...
What would be enough to make parents and schools learn that cliques, groups and bullying is detremental to our children and society as a whole? How many teen suicides are actually necessary to make this an important issue that needs to be addressed and resolved once and for all?
And it is not the overtly obvious kids that are the ones that teachers and parents need to watch. Bullies tend to be far more cunning and less obvious. They employ their clique friends to carry out various cruel tasks as well as committing many of them themselves. They are usually the children one would never suspect. The nice group of girls who dress so nicely and are so polite, or the lovely group of girls that study together, same 6 girls, never anyone new.
Perhaps it's those boys who hang out together all the time, you think, because they have so much in common. Well, they are all on the football/baseball/hockey/basketball team together. Pick one, it doesn't matter which. Groups of children who are not all inclusive, are exclusive and that spells trouble for both those in the groups and those who are considered outcasts.
Beautiful 15 year old Pheobe Prince was a student in Massachusetts. But due to bullying for months, Pheobe hung herself in her parents home. Various children have been brought up on charges. There are those who say this is taking it too far, after all bullying has been around forever. We should not have these children locked up.
I would be sadly disappointed to not see these children suffer some sort of serious punishment. After all Pheobe is dead. What would be harsh enough for them to learn a lesson for having pushed a 15 year old to suicide? Wanna bet they are saying "Gee, I didn't think it was that big a deal" ? Of Course they didn't, because it wasn't them. And since odds are these kids have little empathy to begin with...
Schools have to be involved and so do parents. Parents have to stop thinking that everything is okay because their kids don't tell them otherwise. Communication is key and children who are bullied need acceptance and compassion at home. Children who are bullies need therapy and need to be forcibly extricated from their "clique". The rest of the group needs to learn how to survive as a party of one and how to make friends with others. If you are allowing your child to hang out with only their group, you are not doing them any favors.
If you think your child is being bullied talk to their school and do not relent until you are certain the issue is resolved.
Most importantly, talk to your child(ren) about school violence as well as how we treat others the way we want to be treated. These are basic lessons that children must be taught while they are young. They are never too young to learn. And if you don't teach them how to treat others, I promise you, someone else will.