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Posts tagged ‘bullying’

How to Respond When Your Kid is Dealing with Bullies

SOURCE:  All Pro Dad

Two things come to mind when people hear that I was bullied when I was younger. The first thing people think is: You’re an NFL offensive lineman, how were you bullied? And second, Why didn’t you just beat the snot out of the kids who bullied you?

It’s shocking to most, but I didn’t always have the 6’6, 320 lb. frame that I now carry. I grew up an undersized, funny-looking kid with a vocabulary that exceeded my age and the age of my peers. With a ton of freckles and bright red, spiked hair, I was a perfect candidate for kids to pick on. Dads, I want to challenge the common response and advice given to sons when they share their experiences of dealing with bullies at school, and share with you some helpful ways you can communicate and encourage your son.

Be a voice for your son

Often kids who experience bullying don’t have an advocate. I grew up with three sisters and not a ton of great friends. I spent a lot of time by myself. When I started to get picked on, I didn’t have an older brother to stand up for me or protect me. I wish I had that when I was younger, an advocate, a voice to stand up and stop the bullying I experienced. Don’t assume the bullying will stop after having a conversation with your son about “toughening up” or sending an email out to a teacher. Often it takes serious involvement with the school or program where your son is experiencing the bullying.

Keep a record of names and experiences

Often teachers or authorities don’t always catch or see everything that happens. They might be oblivious to certain issues and altercations. When it’s time to go to a teacher, principal, coach or authority about the problem, it will be helpful to have your son’s experiences written down in detail.

Fighting only creates more problems

Teaching your son to use his words to resolve conflict will prepare him for adulthood and the many complications that come with working in a business environment.  If you encourage your son to fight or return abusive talk, it will likely translate to adulthood and hurt him in the long run. Encourage your son to use his words, rather than his size, strength, or ability to fight.

Growing up, my father knew I was going to be a man of great size, even while I was smaller than all the other kids. After a day at school where I was bullied or picked on, my dad would remind me of the importance of using my words. He knew that there would soon be a day that I was no longer the smaller kid, and when that day came, I needed the skill set of using my words, rather than my size because of the danger that comes with being bigger than everyone else. You have a tremendous opportunity to teach and cultivate your son during his difficulties. Encouraging him to fight back will only cheapen those opportunities and rob your son of some important life lessons.

Affirm your son’s identity

Bullying attempts to strip the individual of his identity and self-worth. If your son struggles with low self-esteem or low self-worth affirm his identity as your son. Remind him of his gifts, his talents, and the things he does that make you most proud. Assure him of the great things he will accomplish, and the great plans ahead of him.

Help your son realize that everyone hurts

We can’t expect kids to go through hardship, or suffering, or abuse, and expect them to come out the other side normal. It’s hard enough for us as adults to wade through and endure hardship. Whether there is abuse at home, an absent father, drug issues, depression, anxiety, gang-related issues, their brains don’t have the ability to digest and wade through these things. When kids come from environments that don’t have control, they’re going to want to respond in ways that give them control.

Inherently, in human nature, we try to exert our control over weaker beings. So, when we see kids who are oppressing other kids, there are always internal reasons for why these kids are doing that. Everyone hurts, everyone has struggles. When we encourage our son to develop empathy for those around him, it will greatly help him respond well.

Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It

SOURCE:  American Psychological Association

Questions for bullying expert Susan Swearer, PhD

Susan Swearer, PhD, is an associate professor of School Psychology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) in the Department of Educational Psychology. She is also the co-director of the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology; co-director of the Bullying Research Network and was recently a visiting associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Swearer is a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at UNL, and is a consultant to National School Violence Prevention Initiative, The Center for Mental Health Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Technical Assistance Consultant Pool. She has presented dozens of keynotes and workshops on bullying across the United States.

APA. The news of late seems to be filled with terrible stories about youngsters being bullied, even to the point of suicide. Has bullying become more prevalent or more severe, or is this a case of over-reporting by the media?

Dr. Swearer. We don’t know if bullying has become more prevalent or more severe in recent years. We don’t have national, longitudinal data that can answer this question. What we do know is that bullying is a problem that reaches into the culture, community, school, peer groups and families. The extent of the problem will vary across different communities and schools. In some schools, physical bullying might be particularly prevalent, whereas in another school, cyber-bullying might be particularly prevalent. In some schools, there may be a lot of bullying and in other schools, there may be very little bullying. The media are reporting cases where students commit suicide as a result of being bullied because these cases are so tragic and in some cases, have resulted in lawsuits against the bullies and the schools. We should remember that Dr. Dan Olweus, the Norwegian researcher who started studying bullying in the early 1980s, did so partly as a result of three boys, ages 10 to 14, who committed suicide in 1982 as a result of being bullied. Sadly, this is not a “new” problem.

APA. If a parent or teacher suspects a child is being bullied, what are the most effective steps he/she should take to protect the victim?

Dr. Swearer. Parents and teachers MUST intervene when they see bullying take place. First, they must tell the student(s) who are doing the bullying to stop. They need to document what they saw and keep records of the bullying behaviors. Victims need to feel that they have a support network of kids and adults. Help the student who is being bullied feel connected to school and home. Students who are also being bullied might benefit from individual or group therapy in order to create a place where they can express their feelings openly.

APA. Who is more at risk for suicide if bullied? In other words, are there personality traits or markers that parents and teachers should look for when they know a child is being bullied?

Dr. Swearer. There really is no “profile” of a student who is more at risk for suicide as a result of bullying. In the book Bullycide in America (compiled by Brenda High, published by JBS Publishing Inc. in 2007), mothers of children who have committed suicide as a result of being bullied share their stories. Their stories are all different, yet the commonality is that the bullying their children endured resulted in suicide. We do know that there is a connection between being bullied and depression, and we know that depression is a risk factor for attempting suicide. Therefore, parents and educators should look for signs that a child is experiencing symptoms of depression.

APA. You have been conducting research on a program called “Target Bullying : Ecologically Based Prevention and Intervention for Schools” that looks at bullying and victimization in middle-school-aged youth. Your findings suggest there are certain psychological and social conditions that fuel bullying. What are they and what are the best interventions to stop the cycle?

Dr. Swearer. I have been conducting research on bullying since 1998 and during this time, I have become increasingly convinced that bullying is a social-ecological problem that has to be understood from the perspective that individual, family, peer group, school, community, and societal factors all influence whether or not bullying occurs. The question that I ask students, parents and educators is: “What are the conditions in your school (family, community) that allow bullying to occur?” The answers to that question are then the areas to address for intervention. We write about how to do this in our bookBullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools (by Susan Swearer, Dorothy Espelage and Scott Napolitano, published in 2009 by Guilford Press). Interventions should be based on evidence. Since bullying will vary across schools and communities, each school in this country ought to be collecting comprehensive data on bullying experiences. Then, schools can use their own data to design effective interventions in order to change the conditions that are fueling the bullying in their own school and community.

APA. From your research, what can you tell us about who becomes a bully? Are there different types of bullies? And if someone is a bully as a child, how likely is it that he or she will continue to bully into adulthood?

Dr. Swearer. If we conceptualize bullying from a social-ecological perspective, there is no way to “profile” a bully. If the conditions in the environment are supportive of bullying, then almost anyone can bully. In fact, the mother of a daughter who committed suicide after being bullied once told me that the girls who bullied her daughter were just “regular kids.” The conditions in their small town and small school were breeding grounds for bullying. My research has also looked at the dynamic between bullying and victimization. In one study, we found that kids who were bullied at home by siblings and/or relatives were more likely to bully at school. So, you can see that the dynamic is complex and crosses all areas in which we all function – in our community, family and schools. We do know that if left untreated, children who learn that bullying is an effective way to get what they want are likely to continue bullying behavior into adulthood. Thus, it is critical to intervene and stop the bullying during the school-age years.

APA. How is the growth of social media, such as Facebook and mySpace, affecting bullying?

Dr. Swearer. Technology has definitely impacted bullying. What used to be a face-to-face encounter that occurred in specific locations is now able to occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Technology—computers, cell phones and social networking sites — are all conditions that allow bullying to occur. One way to protect our children is to limit and/or monitor their use of this technology. I ask parents, “Would you let your 12-year-old daughter walk alone down a dark alley?” Obviously, the answer is “no.” The follow-up question is, “Then why would you let your 12-year-old daughter be on the computer or be texting unmonitored?” Parents and kids don’t realize the negative side to technology and social networking sites.

APA. Are there any other trends you’re seeing through your research that you’d like the public to know about?

Dr. Swearer. I really want the public to be aware of the link between mental health issues and bullying. As a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I and my colleagues have seen an increase in referrals for bullying-related behaviors. Whether students are involved as bullies, victims, bully-victims (someone who is bullied and who also bullies others) or bystanders, we know that in many cases, depression and anxiety may be co-occurring problems. I always assess for depression and anxiety when I’m working with youth who are involved in bullying. Bullying is a mental health problem.

How to Stop Being a Manipulator

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I received many e-mails from readers indicating that they saw themselves as [manipulators]. They were victims of manipulation as well as manipulators, and they wanted to know how to stop this destructive habit.

So how do we stop?

First, you must recognize when you are doing the manipulation and that isn’t always easy. Christine wrote me and said, “After reading your newsletter, I now see I manipulated all of my adult children to come home for Christmas using guilt trips. I wanted them to come home so bad, I just wouldn’t accept no for an answer.”

Manipulators want what they want, and they will go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Often we rationalize that the ends justify the means. But when you regularly manipulate someone, the relationship deteriorates. Even if you got all of your children to comply in coming home for Christmas, they are doing it out of guilt not love, and the underlying feeling is resentment. Is that what you want?

All healthy relationships require the freedom to say no to the other without fear or pressure. When freedom is absent and you don’t allow someone to say no to you or have their own opinion on things without making them feel guilty, pressured, afraid, or stupid, then you can’t have a healthy relationship with that person. Part of good emotional, mental and spiritual health is your ability to tolerate the pain and disappointment when someone doesn’t do what you want. No one always gets what they want, even if what they want is good.

John e-mailed me after the newsletter and said, “My wife says I’m controlling and I never allow her to have her own opinion. I disagree. I just think I’m passionate and assertive, and she avoids conflict. Am I controlling and manipulative like she says? I don’t see it.”

I encouraged him to invite honest feedback from those who know him well. I suggested he ask work colleagues, other friends, family members and children how they experience him and encourage them to tell the truth without fear of retaliation. Most of them said he was intimidating and controlling. John was flabbergasted. He had no idea. Now what?

Once you see you have this tendency to push for your own way, your own agenda and manipulate others to comply, if you want to stop doing it, you must humble yourself and confess this problem. Confess your new-found awareness to God and ask people to give you direct feedback when they feel you are being manipulative toward them.

Old habits die hard and, even when we want to change, we don’t always recognize what we are doing until it’s already done. When you invite feedback, you are asking people to stop you right in the midst of your manipulative tactics which shows them that you are serious about changing them.

Next comes the hardest part. When they give you this feedback, you must stop. You can’t keep pushing, bullying, arguing or guilt tripping. Thank them for their feedback and stop and reflect on your actions. Ask God for his help to see it as well as handle the disappointment of not getting what you want.

If we want to stop destructive patterns, we must have other people who can regularly speak into our lives, because the Bible tells us we all have a tendency to lie to ourselves (Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9).

Your friends and family will know you mean business if you practice these four steps:

  • See (become aware)
  • Confess to God and to people
  • Ask for feedback
  • Stop when you are engaging in the pattern of manipulation

They will see you sincerely want to change this destructive pattern. Change doesn’t happen overnight with anything. Even though you see something needs to change, the actual changing takes time, practice and persistence. But I promise, if you practice these steps, you can stop being a manipulator and learn to be better friend, spouse, colleague and parent.

Behind Bullying: Early Attachments and Lack of Father Figure May Be Key Factors

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

Verbal taunts. Emotional abuse. Fights. Harassment. Threats. While bullying has always been an issue, rates have soared in recent years to create a national epidemic. In 2003, about 7% of students reported being bullied, but by 2007, that number had jumped to over 30%. That’s nearly 1 in every 3 kids being bullied!

The recent New York incident in the news serves as a jarring reminder of just how emotionally damaging bullying can be. Which begs the question…why? What drives a group of 7th graders to mercilessly taunt, insult and threaten their bus monitor?

Could bullying, perhaps, be a symptom of a much deeper issue in today’s adolescents?

According to an online report, lack of father involvement and resulting attachment beliefs may be key predictive factors to consider. Brett Ellard, a Christian licensed professional counselor with 30 years of experience notes that “what causes someone to become a bully starts at the core of family life, with the absence of a father figure, whether the bully is male or female…” This could include a father who is physically absent from the home, often because of divorce, or a father who is physically present, but emotionally uninvolved.

Attachment research suggests that lack of father involvement may perpetuate an insecure relational style because of core relational beliefs that are developed. In Why You Do the Things You Do, Drs. Clinton and Sibcy describe four attachment styles that are critical to understanding the roots behind bullying:

Ambivalent Attachment

  • I am not worthy of being loved.
  • I am not capable of getting the love I need without being angry or clingy.
  • Others are capable, but unwilling and may abandon me.

Disorganized Attachment

  • I am not worthy of being loved.
  • I am not capable of getting the love I need.
  • Others are unable, unwilling and abusive, and I deserve it.

Avoidant Attachment

  • I am worthy of being loved.
  • I am capable of getting the love I need on my own.
  • Others are incompetent and untrustworthy.

Secure Attachment

  • I am worthy of being loved.
  • I am capable of getting the love I need.
  • Others are willing, able, and available to love me.

What children believe about themselves and other people influences their behavior in relationships in very real ways. For example, if a child exhibits an avoidant attachment, he or she will likely act out of superiority—viewing others as “less than” and worthless. Similarly, when kids have a deflated view of self and an inflated view of others, they can often resort to extreme and violent measures to try to prove their worth.

With this understanding, bullying is not just a “normal part of adolescence.” Experimentation and mistakes are inevitable, but when a father is not involved in his children’s daily lives—correcting, encouraging and guiding them, as well as modeling healthy social interactions—kids often fail to develop a healthy understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

For children who live daily in the chaos of a broken home, bullying can quickly become a matter of influence and control. While their living circumstances and family environment are beyond their control, through taunting and terrorizing other kids, a bully gains a sense of power, influence and popularity.

Exploring a child’s attachment beliefs, relational style and home environment are important factors for Christian counselors and caregivers to consider in working with adolescents. In many cases, bullying will not be successfully addressed simply by encouraging kindness and politeness, or removing privileges.

Counselors and educators must take the time to see the hurt and pain behind a bully’s tough exterior, remembering that such behaviors are likely a symptom of a child’s attachment wounds. Using attachment-based interventions, the roots of bullying can be addressed in order to develop new attachment beliefs leading to a secure relational style.

Men Are Victims of Domestic Violence, Too!

Editor’s Note:  No matter who is the perpetrator, the very sinfulness of bullying behavior is exactly the same whether the abusive behavior is initiated by the husband or the wife.  This article by Leslie Vernick, nationally known author –  counselor – speaker, is important.  It is important because it can be wrongly assumed that domestic violence always is about a female being victimized by a male.  While this scenario is regrettably too often true, it is only “part” of the total picture.  No one, female nor male, who is victimized via domestic violence must be overlooked.

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

In this week’s blog, I’m (Leslie Vernick) doing something different. It’s not exactly a question, but rather some comments from a man who responded to my last newsletter titled, Is Your Marriage Healthy? and wants people to know that men are victims of domestic violence too.

I applaud his bravery in speaking out and giving us this reminder that the Church as well as society needs to be much more aware and sensitive to the problem of domestic violence in general, but not to forget about men who suffer abuse at the hands of their wives.

I’ve (Leslie Vernick) condensed his rather lengthy comments and have a few of my own thoughts at the end. My second newsletter this month is on the topic of  Five Things You Can do to Help Someone that Has been Abused.

Sign up on my home page at http://www.leslievernick.com/ if you’d like to receive it.

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A Reader’s Response:

In your last newsletter on healthy marriages, one sentence grabbed my attention. You wrote,

“When a woman bullies her husband, the sinfulness and inappropriateness of the interactions are much more obvious to church leaders”

What??

My experience is anything but that. My experience is that women bullying and abusing men is considered funny. Men have no place to turn. They can be hit, abused, bullied and terrorized by their wives, and the only way they can hope to have contact with their children is if they continue to allow themselves to be victimized.

My experience has been that doors of help close for men. Social services make excuse after excuse for a woman’s abusive behavior and scorn the man for taking photos or videos during her perpetration. The man must be ultra perfect, and if he ever does wrong, he goes to jail. If she does wrong, she needs more compassion, more money, more help.

My experience has been that very few church leaders have the courage to look a woman in the eye and confront her about her abusive behavior. Church leaders, therapists, and other professionals often migrate to the “most reasonable” partner and the partner willing to make changes. So that one is the one who changes and changes and changes, only to be hit, raged at, and made out to be a monster, because well “all men are monsters.”

My wife posted as her Facebook profile photo, a picture my mom took of my wife, our daughter and me in front of the Christmas tree (2010) in which, under my shirt, I was physically injured by my wife. The picture literally makes me want to vomit, and I cannot look at it for more than a few seconds. It is still in my wife’s photo album on FB. I avoid looking there.

And as long as therapists, authors and professionals look at this issue with even a hint of “gender” in view, then, frankly, right now, I feel we’ve lost. Abuse is to be confronted and our children are to be protected. Families are to be protected. And women’s help lines and shelters simply MUST be opened up to men. Either that or parallel organizations can fill the need.

Out of about 20 calls to women’s help lines (yes, I’ve been that desperate), there was ONE time where someone actually fielded my call. Someone actually gave me the counsel, information, and advice that they would have given a woman. That was a VERY helpful and healing call in my life, and I am grateful that the woman on the other end of the line neither yelled at me nor hung up on me as others had.

In the meantime, I am raising our daughter. I separated from my wife in mid August and even though we have a 1week on 1 week off caretaking arrangement — oops, she’s sick, oh, she brings our daughter to kindergarten late or not at all, oops, she dresses our daughter in clothes that don’t fit right — oh combing her hair is just too much of a hassle, so forget about it, she can just look like a nappy mop in KG, that’s cool.

And no one would suspect it, considering her doe-faced kind-smile and soft-eyed presentation. Which is of course, the woman I married, but not the woman my wife is and was towards me behind closed doors.

And as the man, I am urged to “be more understanding.” Of what? Of outright abuse? I have never hit my wife. She has hit, bitten, restrained, yelled, raged, etc.

The counselors want to discuss how both of us are perpetrators. Maybe make the discussion “fair” by seeing it as 50/50.

Well some things are not 50/50.

A sniper can kill you from 2 miles away with a single bullet. Was the exchange 50/50? A robber can steal your car. Was that 50/50? Are you just as much to blame as the person who stole your car? Do you need to do “personal work,” because someone stole your car?

I have spent about a decade now absorbing abuse, compensating for constant chaos, and I am now repairing my life.

Thank God, now that I have separated from my wife, the kindergarten teachers and administration see more of what is going on. My daughter is well dressed, well taken care of, and OK when she is with me. When she is with my wife, she is either very very late, ragged, or distressed. My wife hasn’t kept her appointments with the kindergarten staff and, oh, now my wife wants to pull her out of her kindergarten, where she is loved, has friends, and plays on a mountainside.

In one sense, I am fortunate, because my wife’s neglect of her own child is pretty obvious to those who are in contact with her regularly. I have deep sympathy for men who are abused by women who do a “good job” with their children. That’s got to be an even more impossible situation.

And how does it feel as a man to have “escaped” from an abusive relationship with a child? I feel like a complete idiot. Sure, people smile at me and my daughter a lot in public. She sings and is well dressed and both my wife and I are good looking people, so our daughter is simply a beautiful child. But the “background” behind this father with the adorable daughter is simply: horrific.

Please don’t forget, men are victims of domestic violence too.

My Response (Leslie Vernick):

Thank you for your poignant and passionate response. For those of you who did not get my last newsletter, the larger context of my comment he’s referring to is:

When a husband bullies his wife, his behavior does not describe biblical headship, nor is her forced “submission” characteristic of biblical submission. The correct terms are coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or rape and she is the victim. Let’s make sure we use the right words.

When a woman bullies her husband, the sinfulness and inappropriateness of the interactions are much [less] obvious to church leaders, but the very sinfulness of bullying behavior is exactly the same whether the abusive behaviors is initiated by the wife or the husband.

Your points are well taken. Men are victims of abuse and here is more sad news:

1. The Family Violence survey as well as numerous other studies have found that men are just as likely to be the victims of domestic violence as women are.

2. Men indeed have fewer resources to help them. The only national toll-free helpline for men is the Domestic Abuse Helpline (888 743 5754). Go to their website at http://dahmw.org/ to find other helpful websites and resources for men who are abused. There are very few shelters (out of 1,200-1,800 DV shelters) that offers services to men.

3. Men are less likely to be supported or validated. Men who report abuse are often seen as wimpy, frail, passive, or stupid, thus making it much more likely that they won’t report. Suzanne Steinmentz, director of the Family Research Institute at Indiana University/Purdue said, “They [men] wouldn’t dream of reporting the kind of minor abuse – – such as slapping or kicking – – that women routinely report.” Why not? Because men are supposed to “take it like a man.”

4. Society doesn’t deem men as “victims” and we tend to perceive women more vulnerable than men, therefore abuse by a woman toward a man may seem more justified or excusable than abuse by a man toward a woman. A recent study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that sometimes it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. On the other hand, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt it was ever appropriate for a husband to slap his wife.

5. A man calling the police to report domestic abuse is three times more likely to be arrested than the woman who is abusing him. This makes him afraid to report, thus making the statistics for abuse of men higher than we know.

6. When a woman is abusive, she is more likely to be seen as “sick” and labeled with a mental health diagnosis. People tend to be more compassionate toward someone labeled sick. When a man is abusive, he is more likely to be labeled with entitlement issues, power and control problems, character defects or sin problems. Compassion is directed toward the female victim, not the male offender.

To the man who wrote his comments and other men who are victims of domestic violence, we hear you. Domestic violence isn’t a woman’s problem or a man’s problem, it is a human problem and a tragedy.

Please know, God gives wisdom for both the victim and abuser to heal and to change so that generational patterns are broken, but it’s only as we speak up and speak out about this can we receive the help we and our loved ones need.

The Bullying Epidemic

From:  Heartlife Soul-Care
 

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea’.” Matthew 18:1-6

Bullying has certainly become an epidemic in our schools today. Yet, because it is often something that parents, teachers, and even friends cannot detect, many people don’t understand how extreme bullying can get. Now more than ever, children and teens are waking up afraid to go to school. The American Justice Department says that this month 1 out of every 4 children will be abused by a peer. In a recent study, 77% of students said they had been bullied, and 14% of those who were bullied said they experienced severe reactions to the abuse.

What exactly does bullying entail? Bullying is described as being picked on repeatedly, either by physical force or verbally. Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of appearance and social status. For the most part, bullies pick on the kids they think “don’t fit in”; such as how they look, how they act (for example, kids who are shy and withdrawn), or their race or religion. “Being bullied is not just an unpleasant rite of passage through childhood,” says Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “It’s a public health problem that merits attention. People who were bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression and low self esteem well into adulthood, and the bullies themselves are more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life.” Other long lasting effects of bullying include health problems, poor grades, and suicidal thoughts.

Bullies and the Warning Signs…

A common thread among bullies is that they like to dominate others and are generally focused on themselves. Often times they have poor social skills and poor social judgment, as well as no feelings of empathy toward other people. The purpose in bullying is to put other people down in order to make themselves feel better, or more powerful. Unfortunately, some bullies act the way they do because they’ve been hurt by a bully themselves, possibly by someone in their own family.

Although there are two main types of bullying, physical and emotional, there are several ways that bullying can be manifested. In order to understand the warning signs, let’s look at the different types of bullying:

1.    Verbal bullying, which includes derogatory comments and/or calling someone bad names

2.    Bullying through social exclusion or isolation

3.    Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting

4.    Bullying through lies and/or spreading rumors

5.     Having money or personal belongings taken or damaged

6.     Being threatened or being forced to do things against one’s will

7.     Racial bullying

8.     Sexual bullying

9.     Cyber bullying (via cell phone or Internet), using websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Springboard.

Boys vs. Girls

Four ways That Boys and Girls Bully Differently:

  1. Boys are more likely than girls to display bullying behavior through physical intimidation. Girls bully verbally more than physically, and they leave other girls out of their circle, or gossip and spread rumors.
  2. When boys bully, they bully both girls and boys. Girls usually only bully other girls.
  3. Boys tend to bully openly, whereas girls disguise their bullying and act out in more passive aggressive ways. Because of this, girl-on-girl bullying is harder to spot. The majority of researchers think that boys bully more than girls, but more recent studies suggest that adults simply have a harder time recognizing when girls bully.
  4. Experts believe that boys are more likely to cyber-bully. Girls who are cyber-bullied are more likely to report the bullying to adults.

Four Ways That Boys and Girls Bully The Same:

  1. Both genders can bully in the form of racist, sexist or homophobic remarks.
  2. Bullying by both boys and girls is harmful and can lead to depression, body image issues, and low self-esteem.
  3. Both male and female bullies will at times turn on their friends.
  4. Both genders start to bully around the same age, in their younger teens. Bullying for both girls and boys starts to fade away by the later teen years.

In order to know if your child is being bullied, keep a close watch for a change in their behavior. Some of the milder behaviors that may indicate your child is being bullied are: social isolation/lack of friends with whom he or she spends time; being afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, or riding the school bus; not taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs); lack of interest in school work or suddenly performing poorly in school. Some of the more serious warning signs are: coming home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings; showing unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches; appearing sad, tearful, or depressed when he or she comes home; appearing anxious and suffering from low self esteem; and experiencing a loss of appetite, or a refusal to eat.

Perhaps the most apparent effect that bullying is having on our teens today is a significant change in their self worth. Kids, who were once homecoming queens, football stars, artists, and actors, are starting to believe that they are hated by everyone and are worthless in society’s eyes. No amount of external processing or encouragement is penetrating the minds of these teens. They have been utterly convinced that they are what their bullies say they are.

Prevention/Intervention

As parents, it is very troublesome for a child to come home exhibiting any of the behaviors or warning signs listed above. For most parents, the school environment has always been completely trusted and held in high regard. So, what happens when the teachers and administration that you trust, don’t detect that your child is being bullied?

First, let’s address what to do if you suspect that your child is being bullied. The first step is to talk to your child. It sounds cliché, but simply asking your child about what is going on, and letting them know that you are concerned about them, is an empowering step. It promotes autonomy and provides a voice for them.  It shows them that you care and that you are an advocate for them. Without judgment, condemnation, or blaming, explore their experience of what is going on at school. Other questions to ask include, but are not limited to: “Who are the friends that you hang out with at school?”, “Are there any kids that you avoid or don’t like being around?”, and “Are there kids at school that leave you out on purpose, or who say hurtful things?”

Secondly, it’s important to simply be aware of this epidemic occurring in schools and churches, and be prepared to do something about it. At the beginning of the school year, or at the beginning of a new semester, reach out to your child’s teachers and especially their guidance counselors. Both teachers and guidance counselors will be in the best position to understand how your child relates to their peers at school. Also, share your concerns about your child’s behavior and alert their teachers as soon as you see warning signs. Engaging in prevention on the front end will often times do away with any intervention in the future.

The Future of Bullying

Prevention will be the key for dealing with the issue of bullying. Parents, schools, teachers, counselors, youth pastors, ministers, and all adults need to be aware of this increasingly prevalent problem. Make no mistake, bullying is real and it is affecting 1 in 4 teens as you read this article. More people are speaking out about bullying and publishing articles and books on the subject. Hayley DiMarco recently published a book titled Mean Girls, and in it she paints a real picture about the nature of cliques and how hurtful girls are being towards other girls. Hayley writes about her own experience being bullied. She says,

“When I was a teenager, my spirit was imprisoned by fear, maybe like yours is right now. I had no sense of the greatness of God or the power of his hand in my life. I couldn’t see life from his point of view, only from my weak little place on the planet. I didn’t understand a bigger picture because I had not yet discovered Christ and his teachings, his Spirit, and his love. I didn’t come to understand that until after college. If I had known then what I know now, maybe those girls would have ended up my friends or at least left me alone a little bit. No one ever told me how to handle them, what to say to them, or how to be around them. Instead I was just plain scared of them. I lived a lot of my life in fear, and it didn’t have to be that way. How sad that no one was there to tell me about the amazing truth of godliness with love. Now that I have come through years of fighting with the Mean Girl and of not knowing how to avoid her or get rid of her, I have a new understanding of how I am supposed to react to her, even if I can’t get rid of her”.

May we all seek to be on the front end of bullying and proactively teach our children to see themselves in the way that their Heavenly Father does. God’s word tells us, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear…Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29,32). We must take an active stand against harm perpetrated against our children.  In our key text, Matthew 18:1-6, the Amplified Bible describes children as trusting, lowly, loving, and forgiving.  When a child is harmed, the view of themselves, others, and God is diminished.  We have a great responsibility to protect the hearts of our children-let’s exercise it.

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