From “Signs of A Bully” Posted: October 12th, 2010 by Michele Borba
How to spot a bully and what to do if you suspect a child is bullying….advise for parents and educators to turning bullying behaviors around:
The good news is because bullying is a learned behavior it can also be unlearned. And no matter the age, gender, religion, or ethnicity, any child resorting to bullying needs an immediate behavior intervention. Here are a few ways to spot bullying behavior so you can turn this around from my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (refer to the chapters on Bullying, Insensitivity and Aggression). Here are the beginning steps for educators, parents and counselors to turn this behavior around, and pronto.
Understand What Bullying Is
Bullying is cruelty and always contains these four elements:
- It is an aggressive act that is usually repeated
- The bully has more power (strength, status, size) than the victim who cannot hold his own
- The hurtful behavior is not an accident, but intentional. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress
- The bully rarely accepts responsibility and often says the victim “deserved” the hurtful treatment.
Know the Signs of Bullying
Look for repeated and intentional patterns of verbal, emotional or physical aggression. You may not spot these when your child is with you, so ask other caregivers (teachers, coaches, babysitters, relatives) for their perspective. Get on board with others. Know that there is a new breed of bullying One study shows that some of the most popular kids in schools and even those in leadership roles display antisocial behaviors. So don’t be too quick to say: “Not my kid!” There is no one profile to a bully so here are a few typical behaviors of bullying to watch for:
- Excludes or shuns another child
- Taunts, intimidates or harasses
- Spreads vicious rumors verbally and or electronically that hurt or ruin another’s reputation
- Physically aggressive (hits, punches, kicks, slams, chokes)
- Positive views of violence
- Threatens with force or fear; extortion
- Marked need to control and dominate others
- Damages another child’s property or clothing
- Quick-tempered, impulsive, easily frustrated, flares off the top
- Takes pleasure in seeing a child (or animal) in distress, unconcerned if someone is upset
- Finds it difficult to see a situation from the other person’s point of view
- Refuses to accept responsibility or denies wrong doing when evidence shows guilt
- Blames the victim or says the child “deserved what he got”; good at talking way out of situations
- Shows little sympathy or concern for the victim or a child who was hurt
- Targets those who are weaker or younger or animals
- Intolerant of “differences” whether it be sexual orientations, cultures, religious beliefs, appearances, age, gender, or abilities and often slams those differences
- Is insensitive to the feelings or needs or others; a lack of empathy
Take Bullying Reports Seriously
It’s not easy to hear negative things about your child, but don’t dismiss or excuse any report that your child is bullying: “He has friends.” “She’s a model student.” One study shows that some of the most popular kids in schools and even those in leadership roles display antisocial behaviors. Catching an aggressive behavior early is the best way to stop it.
Make sure the behavior is bullying not teasing. Bullying can be misconstrued with teasing (and all kids tease!). Bullying is NOT teasing. Teasing usually involves two kids who are on “equal plane” – which means the victim or teased child can hold his or her own to the teaser. Teasing can be making fun “with the child” and if the teased child asks the teaser to stop, the teaser usually complies. Teasing is also usually amongst friends or acquaintances. A bullied child never considers the bully to be a friend and the bullied child can never hold his or her own.
Respond ASAP if your suspect those reports have validity. University of Michigan psychologist, Leonard Eron, tracked more than 800 eight-year olds over four decades and singled out the twenty-five percent who often showed bullying behavior. By age thirty, one in four had an arrest record, while only five percent of the nonaggressive children did. Contact the teacher. Set up an appointment with the school counselor or psychologist. Or get a referral to an outside counselor or psychologist.
Remember, bullying is learned and can be unlearned. It will take steadfast commitment and a research-based strategies to make that change, but it is doable. And nothing will be more important for the child’s future than ensuring that change.
Resources for this blog:
M. Borba, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers, 2010.
A. Dickinson, “Bad Boys Rule: A New Study Shows Some of the Most Popular Kids in School Are ‘Extremely Antisocial’”, Time, Jan. 31, 2000, p. 77.
University of Michigan study by Leonard Eron study: Z. Lazar, “Bullying: A Serious Business,” Child, February 2001, p 78-84.
D. Olweus, “Bully/Victim Problems Among Schoolchildren: Basic Facts and Effects of a School-Based Intervention Program,” in The Development and Treatment of Childhood Aggression, 1991.