“Bullying is not acceptable,“ is not exactly the statement I believe is going to prevent bullying. In my opinion, the best prevention tool is teaching today’s youth, not only appropriate behavior but also appropriate coping skills to maintain appropriate behavior.
In my opinion, (and, it’s really just an opinion) bullying behavior is often times nothing more than an individual struggling to cope with an unfortunate situation or struggling to express themselves. Sure, there are a few genuine bad kiddo’s in the world, no fault of their own, who need serious mental help; but for the most part, bullying behavior is a natural (yet, inappropriate) response us humans do when we simply don’t know what to do with our crazy emotions.
There are a zillion reasons as to why an individual may express bullying behavior and below is just to name a few:
- Struggling to appropriately express emotions (for example: the boy who picks on the girl he likes or vice versa)
- Feeling neglected or unwanted at home due to lack of needed attention (busy parents, chaotic households, new baby, sick family member, etc)
- Being physically or emotionally abused
- Being forced to grow up too fast
- General stress
- Difficulty coping with constantly feuding parents
- Parental separation
- Simply having a bad day
- Low self-esteem issues or depression
- Personality Disorder
- Other undiagnosed mental-health disorder, including anxiety or anger-issues
- Strict parenting styles that restrict freedom of self-expression or speech
- Someone else is bullying them
Bullies are often victims themselves, taking their emotions out on others to make themselves feel better in effort to cope with their own problem(s). In my opinion, provide bullies with better coping skills to help them tackle whatever situation is triggering their behavior and you might be able to prevent further bullying. Teach these coping skills in school to both parents and students, and you might be able to prevent bullying altogether.
The Wrong Direction With Bullying
Sadly, it seems as if society’s solution to the bullying epidemic is to shame bullies, severely discipline their behavior, place hefty fines on their parents, or whatever other counter-productive measures society thinks is best to prevent bullying. But, I say…that’s wrong. Bullies are often victims that need hugs too.
According to the New York Times article, “Your Child Bullied Someone? That’ll Cost You $313” , a town in Wisconsin are ready to place hefty fines on parents whose child is a bully. The idea is to get parents involved in changing their child’s bad behavior…but, sometimes, the discipline applied by parents may contribute to further bad behavior. I mean, not every parent who is fined hundreds of dollars is going to have a calm reasonable discussion with their child about their behavior. In fact, some parents (especially, those tight on money in the first place) are more likely to have unintentional terrible discussions about how such behavior has negatively impacted household finances; in which the child ends up feeling worse (triggering more bully behavior) for that they now feel it is their fault their family has money problems. Sure, the bully behavior is addressed, but not resolved. And, what if its the parents, themselves, who are the root cause of their child’s bullying behavior– how does a fine resolve that?
Disciplining the behavior without resolving the root cause of the behavior, often makes matters worse- for everyone.
A Better Direction With Bullying
There is way more to bullying than just behavioral issues. Many bullies are going through some pretty heavy stuff that they just don’t know how to handle themselves. They don’t know how to talk about it, solve it, or make it better. They bully others for attention and often times, negative attention is better than no attention at all. They may bully to feel in control, because they lack control somewhere else. I truly believe there is a reason behind every bullying behavior.
Talking, listening, and understanding is vital to stopping bully behaviors. Once the situation becomes clear, you are able to provide an individual with the appropriate tools and/or resources to become a better person and stop bullying.
Victims and those of authority, have different responsibilities when it comes to dealing with bullies:
- Bully victims must tell someone when they are being bullied and make an effort to walk away from that bully.
- Someone of authority (parent, teacher, guardian, etc), must then address the inappropriate behavior as well as, take the time to make an effort to figure out what is causing the behavior in the first place and take the necessary steps to help the individual resolve it.
In my opinion, bullies need help and if everyone walks away, nothing is going to change.
Helping Bullies Stop Bullying
The internet is full of articles on how to cope with “being” bullied, but there is little to no information on how to help a bully. So, from experience, well, some experience, as a parent who had to deal with a child who bullied others to cope with being bullied, this is what I suggest trying to do to help….
- #1 Give them a hug, because if they are expressing bullying behavior, they got some heavy stuff they are trying to figure out.
- Set aside some one-on-one time with your child and LISTEN to them. Sometimes, listening is all they need.
- Be understanding, respectful, and supportive to their situation. Your child’s problems may sound like nothing to you, but they may feel monumental to your child.
- It is important to help bullies learn how to effectively communicate and express their feelings.
- Let them know that it is okay to feel sad, angry, or confused, and encourage them to talk about those feelings.
- If your child will not talk to you, it’s okay. They are human. You can give them a little encouraging nudge, but don’t be pushy.
- Trust is everything.
- Whether or not your child is willing to talk about their problems, it is still important to address their bullying behavior. Let them know that their behavior, regardless the reason behind it, is not acceptable and discuss reasonable consequences if such behavior continues.
- Reassure them that they are not bad people, just people who are making bad decisions.
- Teach them appropriate coping skills for dealing with anxiety and stress.
- Teach them alternative behavior to bullying.
- Try to resolve issues that are triggering the bullying behavior (it might be something that is out of their control and need your help with).
- Leave the victim out of it. Most of the time, the victim has nothing to do with the root cause of the issue. If they are part of the root cause, resolve the issues separately- keeping bully and victim apart for awhile, until each of them learn to work together to resolve their differences.
- If your child will not talk to you, observe their world- Are they stressed? Are there significant changes?
- If bullying behavior is getting worse, seek counseling.
I Am Not Choosing Sides, I Am Choosing BOTH Sides
Nobody deserves to be a victim of bullying and nobody (bully or victim) deserve to struggle with their own problems alone. Bullying behavior is not acceptable and it is our duty, as adults, to help today’s youth learn how to better cope with things that may trigger bully behavior. Bullying prevention starts with us (not the kiddo’s), for that it is the lessons, tools, and skills that we choose to provide to our children that are going to make the biggest impact against bullying behavior.