Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Twelve Bullying Myths: Part 2

Twelve bullying myths: Myths #3-4
What do parents really need to know about bullying? It's not necessarily what you think.
Article from Greatschools.org and written by Valle Dwight
Myth #3

The bully is always bigger

Despite media depictions from the 80s (Biff from Back to the Future), 90s (Nelson from The Simpsons), and even now (Dave Karofsky from Glee), bullies aren’t necessarily large kids who pack a powerful punch. “Physical size is really inconsequential when it comes to this issue,” Mayer says. Bullying is often about power, and a child who bullies is often trying to counteract something that’s going wrong (real or perceived) in his own life. “In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that a bully is typically smaller,” Mayer says, adding that the aggression could be inspired by the bully’s lack of confidence and feelings of physical inadequacy.

“Bullying is mostly psychological,” Williams says. Girls report being bullied more than boys — and they’re more often victimized by passive aggressive behavior or social aggression over physical harm. “If you think about it, a small girl on the cheerleading team could be a school’s biggest bully (pun intended),” Williams says.

Myth #4

There’s one clear way to solve the problem

Because bullying scenarios vary so widely, no single response can be prescribed. The complicated truth is that different situation — and different kids — call for different actions. The key is thinking about these actions (and reactions) and discussing them with your child.

The case against fighting back:

“Everything we know is that the ultimate right thing to do is to ignore the bully. Turn your back on the teasing and bullying and it’ll go away,” Mayer says. “That follows Psych 101 principles.” He insists an eye-for-an-eye response is ultimately ineffective and often hurts far more than it helps. Why? Although hitting back might bring a moment of satisfaction, it can lead to escalation – which, in light of reports of kids bringing weapons to school, could put both the bully and the bullied in mortal danger. Mayer compares it to an arms race, with the weapons just getting bigger and more destructive. Instead, he recommends discussing these possible strategies with your child:

• Tell an adult. Whether it’s a parent, teacher or a coach, your child should tell an authority figure who can make sure the bully faces consequences. “Teach kids to inform an adult so that the bully will be restrained and face consequences,” he says. Ideally, if the rules of society are enforced against the bully, it should put an end to the behavior. “It’s a higher form of fighting back,” Mayer says.

• Don’t react. Encourage your child not to cry, stop walking, or acknowledge the bully in any way. “This can be super-hard to teach kids, but it’s what works,” Mayer says. If your child responds, the bully will feed on it. By leaving the bully hanging, she or he will end up looking silly.

• Consider the consequences. Does your child’s school have a zero-tolerance policy? If so, your child could be punished (even suspended) for self-defense. This consequence might seem unfair to children and parents alike – and, depending on how it is implemented at your child's school, may be something you should consider discussing with school administrators.

The case for fighting back:

In some scenarios, “fighting back” in the form of verbal retorts and, when warranted, physical force can put an end to bullying. But it’s important to consider the child and the situation. “It’s safe to assume that the child who is more confidently able to defend him or herself is probably less likely to be a target of bullying,” Williams says. So simply telling a scared child to fight back isn’t enough. Ultimately, it’s about safety. Williams advises parents to tell their children to report bullying to an adult — particularly at school. “However, in a case where the bully will not listen to reason and where adults abdicate responsibility, appropriate self-defense has to be considered – and available to a child as a viable option," he says.

Before this option is exercised, however, Williams says parents and caregivers need to carefully consider their position and communicate it clearly to their child. “A child should never feel conflicted about self-defense,” he says. Martial arts and boxing training are two great ways to help a child prepare for — or even prevent — being victimized by a bully. “Beyond physical preparedness, martial arts and boxing training give children the mental confidence and posturing necessary to project a sense of being in control.”


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