Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twelve Bullying Myths: Part 3

Twelve bullying myths: Myths #5-7

What do parents really need to know about bullying? It's not necessarily what you think.
Article from and written by Valle Dwight
Myth #5

Bullies come from the top of the social pecking order

“Clearly, social gain is at the root of 95 percent of bullying,” Mayer says. So the idea that the bully is “on top” is “almost nonsense,” he says. Why? “If they were at the top, they wouldn’t be as motivated toward bullying behavior.”

Both Mayer and Williams agree that bullying is most often motivated by a desire for social power. “Developmentally speaking, social standing is huge for children and youth,” Williams says. “In fact, by the time they reach adolescence, it can have more influence than, say, the role of a parent. Bullying controls and manipulates the social order; and this is exactly what the bully seeks to accomplish.” Often, this means the bully is a social climber, seeking to increase his or her status. But when a child does seem to be popular, Williams warns, their social status may shield them from consequences — both from other kids and adults. “It lends itself to a type of social Darwinism thinking,” he says.

Commonly, Mayer says, kids who bully are often victims of abuse themselves or are going through difficult problems at home. They may even have cognitive disorders that impair their impulse control. “Something is wrong with that kid in that time of their life,” Mayer says. It doesn’t mean all bullies will turn into criminals, he says, but at that time they are trying to wield power in an inappropriate way. The kid who bullies feels a lack of control in his or her own life.

Often issues at home, such as divorce, abuse, or violence, leave children feeling helpless. Kids who bully don't have the coping mechanisms to deal with that powerlessness. So what do they do? Get power the only way they can. Or as Williams puts it: "Hurt people hurt people." School administrators who understand this can address bullying more effectively by counseling bullies as well as victims.

Myth #6

Parental attitudes have no effect on bullying

In fact, parents can help pave the way for bullying behavior in kids when they don’t teach their children to respect differences in people. Some parents may pay lip service to the idea that all people are equal, but if their actions reveal a different attitude, their kids will pick up on it. If parents talk disparagingly about other groups of people or tell racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes, the message they’re sending is: “All people are not alike, and some are better than others.”

“Kids pick up on those things,” says Williams. “They learn that people have more or less value.” So be aware of what you say at home — and how it can translate into aggression in your child at school.

Myth #7

If your child is a victim, call the bully’s parents

“Parent-to-parent meetings can get nasty,” says Williams, who advises parents of victims to refrain from contacting bullies' parents. The situation, already fraught with emotion, often gets only more heated when parents leap into the fray. (But if parents insist on talking with each other, Williams suggests they use a mediator.)

Instead, start with the school. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy that outlines the steps for dealing with bullies. Talk with the teacher and principal first and together figure out the next steps.


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