Many of my child clients come to me because they are bullied. Through extensive research, I found that there is no effective individual therapy for the victims of bullying, or for bullies. However, there are effective, school-based programs that can reduce bullying by 30-70%, such as the Olweus Bully Prevention Program. A high proportion of childhood anxiety, depression, and medical illness is due to bully victimization. By implementing the Olweus Program in our schools, we could dramatically reduce childhood anxiety, depression, medical complaints, and chronic illness exacerbations!
A child is being bullied when he or she is exposed to repeated or severe intentional negative actions on the part of one or more students.
Bullying = Peer Abuse
Bullying may include:
Myth: Bullies have low self-esteem, and bully others because they are in pain.
Fact: Bullies gain satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering, have little empathy, have inflated sense of self-worth.
Myth: Bullies are loners with few friends. A typical bully is a big, hulking, red-faced boy.
Fact: Bullies have friends, and high social status with peers and teachers. They are often the "popular kids". (There is a very small segment of children who bully, known as bully-victims or reactive victims, for whom the stereotypes of the loner with low self-esteem applies.)
Myth: Our school has a Character Development program and a Conflict Resolution program. These will prevent bullying.
Fact: Character Development and Conflict Resolution programs do nothing to prevent bulling. Bullying is not conflict between peers; there is an imbalance of power, and it is peer abuse.
Myth: The best way to handle bullying is for the school counselor to teach the bullied child social skills and assertiveness.
Fact: The best way to handle bullying is to implement a school-wide anti-bullying program with clear rules against bullying, consistent enforcement, consequences for any bullying behavior, and social/emotional support for the victim. (Why is this?)
Myth: Bullying is a natural part of childhood. There is nothing that can be done to stop it.
Fact: Bullying is harmful to the child who is bullied, to bystanders who live in fear of being bullied, and to the school environment because it creates a hostile environment. Effective interventions can reduce bullying (the Olweus program consistently reduces bullying by 30-70%)
Myth: Bullying happens mostly in middle school
Fact: Rates of bullying are highest in elementary school, declining gradually through high school.
Myth: Few children are involved in bullying.
Fact: 20% of children admit to bullying others, 25% report being bullied. Similar rates have been found repeatedly, in a wide range of socioeconomic settings, in the US, in Europe, in rural, urban, and suburban settings.
Myth: School staff are aware of most bullying. We don’t have a bullying problem in our school.
Fact: The vast majority of bullying goes undetected by school personnel.
Myth: Bullies have good leadership skills.
Fact: Bullies are 4 times more likely to have 3 or more felony convictions by age 24 (Olweus). Children who bully are not learning valuable life skills, coping skills, and relationship skills (many spouse batterers were children who bullied).
DO support your child.
DO believe your child.
DO tell the school about the bullying.
DO find out how the school is going to handle the incident of bullying.
DO make it clear to the school that this is not a case of peer conflict, but it is case of bullying, and that your child is not responsible for "standing up to the bully" or "being assertive".
DO find support for yourself. Stay connected. Don't let the bullying cause you to become isolated. You are not alone!
DO NOT blame your child.
DO NOT tell you child what he/she should to to fix the bullying.
DO NOT tell you child to "ignore the bullying, don't let it bother you". Your child is being abused! Ignoring it won't make the abuse stop and won't make the pain go away.
DO NOT try to confront the parents of the bully. The result will probably be that th will bully you.
DO NOT allow the school to blame your child for being bullied.