I don’t remember talking about bullies growing up as much as I do now. I don’t recall hearing about bullies as much either.
Whether this is because the 1990s were a blissful time of playground peace and harmony, or because the climate of recurring school violence has made us hyper aware, I am unsure.
But bullies are definitely here to stay.
Sure, there have always been bullies.
We all remember that iconic scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie and his pals get stopped by the two horrible bullies, and the part later in the movie where he totally unleashes his wrath upon said bully.
Bullies today are not as obvious or open about their methods. There are rarely bruises to point to to indicate that a bullying event has occurred.
Bullies today, especially girl bullies, are sneaky and conniving.
Boys bully by belittling, insulting, someone or leaving him out of their athletic games. Suddenly, the kid who always played soccer at recess is sitting by himself, miserable. Boys also still subscribe to the physical bullying stereotype. They roughhouse a little too hard with their target, or threaten violence to get money or a toy or the really awesome dessert that mom has packed.
Girl bullies are ultra hard to catch. They slip underneath everyone’s radar until it is too late, and maximum damage has been inflicted on their victim.
Girls are social bullies. A female bully will bully her friends, or other girls in her wider social circle. It’s rumors, silent treatments, and playing hot/cold with friendship or favors.
This creates a cycle of hope and hurt.
First the victim is let back into the group, but only for certain things. Then, she commits some unnamed offense against the pack leader, and everyone turns on her again.
We have all read the stories about young teens who have committed suicide after being bullied via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or text message.
Well, it happens in elementary school, too.
More frequently than ever even very young children have access to smart phones with internet access or to phones with texting capabilities. This allows bullies to contact their victim all the time. To slowly pile hurt upon virtual hurt onto the pile of hurt.
This type of bullying occurs with both genders, and without bias. Everyone, and anyone, could be a victim or perpetrator of bullying via technology. All it takes is a moment and a device.
This is why parents need to be especially conscious about monitoring the access and usage of their children when it comes to technology.
Consequences of Being Bullied
Female victims of female bullies, especially a bully who used to be a friend, blame themselves.
The victim searches for the one point where she went wrong, the one thing that she did to change the friendship. And she tries desperately to get back into the group’s good graces. The effects of this kind of bullying carry over across a lifetime.
For boys, many cases are more cut and dry. There was an argument, and he hit the other kid, so the first kid hit him back. Or he has been shaken down for pocket change every single day this year. These actions are more results based, although there are definitely social bullying cases among boys as well.
The results of bullying across genders makes the victim feel weak, small, and inconsequential. She is hurt, ashamed, and unsure of where to turn for help.
The bullies are likely suffering hurts of their own, and attempting to feel better by making someone else feel worse. This method works for a time, but generally results in the bully feeling terrible in the long run.
This is heartbreaking for every person involved.
As a teacher who has dealt with these situations, you feel awful that this has happened literally right under your nose. As a parent, your child is wounded and you cannot fix this. The parents of the bully often find it hard to believe that their child has acted in this manner, and often blame the behavior on friendship trouble or shifting alliances.
What Can You Do?
You can talk to your child. You can find out who their friends are, and get to know these kids (and their parents).
If you notice a sudden unexplained shift socially, ask about it. Even if your kiddo doesn’t want to talk right now, keep after it.
Get the teacher and school involved. Let them know about the situation. Contact the school counselor or social worker. Find out about support groups, lunch bunch, or other ways to help your child feel safe and supported.
If your child is a bully, you need to be equally proactive. Admit that there is a problem, first of all. Even if it hurts you. Seek help for your child through therapy or meeting with the school social worker/counselor. Support your child, and work together to find out the root cause of the bullying behavior.