Updated: Oct 21, 2018
By Katarina T. Conrad, PhD
Why do kids bully other kids?
Bullies like to seek attention. They want to make themselves feel important and respected. Part of the reason is that they don’t get that at home. They may even model the behavior of their parents or someone else they know, such as friends that are bullies themselves. Yelling, insulting, undermining, hitting, cursing, negligence and so forth. Most of the bullies are being bullied themselves, sometimes even at home.
Who are they after?
The bullies thrive on teasing kids that react. They might pick on kids who get upset easily or who have trouble sticking up for themselves. Getting a big reaction out of someone can make bullies feel like they have the power they are craving. Sometimes bullies pick on someone who is smarter than they are or different from them in some way. Sometimes bullies just pick on a kid for no reason at all. They generally lack empathy and sometimes suffer internally. Most bullies don't understand or care about the feelings of others.
How to recognize that your child is being bullied
Here are some things to look for: Change in their mood. Lower self-esteem. Withdrawn. Doesn’t look forward to school. Looks worried. Doesn’t want to talk. Comes home with bruises or items taken or damaged. Mentions the same individual (or group) that is giving her a hard time.
How bullying can affect your child’s learning
When she is in an alert state, worried about her well being, her fight or flight response triggers a rush of hormones such as cortisol, that turns her focus on the danger (bully) instead of on the teacher. Her heart starts to race, pumping oxygen to her muscles getting her ready to run. Her blood begins to coagulate in case she gets cut or injured in the process. In such state, it is hard for her to focus on anything else but the bully. The teacher might be giving the most exciting lecture, but if she is in an alert state, worrying about her well being, she will not retain any information. This will also affect a child’s desire to go to school.
Suggestion: The number one thing we can do as teachers or parents is to help make our classrooms safe and conducive to learning.
Stand up to bullying with I.M. S.T.R.O.N.G
Stand up for yourself and others.
Tell an adult.
Respond not react (don’t show your feelings).
Outsmart the bully.
“No” is a complete sentence.
If possible, avoid meeting them in the first place. But, that’s sometimes easier said than done. When passing by them, walk confidently, with shoulders straight. You don’t have to hasten your steps, just walk normally. If they throw derogatory remarks, ignore them and keep on walking.
It’s easier to handle and avoid bullies altogether when you have your friends with you. Bullies thrive on harassing kids that appear vulnerable, different, lonely, or smarter than them.
Stand up for yourself and others that are being bullied
Bullies tend to pick on kids who don't stick up for themselves. This is where confidence comes in. It’s hard to stick up for yourself if you are not confident in your abilities to deal with the confrontation. You will definitely be more confident and assertive if you know how to defend yourself physically. Also, if you hear someone talking bad about someone else, don’t ignore it, say something. Silence is a form of participation. If you see a kid being bullied mention it to an adult if you don’t feel comfortable confronting the bully yourself.
Tell an adult
If you are being bullied, it's very important to tell an adult. Find someone you trust to talk about what is happening to you. Teachers, principals, parents, and lunchroom helpers at school can all help to stop bullying. Also, document each incident in writing. And take pictures of your belongings that are ruined, lockers being written on, and especially bruises you might have. All this is good evidence for later when you talk to an adult.
Respond not react (don’t show your feelings)
This is so important. The bullies thrive on teasing kids that react. They might pick on kids who get upset easily or who have trouble sticking up for themselves. Getting a big reaction out of someone is fuel to a bully’s fire. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Rather, take a deep breath and hold back your frustration and tears.
Outsmart the bully
Plan ahead. How can you stop yourself from getting angry or showing you're upset? Bullies usually aren't very smart or witty, so you can use this to your advantage. They are looking for your reaction, so if you stay calm under pressure and even smile and respond with kindness that can be very frustrating to bullies because they want to get a negative reaction out of you. They want you to get upset and cry.
NO. Use your voice and your body language
The greatest weapons you possess are your mind and voice. Your voice can carry you farther than you might think. Most of the time. a firm “No!” with a determined look will be enough to deter a persistent bully. Your body language and your attitude can help too. Walk with your shoulders straight, chin up, and make direct eye contact. After all, looking someone directly in the eyes is the first sign of confidence.
Nothing builds confidence faster than gaining self-defense skills. When you acquire them, don’t misuse them. Don't hit, kick, or push back to deal with someone who is verbally bullying you or your friends. Starting a fight just satisfies a bully and it's dangerous, because someone really could get hurt. You're also likely to get in trouble. It's best to stay with others, stay safe, and get help from an adult. Use your skills only when physically threatened and in the interest of self-defense. Check out classes like KHR Mom-Daughter Empowerment 8-Week Course to help your daughters get some valuable life lessons and skills.
More on Respect in this blog.