bullyingWhat is Bullying? 

What do you think of when you hear the word bully?  Some of us may have an image of a larger, mean kid stuffing smaller kids in trash cans and taking their lunch money.  While that might be true in some cases, bullying is such a large and vast issue.  Bullies now come in all shapes and sizes.  There are bullies in schools, neighborhoods and even the workforce.  With the increase in cyber bullying, it can make identifying this behavior even harder.

Statistics on bullying in United States schools show that about one in four children are bullied on a regular basis.  These statistics also show that about 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of being bullied.  And bullying doesn’t just affect children.  According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, up to a third of workers may be the victims of abuse by workplace bullies.

This may seem like an obvious question, but what is bullying? Sometimes the most obvious answer that comes to mind is any act of physical violence or threat of violence toward someone else.  But there is more to it than that.  Verbal bullying can include teasing, name calling, taunting, inappropriate sexual comments, or threatening to cause harm.  Social bullying can include leaving someone out on purpose, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public, or telling others not to be friends with someone.

If we all take a minute and think about a time in our lives, we will probably recall that one or more of these things happened to us. This can help us understand the severity of this problem.  Getting teased and embarrassed in public is not fun for anyone. Imagine that happening on a daily or almost daily basis to a child or teenager.  The effects of emotional or verbal bullying can wreak havoc on a developing personality.

What to do about Bullying…

What can we do about this huge problem?  If you witness bullying taking place, you can and should intervene in an appropriate way.

  • Get another adult to help if available and necessary
  • Stay calm and model respectful behavior
  • Make sure everyone is safe
  • Separate the children involved
  • Get medical attention if necessary
  • Alert the proper authorities if necessary

If your child is being bullied you can help in the following ways:

  • Offer emotional support – engage your child in discussion. Let them know you are available and you want them to talk to you about it.
  • Stay calm when talking with your child. You getting upset in front of them will not help them better handle this emotionally.
  • If it happened at school, discuss the problem with school personnel.
  • Model respectful behavior in front of your child and don’t seek revenge. Always remember that they learn how to treat others by watching you.
  • Educate your child about bullying and what steps they can take if it happens again. There are educational books and videos for kids of different ages to help with this.

Whether we feel like we were ever a personal victim of bullying or not, I think it’s safe to say that this is a problem that has grown exponentially in the last several years, and the statistics show it doesn’t hit too far from home.  If we aren’t experiencing it firsthand right now, we can still take measures to help this problem.  We can all choose to model respectful behavior.  No matter what is going on in our lives, we can make the conscious effort to treat one another better and hopefully show that behavior to the children we encounter.  I assure you, they are watching.