Fight Back: Bullying

In Elizabeth Guice, Kiddos by Lola Magazine

By Dr. Elizabeth Guice, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Child Life Specialist at LSU Health in Shreveport, Children’s Center.

Bullying is an issue that has existed for generations in schools across our country. A child that has been or is being bullied is heartbreaking for both the child and the parent. It is important for parents to be aware of their own child being bullied or at times their child being the bully. Talk to your children and educate yourself on the signs of bullying to protect your child and other children as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in three children report they have been bullied at school with an estimated 160,000 children missing school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. The best way to stop bullying is a team approach and accomplished through raised awareness by both adults (parents, teachers, administrators) and students.

What Is Bullying?

The U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

What Are The Different Types Of Bullying?

Typically when we think about bullying, we tend to focus on physical aggression including hitting or kicking or a child using physical threats for gain, such as taking another child’s lunch money. However, when you define bullying, you need to include verbal aggression as well as physical aggression. Some common examples of verbal aggression include name-calling and general teasing. Another form of bullying is social bullying which includes talking about others behind their backs and spreading false rumors. The newest and most prolific form of bullying is cyber bullying. It includes any form of bullying that involves the use of social medias such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Additionally, it includes any other form of bullying via electronic messaging such as text messaging or e-mail.

What Is The Difference Between Boys And Girls Bullying?

Typically, boys tend to use more direct forms of aggression including physical and verbal bullying while females tend to use a more social, indirect form. In short, male bullying is often more easily seen and identifiable and female bullying can be a bit more covert, but both are very detrimental to the victim.

What Are The Signs A Child Is Being Bullied?

One sign of bullying is that the victim’s personality suddenly changes without an explainable reason. Parents should also be on the lookout for unexplained injuries or frequent somatic complaints. Children may state that they have “lost” an item such as a toy or electronic device that has actually been taken from them by the aggressor. In prolonged bullying, a child may lose interest in socializing with peers and become angry, anxious, or depressed.

What Are The Signs A Child Is A Bully?

It is often very difficult for parents to recognize that their child may be a bully. Often parents have discounted the concerns voiced by others. However, it is important that parents investigate any suspensions that their child may be bullying others. Some signs to be on the lookout for include becoming violent, either physically or verbally, blaming others for their actions, and repeated incidents of being disciplined in the school setting for aggressive behaviors. Also, check children’s phones and computers for signs of bullying.

Why Do Kids Bully?

There are countless reasons why children bully. Some individuals become bullies because of peer pressure from others who engage in that activity. These children bully in attempt to “fit in” with a certain social group. For other children, they bully in reaction to being the victim of bullying themselves. Another reason some children become aggressive is because of a less than nurturing or unstable family life, or as a way of acting out when they don’t know how to deal with an emotion in a healthy manner.

How Can Parents And Other Adults Help?

Education and communication are the keys to helping to prevent bullying in children. Parents and educators should begin talking to children in early elementary school and even preschool about what a friend does and what a friend does not do. It is also important to begin a dialog with children so that they can feel free to discuss any future incidents of bullying. If your child is experiencing bullying it is important to listen to the child without punishing him/her for not defending themselves. An empathetic parent is better able to validate the feelings of the child and offer suggestions on how to approach the aggressor. In extreme cases of bullying, it is appropriate and important for the parent to make the school system aware of the problems and when these problems occur (in the lunchroom, on the playground, etc).

In terms of cyber bullying, it is important to be aware of what sites your child visits and restrict inappropriate sites. In addition to a general awareness of the sites your child visits, it is important to monitor their communications with others. Explain to your child that you monitor their activity to protect them, not to be nosy. As with the other types of bullying, it is important to educate children about what cyber bullying looks like and how to appropriately respond.

In extreme cases of bullying, law enforcement should be made aware of criminal behavior. These behaviors include the following:
1) threats of violence
2) child pornography and sexting
3) taking a photo image of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
4) harassment, stalking, or hate crimes; 5) obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
6) sexual exploitation
7) extortion.

Awareness, education, and open communication and are key in preventing bullying in children. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Elizabeth Guice, Ph.D. received a Doctorate of Philosophy in Marriage and Family therapy from the University of Louisiana Monroe, A Masters in Human Growth and Development from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Child Life and Family Studies from Louisiana Tech University. During her academic training she completed a Child Life Internship at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Worth, Texas. Her teaching interests include family systems, child development, play therapy, and workplace productivity. Her research interests are in the fields of Human Growth and Development, Family Therapy, and Birth Order. She is the Director of Student Counseling, SAHP – Community Outreach Committee.