Bullying/Cyber-Bullying: What prompts this behavior.

I recently went to a workshop on Bullying/Cyber-bullying.  The presenter was Janice Gabe of New Perspectives on Indiana (www.newperspectives-indy.com).  She presented a lot of interesting information about bullying and over the next few blogs, I want to share some of it as I am sure you either have or know of kids that you care about and can influence.

Ms. Gabe presented 8 reasons kids bully others.

1. Status is threatened.  The child’s status in their class/social group is threatened. How would a parent know this?  “Tell me about your day, honey.”, followed by listening to what is said, imagining your child in that situation and how you suspect they would react and asking follow up questions.  Further, add to this information that they shared yesterday about this or similar situations and ask any questions that seem appropriate.  This requires that you DO NOT ALLOW THE CHILD TO GET ON THEIR PHONE OR IPOD the minute they get in the car or home from school (AND YOU STAY OFF YOURS ALSO!).

2. Real or perceived slight or insult.  When your child describes having been insulted, ask them to explain the situation to you.  As the parent, one of your jobs is to help them see the situation from a broader perspective   Have the child describe the situation and ask about the people involved, what, to their knowledge, lead up to the situation and what occurred after it.  Sometimes, the child was insulted. But sometimes, they misinterpret what was said or done.  Suggest alternative interpretations and let the child think about such.  Also, relate similar circumstances that have happened in your life; both, times when you were insulted and times when you mistook an action as an insult (and what you did in that situation).  Children, especially teens, want to hear of your struggles in life and similar situations they are in and THEY WILL LISTEN to what you have to say in such situations  They don’t always show that they are listening but they do listen.

3. Response to a rumor.  In a teens world, rumors are real and are powerful, both in how they shape the views of your child in the eyes of others and in the child’s own eyes (in how they see themselves).  A number of options: If the child has the determination to try to track down what started the rumor, role-play with them confronting the person…and follow-up how they did with this.  Second, discuss with the child how they would react if they heard a rumor about one of their best friends…would they believe the rumor outright, would they question the rumor, etc.  Then, focus the child’s attention on how others are responding to the rumor and question with them if those people who believe the rumor are truly their friends.  Further, share with them your experiences about having rumors spread about you and how you coped, both at their age and now in your life as an adult.  Help the child to see the rumor in the perspective of time passing….remind the child of times when rumors were spread about one of their friends and over time, what happened to the rumor and her friend (as time when by).

4. Perceived cockiness or over-confidence on the part of another.  Remind the child what they know about this person’s personality.  If the other kid is historically overly confident or cocky, this is an excellent time to teach your child about the fact that their are arrogant people in life and discuss ways to cope (spelled “ignore”) such people.  Discuss your own experiences in your life, as a teen and now as an adult, dealing with arrogant people.

5. Threat to one’s own popularity.  Popularity, especially for a teen, is critical and any discussion with your teen must begin with you explaining that you understand this if you hope they will listen to you. Again, helping the child to see this in perspective is critical.  Reality is that people, as well as things, move in and out of popularity.  Help the child to see how they have perhaps been more popular at one time, less popular at another and then seemingly, later, more popular again at a later time.  Describe the same in your life.  Further, popularity has it’s roots in the person as it does in the audience.  For example, a politician can be popular because of a stance they are taking on an issue and/or they can be popular because the people they represent likes a position the politician has taken on a particular issue. So, sometimes we have control over our own popularity and sometimes we don’t. Further, discuss with the child the people they like or admire…are these people particularly popular in their community or is it something about the person themselves that your teen admires them for.  Have your child watch the movie: Mean Girls.  It clearly depicts the good but more importantly the bad side of popularity (loss of one’s sense of self) and then discuss what they learn and how it applies to their situation.

6. Fear of losing friendships. Again, it is critical the teen understand that you understand how important this is to your child.  Reality is that people will gain and lose friends, especially in their school years.  This is a function of the child developing their personality, shaping their values, particular interests they have, availability of like minded people, etc. The child may have lost friends as the result of something they or someone else did.  If they made a mistake, this is the time to teach them how to make apologies…to a person or a group. We adults do this all the time…show then examples in your life and in the media. If they have lost friendships due to other actions, acknowledge the helplessness and anger they feel.  Identify with such from your own life. Remind your teen of   examples of their friends having lost friends in the past…how did they deal with that…did they survive…what was good and bad in how they coped.  The loss of friends will occur in life….as will the making of new friends.  Help your child know that they can’t stop this but that they must learn to survive it and that you will be with them as they go through this.

7. Opportunity to enhance their own status. This is an important lesson for most teens…and challenge ..and it remains a challenge throughout their and our own lives.  Critical intervention to use…When they bully to enhance their own status, remind them when this was done to them or better yet, when they saw this done to another.  Ask/discuss how they felt about that, what did they think about the bullyer, the bullied, and themselves as they stood by and watched/allowed it to happen.  Discuss with them their life post-bullying/post enhancement.  How did they feel about themselves around the bullied person.  Was what they did worth it?  Suggest they think about that and talk with them later about what they concluded.  This must be done without shaming them.  You want them to look at their behavior and not act like they feel bad because they know you want them to feel bad for their bad behavior.

8. Response to a relationship disruption/break-up. Again, any intervention must be precipitated with an acknowledgement of how painful a break-up is.  Remember and share the pain you felt in like circumstances in your life, now and then.  Second, pain or bad behavior doesn’t justify bad behavior.  Make it clear for your teen that just because, for example, their girl/boyfriend treated them poorly, cruelly  rudely, etc., that doesn’t make it OK for your teen to do the same to them or others.  It the break-up just occurred, help them to differentiate how they feel and what they want to do in response to the break-up.  Next, ask them to then identify what are “good”/appropriate things to do in response to the break up and what are “bad”/inappropriate.  Further, point out that while doing the “bad” things may feel good at the moment, how would your teen feel later, about themselves.  If they have already reacted, i.e., bullied or acted aggressively towards the other, how did they feel at the time and how do they feel now.  This examination helps teach the child self-control.


More later.

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