I am a spectator in the world of bullying. At work I sit on the opposite side of the therapy couch listening to stories of bullying from all angles…
He always picks on me.
I tell him to stop and he does it more.
I am worried about my child – he comes home crying ever day.
Why won’t he just stand up for himself?
I pick on the weird, wimpy kids.
It’s fun to see him cry.
I don’t want my kid to be a bully.
Why is he being so mean?
Who do bullies like to target?
I have asked thousands of children what makes them target certain kids and this is what I hear most often:
I pick on-
“Kids who cry when I tease them”
“Kids who freak out when I bother them”
“Know it alls”
These kids talk about how it is fun to see another kid cry. It is fun to see another kid get so angry that they explode. Usually they do not care when I tell them how they hurt other kids.
They want to hurt others kids. They want to make them feel bad. There are many reasons why a child picks on another child.
After fifteen years of child therapy, I have started to see a pattern emerge.
Bullies often have several of these traits (but not always):
Feelings of insecurity
Has family stress, conflict and/or violence
Is socially awkward
Has a history of being bullied themselves
Has a history of not being socially accepted
Family member(s) pick on them
These children have often felt stomped on. They may have been teased or picked on at home. They may have been socially rejected in the past. They may have been teased at school. They may have a skewed perception of reality and feel everyone is out to get them.
Whatever the reason – bullies feed on making others feel as bad as they have felt. They will often pick on a child that has qualities they don’t like in themselves. They might pick on someone in just the same way that they are picked on at home.
Bullies want a reaction. Bullies want to get kids upset. Bullies want to see others explode.
Sadly, the children who are bullied tend to be some of the nicest kids I have ever met. They often have big hearts and are confused why someone would treat anyone that way. They will suffer silently or have a strong emotional reaction when being teased. They will often tell me that they can’t be mean back because they don’t want the other child to “feel bad.”
So how can you help your child to be less of a target? Sadly sometimes being the victim of bullying is unavoidable and out of your child’s control. However, there are steps they can take to make themselves LESS of a target. I explain it this way to children-
Bullies go around poking at kids until they find one that will pop. Don’t be the one to pop.
Here are tips to tell your child:
Try not to cry or get angry when being bullied.
Bullies feed off your reaction. Without a reaction they will not find it as fun to bully you.
Calmly defend yourself and then ignore them.
Bullies don’t want to look stupid. If you appear calm the bully will worry they appear stupid or weak. You will make it less fun for them and they will want to find another target.
Do not ignore the bully.
Bullies want to feel powerful. When you are completely silent and ignore them – they feel like they can walk all over you. They feel powerful. You want to calmly defend yourself. This tells the bully – I hear you, but you have no power over my emotions. You cannot upset me. Bullies want power. If you do not give it to them – they will more than likely move on.
Be confident and don’t show them that you care about what they are saying.
Bullies want other people to look stupid. Act like you don’t care about what they are teasing you about. When you show confidence – they will feel more uncomfortable teasing you.
I know these are hard things to do. I tell kids to“fake it till they make it.” I let them know that it is okay to feel sad or angry about being bullied, but we don’t want the bully to see it. Those emotions feed the bully and make them want to come back for more. Tell them bullies don’t care who they bully – just as long as they get a reaction.
Bullying can be one of the toughest things to watch your child go through. If you feel your child is being bullied or is being a bully, you can always go to the school counselor for additional support and guidance.
For more information and support on bullying you can visit: Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
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