Whether a child is the victim of name calling or physical abuse, bullying is devastating to a child’s sense of self worth.
Is your child the victim of bullying? Sometimes the signs are hard to spot, but kids who avoid school, complain of stomach aches or headaches, change their route to or from school, come home disheveled or missing possessions, may be victims. Sybella Artz, a researcher in bullying behavior and author of Sex, Power and the Violent School Girl says “if your child tells you he is being bullied then it’s very important to believe your child, to learn more about the situation and become a very good listener, even if your child just insinuates that something is happening.” She adds that “it’s important not to over-emotionalize your response because children will feel responsible for, and overwhelmed by your emotions, and in turn will try to minimize the bullying. So stay on a very even keel.”
And don’t expect your child to come home sporting a black eye as proof of bullying. It isn’t always physical. Emotional bullying like name calling and threats, and social bullying like exclusion, can totally undermine a child or youth’s self esteem. While both boys and girls use these bullying tactics, it is more common among girls, explains Artz. “Because girls are typically more verbal than boys, there seems to be more of a leaning towards verbal violence and intimidation and behavior that is intimidating, particularly exclusionary. And that has to do with being able to put things into words. Boys are more direct. They’ll just smack you.”
Artz adds that typically, when a girl is bullied, she finds herself at the receiving end of nasty gossip and rumors. “They will create factions, groups or small cliques. And they will begin to character assassinate by creating rumors and gossip and building a consensus that a particular girl is in the wrong and deserves to be beaten and have retaliation. At the very least this will show up as exclusion or shunning. A girl will come to school and suddenly find herself excluded from a group that she once found she belonged to and she won’t be told what it’s about.”
No matter what type of bullying is being carried out and no matter whether it’s being perpetrated by a boy or a girl, Artz says parents must step in and “work closely with good allies, perhaps a good school counselor, principal or vice-principal who is enlightened, and begin to work in a concerted way. And stay with it until you’ve found a conclusion you can live with.”
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.