How to Spot Bullies and What Parents Can Do

What is bullying? A bully is often thought of as a big kid who physically or verbally assaults a smaller kid.  But that’s not always the case. Bullying occurs whenever there is an imbalance of power, however it occurs.  While some types of bullying are easier to spot than others, all can have lasting impact. Here are a few types of bullying parents may have to watch out for at home and in the community. 

Direct bullying consists of physical and verbal assaults. This form of bullying is often the most obvious and tends to be more predominate among males.  An example would be the kid who has his lunch money stolen every day, or is assaulted in the hallway due to his perceived sexual orientation.

In-Direct or Relational Aggression consists of nonphysical aggression or using relationships to cause hurt.  Females are particularly prone to this form of bullying because females talk through problems to connect.  Anytime there is purposeful exclusion, like the 1st grader who tells a group of classmates that they are invited to her birthday party but another classmate is not, is bullying.  Spreading rumors about someone is bullying whether it is verbal or through the internet.  Other examples of relational aggression are ignoring someone, gossiping and rumor spreading, and even whispering.  We don’t recognize it as bullying because it is covert, and for girls, it is concealed under the sugar and spice and everything nice veil. In-direct or relational aggression can start as early as preschool.

Demeaning Comments have been defined as to degrade or debase someone; causing awareness of another person’s perceived shortcomings. An example would be, “she should really buy a dress that is a few sizes larger so she isn’t bursting at the seams.”

Stereotyping is grouping individuals together and making a judgment about them without knowing them. Examples would be cheerleaders are stupid, band kids are dorky, engineers are nerds, jocks and preps pick on nerds and geeks, single moms/dads are not good parents, masculine woman are lesbian or a feminine man is gay.

Belonging is a fundamental human desire, and for adolescents it is essential for healthy social and emotional development.  The effects of rejection, exclusion, and bullying can be devastating and long-term.  The good news is that research shows that the presence of one, caring parent or adult can make a positive difference in a child’s life.  Modeling kindness and creating connections with kids by talking, listening, asking questions, validating, supporting, challenging and enjoying them can create resiliency that can last a lifetime.

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