Bullying Affects Everyone

Everyone has a story regarding bullying.

By Tammy Zaccheo, Parent Coordinator, PS 152, Brooklyn NY

It seems that just about every educator, parent, and student that I come into contact with while leading a Box Out Bullying Assemby, In-services, or Workshop have shaired their experiences of  having been bullied, knows someone who bullys, or has been directly impacted by bullying.  I think most of these individuals struggle to identify what bullying is and is not.  I think most people seem to think Of course I know what a bully is, and I know when a kid is being bullied when I see it.  However, I think it’s time for our society to move beyond “feeling” what a bully is and start to recognize particular types of bullying.

Stopbullying.gov provides this definition of bullying:

Bullying is 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.”

Let’s break this idea down together.

What does aggressive behavior look like among school-aged children?  

Aggressive behavior is mainly characterized by hurting others, either physically or verbally.  Aggressive behavior can be verbal or non-verbal, and is typically divided into two types: hostile and predatory.  A child who is aggressive may throw objects, physically harm others by hitting, kicking, or biting, throw tantrums, or call others names.  While these are behaviors that every child displays at one time or another, the intent behind these behaviors is the main focus of identifying aggression.  If the intent behind these behaviors is to harm another person, an animal, or property, the behaviors should be considered aggressive.

Psychologists have varying theories on why a particular child shows signs of aggression and where children learn to become aggressive.  Some say that it is a behavior that is learned through modeling. Others say that it is a manifestation of a need for assertiveness.  While there are many theories of aggression, one thing is agreed on by professionals: Children with a high tendency to display aggressive behaviors often need professional assistance.  Aggression early in life can lead to a host of problems later on, but this can be mediated through counseling and anger management.

For more information about the treatment of aggression: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/05/23/peds.2010-1360.abstract

Aren’t the victims of bullying typically weaker or deserving of this treatment?

Victims of bullying come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and colors.  There is no one personality type, and no person ever deserves to be mistreated by another.

What does a power imbalance look like in a school-aged child?

A power imbalance occurs in a relationship when one person has more authority in a relationship than the other.  We all work with and manage real power imbalances everyday at work with our bosses, or at school with our teachers, or at home with our parents.  In a bullying relationship, one person will often create a power imbalance so that the other person feels as if they have less power in the relationship than they really do.  A bully may use physical or verbal abuse to create this imbalance of power, and will often repeat this abuse to continue the power imbalance.  This is how the bullying relationship can be perpetuated, leaving the victim feeling as if there is no way to break free from this oppression.

Defining bullying is where your role as an active participant in stopping this terrible epidemic begins.  It is only once you can define what bullying is that you can begin to intervene on the part of your child, your student, and yourself.