MI - Everyone remembers at least one classmate who was well-known
for aggressively taunting and teasing the kids with braces or glasses,
or even pushing around the kids who were smarter or smaller than
others, just to get some laughs.
You might even
recall teachers and parents dismissing the behavior as "kids
being kids" or telling those tormented to just ignore the bully.
But ignoring a bully, whose behavior may be rooted in immense frustration
or even abuse, usually isn't the answer.
Child and adolescent
mental health specialists at the University
of Michigan Health System say both parents and childcare providers
need to be aware of what creates a bully's behavior and the toll
it can take on the bully's victim to know when intervention is necessary.
you really take a close look at bullying, it's happening with kids
who feel the need to be aggressive after being treated in an aggressive
manner themselves," says Paul Quinlan, D.O., director of Child
& Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Services at the U-M Health
System. "They're the kids who may be suffering from abuse or
from just not having their needs met at school or at home."
between 2 percent to 16 percent of the population under the age
of 18 bully others. According to KidsHealth, the most obvious
signs of bullying are hostility and aggression - either physically,
verbally, emotionally or sexually - that is directed toward another
child who is physically and emotionally weaker. And the National
PTA says one of out every ten children is the regular victim of
So what makes
a child become a bully? Often children who are dealing with difficult
situations at home, such as divorce, or in school will bully others
as a way to feel more important or in control of things happening
in their lives. Typically, a schoolyard bully is a child who has
low self-esteem and is looking to achieve popularity.
think they really mean what they're doing," says Karthik, an
elementary school student, about why some kids become bullies. "I
think they just want to try and bully someone so they feel cool.
But really, they're not cool - they're just doing something very
bad to someone else."
And if the
bullying persists and becomes a chronic behavior, Quinlan warns
that the child is at a higher risk to continue to engage in anti-social
behavior, such as stealing or attempting to physically hurt others,
as an adult.
is something that needs to be dealt with in a very thorough manner,"
he says. "School systems and other programs that deal with
children need to work to recognize and identify this problem behavior
and offer assistance to the families."
When the problem
has been identified, Quinlan suggests parents take a close look
at where the behavior is occurring - whether it's only happening
in school or in unique settings. If the parents notice the behavior
is persistent during play activities, in school and at home, they
should consider getting a mental health referral from their pediatrician
to get the situation under control.
news is there's good results with intervention," says Quinlan.
"The situation will be controlled and parents can really begin
to help their child."
Yet with bullying,
the tormentor isn't the only one who may need a little extra help
from their parents. At some point in every person's life, he or
she will be the victim of a bully, maybe because they are different
from the rest of the kids or they're more vulnerable and easier
to pick on, says Quinlan.
Kelly, an elementary
school student, knows all-too-well what it's like to be bullied.
"I have been bullied by someone in my neighborhood and he's
taken my lunch money and hit me a lot of times - he just hates me
and he won't leave my stuff alone."
such situations, parents always need to be on the look-out for signs
of bullying, especially since children often feel embarrassed about
the situation and may be reluctant to tell their parents about the
bully. Some signs that a child may be the victim of a bully include:
- Making excuses
for not wanting to go to school
sleeping or eating
anxiety about school or certain situations at school like riding
the bus, using the restroom or going to recess
personal items or the need for extra school supplies or money
trips to the school nurse, especially during unstructured time
like lunch or recess
bruises or torn clothing
To help a child
deal with a bully, Quinlan says that parents need to encourage their
child to speak directly to the bully, but never to be physically
defensive because bullies are often bigger and stronger than their
victim. And Kelsey, an elementary school student, agrees.
feel like you're being bullied, you should tell an adult, but if
there's no adults around, you should stand up for yourself,"
he says. "But two wrongs don't make a right, so don't push
them or hit them back."
need to provide extra support to boost their child's self-confidence,
help them build social skills to avoid conflict and make friends,
and encourage them to seek the help of an adult or friends when
a bully's around.
kids & bullies:
bullies typically have low self-esteem and are dealing with difficult
situations at home, such as divorce, or are having trouble in
direct their hostility and aggression at other children who are
physically and emotionally weaker to feel more powerful.
- When the
school system or another childcare program has identified a conduct
disorder, parents then need to take a closer look at where the
bullying behavior is occurring.
- Signs that
a child may be the victim of a bully include increased anxiety,
difficulty sleeping, bruises or missing personal items.
information, visit the following Web sites:
U-M Your Child
Health Topics: Developmental & Behavior Resources: A Guide for
U-M News Release:
School bells signal worries for some kids
Helping Children Deal with a School Bully
Dealing with Bullying
Bullying and Your Child
information, contact Kara Gavin or Carrie Hagen, UMHS Public
Relations, 734-764-2220, or by e-mail.
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