Many people think of bullying as physically aggressive behavior. In this view, bullies may punch, push, slap, or poke their victims. Not all bullying, however, is physical. Emotional bullying can be just as devastating as physical bullying, and sometimes more so.
What is emotional bullying?
Emotional bullying is a deliberate attempt to hurt someone else, according to the British non-profit parent-support organization Ask Wiltshire. Examples of emotional bullying include cruel teasing, talking viciously about people behind their backs, spreading humiliating rumors, and excluding kids from group activities.
What are the effects of emotional bullying?
Children who have been emotionally bullied may withdraw from social contact, and their sense of self-esteem may be damaged. They may suffer serious psychological difficulties. According to healthyplace.com, being emotionally bullied can lead to depression, difficulties with schoolwork, and in some cases even suicide attempts.
How can kids deal with emotional bullies?
Dealing with bullies is difficult for kids, but it is not impossible. There are several strategies that kids can use to stand up to bullies or to successfully ignore them. Parents can help their bullied kids by discussing these methods with them.
Ignoring the bullies
If the emotional bullying involves face-to-face insults, kidshealth.org suggests that kids try acting as if the insults don’t bother them. Bullies try to provoke a reaction from their victims. They want to make their victims angry or afraid. If kids refuse to take the bait, and if they act as if they are not upset, bullies may get bored or frustrated and leave the child alone.
Emotional bullying attacks the victim’s self-esteem. Kids can become more resilient by working on raising their self-esteem. The more confidence that kids have in themselves, the less likely that they will feel devastated by what others say about them.
Don’t perpetuate the cycle
Sometimes kids who are emotionally bullied react by becoming emotional bullies themselves. Not only does this spread the misery even further, but it also doesn’t make the victim-turned-abuser feel any better. Just the opposite. The best lesson kids can learn from being bullied is to increase their compassion for others who are in similar situations.
Make true friends
One form of emotional bullying involves trying to make the victim feel as if he or she is excluded from social activities or from the “in group.” This kind of bullying can make kids feel like outsiders. If they don’t have other friends, they can feel extremely lonely. Kids who have good, loyal friends, though, will be protected from the worst effects of this kind of bullying.
It’s natural to feel intimidated by bullies, but kids may feel better when they learn that bullies often act the way they do because they feel insecure or because they may have been bullied or abused themselves. Parents can teach kids the value of compassion and explain that bullies are lacking in this very important trait.
Talk to an adult
Kids may think they have to deal with emotional bullying all by themselves, but they are likely to feel much better if they can confide in a sympathetic adult. Parents can help their children by carefully observing their children to see if they exhibit any signs of emotional distress, which could be a symptom of bullying, and by encouraging their children to talk to them about things they are worried about. Some children may be more comfortable writing about their experiences, and showing that to an adult, rather than talking.
Don’t blame yourself
Kids often blame themselves when they are bullied, which increases the pain they feel. Parents can help kids to see that being bullied is not their fault.
Become involved in new group activities
If kids are being excluded from one group situation, they can seek out new groups where they can experience a sense of belonging. For example, if kids are being bullied by the “in group” at school, they may find a more welcoming group in extra-curricular activities that match their interests and talents.
Get the school involved
If the emotional bullying takes place in the school or involves the child’s schoolmates, teachers and/or administrators should be informed, just as they should be for physical bullying.
Engage in family activities
The family that plays together, to paraphrase an old saying, can help kids stand up to bullying. Kids who engage in enjoyable activities with their families increase their self-esteem and develop a strong sense of belonging to a social group. This can insulate a child from the pain of being rejected by a cruel peer group.
Parents should take emotional bullying seriously. The effects can be just as bad, or worse, than the effects of physical bullying. By employing various strategies to build a child’s self-esteem and teach the child strategies for dealing with bullies, parents can help cushion their kids from the pain that bullies try to inflict.