Do you worry that your child is being bullied? What do you do when your child tells you, “My friends bully me”? What if your daughter is being bullied by her boyfriend? It’s shocking to hear that your child is being treated badly by friends. It’s scary to hear that your daughter’s boyfriend is a bully. There are things you can do to help your kids through these situations. It’s important to understand what bullying is and how it can affect your child. Know what to do if your child is being bullied or if you suspect bullying.
Why do Bullies Bully?
Bullying is a problem solving defense mechanism. It’s intimidating behavior used to get something by humiliating someone who is or appears weak. Bullying is often learned by modeled behavior. When a child sees their father use physical force against their mother in order to keep power in the household, that child learns bullying behavior. That child won’t necessarily become a bully, but he isn’t being taught healthy and effective problem solving skills.
A toddler who continually gets his way through tantrum behavior, he learns that he can control an adult by physically asserting himself. There is potential for that toddler to continue the behavior, becoming a bully as a child, teen and adult. That toddler, child or adult hasn’t learned to reasonably address his wants and needs. Bullying, in any form, is a physical or emotional mechanism used to control someone.
The National Institutes of Health and the American Journal of Public Health have published results of parental characteristics associated with children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. They state that the following have greater odds of bullying perpetration: Impoverished African-American and Latino children with emotional, developmental or behavior problems; intolerant parents who feel angry with their children; mothers with poor mental health. In homes that had parents who were involved with their child’s social life and who talked regularly with their kids, and kids who had high performance on homework, had a lower occurrence of bullying perpetration.
The Start of Peer-Bullying
Bullying among friends begins as early as preschool. A group of toddlers sitting in a well-lit, well-supervised classroom can be playing nicely with a room full of toys. One toddler (Toddler 1) sees another toddler (Toddler 2) having fun with a particular toy. Toddler 2 decides he wants the “fun” toy. He hasn’t yet learned to wait his turn or to ask for it politely. His natural inclination may be to toddle over to Toddler 1 and take the toy. In most cases, there will be drama. There may be fighting, depending on the toddlers’ inherent personalities. The classroom teacher’s response will have an effect on both toddlers’ problem solving skills. There are several possible effective scenarios. There are also scenarios that will help the toddler begin to develop into a bully. It’s critical that early childhood educators understand childhood growth and development. Thy must understand their role as a teacher to moderate and model good behavior.
My Friends Bully Me – Relational Bullying
When bullying happens among friends, it’s likely to go unreported. The victim will be afraid of being friendless, or that telling someone will only make the matter worse. Because of small social groups, kids can’t just “go make new friends”. Knowing that they’re “stuck” in a classroom or school with kids who don’t like them or bully them, the victim suffers loneliness and isolation. Relational bullying is more prevalent among girls than boys. In a study conducted by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) at Bridgewater State University, 85% of girls said they were likely to bully friends. Just over half of the boys who responded said that they bully acquaintances.
The Journal of School Psychology published the results of a study in 2008 that indicate there is a relationship between teacher preference and peer rejection. The report shows that low teacher preference is related to peer rejection and that a positive student-teacher relationship correlates with peer acceptance. Conversely, peer acceptance may also influence the student-teacher relationship. While the dynamics between teachers and students with peer acceptance is complicated, there is a relationship of each to student aggression. Peer rejection and aggression as well as low teacher preference are linked to social anxiety.
Social anxiety and weak social environments encourage relational bullying and potentially violent behavior. Interviews and studies analyzing school shootings indicate that the primary factor for the violence was bullying by classmates.
My Boyfriend Bullies Me – Sexting
When your teen daughter starts dating it’s vital that she understands what a healthy dating relationship is. Talk to her about communication, honesty, trust and respect. Talk to her about what it means to fall in love. If you have difficulty with this topic, there are healthy resources available to help guide you. KidsHealth.org has great resources for families that will walk you and your teen through the dynamics of teen dating.
It’s scary to know that when you google “Sexting” the second result that currently given is an article from Cosmopolitan (online) Magazine titled “Sexting: Naughty Text Ideas to Try Today”. The subtext in the search results under www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/advice/sexting is “Sexting 101- Sexy Texts He’ll Love – 8 Flirty Texts to Send Your Man”. That should scare any parent whose teen has access to the Internet. In a study conducted by the MARC at Bridgewater State University, 36% of girls reported sexting – the sending of a nude photo either by text, email or through social media. Half of those girls reported they did it because they felt pressured or threatened. Nearly all of the girls reported that the pressure came from a boyfriend or from a boy they wanted to date.
If a young girl has low self-esteem, wants to increase her popularity, or gain attention from a particular boy, she might consider sexting if pressured by friends. While the girl may receive immediate social attention, the long-term effects can be damaging and irreversible. They can be tragic. In 2009 thirteen-year old Hope Witsell sent a text of her exposed breasts to a boy she wanted attention from. The text made its way through her middle school, to the high school and to schools in neighboring towns. The bullying that followed, being called “slut” and “whore” caused her tremendous emotional strain and she hanged herself in her bedroom.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones, approximately one out of six has received a text of sexually suggestive pictures from someone they know. Sexting is dangerous and in some cases can be illegal depending on the parties involved.
Children with disabilities recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are legally protected from bullying. This Act was signed into law in 2004, and was enacted to ensure that students with special needs or disabilities are provided with adequate services regarding their right to an education. The harassment from a disability cannot impede the right to a free public education. When a child is bullied because of his disability, this is harassment. It’s the schools responsibility to intervene under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. If your child with a defined disability is being bullied and you feel as though the school is not taking action, contact the school superintendent, the local board of education or even you state’s board of education.
What Parents Can Do to Prevent Relational Bullying
The best way for parents to deal with relational bullying is to maintain open communication with your child. Get to know their friends. Be involved in their social life, but at a safe distance, allowing them their independence. Watch for behavior changes. If your teen is typically outgoing and friendly, has a lot of friends, if friends often visit, but then they stop, this is a sign of social problems. Your child may be getting bullied by friends or a boyfriend. Look for physical signs such as cuts or bruises that might indicate self-harm. Self-harm is sometimes used by teens as a way to deal with their frustration and social isolation. If this isn’t attended to the child can become suicidal.
Take notice If your teen suddenly loses interest in activities that they used to love. This could be a sign of depression stemming from bullying. If they begin to give away their personal belongings, this could be a sign that your teen is contemplating suicide. Your child needs to hear and know that you are available to talk. Talk to the school and make sure there is a safe place for your child to go when they’re feeling afraid. Make sure that the school is aware of a potential problem. When you hear, “My friends bully me” step up and take action. Inaction could be tragic.