Last week I introduced Barbara Coloroso’s definition of both Bullying and the Bully from her book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander; From Preschool to High-School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. If you missed it or would like to learn more, go check out last week’s blog post.
At the end of the post, I suggested that parents take a week to observe and learn from their children’s behavior, and resist the temptation to either assess too quickly or jump in with action if they suspect their child might be a bully.
Today I introduce the Bullied and again, suggest that instead of “doing” anything, parents begin to look for any signs that their child might experience bullying in their daily lives.
The truth is, it could be anyone and often times is – anyone. No longer is the bullied child easy to recognize. Bullied children come in all shapes and sizes, ages and races, religious backgrounds and physical attributes. They can be athletes, academics, socially comfortable, popular, awkward, introverts or anything in between.
What accounts for a children being bullied isn’t so much their characteristics as much as it the bully’s need to “single out a recipient of verbal, physical, or relational aggression, merely because they are different.” (Page 42)
Imagine for a moment – being different as the precursor for a child being targeted for bullying. How could any parent adequately prepare for this possibility? It is literally impossible for parents to “be on the look out” for a child who fits the profile of a potentially bullied kid when there is no profile.
But at least parents can rely on their children telling them that they are experiencing bullying, right? Not so.
In her book, Barbara asserts that many children who are bullied, avoid telling their parents that bullying is occurring in their life and worse, to what extend they are being bullied. Her list of reasons why children don’t talk with parents or authority figures includes:
- Fear of retaliation
- No one can help
- No one will help
- It’s part of growing up
- Adults are in on it
- False sense of loyalty
Barbara does suggest that there are signs that kids are being bullied and if parents are informed and willing to consider that their child might indeed be experiencing bullying – although they don’t fit the profile – then a parent can intervene to stop the cycle of violence.
Here are just a few signs that might indicate something is going on.*
- Abrupt lack of interest in school
- Drop in grades
- Withdraws from family and school
- Taking parents money
- Beeline to the bathroom when they return home
- Sad, sullen, angry or scared after a phone call or email
- Acts out of character
- Disheveled, torn or missing clothes
*For a complete list, please refer to p.50-53 in Barbara Coloroso’s book.
What’s most disturbing is that many kids who find themselves bullied, eventually, become the bully.
“If the assumption made by teenagers is that potential attackers in their schools are kids who were picked on- and the statistics seem to bear this out-then keeping children from becoming victims of bullying would substantially reduce the risk of future acts of violence and would certainly reduce the number of kids, who, choose death over facing the brutality of their peers.” (Page 61)
Even if you are living with a child who seems to “fit in” at school and until now, you had no reason to suspect they might be on the receiving end of bullying, be on the look out for signals that you might have overlooked a message your child may be trying to send you.
As you follow along with this series, take some time to consider how you will talk with your child about the subject as you learn more in the coming weeks.