Bullies and Their Victims Disarmed

by Ceil Than and
John Edward Gill
page two

bully victim female
girl, bully victim © Friday – Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

Who Are the Bullies?

Children may become bullies because they have been the victims of bullying. According to 2001 study by psychologist Tonja Nansel Ph.D., six percent of the 15,000 U.S. sixth through tenth graders she surveyed responded that they had been both bullies and the victims of bullies. Bullies may be emotionally immature and insecure, and lack social skills and the ability to take responsibility for their actions or choices. According to www.kidshealth.org, if a bully continues his or her aggressive behavior past his or her late teens, he or she not only risks losing friends who now view such behavior as immature, but also risks becoming the one out of every four elementary school bullies that has a criminal record by the time he or she is thirty years old.

Episodes of school shootings have been linked to bullying, as former victims of bullying were so emotionally distressed that they resorted to an extreme and violent form of bullying as a response to the treatment they received. The Secret Service and the U. S. Department of Education investigated 37 school shootings across the country and discovered that 66 percent of student gunmen stated that they had been bullied.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the teenage gunmen who killed 12 students and a teacher and injured 23 others before killing themselves in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, left writings detailing the bullying they felt led to their behavior. However, according to Jordan Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto and a clinical psychologist, this type of extreme response is not the norm, but a result of someone who is “profoundly alienated.” In his interview with CTV.ca News, Peterson stated that everyone experiences “hurt, loss, or rejection” in their lives, but most find non-violent ways to overcome those experiences.

What Are the Warning Signs?

Just as parents should watch for signs that their child has been the victim of a bully, parents should watch for signs that their child might be becoming a bully such as:

  • withdrawal from family, friends, and activities that were always pleasurable
  • Feelings of worthlessness, friendlessness
  • Physical or verbal aggression, i.e. pushing, hitting, or name-calling
  • Lack of sympathy for a child who has been hurt or teased
  • Lying
  • Lack of contact with other children, such as fewer invitations to join classmates’ parties or games, and
  • Sudden possession of new toys, gadgets, or money that he or she bullied classmates into handing over

Some of the warning signs for bullies and their victims are similar, such as withdrawal from family and friends. The same methods of building “resilience” in a potential victim of bullying will work to help a child avoid becoming a bully. Helping a child find positive and acceptable ways to deal with anxiety, frustration, and anger can keep him or her from the emotional and social alienation that can deepen until the child lashes out in an extreme response.

Schools across the United States lack uniform and effective policies for dealing with and preventing bullying. Although parents should contact their child’s teacher and school administration for help in dealing with bullying, parents are the best means of defense, and early intervention is crucial. Parents must learn to recognize the warning signs of their children being bullied or becoming bullies, take these signs seriously, and act to help their children find ways to deal with the problem. No child should be afraid to go to school or be so angry with his or her classmates that he or she targets them for harm or harassment.

Ceil Than is a freelance writer, editor, and educator who has published fiction and non-fiction on a variety of topics. She is currently working on a children’s picture book.

Anti-Bullying Resources and Contact Information

PTA National Headquarters
541 N Fairbanks Court
Suite 1300
Chicago, IL 60611-3396
Phone: (312) 670-6782
Toll-Free: (800) 307-4PTA (4782)
Fax: (312) 670-6783
Please send faxes and correspondence to the attention of the Customer Service Department.

PTA Office of Programs and Public Policy
1400 L Street, NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005-9998
Tel: (202) 289-6790
Fax: (202) 289-6791
Hotline: (888) 425-5537

Bully B’ware Productions
6 Bedingfield Street,
Port Moody,
British Columbia,
Canada V3H 3N1
Tel./Fax: (604) 936-8000
or 1-888-552-8559
E-mail: info@bullybeware.com

Vincent Iannelli, M.D., F.A.A.P.
President, Keep Kids Healthy, LLC
Medical Practice:
Lake Ray Hubbard Pediatrics
9100 Lakeview Parkway
Rowlett, Texas 75088

View page one: Bullying

Copyright © 2008, Children’s Rights of New York, Inc.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2008, Volume 29, Number 1, issue of HOTLINE.
Reprinted with permission.