Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bullying: II

From what I can tell, different situations lead to different types of bullying. Maybe some of these are not really bullying, but they are grey areas and still a concern.

Age discrepant rough-and-tumble play

This occurs when an older child plays too roughly with a younger one. This may not be true bullying per se; in fact we probably wouldn’t consider it as such if both children were the same age. Understand that there are probably not bad intentions here, just a case of the older child not understanding his/her strength. Often just a reminder to both children about what the expectations are for acceptable play e.g. (no wrestling, tripping, etc) is sufficient.


Sometimes teasing and jokes are fine and sometimes it turns into bullying or is interpreted as such. When dealing with young children it falls to adults to keep an eye on the situation and control it if necessary. However, if things do get grey area, it doesn’t require a nuclear level response. Often a simple verbal prompt is sufficient. Also, providing specific training where students learn to indicate that they do not like or appreciate certain jokes can be helpful.

Opportunistic Bullying

Occurs when there is a true power differential by age, size, behavior, or cultural factors. The bully engages is physically aggressive or verbally demeaning behavior meant to hurt or harm. This occurs in situations where the bully is unlikely to be caught. In school providing adequate supervision in hallways, recess areas, and lunch rooms goes a long way to helping prevent problems. Popular culture likes to present this type of bully as coming from a disadvantaged or broken home. In my experience sometimes this is true and sometimes it is not. Bullying seems to be a trait that can appear even in kids from very stable homes.

“Good citizenship training” for everyone in a school (including potential bullies) is purported to help reduce instances of bullying, but I am ignorant of any method with sufficient quantities of research behind it to back up that claim. I think that it is most important to remember that there is no perfect solution for this type of bully. Remember that bullying is an ancient human behavior and that like all such traits it is impossible to totally eradicate even on the small scale.

Remember that:

While not exclusive to children, in some cases bullying is an age specific behavior that will be naturally countered by other contingencies as maturation occurs.

Bullying is more likely to occur among children among different ages and sizes, simply by benefit of the children not realizing their own strength.

Rather than repel potential bullies, the tough-guy act can actually attract people looking for a fight.

Training kids to be polite and assertive and to bring in an adult’s help is usually a better tactic when dealing with a bully.

Some young people of a certain age (read: some teenagers) like to make silly or flippant remarks, especially to strangers. This can be interpreted as bullying, but often it is simply young people engaging in an age-appropriate misbehavior (an oxymoron….. I know). Often smiling or telling an appropriate joke of your own is sufficient to set everyone at ease.

Some people seem to be naturally intimidated by teenagers, even ones who are not big and strong. Don’t be, they are just young-adults/big-kids. I have seen adults put on a tough-guy act around teenagers and honestly I think it is because they are intimidated by them. In my experience this usually alienates the kids.

Opportunistic bullies work by isolating the person they bully. Teach others not to be afraid to seek help.

While bullying as a human trait may never go away, that does not mean that specific cases of bullying are hopeless. Some sort of help is almost always available.


Blogger davidbrown said...

I think your description applies for most bullying. I suspect that there are three more features: they act in groups, they target people whom they have no personal relationship with, and they lie for each other to avoid punishment. I have thought of three countermeasures:
1: Make every student wear a name tag at all times.
2: Whatever penalty one bully acting alone would receive, should be multiplied by their number and given to each of them.
3: Assume any story they tell is a lie, separate them, and then lie to and threaten them (police procedural style) until they confirm the substance of a victim's story.

11:16 PM  

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