Bullying is often a topic of conversation with our clients at Goal Digger, both those who are in school and those who are involved in the workplace. In this piece we will be referring to younger people, but in essence it is all the same.|
First let’t talk about what defines bullying:
Bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety and is directed towards an individual or group.
Repeated behaviour is persistent. It can involve a range of actions over time.
Unreasonable behaviour is behaviour that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would consider unreasonable. It includes, but is not limited to:
- physical attacks or threats of violence
- verbal abuse, including belittling or demeaning comments, teasing and personal insults
- persistent and public criticism, and put-downs
- attacks on people’s beliefs, attitudes, lifestyle or appearance
- intimidation and threats, including shouting at others
- withholding information that others need, or providing incomplete or inaccurate information or instructions
- excluding or isolating others
- interfering with another person’s personal property or work equipment
- assigning unachievable, unpleasant and meaningless tasks, or work below the individual’s job or competence level
Single incidents of unreasonable behaviour may not be considered bullying, but should not be ignored. They can still be a risk for the target or victim.
Bullying can make people feel alone, different, and unlikeable. When the bullying behaviour is repetitive, it sends the person who is under attack into a deeper spiral of low self-worth. Unfortunately, bullies need to find a person or target, someone they can harm physically, verbally, emotionally or all of the these things. It can be an experience that for the victim, feels like it will never end.
Particularly, children who bully others will typically pick someone why they know will not stand up for themselves, they will use a ‘difference’ to make the target feel like it is their fault.
Why do people bully?
Usually, and sadly, bullies usually do what they do because they feel bad about themselves, often a deflection of their own insecurity or unhappiness. It is important to remember this if you are the target of bullying. Most commonly, bullies feel:
- Rejected by someone,
- Jealous about other peoples talents or abilities
- Different or inadequate
- Overcome by stress or pressure.
Behaviour can sometimes be linked to more serious problems, such as:
- Being bullied themselves, by someone else. It can be another student, or family member.
- They may not have a positive role model to teach them what is right and wrong
- The might have been exposed to violence in their life and see it in a more positive way than others
- They might be punished very unfairly at home.
How do we deal with bullying?
If you are being bullied or you feel like your child is being bullied, it is something you need to deal with. You know your own child best, so choose an approach that is going to work best. Most of all, it is important your child trusts you to take action or inaction in a way that they feel comfortable with. Bullying is very really and can be very overwhelming. A problem shared can be a problem halved. Ensure you talk though with your child, what you plan to do so they are aware of how to react in certain situations. It is important to know someone is on their team and it is a very big deal for them to have shared with you in the first instance.
Here are some suggestions to either take on board yourself, or for you to encourage your child to do.
Bullies lose their power if you don’t cower – however, physical safety is important too, so this is a balancing act. When bombarded by a bully, avoid counterpunching, with them over with a firm and courteous demeanour. If the bulling is verbal assaults, act as if the words don’t hurt you, that you are not bothered by what they are saying. Acknowledgement and reaction only encourages more bad behaviour. Bad behaviour takes more energy than good, so if you are not retaliating and fuelling the fire, eventually, the bully runs out of flame.
Ensure you keep connections outside of the school or bullying environment strong, with adults you trust and faithful friends outside of the situation. Bullies like to make victims feel alone and powerless.
Use simple, unemotional language
An assertive and unemotional response lets a bully know the victim does not intend to be ‘victimised’. Don’t pose a challenge to a bully, this only gives them power and attention. Starve them of it.
Don’t let a bully get under your skin, that is exactly what they want. Practice your responses so the next time you can respond in a swift manner without getting emotional. Keep it simple and straightforward. Examples are: ‘Your tone is not appropriate’. ‘It doesn’t matter to me”. “Please don’t come to me with ‘things’ _____ is saying, I am not interested and it doesn’t affect me”. Cut the lines of communication/interaction down.
Act quickly and consistently
The longer a bully has power over a victim, the stronger the hold becomes. It can start as something really mild like teasing, name calling or minor physical aggression. After a bully has tested the water and confirmed a bully is not going to tell an adult or stand up for their rights, the bullying often worsens. When it starts, deal with it. Don’t let it go on.
Strike when the iron is cold
Sometimes all you need to do with a bully is wait a while. Rather than exchanging bad communication with the bully, step back so you are not responding to them at the moment they strike, you are then meeting them at their level. For example, if it is social media bullying, never interfere with an enemy when they are destroying themselves. If they keep it up, there is more evidence for you to use, or it will simply go away if you are setting limits and not responding. Ignore your bully, they will tire of the behaviour eventually.
If you are feeling bullied, it is important to talk to an adult you trust. They can help you handle things in a way that you are comfortable with. If you are in serious danger, just call the police. It is pretty simple. Bullying can also be classed as abuse and this is a criminal offence, even for minors. Not all of these methods may work for you, but remember, bullying is not ok and should be dealt with on the onset of the behaviour.
There is helpful information and posters available at https://www.bullyingfree.nz
[Source used: Better ways to deal with a bully, Psychology Today – Dealing with bullying, Kidscape]