Posted: April 14th, 2010 by Michele Borba
Peer cruelty is also increasing and becoming more violent. By some estimates, one in seven American schoolchildren is either a bully or a victim. Studies find that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students. And the cruel behavior increases with age. A recent study prepared for the American Psychological Association showed that 80 percent of middle school students admitted to bullying behavior in the prior 30 days. The more we know about bullying, the better we will be able to parent our children.
So tune in closer to your child. Please. Repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm and erodes your child’s fragile self-esteem. Boys and girls are also bullied differently: girls are more likely to be victims of emotional and verbal bullying while boys are usually bullied by physical harm or threat. But whether the bullying was verbal, physical or relational, the long-term effects are equally harmful. Both boys and girls reported high levels of emotional distress and loneliness as well as lower self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
If your child is bullied it means that peers are intentionally causing her pain. Reports confirm that bullying is starting at younger ages and is far more frequent and aggressive than ever before.
Make no mistake: those cruel, aggressive habits are learned and should never be tolerated.
Five Types of Bullying
There are five distinctly different types of bullying. A bully can “attack” her victim:
1. Verbally (spreading rumors, saying prejudicial comments, delivering cruel remarks)
2. Sexually (making sexual comments or gestures)
3. Physically (hitting, slamming)
4. Emotionally (excluding, humiliating, threatening, extortion, hazing)
5. Electronically (cell phone, text-messaging, email or website).
Bullying by Stages and Ages
Bullying also takes on different forms at different ages. Here is what bullying looks like during the preschoolers years, school age and preteen/teens years. Of course, nothing is set in stone so your child’s experiences may differ but here are typical expectations:
Bullying During Preschool
The ages bullying behaviors are first learned because kids learn it works to get their way.
Bullying is mostly physical (biting, pinching, kicking, or shoving) and usually not intentional (the true definition of bullying).
Aggression is mostly due to impulsivity and the inability to regulate emotions. Do not allow aggressive behaviors or cruelty in any form. They easily become habits.
Bullying During School Age
Verbal bullying (saying mean comments, put downs and taunts) is prevalent.
Physical bullying continues with younger school age students.
Around fourth grade social exclusion (leaving kids out and knowingly hurting their feelings) begins.
Bullying During Preteens and Teens
Bullying peaks during these years but is also the most vicious. Average middle school student experiences at least one verbal harassment per day.
Relational aggression, rumor spreading and emotional bullying are common amongst girls.
Electronic bullying (via text, IM, pagers, cell phones, websites, Facebook, and emails) also begins.
Bullying turns to sexual harassment. Forty percent of fifth through either graders say they’ve been sexually harassed by peers (mostly boys).
While you can’t always be there to step in and protect your child there are ways to help your son or daughter be less likely to be victimized in the first place. Your first step is to get educated!
For more updates on late-breaking news and parenting solutions, go to my website,Michele Borba, refer to my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (particularly the chapters: Bullying, Bullied, Sensitive, Teased) or follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba.