Bullying has become an epidemic in our schools. However it is defined, bullying is not just child’s play, but a terrifying experience many American school children face every day. It can be as direct as teasing, hitting, or threatening, or indirect as exclusion, rumors, or manipulation. During the past decade, bullying has become more lethal and has occurred more frequently than it had in the previous two decades. Bullying can no longer be explained away, as some adults are inclined to do, as a normal part of growing up. Bullying has only harmful, not beneficial, effects for the target and the perpetrator- even the bystander. Many children in our nation’s schools are robbed of the opportunity to learn because they are bullied and victimized daily. Bullying exacts a terrible toll on children, and the scars can last a lifetime.
I speak to teachers all over New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia so I was thrilled when I got a call from my hometown school district, and they asked me to do a workshop for their teachers. The topic that they asked me to speak about was “Student Behavior Management.” I started to talk about bullying which is a significant part of behavior management today, and what an impact this horrible behavior can have on the school climate, individual classrooms, students, teachers, and even the community where the students live. When I gave the group a break one of the teachers in the audience came up to me and said, “When we were kids, you and I were both bullied by Tommy.” I looked at him and realized that he must have been the cousin of two boys that I played with when I was in elementary school. One of those cousins had been Tommy, who had bullied me.
As soon as he mentioned Tommy and the fact that I was bullied by this boy I automatically started to look around to see if Tommy was there, even though I knew he probably wasn’t. This young teacher shared with me that even though Tommy was his cousin, Tommy had bullied him. He told me that his cousing used to hold him under water, push him, shove him, slap him, and to sum it all up, terrorize him. Both of us agreed that we were still scared to death of him, even though we were grown men. We talked about how he had been much bigger than we were and used his size to intimidate and frighten us. The part of our conversation that concerned me the most was that even after more than 30 years we both still remembered every bullying thing Tommy had done to us; we still had the experience of being bullied tucked away somewhere in our minds.
It is no surprise to me that bullying has gotten worse over the years. Bullying has gotten so bad that the government has had to step in and make it mandatory that programs be created to stop bullying in our schools and in society. Not all people understand this behavior,and some people don’t even realize what bullying actually is. Many people don’t understand how they contribute to the continuation of the behavior, and in their own way make it worse.
What is bullying? Bullying among children is most commonly defined as intentional, repeated, hurtful acts, words, or other behavior such as name calling, threatening, and/or shunning committed by one or more children against another. These negative acts are not intentionally provoked by the victims, and to be defined as bullying, an imbalance in real or perceived power must exist between the bully and the victim. Bullying may be physical, verbal, emotional, or relational.
Bullying interferes with learning. In schools, acts of bullying usually occur away from the eyes of the teacher or responsible adults. Consequently, if the bully goes unpunished, a climate of fear envelopes the victims.
A comprehensive approach to bullying is necessary. Many children and adults seriously underestimate the effects of bullying and the harm that it causes the victims. Educators, parents, and children concerned with violence prevention should be concerned with the phenomenon of bullying because it is linked to more violent behavior.
Proactive Educational Concepts provides workshops and in-services to teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents. These workshops and in-services provide individuals with techniques and interventions that can be used to help create a climate that builds respect, and encourages responsibility. Teachers, school counselors, administrators and parents must all get on board in order to stop bullying now in our schools, playgrounds, parks, and homes.