School bullying by other kids has been a sad fact of life for some young victims. There are children who have been fortunate enough to escape it, but few can say they haven’t at least witnessed it or been aware of it among their classmates. It takes place in and out of the school environment, and leaves its scars on the most vulnerable. Bullying has always been in existence, but in the 21st century, it has become a darker and more dangerous problem.
As parents and teachers become more aware of this situation in the home, school, and neighborhood, there are ways to identify potential bullies that may help stop or lessen the effects they cause. A heads-up for the people with the power to help put a stop to bullying is necessary if there is ever to be a safe and secure environment in which our children can live and learn.
Identifying bullies is not always as easy as it might seem, but there are clues that are useful to do so. There are bullies who inflict psychological trauma on others by subtle, indirect personal attacks such as spreading rumors and making sexual remarks. They may encourage others not to include their targets in groups and activities. These mental bullies do not usually fit the stereotypical image of a bully and are not as easily recognized. Sadly, they may be able to do more severe damage over a longer period of time. Mental bullies are clever and in some cases, even charming. They have learned how to manipulate adults so that their bullying is not as readily or quickly suspected.
However, the characteristics of physical bullies that are typical are more easily recognized. Children who are impulsive and very dominant with others, those who are easily frustrated, children who cannot empathize, those who cannot follow directions and rules and see violence as a desirable aspect of life may well be prone to bullying. Boys who are bigger and physically stronger than their peers tend to be the physical bullies, although girls are now very adept at bullying physically and often do so.
Children’s backgrounds can be helpful indicators. Those who come from families that lack warmth and understanding or who fail to get involved with their children’s activities and schooling are at risk to become bullies. Permissiveness, lack of supervision, strict or harsh physical punishments at home, and bullying at home may be clues about the tendency of some children to become bullies.
Bullying can be an indicator of future antisocial behavior or forms of violence. Kids who bully others are more likely to get into fights, vandalize or steal, engage in substance abuse, miss classes or drop out of school, and gain access to weapons. Prevention of these tragic outcomes is an important reason to identify bullies before they do irreversible mental or physical damage to others or to themselves. As we move forward in time, we also move into many more frightening forms of bullyism that often end in disastrous outcomes.