I think if you gathered 100 parents of school-age children in a room, most, if not all, would say their child is not a bully. The fact is, I would say at least 10 of them has a child who is a bully, and maybe more. That is not a scientific fact, but it comes from my experience over the past 4-plus years in the classroom of a primary school here in Massachusetts.
What does a bully look like?
The picture above, “Butch” from the “Little Rascals” series of the 1930s who played the bully, might be akin to what so many people think a bully looks like today. The fact is they look a lot like this:
To be clear, I do not know who the girl and boy are in the above pictures, but in my experience they could easily be bullies in their schools. The fact is, a bully does not have a particular look, a particular family type, a particular race or religion. Bullies are as likely to look cute as they are mean. And a kid who looks mean may be the furthest thing from a bully.
Bullies do not act out in any particular place. A child can be an angel in the classroom but a bully on the playground, on the school bus, or when they are walking home. A bully is not a dumb kid, and I believe he, or she, is more likely to be of above average intelligence, but are saddled with a severe case of insecurity, and a bad self-image.
A bully is not just he kid who beats up other kids. A bully is more likely to wage a psychological war with his prey, constantly picking on his target by belittling him, and degrading him.
The skilled bully, very common, knows when not to act out, around his teachers and parents. He presents the well-behaved, sincere, and caring young person. But in reality, just beneath the surface, his is angry and looking for a target of his aggressions. Girls are as likely to be bullies as are boys. Size of the child is not an indicator of anything as a small child is just as likely, if not more so, to be a bully as the big child.
Schools are required by law to deal directly with bullying, even perceived bullying, immediately and in writing. Parent must be informed immediately. But that is exactly where the problems truly begin. Too many parents, when informed that they child has been caught bullying another child, deny that their child could possibly engage in such conduct. Their “angel” is simply not capable of being a bully. The fact is, everyone is capable of being a bully.
There is a movie that comes out tomorrow, Friday March 30, called “Bully.” I have not yet seen it but plan to. I would hope that all young parents would go to the movie and take their kids along, regardless of age. Bullies happen in the first grade just as they do in any other grade. But in taking their kids to the movies, their children might open up about problems they are having with bullies at their school. Some children may see their own bad behavior in the movie and how it plays out, and will tell their parents of their own bad acts. It is my experience that bullies do not like doing what they do, they simply do not know how else to act, lack coping skills, or in worse cases, lack impulse control. Sometimes the fix is as simple as making a child aware of how wrong their actions are and making consequences for them. But other children need professional help, not a bad thing, and in rare cases, medication.
Bullying is epidemic in our schools. But we cannot lay this problem at the feet of our teachers. It is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children who to act properly and to discipline their children appropriately. We each have a personal responsibility where our children are concerned. We each have to accept that we just might be harboring a bully and that until we take action, nothing will change.