Handling Bullies

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Until recently, researchers disagreed on exactly how bullying should be defined. But most now describe it as any act of physical or verbal aggression by a person against someone who is weaker; that is, smaller, less popular, or less secure.

On The Early Show's Back-to-School series in 2001, Dr. Lawrence Balter offered some practical and realistic suggestions on dealing with this age-old problem.

Hitting, taunting, or manipulating others into doing things against their will are examples of bullying, as is ostracizing another person.

For some young victims, schoolyard bullying is a shattering experience that can take years to overcome.

  • It has the potential of profoundly shaking their sense of justice.

  • It can lead to a lowering of emotional security and self-confidence.

  • It can cause psychological symptoms and dysfunctional behavior.

  • It may cause some kids so much anxiety that they are actually afraid to go to school or become too worried to concentrate on their work.

The following is Dr. Balter's advice for parents:

  1. Report Bullying — Parents need to teach kids that when it comes to bullies, "telling" you about it is not the same as "tattling" on someone, just to get them in trouble. There is a mistaken stigma attached to turning someone in for bullying. Also, fear is involved.

  2. Avoid Confrontations — Let your kids know that it's OK to avoid confrontations by walking away from a situation. You are not a coward if you avert a confrontation.

  3. Avoid Being Alone — There is safety in numbers. Remind kids to travel in groups whenever they can.

  4. Don't Turn A Blind Eye — Children who see a kid being bullied should get help and adults who see it should intervene. Knowing that something can be done reduces feelings of helplessness.

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