When speaking about bullies, people often say that “Kids will be kids; they’ll outgrow this.” However, researchers who have studied extensively the common characteristics of the bully have learned otherwise. Results of their studies indicate that bullying is not just a passing phase of childhood or adolescence, but rather it is a psychological dynamic with serious implications for productive, healthy adult functioning. Just as children of all ages, races, religions and classes can be victims, so too can they be bullies.
How often have you learned that someone is a bully and have wondered what prompted him/her to behave as he does? What qualities characterize his/her behavior and personality? What drives the bully to act in a menacing way? Bullies appear outgoing and often aggressive; they may perceive slights where none exist. They generally exhibit poor social skills and judgment and lack empathy. They may start a malicious rumor just to see what will happen. They gloat over the victim’s timid response and social withdrawal. Although they may appear reserved on the surface, subtle and deceptive manipulation is part of the behavioral repertoire. Bullies need to feel more important or popular even if it is at the expense of others.
Bullies attempt to take attention off of them by dominating others, while keeping the focus primarily on their own needs and biases. They have not learned healthy ways to manage their feelings in given situations. Often they express anger and resentment regarding their home life, where intimidation and physical and/or emotional violence characterize many of the familial interactions.
The bullies’ social skills are generally poor, as also is their judgment. With a keen awareness of the vulnerabilities of their peers, their insensitivity toward others is egregious. Bullies function as if they have a right to push others around, while underneath they are grappling with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. They have not learned how to deal with negative emotions other than through physical aggression. They put others down in order to make themselves feel more interesting, powerful and popular.
It is important to note that the bullies themselves often have been victims of bullying and/or abuse. They regard physical and emotional aggression as normal; their home environments have been characterized by shouting, anger, name calling and intimidation in various forms. They have not learned constructive ways to deal with conflict and stress.
Oftentimes the bullies grow up to be spouse abusers, who teach their own children the same patterns that have characterized and compromised their lives. They have shorter, less productive lives with social and legal problems abounding. A chilling fact is that one out of four elementary school bullies will have a criminal record by the time they turn thirty!
The signs of bullying may present as subtle, however the ramifications can be profound. Learn to be aware of the signs of bullying and the constructive avenues through which they can be addressed.
To be continued….Is My Child the Victim?