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Thursday, September 22, 2011

9 Bullying Myths That Parents Need to Know

Physical Bullying
My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Every two years or so, I had to attend a different school and since I was the "new kid" at each school I invariably experienced bullying in some manner - mostly it was shoving, destruction of my personal belongings and fights.

It seems that I was not alone in my experience.

According to the most recent government statistics 44 percent of middle schools reported bullying problems, while just over 20 percent of both elementary and high schools reported similar issues. While things tapered off for me in high school, I still managed to get into three separate fights while working through my secondary education. 

While my parents were very supportive through every episode, they didn't fully understand what it was like being bullied. I want better for my daughters who are currently in the second and fifth grades respectfully. Fortunately, both our girls have been at the same school, with the same students and teachers for years.

We talk with them every day about school, my wife volunteers there throughout the week and thankfully neither has been bullied yet. I hope they won't.

In researching this topic I came across a very informative web site called that had a variety of useful tools including the following myths about bullying. Some of these myths surprised me, and I'm sure they'll surprise other parents as well.  

MYTH #1: Only boys bully.
People think that physical bullying by boys is the most common form of bullying. However, verbal, social, and physical bullying happens among both boys and girls, especially as they grow older.

MYTH #2 : People who bully are insecure and have low self-esteem.
Many people who bully are popular and have average or better-than-average self-esteem. They often take pride in their aggressive behavior and control over the people they bully. Some who bully may also have poor social skills and experience anxiety or depression. For them, bullying can be a way to gain social status.

MYTH #3: Bullying usually occurs when there are no other students around.
Students see about four out of every five bullying incidents at school. In fact, when they witness bullying, they give the student who is bullying positive attention or even join in about three-quarters of the time. Although 90 percent of students say there is bullying in their schools, adults rarely see bullying, even when looking for it.

MYTH #4: Bullying often resolves itself when you ignore it.
Bullying reflects an imbalance of power that happens again and again. Ignoring the bullying teaches students who bully that they can bully others without consequences. Adults and other students need to stand up for children who are bullied and to ensure they are protected and safe.

MYTH #5: All children will outgrow bullying.
For some, bullying continues as they become older. Unless someone intervenes, the bullying will likely continue and, in some cases, grow into violence and other serious problems. Children who consistently bully others often continue their aggressive behavior through adolescence and into adulthood.

MYTH #6: Reporting bullying will make the situation worse.
Research shows that children who report bullying to an adult are less likely to experience bullying in the future. Adults should encourage children to help keep their school safe and to tell an adult when they see bullying.

MYTH #7: Teachers often intervene to stop bullying.
Adults often do not witness bullying despite their good intentions. Teachers intervene in only 14 percent of classroom bullying episodes and in four percent of bullying incidents that happen outside the classroom.

MYTH #8: Nothing can be done at schools to reduce bullying.
School initiatives to prevent and stop bullying have reduced bullying by 15-to-50 percent. The most successful initiatives involve the entire school community of teachers, staff, parents and students.

MYTH #9: Parents are usually aware that their children are bullying others.
Parents play a critical role in bullying prevention, but they often do not know if their children bully or are bullied by others. To help prevent bullying, parents need to talk with their children about what is happening at school and in the community.

I found this to be very helpful and informative. One of the keys seems to be early identification of these behaviors, which starts with communication with your kids.

Question: Were you ever bullied? How did you handle it? 

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