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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bullying in America: When will it Stop?

Jerri Aubry M.S., MFT

After a recent bullying event that happened at the school in my area, I decided that I should write a series of articles regarding bullying, and the effects of bullying on others.

Bullying hits many homes across America. Children scared to go to school, because of what is waiting for them each and every day. Many parents struggle with helping their children that are continuously bullied. It breaks the hearts of many, when a child’s self-esteem is lowered, because of the interaction children have with bullies at school.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, indicates that 1 in every 4 students are bullied. That 64% of children bullied do not report these to anyone. Only 36% of children actually report bullying to authorities such as a principal, school counselor, or the police. ⁴

Bullying happens both in school and outside of school. Cyber bullying has become a real problem with social media platforms, and now texting on cellphones, but that will be for an article later in this series.

Bullying can be defined as an act of aggression toward others that can include:
  • ·      Taunting
  • ·        Teasing
  • ·        Talking about negatively
  • ·        Spreading rumors
  • ·        Leaving kids out of being included

·        Attacking someone either physically or yelling at them.
More than 77% of school aged children are being bullied verbally, mentally, and physically at school. An average of 160,000 kids miss school because of bullying or the fear of being bullied. ⁴

According to the article “11 Facts about Bullying,” only 1 in every 4 teachers see bullying as a problem, and only 4% intervene. My personal opinion says that this needs to change in order for bullying rates to begin to descend. ²

As a parent I think that the school needs to protect my children and to stop the bullying. As a behaviorist, you must change the environment in order to make changes in behavior. With that said, it is part of the faculty at a school to become an advocate to change the environment at school to lower bullying rates in the school.
Kids that are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, changes in eating and sleeping, feelings or being isolated and alone, and suicide to escape. These issues can follow a child into adulthood.
Some children that are bullied might have a lower GPA and struggle with school. Other children might get sick from the anxiety and vomit both outside and in school to avoid going to or staying at school.

Teens that struggle with bullies might turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain they may feel. Some turn to suicide to escape their life. And some might retaliate with a serious form of aggression such as school violence like school shootings.

Does bullying lead to mass murders? Both at school and in the community? There is evidence to support that some people who have been bullied have committed a heinous act such as a school shooting. But that is for another article that I will be talking about later in this series. School shootings in the 1990’s indicate that 12 out of 15 school shootings were related to bullying. ⁵

I would like to share a little personal story of my own with you.

I don’t really know how old I was when the bullying started, but it did effect my self-esteem negatively. I remember a time when 5 years old, my mom left me with my grandmother on my dad’s side, and she took me to work with her (she cleaned house and was a nanny for a family of boys) one day. While she was cleaning the house, the boys came out to the tree swing, and knocked me off. I fell onto my butt, and one of the boys sat on my chest while the other two stuffed flowers in my mouth. I can remember not being able to breath, and then I was stung in the mouth by a bee.

I never told my mother about this, and yet have never really told anyone this story. I am sharing it today, because I know what it feels like to be bullied. I understand the depth of isolation one feels from being bullied. I continued to be bullied for years about my name. For a long time, I hated my name, and I hated myself.

Only 24% girls report being bullied compared to 20% boys that report being bullied. Statistics show that girls may be bullied more often than boys. Some may say that girls are more likely to tell someone about bullying than a boy. There are several reasons for this including boys wanting to be seen as being tough and don’t want to look like a wimp in front of peers. ᵌ

As I became an adult —now in my 40’s with two boys of my own— I thought I could protect my own children from bullying, but this was untrue. As I tried to intervene, it just made things worse for my boys. So, instead I tried to inflate their egos to make them feel better, but in reality I knew that there really wasn’t much I could do to protect them.

So, instead I chose to teach them about bullying, especially for children who become easy targets. I taught them to be able to come home, and tell me about these bully attempts, but I knew I was only hearing the jist of the story. I knew this, because I didn’t tell anyone when I was bullied. 

No matter what I did, I could not save them from being bullied. I remember when my oldest son —whom has ADHD (which led to bullying until he was in 10th grade)— was a freshman in High School, he would be taunted by this older kid behind him in the lunch line. My son took this torture for a year. The kid always knocked his food and drink out of his hand, and my son would not get anything to eat or drink, because he had already spent his money on lunch, that was now all over the floor.

When my son started his sophomore year —the same kid at lunch stood behind him— taunted my son once again. That day, I received a call from the principal about the situation. I never knew he was having problems until this phone call.

As the principal explained the situation, he told me that this kid knocked my son’s lunch onto the floor. I guess this had been happening every day of school. Until one day –this day– the principal calls me and tells me that my son is not in trouble for what happened. 

I was frantically thinking about what the heck did he do. So, when this kid knocked his food and drink out of his hands, it splattered the floor, my son then turned around and punched this kid in the mouth.

Now, those of you who know me, know that I do not promote aggression. But this was the last time this kid bothered my son, and it ended the decade of bullying that my son had been enduring. My son finally stood up for himself, and stopped the bullying himself.

Thirty percent of teens in High School are bullied either through being bullied themselves, bullying others, or bystanders. Seventy-seven percent of bullying of school aged children are from verbal bullying. ¹

Types of verbal bullying include:
  • ·        Yelling
  • ·        Calling names
  • ·        Teasing
  • ·        Spreading rumors

Why am I sharing this with you all? Well, because bullying is a part of most American. It has become a real problem leading kids to seeing themselves as the problem. My son found the strength to change this on his own, but he endured years of abuse—that I could not stop— and the school’s did nothing about it.

I have worked many children in therapy that have endured bullying at some level. Although I cannot change this for them at school, I can help increase their self-esteem, and teach them how to cope with bullying.

Children can be bullied as soon as they begin any type of school program even pre-school. My youngest son was bullied within a few months of starting preschool. I mean really? preschool; he was only two years old. He has not only withstood some dangerous bullying, but witnessed it happen to kids with autism, ADHD, and mental retardation.

According to stopbullying.gov, children with ADHD are more likely to bullied than other children and kids diagnosed with autism are at a higher risk to be bullied and left out of activities. In general, 60 percent of children with disabilities report being bullied as compared to the 25% of kids without disabilities. ⁴

My son has shared most of his experiences with me. He chose to help others as they were being bullied. He stood up to the other kids, and then helped these kids tell the authorities what happened. This made me very proud, as a mother, and as a person whom has worked with the developmentally disabled population for more than 20 years.

In my work, I have seen how bad the anxiety can be for these children and how this keeps them out of the school and isolated. Many times this anxiety is so bad on Sunday nights —the day before returning to school— these children make themselves so sick that they just can’t go to school. The panic is real and it can take its toll on the child and their family.

Is your child being bullied? Were you bullied as a child? Find help for your child, there are many programs to help children being bullied. I will be following up with the effects on bullying later in this series.

If you are being bullied call 1-800-273-talk(8255) 

Did you know that there is no federal law against bullying? Do you think there should be one? Please share your thoughts