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Bullying

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The acts of terrorism are small, especially among preschoolers. The physical damage to the victims, if any, is far outweighed by their emotional distress, since they often blame themselves as they search for a logical reason for an illogical situation.

The Role of Shame

Help Saying No!

Bullying Begins at Home

Frustrated Parents

How to Help


The Role of Shame

An older child who is being bullied will often hide his predicament out of shame. If he mentions it to his parents at all, it will be obliquely as he tests how responsive they are. Preschoolers who are bullied are likely to ask for help more directly. But some are ashamed nevertheless.

Television programs are at least partly responsible for this shame. By the time they are preschoolers, children have seen numerous situations in cartoons and other programs in which the hero uses a few quick moves to disarm and turn the tables on an attacker. This gives them the idea that they can and should be able to do the same thing. Reality, of course, is quite different.

Help Saying €œNo!€

Teaching a victim to be more assertive often helps. Many children who are repeat victims are uncomfortable saying "€œNo! or "Stop it!"€ A bit of practice and role-playing at home can make a tremendous difference.

Bullying Begins at Home

Bullies need help too, €”especially if they start this behavior at a young age. Studies have found that the roots of bullying are more likely to be in the child's home than in his genes. Researchers at Indiana State University have found that the parents of bullies tend to treat their children with a different style than other parents. They tend to use less humor, praise, and encouragement than other parents do, and are more likely to use verbal put-downs, sarcasm, and criticism.

Also, the parents of bullies tend to touch their children differently. While other parents touch their children to show affection, the parents of bullies use touch to control. They are more physically manipulative and forceful. Because such touch gives a mixed message to young children, those children have difficulty interpreting what a parent'€™s touch means.

Frustrated Parents

Very little of this appears to be malicious or even conscious on the part of a bully'€™s parents. In fact, the parents are often frustrated and upset by their child€'s behavior, and want to help their child change. But they don't know what to do.

As a result, young bullies tend to see the world as much more threatening than other children do. They'€™re more likely to misinterpret the actions of other children, such as an accidental bump on the playground, as an attack.

How to Help

The most successful way to change bullies involves working with their parents at least as much as with the children themselves. While the parents learn ways to handle conflict without yelling and hitting, the children are helped to develop their ability to empathize and are shown how to be more assertive.

This last approach surprises many adults. But remember that bullies often go from passive to aggressive with no intermediate steps. Assertiveness training can teach them new ways of getting what they want without resorting to being aggressive.

 
 
 
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