Who Are The Bullies?
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Counselor's Corner. The movies and television portray a bully as a messed up, maladjusted, aggressive kid who generally comes from a dysfunctional family.
Yet current research printed in The American Sociological Review and from the University of California, Davis challenges this stereotype. Most teens and tweens want to be a part of the popular crowd and navigating the social challenges can be daunting.
Even though many of the highly publicized cases of bullying show a "socially isolated kid," the research indicates that when it comes to mean behavior, the role of individual traits is overstated and much of it comes down to concern about status. The desire for status occurs throughout the social ranks. And Robert Faris, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC Davis, states, "Most victimization is occurring in the middle to upper ranges of status." And what is most disturbing is "… that increases in social status were associated with subsequent increases in aggression. Notably, aggressive behavior peaked at the 98th percentile of popularity and then dropped. At the very top you start to see a reversal-the kids in the top 2% are less likely to be aggressive." His interpretation is that "… because they're at the top, and further aggression could be counterproductive, signaling insecurity with their social position."
So we see that bullying which includes physical abuse, verbal harassment, rumors and gossip and ostracism occur to and by popular kids as well.
How can this be stopped? First, parents need to monitor their child's social network accounts. The social networks are often places were kids brag, show off as well as spread rumors and make fun of others. If your child does these things, then he or she is not mature enough to be on a social network. (And if you've been reading my columns for very long, then you know I'm not a fan of social networks. I feel they are encouraging narcissistic behavior as well as waste time. Communication is always better face to face-if that's not possible, then over the phone is the next best way.)
Second, parents need to hold their children accountable for unkind teasing and meanness to others, including siblings! I am working with siblings age 10 and 12 who have been extremely negative with one another. We were able to get that almost stopped within a week by offering a privilege to be earned (in their case evening TV), by speaking only positively to and about each other.
And, third, teach and model taking up for the victim. Sometimes all it takes is to say to a bully, "Stop that. You're acting mean!" And walk the victim away from the person acting mean.
We adults have to also practice what we preach for if we like to gossip, spend hours on social networks "showing off" or call people names, etc. then it will be impossible for our children to learn to be kind to others and have true confidence in ourselves.
Copyright © 2011, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please see my other column "SmileNotes."
P.S. Please see my other column SmileNotes.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.