Bully, Bullying, Bullied
By Dr. Julius Licata
co-founded and has been directing TeenCentral.Net since 1998. This website is
free, anonymous and very safe for all teens who log on to “work it out.” Licata
has seen a concerning rise in bullying incidents and issues reported on TC.N
recently, as well as the distress and helplessness it causes victims. In this
article, Licata explores the dangers of bullying and the signs of bullying for
which parents should watch in their children.
Social standing and
fitting in are very important to teenagers. All too often, maintaining that
comfortable role in a group can be ruined by bullies. Bullies are typically
bigger physically, but they may also be bigger in terms of personality or
viciousness. They typically intimidate through physical or sexual means, but
they also can be more subtle and use verbal abuse to inflict pain and
intimidation on their victims. They target the weaker, shyer, sensitive kids
and usually repeat their hurtful behaviors over time with one goal: to increase
their own stature at the cost of destroying the victim’s self-esteem.
Clearly, bullying is far
more than simple teasing; it is an aggressive, destructive and very dangerous
behavior that also includes harassment and can ruin someone’s life. The victims
of bullying and harassment often do not tell parents or report this behavior
because they fear retaliation, feel embarrassed about what is happening or just
feel so put down that they see no hope of this situation ending. They also fear
retaliation if they try to stand up for themselves and frequently attempt to
befriend the bully, just to make the punishment stop. This can often result in
feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, depression and even thoughts of
Bullies believe that they
shine or look good when they make others look sad or weak. They see no value or
worth in anyone but themselves. Bullying is not only the obvious punching or
hitting; it actually can take many more destructive forms such as social
exclusion, name-calling, obscene gestures or sending threatening messages via
phone or computer (cyber bullying).
Teens who are subjected to
bullying on any level often feel distraught, depressed, abused and alone. They
try to avoid situations that will cause them to interact with bullies, but,
with today’s technology, bullying comes directly into the home. Victims feel
that there is no safe haven from their tormentors and, in some instances, the
only relief they can see is self-harm or suicide.
TeenCentral.Net is a unique,
personalized, anonymous, safe and free Internet resource that helps kids face
and overcome crises and life’s daily challenges. Teens post to the site with
issues, questions, experiences or problems and receive answers online from
professionals within 24-hours. After a counselor addresses the problem, a
Master’s or Doctorate level Clinician checks the correspondence before it is
posted on the site. Throughout this article, real posts from teens on bullying
appear in italics.
I am so stressed
out. Every day when I walk to school I meet up with this kid Robert who I used
to know when we were little. We stopped hanging out together after second
grade, when I got transferred to a better school. He still goes to my old
school. Now every time he sees me, it’s like he just wants to kill me. He
starts swearing at me and stuff. He’s freaking me out. The other day he came
running after me carrying this huge tree branch like he was going to hit me
with it. I feel like I’m in a movie with a stalker. Except that there’s no one
to save the day. What should I do to get him to cut it out?
Imagine Steve13’s fear
every time he leaves his house to walk to school, hang out with his friends or
just go for a walk. He is forced to live in fear because someone, for some
unknown reason, has decided to bully him. His life truly has become a
Here’s my story. I’m in eighth grade and I go to a good
school. The only problem is that I’m on partial scholarship, and somehow this
got out. Now there’s this guy in my class who is making a big deal out of me
My friend Susan says he must have a crush on me, but I
know that’s not the reason. The other day he took out a five-dollar bill and
started waving it around, saying. “I bet you think this is a lot of money.” I
don’t think anybody really knew what he was talking about, but they soon will.
He isn’t going to stop till he makes my life miserable.
I can’t concentrate when I’m in school because I don’t
know what people think about me. And I really don’t want to talk to my parents
and make them feel bad for not being rich. Who should I talk to when I can’t
talk to anyone?
In this case, there is no threat of physical attack;
however, the bullying is real and very dangerous. It makes Tweetybird15
embarrassed to the point where she cannot do her work and puts her in danger of
losing her scholarship. This intimidation and harassment are strong forms of
bullying and have no purpose but to destroy another person.
Why Do Bullies Behave So Badly?
We all must consider, “Why is a bully, a bully?” Some
aggressive teens report that they are insecure themselves and so they become
bullies to cover their own insecurities. Others testify that they are tired of
being bullied so they bully others.
don’t know why I do this, but I act like I am really tough at school. I know
that other people don’t like me because I act like nothing matters to me. It is
not how I really feel, but I will threaten other kids and act like nobody is
tougher than me. Other people call me a bully. Even though I don’t really beat
anyone up, I say I am going to all the times. Why can’t I stop acting this way?
may have a tendency to be aggressive so that getting his own way is just a
matter of using this aggressiveness to gain the advantage. While boys tend to dominate the
physical side of bullying there is no shortage among girls participating in
rumors, teasing, harassing and bullying in Internet chat rooms and blogs.
Bullies may be victims of abuse of some sort in the home,
or they may have witnessed someone being abused at home. When children see
problems solved through violence, they naturally use that learned behavior to
achieve their own wants or desires. We must always be aware that children watch
what works for their parents and act out accordingly. If there are few or no
consequences for their behaviors, bullies will take that as approval to act out
without thought and without fear of reprisal. There must be a concerted effort
within the home to not only offer consequences for negative behaviors, but to
avoid showcasing the negative behaviors as well.
Children who have been victims of violence or have not been
taught how to properly socialize can find bullying very effective. Others may
try to become friends with the bully simply to protect themselves from hurt or
harassment, and they may even play along with bullying another to keep
themselves out of the direct line of fire.
It seems obvious that adults should never use force or
violence to redirect negative, aggressive behavior since this serves only to
reinforce the behavior rather than control it. However, the cycle of violent
consequences for violent behavior is all too often repeated generation after
generation. Instead, parents should make children realize that their behavior
is wrong and unacceptable. Never try to explain children’s behavior as being a
result of strong personality or tough natures. If parents find their children
unable to eliminate negative, bullying behavior, then eliminate violent TV
shows, video games or movies from their lives. If this does not help, do not be
afraid or hesitant to seek counseling.
Accountability is extremely important, and giving
appropriate consequences for aggressive behaviors must start early. Bullying
must be redirected and stopped when it first appears. If a parent notices a
3-year-old is hitting another child, it is time to redirect the behavior.
Failure to take a stand or redirect this child may be tantamount to giving
him/her the permission to become a bully. Parents often find it difficult to
redirect behaviors in a child who is predisposed to being aggressive, but, if
this child does not respond to correction, it is not too early to seek
Often, because they don’t see the bullying, adults don’t
understand how dangerous it can become. It is vital that adults never consider
bullying a rite of passage or tell a victim that it will stop. Bullying should
never be tolerated, and no teen should have to endure the embarrassment or hurt
that is intentionally inflicted by a bully. Indeed, bullying can start as early
as preschool, and it often lasts into adulthood if the bullies are not
challenged and their behaviors stopped.
It has been recognized by
mental health professionals that the rise in suicidal ideations and suicide
attempts can be linked to long-term bullying when certain victims can see no
way out of the abuse. Adults should be aware that many teens do not discuss
their mistreatment by bullies, so they must rely on signs that a teen may be
suffering as a victim. Open communication with our teens is vital so that we
can tell when something is bothering them. Look for signs of depression,
moodiness, staying alone, fears or excuses for not attending school or simply
not spending time with friends. Above all, listen when children say they “don’t
feel like life is meaningful” or “life is empty,” as these are signs that they
need professional help.
Adults should never minimize the concerns teens share with
them. Never advise teens, “If you stand up to them, they will stop.” This can
be dangerous and cause greater harm to the victims. Adopt a zero tolerance
policy regarding this bullying in all areas of life.
If a child is redirected and refocused on more positive
behaviors, there is a good chance that he or she will adopt that more positive
behavior. There is no need to scream or yell at the child, as that does little
more than reinforce negative behavior. However, talking calmly and correcting
lovingly will go a lot further and stay with the child longer. Of course,
offering positive or negative consequences for behaviors helps to reinforce the
positive and deter the negative and, if done early, helps children to adopt
more socially acceptable behavioral patterns.
Every child deserves to live in peace and harmony without
fear of being harassed, hurt, maligned or physically brutalized. Mental health
professionals and educators must make every effort to educate parents about the
consequences of unacceptable behaviors by their children and give them
alternatives. All adults should be vigilant for signs of bullying and
victimization and never tolerate bullying in any setting.|
KidsHealth.com. Dealing with Bullying. Reviewed by:
Michelle New, PhD, June 2007. Originally reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Suite 101.com. Why Do Bullies Bully? Nash, Lori
Cohn, Andrea & Canter, Andrea, PhD, NCSP. “Bullying:
Facts for Schools and Parents.” National Association of School Psychologists.