Why are some children and adults more susceptible to bulling?
How can we develop a protective shield against bullying?
By Lou Scotti
No matter what form abuse or bullying takes, it creates pain. Depending on our emotional life of early childhood and youth, we feel and resolve pain to varying degrees and effectiveness. Emotional memory gives us our resiliency and comes from how we perceive our experiences; how we emotionally feel about our experiences in early childhood and youth. I often call this emotional memory our residue of underlying supportive skills or resiliency. If we perceive our experiences as emotionally supportive, if we are shown, taught, and observe patience, self-esteem, optimism, emotional control, and self-regulation, we absorb and reflect a calmness, a peace that over time becomes our steady and reactive state. In the future, we have a residue of underlying supportive skills or positive emotional memory; our reactive state will be calm and controlled. If bullied, we are less prone to emotional overreaction. When children are in an emotionally supportive environment, they develop the underlying supportive skills to deal with stress and success and happiness in the future. Do you as a parent fully understand how to create these underlying supportive skills in your children and provide them with a positive emotional memory? We learn these skills, and parents can learn and teach these skills to their children. When children experience patience, optimism, self-esteem, emotional control, and self-regulation in their environments, they learn and absorb these skills, and they will be less susceptible to bullies. If bullied, they will respond appropriately and effectively. Children not given these underlying supportive skills will be vulnerable to a bully's abuse with possible severe long-term consequences.
Let's skip the statistics and agree that there is way too much bullying online, offline, in person, and with groups. The consequences can be damaging for those bullied in the short term but can be much more severe later in life. Both the recipient of bullying and the bully have an increased risk of severe adverse consequences later in life. Both will have difficulty maintaining positive relationships, a higher risk of developing mental illness, show a significant increase of anxiety, panic disorders, and depression, a higher risk of self-harm and contemplating suicide.
Most people don't recognize the need for proactive learning and skill development. Most wait until a crisis occurs and often suffer the consequence of not being prepared. Parents need to prepare children for different situations in life in a proactive manner. What if we deliberately and intentionally taught our kids to have patience, optimism, self-esteem, emotional maturity, and self-regulation? With deliberate conversation on specific topics and implementing certain skills practiced, kids would be less likely to be bullied. If they were, they would not suffer harmful mental and emotional repercussions later in life. You can't wait for the school, the community, the government, or law enforcement to stop bullying. Bulling has always been around and will always be around. The only new aspect is the internet which allows bullying to magnify its effect due to a larger audience.
Bullying only works because we are oversensitive, insecure, or afraid. This is not to insinuate that being a sensitive person or being insecure or afraid is not justified at times but that we need to learn not to allow others to control our lives with bullying, or it will continue. Learning to be confident and secure is the only way to avoid bullying. Bullies don't bother secure, confident people. Bullies are primarily insecure and often feel unloved. However, some bullies have strong self-esteem and have chosen to correct their perception of weakness in the world as their modus operandi. Bullies have selected to use abusive behavior to get attention and make themselves feel important and powerful. Bullies often travel in groups but not always.
Whether you and your children experience bullying or not, there is a need to practice specific skills that will prepare you and your children for the bully that will appear. You need to learn how to understand and deal with the bully mindset. If you want to learn to defend yourself physically, you would join a reputable martial arts school and study for three to four years to acquire the necessary skills. If you want to protect yourself or teach your children to defend themselves against a bully's emotional aspects, you need to learn and practice specific mental and emotional skills deliberately. Without certain positive emotional skills, knowing the mental steps required for defense against a bully may not be enough. We need emotional content and control connected to the mental steps. We can learn how to protect ourselves and deal with bullies.
Learning not to be bullied requires:
1. First, learning to build up a residue of underlying supportive skills (a positive emotional memory) develops resiliency. It protects us against life's stresses in general, including bullying. There is a more detailed discussion below.
2. Secondly, learn to defend ourselves against the specific circumstances of bullying using practice scenarios (Situational Preparedness practice or role-play, examples below)
3. Third, schools, communities, and businesses need to use positive peer pressure to create a culture of zero tolerance for any abusive behavior.
Let's discuss these three anti-bullying requirements further.
1)-First, We can prevent or stop bullying by learning and practicing the underlying supportive skills (develop a positive emotional memory) in the form of patience, optimism, emotional control, self-esteem, and self-regulation, that provide strong resiliency. A child's emotional memory is the feeling part of experiences that a child has gone through. As human beings, we have memory in different categories. Mental memory is our ability to remember didactic information. Muscle memory is the ability of our muscles to remember specific coordinated movements. The emotional memory I speak of is our ability to remember how we reacted (how we felt) in early childhood and youth regarding our environment, experiences, and relationships. When we are older, we react the way we had learned when we were younger. Positive emotional memory reflects our degree of resiliency, our inner peace, or resolve. Emotional memory comes from how we learn to recognize, regulate and act out from our thinking and emotions in early childhood and youth. How we think, feel and behave.
As people, we all want attention, appreciation, and love. As children, whether we are supported or not, we will still have the same need to be recognized, appreciated, and loved. If supported well, children will seek appreciation and love through prosocial behavior. Children not supported well may have low self-esteem, lack optimism, and have difficulty having positive relationships. These children will have lower grades, will be at risk for drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues later in life. Some children will become bullies to receive love and attention, while others may turn inward and become reclusive. We need to understand that both the bully and the person susceptible to bullying are two sides of the same coin, each acting out in different ways but both with an increased risk of mental health issues later in life. For these children, their emotional memory is negative, and they react accordingly.
Peer pressure never ends, but for youth, fitting in can be of monumental importance. It is essential to have specific conversations with children to discern appropriate thinking, feeling, and behavior. People, especially youth, will migrate to where they feel supported. If a parent supports their children well, children will use that support and behave according to the values of their support connection. If a child feels unsupported in the home, they may go along with inappropriate behaviors of the group that they feel supports them. In this case, they are at risk of becoming a bully or becoming the victim of bullying. Kids go to where they perceive they are emotionally understood and supported.
Science has shown having conversations and practicing methodologies about specific topics, like bullying, in early childhood and youth. We can instill a residue of underlying supportive resiliency (a positive emotional memory) that protects us against the world's stresses, one of which is dealing with a bully. Talking to and practicing specific skills with your children will give them a menu of choices to use when different situations arise. Children will remember what you teach and practice with them. Practicing responses to aggression is also beneficial for adults. When parents or families go through a program or course that discusses important topics, it allows for the development of the underlying supportive skills, which help develop resiliency (positive emotional memory) and supports strong relationships, good grades, and prosocial behavior. When children and adults feel supported, they walk a little taller and exude more confidence. Bullies don't like that and stay away.
2)-The second and beneficial way to prepare for and improve our ability to deal with a bully is to practice for that specific situation. When we practice specific situational preparedness or role play, we allow ourselves and our children to learn and have a menu of different choices for bullying situations. Reading books or articles without actual practice methodology will not produce significant long-term positive results. Learning the skills to deal with bullies requires deliberate and intentional practice. A serious commitment is necessary for learning and practicing specific ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving for a habit to develop. We can't learn these skills by reading a book or article alone. Change or improvement only occurs when we establish a habit, and habit requires practice to create change or improvement.
Situated preparedness, situational learning, experiential learning Role Play, How should we react? What character traits should we use?
The following is a sample of practice scenarios to prepare for a bully. Take some time and set up some role-play scenarios. This role play needs to be done carefully and with proper feedback and discussion, especially if someone is having difficulty with bullying. I would suggest getting some help with bully role play
Bullying Practice Scenarios
Ask Children what they will do when others ask them to:
· A person makes a negative statement about us. (Fat, ugly, stupid, the way we look, talk, dress, car, home, religion, heritage, gender, sexual preference, or…
· A person makes negative comments about someone else
· A person is physically abusive, hits us, takes something from us, blocks our path
· Someone writes something mean about us on the internet or by text
· Take alcohol, and you're underage
· Try a drug
· Cheat on a test or help someone else cheat
· Talk poorly about someone or support someone that does
· Lie or lie to protect someone else that did wrong
· Skip homework to be with friends
· Write negative things about someone on the internet
· A person taunts us to do something that we don't want to do.
· Steal something
3)-Third, we need to get the school, community, and business cultures to stop allowing abuse and create a zero-tolerance attitude for abuse. Schools need to develop a culture of understanding and behaviors that show compassion with zero tolerance for abusive behavior in any form. Schools can use peer pressure to make the students aware of how they look when they are a bully or when another student supports a bully with attention. Make the point that a bully and those that support them look weak, afraid, and immature. Then bullies and those that support them would be more aware of their negative appearance and behaviors. Schools need to reward strength of character for not participating in any type of bullying and speaking up when necessary. Schools can responsibly use peer pressure. (For information on lectures regarding bullying and bully prevention programs, contact me at (ouremotionallife.com)
Things to discuss
Peer pressure can be a strong force in our lives, especially youth. Having discussions on the subject is one way to let your children know you care. Talking about specific situations allows your children to understand what you expect from them. What does it say about you when you go along with others to please them even when you know you shouldn't? Does this reflect confidence and self-esteem, or insecurity and fear? When you have a conversation about bullying, discuss being bullied as well as being a bully. Emphasize that seeking support when feeling sad, angry, or afraid is a sign of maturity and strength. Discuss ways to deal with bullying. Talk about the use of our character to support others. Agreeing with others when they bully others is not acceptable. Teach children that standing around watching or filming with a phone or reading the comments on social media is wrong. Not supporting bullies by saying something, walking away, or getting help from an adult is a sign of strength.
Allowing bullying contributes to bully behavior. Bullies only have power because they have an audience. The internet is popular with a bully because comments reach many people adding to their sense of power and control. Discuss the tendency for some people to use authority abusively. Explain that bullies act the way they do because they feel afraid and unloved or unwanted and misuse their power. We should tolerate bullying, but we do need to understand it. Discuss personal feelings. It is normal to feel uncomfortable and even afraid when people are abusive. It is up to us as parents to develop mental and emotional defenses and often talk to our kids.
· Keep your password a secret from other kids. Let your parents have your passwords.
· Think about who sees what you post online.
· Avoid places and people where bullying happens.
· Stay near adults and other kids
· Do not say anything about a person to others or online that you don't want someone else to know
· Do not speak negatively about anyone; learn to voice your opinion in a productive, responsible manner.
· Do not share negative information given by others. When others feel offended, they may retaliate.
· Say only good things or be quiet.
TYPES OF BULLYING
· Saying or writing hurtful comments
· Inappropriate comments about physical-ness
· Inappropriate sexual comments
· Challenging someone to demean them
· Threatening to harm someone
· Hurting a person's body, hitting, kicking, pushing
· Blocking passage, tripping
· Throwing something at someone
· Taking someone's things
· Breaking someone's things
SOCIAL BULLYING/ RELATIONAL BULLYING
· Attempting to damage someone's reputation or relationships.
· Not including someone to be hurtful
· Telling others not to be friends with someone
· Spreading rumors about someone directly or through the internet
· Embarrassing someone in public
· Supporting those that bully
Possible feelings and symptoms of bullying:
· Withdrawal, sad, lonely
· Hopeless, Powerless
· Outcast, feel unpopular
· Excessive crying
· Feel sick, Increased complaints of stomach pain or headaches
· Anxiety, depression
· Unexplained bruises
· Have problems at school, school grades suffer
· Not wanting to go to school
· A decline in social interaction, people, stop calling
· Changes in attitude, making negative statements about themselves or others
· Bully other kids
· Mental health issues later in life (poor relationships, anxiety, depression, panic, self-harm, consider suicide)
Many of these symptoms indicate different conditions other than bullying. We should address all of these symptoms with concern and proper intervention.
How to respond to verbal and social bullying
· The best response is no response, walk away, say nothing, do not respond in person or online. Usually, bullies will stop when they realize they can't create pain or reaction in the other person. Giving a response may still give attention to the bully.
· Defending yourself verbally against a bully's verbal speech is an option, but you must be smart and prepared for rebuttal.
· No matter what happens, find a trusted adult, teacher, and parent and tell them about the incident.
· Talk to a parent about the incident and how you are feeling inside. Discuss ways to deal with the circumstance.
If you are serious about helping your child understand and deal with bullies, give me a call. I would enjoy speaking with you. My main emphasis is on developing the underlying supportive skills, a positive emotional memory, that our kids can carry with them into the future. Reading an article or a book is only the very beginning of learning a skill. To be prepared for bullying, you must have certain conversations and practice specific scenarios with deliberation and intentionality. For information on bully prevention, contact me at ouremotionallife.com
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S.T. Lereya et al. Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood: Two cohorts in two countries. The Lancet Psychiatry. Published online April 28, 20
W.E. Copeland et al. Childhood bullying involvement predicts low-grade systemic inflammation into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 111, May 27, 2014, p, 7570.
W.E. Copeland et al. Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry. Vol. 70, April 2013, p. 419.