Camila Quintero, MS., School Counselor
Registered Mental Health Counselor
(Divine Savior Academy – Doral) Bullying is not a new problem, but society is starting to understand the major impacts that it has on our youth. It is now considered a serious public health problem. The rising number of school violence cases, including suicide and school shootings, now highlights the serious, and sometimes deadly, consequences of bullying.
Not All Unkindness is Bullying. Here’s Why We Need to Teach our Kids to Differentiate.
Awareness of the issue is increasing. So, it is important to identify and recognize true bullying behavior.
Clinicians and educators are facing a new challenge: The “B” word is being thrown around like confetti by students and parents. I often hear in the hallways, “Stop bullying me!” as a replacement for, “Stop bothering me.” As a mental health counselor, this is worrisome.
“When we fail to distinguish between bullying and ordinary meanness, we trivialize the very serious cases of peer abuse,” Eileen Kennedy-Moore, an author and clinical psychologist, wrote in an article in Psychology Today. When children and parents begin using the word, “Bullying,” for any mean behavior, it reduces the seriousness of the word. Children’s development of resiliency is also hurt in the process. Because real bullying behavior is such a serious issue, we must treat it as such and intervene immediately.
So, What is Bullying?
There are no cultural, age, or gender barriers to bullying. Bullying comes in many different forms, and it can happen to anyone. It is frightening, uncomfortable, and can affect individuals of all ages, but is most evident in school-aged children.
Florida Anti-Bullying Laws include the following definition of bullying, cyberbullying and harassment:
Systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious or racial harassment, public or private humiliation and destruction of property.
To be considered bullying, the behavior must include:
Unequal levels of emotional upset. The child doing the bullying is likely to show little or no empathy or caring for the other child. The child who is being bullied typically displays some level of emotional distress.
Why Do Children Bully?
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, students engage in bullying behaviors for various reasons including:
Why Don’t Youth Intervene or Defend the Target of Bullying?
Have you ever walked around downtown and seen an individual lying on the sidewalk? Did you stop to ask that individual if they were okay? Have you ever driven by a car accident? Did you stop or call 911?
We all assume someone else will help.
The bystander effect is when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. The larger the crowd, the less likely for anyone to intervene or provide help.
There are many reasons why youth, or bystanders, don’t intervene:
Parents: Developing Resilience and Dealing with Bullying. How to Help From Home?
The key to preventing bullying is to help ALL children learn to behave in kinder ways, and develop resiliency. The beautiful thing about the Christian school setting is that no one is alone in this process. As said in an article in the Association of Christian Schools International by Stephen Meier, “The administrator is one part of a triangle. Parents and students make up the other two parts. In the center of the triangle is Jesus Christ, working in and through us.”
Christian teachers have a powerful tool, God’s Word, to use in combating bullying. Christian educators are in a unique position to point children to the perfect model, Jesus Christ. May we all encourage our students in their lives to treat others with love and compassion as Christ has loved us (Isch & Loomis, December 22).
Fox, J. A., Elliott, D. S., Kerlikowske, R. G., Newman, S. A., & Christeson, W. (2003). Bullying prevention is crime prevention. Available: http://clearinghouse.adhl.org/resources/BullyingPrevention.pdf Stop Bullying Now: http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov
Garrity, C., Jens, K., Porter, W. W., Sager, N., & Short-Camilli, C. (1997). Bully Proofing Your School: Creating a Positive Climate. Intervention in School and Clinic, 32(4), 235–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/105345129703200407
Kennedy-Moore , E. (2014, October 0). Is It Bullying…Or Ordinary Meanness? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/growing-friendships/201410/is-it-bullyingor-ordinary-meanness
Lazarus, P. J. & Pfohl, W. (2010) Bullying prevention and intervention: Information for Educators. In A. Canter, L Paige & S. Shaw (Eds.)., Handouts for Educators and Parents 3rd Edition. Bethesda, MD. National Association of School Psychologists.
Loomis, C. (n.d.). School Bullying . The Lutheran Educator , 43(2), 41. Retrieved from https://mlc-wels.edu/library/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/12/luthed432.pdf