According to the Bully Police, a watchdog organization and advocate for bullied children, three out of four students report that they have been victimized by a bully at one time or another. With so many children adversely affected by bullying, it is no surprise that adults are taking the matter seriously.
Many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies and routinely organize assemblies to talk to children about what to do if they are bullied. Parents of school-aged children are inundated with information on how to know if their child is being victimized by a bully and what to do about it if they are.
In addition to educating parents and kids on how to deal with bullies, researchers are studying just what makes one child more likely to be bullied than another. If it is assumed that bullies target those they believe to be weak, the question then becomes: “What makes a child socially weak?” Researchers at Rush Neurobehavioral Center in Chicago believe that the answer may lie in a child’s inability to decode the subtle, non-verbal cues of their peers.
If, for example, a child fails to notice or comprehend a friend’s scowling face, that child is unlikely to realize that the friend is unhappy and respond accordingly. Eventually, the child who is continually oblivious to the non-verbal indications of the emotions of their peers may find themselves ostracized. And this, in turn, can result in the child becoming a social outcast and an easy mark for a bully.
While all children want to be liked and have friends, some are better at accomplishing this than others. The researchers suggest that parents can help their children become more socially adept by approaching the issue as they would any other learning opportunity. Avoid anger or any show of embarrassment and instead focus on helping your child learn to be socially successful.
While all this focus on the victims of bullies and their parents is no doubt important and helpful, I can’t help but wonder why so little attention is being paid to the prevention of bullying. Not how avoid being a victim, but how to avoid being a bully.
Why are there no school assemblies on how not be a jerk? More importantly, where is the handbook for parents whose children are at risk of becoming the playground terrorists that make all this necessary? Because bullies aren’t born that way. Somewhere along the way, their parents have failed them. And those parents — the ones who can’t or won’t see their children for what they are — are the real problem.