Friday, February 25, 2011

The Primary School Bully

Bullies are everywhere!

If you've been bullied, then chances are that you met your first bully in primary (elementary) school.

The Tools of the Primary School Bully
The nature of bullying changes as the bullies get older. The first level bullies tend to be much more physical than older children. Bullying is done by pushing, pinching, punching and tripping other children.

Bullying by stealing tends to be more "out in the open", with younger bullies often taking things in plain sight of the owners - in fact, often snatching them from their hands.

Lies are also one of the main weapons in the primary school bully's arsenal. Young bullies can often lie so convincingly that they are instantly believed by teachers.

Verbal bullying is minimal in the early years but as bullies develop their vocabulary, they become adept at hurling insults and abuse at children. It only takes a few choice words from a bully to crumble a child's fragile self esteem and leave a lifetime scar that will not heal.


The Bully's side of the Story
I was planning to cover this near the end of the series (and I still will) but based on feedback from my last post, I need to put in a couple of words to clarify things.

Nobody doubts that many bullies become bullies as a way of taking their frustrations out on others or repeating behavior that they are subjected to at home. Bullies have sad stories too and in a perfect politically correct world, it makes sense for us to sympathize with the bully's side of the story and understand their motives.

I accept that.

There must however be ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying. Bullies need to identified and their mis-behaviour needs to be stopped. School social workers have an obligation to investigate the background of a bully and determine if external factors are contributing to the behaviour but we as parents and victims do not.

Bullying must be taken seriously and it must be stopped!

Believe it or not, in the long run, you provide more benefit to the bully by drawing attention their behavior and ensuring that it is stopped, than by tolerating it.

Forget the "understanding" stage for a moment because the cessation of bullying will improve many lives, not just that of the victim.


Stopping the Primary School Bully
There are lots of theories on how to stop the primary school bully, many of them told to me by my own parents;

  • Ignore them
  • Hit them back
  • Try to be friends with them
  • Don't play with them
  • Let me (parent or grandparent) at them
  • Tell a teacher
  • Get your parents to talk to a teacher
  • Hide or Play somewhere else
I've never known any of these methods to work.

You can't hide from bullies - they will seek you out for their own amusement. You can't ignore them because they'll keep attacking you and your self esteem until there's nothing left. Above all, you must never agree with them. Saying "yes, I am ugly" isn't doing you any good at all.

You don't want to be friends with them!! and you're not "playing with them!". Why do your parents always think you are?

Telling teachers doesn't work either. Bullies are excellent liars and can turn the tables pretty quickly. Even worse, if you're found to be "dobbing", then the bullies can turn the whole class against you.

Even telling a principal doesn't seem to work. Principals can't act without concrete evidence and parents are often powerless to intervene. The best they can do is write a letter. Parental intervention in a bullying incident can quickly land a parent in hot water and turn things in the bully's favour.

Bullies are not a problem you can run away from. They're literally everywhere. Even changing schools won't help. Somehow the bullies at your new school will figure out that you're a great target.

The only thing that I've ever found that works with the primary school bully is to get them caught. Remember, these kids aren't necessarily too bright. They're often so fixated with attacking you that they'll chase and hit you whenever the slightest opportunity arises.

My "foolproof" method of bully disposal in primary school was to use myself as bait by waving at the bully when I was in a position which offered a teacher a clear view of the incident. I wouldn't hit back in such a situation but would make enough noise, ideally seconds before the fact, that I'd attract the teacher's attention.

It rarely failed.

It's very hard for a bully to talk themselves out of a scenario which was witnessed from beginning to end by a teacher on supervision duty.

Of course, the other thing that helps is to not be bully-bait. I'll talk about that it a later post.

Next Time: The High School bully (Secondary /Prep School for overseas readers).

6 comments:

Corabelle said...

what about trying to increase the "victims" self esteem? I often tell my Daughter just to ignore what the "mean kids say" If its not true. I never did figure out how to stop the "bullies" but you can stop how their behavior affects you. I do agree with the Zero tollerance, but what happens when the bullies are adults or teachers?

Stephanie said...

I agree that the common strategies for dealing with bullies don't work. Getting a bully caught sounds like an effective tactic, but it also requires more bravery than some perpetually bullied kids may be able to muster.

I think our best bet is a cultural shift--deciding on a cultural level that bullying will not be tolerated and actively preventing the opportunity and intrinsic rewards for bullying behaviors.

Unfortunately, not very practical for current victims.

(On a side not, I've never gotten "try to be friends with them" or "play with them" either. Why would you want to play with or be friends with someone who enjoys tormenting others?)

what to eat when trying for baby said...

Bullying is a form of abuse. It involves repeated acts over time attempting to create or enforce one person's (or group's) power over another person (or group) , thus an "imbalance of power".Bullying types of behavior are often rooted in a would-be bully's inability to empathize with those whom he or she would target.
Some bullies are looking for attention. They might think bullying is a way to be popular or to get what they want.

Anonymous said...

What to eat... I've noticed the following with my son's bully. When they were friends - age 6 - he seemed to need an intense "me-only" friendship from my son, who actually had many friends at school. He also used to steal from our home - the best Lego (Yoda, Harry Potter, Anakin figures. The best Dr Who card). When my son suspected it was likely to be William who stole from him, and when he finally got tired of the push-me pull-you aspect of their friendship at 7 or so, he stopped playing with Will outright. IN MY OPINION, Will was so incensed and slighted by this that he retaliated - mercilessly. His bullying is all psychological and emotional - and I believe he has quite a dark core. I am at a loss how to help my son. William is a master rumour-mongerer and tells other children that my son says or does things he never has. He managed to cause a temporary rift between my son and three of his closest friends, all of whom thankfully have realised William's strategy because they too became victims at some point. I was even approached by the parents of those children who were also alarmed at William's behaviour. The school is unable to help because - intellectually - they understand what we are describing, but they have no evidence and can only try to keep the boys separated. William needs more than just a good slap, he needs a psychiatrist.

Moi said...

Then there's the Ender Wiggins approach. He pretty much put an end to the bullying he received.

(This is humor, in case anyone misinterprets. I'm certainly not advocating violence. But as someone who was bullied terribly as a child, I definitely experienced some vicarious satisfaction when I read _Ender's Game_.)

Anonymous said...

" I've noticed the following with my son's bully. When they were friends - age 6 - he seemed to need an intense "me-only" friendship from my son, who actually had many friends at school. He also used to steal from our home - the best Lego (Yoda, Harry Potter, Anakin figures. The best Dr Who card). When my son suspected it was likely to be William who stole from him, and when he finally got tired of the push-me pull-you aspect of their friendship at 7 or so, he stopped playing with Will outright."

Sadly, I bet that some jerks out there will accuse your son of bullying William because

(1) your son actually thinks about how Will treats him and chooses to deal with that behavior by not playing with Will anymore

(2) your son has many friends, therefore your son is popular - and some people talk about popularity as if every popular child is a bully

:(

I wish your son the best of luck in dealing with this!