In the second of our four part series on bullying, we visit physical bullying. Sure, sounds common enough. If your child is being bullied, some of the tell tale and common signs include hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack.
Direct, physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Over 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that younger students are more likely to be bullied than older students. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions and in general in order to be considered bully behavior; the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An imbalance of power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
There are also three other ways your child is being bullied that you may not realize:
- Someone using objects to perform a physical attack
Over 30% of children who suffer a food allergy report having been bullied at school. While verbal abuse was the most common form of bullying, 40% reported having been physically threatened, such as having the allergen thrown or waved at them or being touched by the allergen. Food allergies affect an estimated three million children.
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
Children are cruel; one child taking a child’s glasses, stealing a lunch, breaking an umbrella or any number of various scenarios that involve one person overpowering another for gain or destruction constitutes bullying.
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
Yes, this is physical bullying. From giving the finger to hand gestures falls under the realm of physical bullying.
How does bully behavior manifest? Read these startling statistics:
- 54% of students said witnessing physical abuse lead to violence in school
- 61% of students said students shoot others because they have been victims of physical abuse at home
- 54% of students said witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school
What Can Schools Do?
Today, schools typically respond to bullying, or other school violence, with reactive measures. However, installing metal detectors or surveillance cameras or hiring police to patrol the halls have no tangible positive results. Policies of “Zero Tolerance” (severe consequence for any behavior defined as dangerous such as bullying or carrying a weapon) rely on exclusionary measures (suspension, expulsion) that have long-term negative effects.
Instead, researchers advocate school-wide prevention programs that promote a positive school and community climate. Existing programs can effectively reduce the occurrence of bullying; in fact, one program decreased peer victimization by 50%. Such programs require the participation and commitment of students, parents, educators and members of the community. Effective school programs include:
- Early intervention. Researchers advocate intervening in elementary or middle school, or as early as preschool. Group and building-wide social skills training is highly recommended, as well as counseling and systematic aggression interventions for students exhibiting bullying and victim behaviors. School psychologists and other mental health personnel are particularly well-trained to provide such training as well as assistance in selecting and evaluating prevention programs.
- Parent training. Parents must learn to reinforce their children’s positive behavior patterns and model appropriate interpersonal interactions. School psychologists, social workers and counselors can help parents support children who tend to become victims as well as recognize bullying behaviors that require intervention.
- Teacher training. Training can help teachers identify and respond to potentially damaging victimization as well as to implement positive feedback and modeling to address appropriate social interactions. Support services personnel working with administrators can help design effective teacher training modules.
- Attitude change. Researchers maintain that society must cease defending bullying behavior as part of growing up or with the attitude of “kids will be kids.” Bullying can be stopped! School personnel should never ignore bullying behaviors.
- Positive school environment. Schools with easily understood rules of conduct, smaller class sizes and fair discipline practices report less violence. A positive school climate will reduce bullying and victimization.
What Can You Do?
- Contact the school’s psychologist, counselor or social worker and ask for help around bullying or victimization concerns. Become involved in school programs to counteract bullying.
- Provide positive feedback to children for appropriate social behaviors and model interactions that do not include bullying or aggression.
- Use alternatives to physical punishment, such as the removal of privileges, as a consequence for bullying behavior.
- Stop bullying behavior as it is happening and begin working on appropriate social skills early.
What steps have you taken to work with your child through a bully situation? Send us a note and we may feature your story in an upcoming blog. Visit PersonalBabyProducts.com and PersonalizedKidsPlates.com to stay up-to-date on topics, tips and articles written especially for parents. We welcome you to share, repost and re-tweet our news, ideas and stories with your social media network. Or, simply subscribe to our RSS feed or newsletter below.