While bullying can occur even in the pre-school period of a child’s life, it often reaches its peak when most boys are at puberty and trying to impress the girls who have reached that point an average of two years earlier. While some studies show that the direct physical assault aspect of bullying peaks in the middle school or early high school years and then declines, the verbal abuse aspect appears to remain relatively constant.
“There is a willingness to try out being mean”
In many cases, there is a willingness to “try out” being mean among both girls and boys. Both have discovered new powers but do not have an owner’s manual on how to use them. In fact, the 21st century dominance culture seems to demand that young people road test some of the relationship notions (and of course, bullying itself is a form of dysfunctional relationship) they recently acquired.
We call it the “landing” of the culture. Our society trains and promotes dominant and aggressive behavior and by middle school it’s looking for a place to touch down.
“Shall I be civil or uncivil?” is the decision at hand.
By the time these kids enter high school, the decision has usually been made.
The good news is that the decision need not be permanent; nor does it need to result in overwhelming sanctions. But it needs to be exposed, counseled, monitored and made accountable if it doesn’t stop.
The best anecdote is teaching your child empathy by role modeling, beginning as early as possible. Exhibit a sincere caring for others, an absence of any kind, a love for animals and nature and at every opportunity, explain the empathetic action to your kids when they see it happening. Kids pay attention.
Teaching assertiveness is also advised. For example, when another child says, “those are the ugliest shoes I have even seen” — the assertive response would be, “That’s not nice. You shouldn’t speak to other people that way.”*
*Civic Commons Radio Program Bullies Be Gone, Cleveland, Ohio, Hosts Dan Moulthrop and Noelle Celeste with Dr. Lisa Damour, April 10, 2012, http://theciviccommons.com/radioshow/bullies-be-gone.
Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.
Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.
Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades.