by Jenny Gerow
inevitable part of growing up
By Anne Bromley
worked with teenagers for 27 years, U.Va. clinical
psychologist Peter Sheras thinks its time to get tough
has been shown to create serious, lasting physical and emotional
damage, said Sheras, who has written a new book, Your Child:
Bully or Victim? Understanding and Ending School Yard Tyranny.
translates the latest research and clinical practice into information
parents can use, while shattering some well-worn misconceptions
about the behavior of bullies and victims. For instance, many
people think some kids are born to be bullies and that ignoring
them or fighting back are good solutions for a child who is being
are no bully genes, said Sheras.
has the same emotionSSs as a bully feelings like wanting
attention, to be loved and accepted. Some youngsters may believe
that being domineering will keep them from getting hurt or that
exerting control over others makes them feel better about an otherwise
chaotic life. Its
the way we deal with frustration and anger that makes a difference.
is a learned behavior often from home but also from our
Its insidious, said Sheras, who co-founded
the Youth Violence Project with Curry
School colleague Dewey Cornell. The projects mission
is to further the understanding and reduction ofx violent behavior
in schools and other places through research and training.
defines bullying as unprovoked aggressive behavior meant
to dominate, hurt or exclude another as a way of channeling aggression.
It doesnt just take place in the schoolyard; summer camps
and day programs are also prime locations.
typical schoolchild has a 30 percent chance of getting into a
bullying situation, as the intimidator or the victim, according
to the National Education Association. Research also shows that
half of the identified bullies have also been victims. Most aggressive
children can be reformed, he stressed.
your child comes home repeatedly with new bruises or ripped pants,
bursts into tears for no reason or has trouble sleeping. He may
seem lonely, fearful or less communicative. Those are typical
signs that he might be getting bullied.
calling bullying normal, we absolve ourselves of responsibility
and leave another generation to struggle through on its
U.Va. clinical psychologist
remaining 70 percent of children have probably been bystanders.
They often feel guilty for not helping a child whom they see get
bullied. They may be afraid to associate with the victim or the
do pick on somebody weaker or more vulnerable in some way. Thats
why telling the victim to fight back is bad advice. Chances
are that if your child has been tormented regularly by this bully,
he will not win an outright fight with him in the arena the bully
has chosen, Sheras said.
there more bullying today than in the past? Not necessarily, said
Sheras, but the concept is broader. A relatively new form of verbal
bullying is flaming on the Internet insulting
a person or spreading rumors and lies via e-mail or chat-room
discussions. Another increasing motive for bullying behavior is
an offshoot of our consumerist culture: Bullies may be stealing
more from their peers to add to their own status.
and its consequences have also become potentially more deadly,
with victims using guns more often to balance the power equation.
Standing up to the bully could mean taking his life. And then
what happens to the victim?
there are some good programs to prevent and reduce bullying in
schools, they are not enough.
a spit in the ocean. We need to do a lot more and start earlier,
Sheras said. We can change the way people think about bullying.