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Being bullied is an all-too-common problem for school-aged children. And for every bully, there is a victim.

Who are the bullies?
Simply put, bullies want to control people, and they quickly learn that violence or the fear of violence will allow them to do that.  They often choose to pick on kids who are alone and don't have a strong network of friends. Bullying takes many forms, including threats, violence, intimidation, destruction of property and theft. Essentially, bullies are thugs.

Why do they choose to be thugs?

  1. A bully wants control over another person. With control comes power.
  2. A bully doesn't know how to get attention in positive and acceptable ways. That's why he or she resorts to force.
  3. A bully is antisocial. He or she is rude and hostile on purpose, and thinks bullying is a cruel but fun game.
  4. A bully feels justified in picking on others and is probably even proud of it. In the bully's mind, weaker or smaller kids deserve to be picked. Picking on someone else does not necessarily make bullies feel better about themselves because they don't typically have low self-esteem.  Contrary to belief, bullies usually have high opinions of themselves.
  5. A bully learned how to bully. Bullying is a LEARNED trait. A family that uses force or aggression for punishments or to settle relationship problems can set an example that bullying is an acceptable way for a person to get what he or she wants.  When toddlers learn that temper tantrums - and yelling and screaming - get results, it sets the stage for possible bullying later in childhood.

Bullies who don't change their ways in adolescence are heading for an adulthood filled with violence and aggression. These antisocial behaviors often result in employment problems, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and even criminal behavior. That's why it is in a bully's best interest to receive strong, negative consequences for his or her harmful, antisocial behavior.

Who are the victims?
Victims often are kids on the fringe who have been rejected by others in their peer group. This makes them an easy target for bullies. Because bullies like to win, they pick on kids who won't or can't fight back.

What can parents teach their children so they can stop being victims?

  1. Learn how to make friends. Bullies tend not to pick on kids who have friends who will back them up. Friends equal physical and emotional support. If you have unlikable traits that prevent you from forming friendships, learn how to change those traits and develop good friendship skills. Seek out kids with common interests and make conversation. Ask people about themselves; don't just talk about yourself. Pay people genuine compliments. If a bully does insult you, don't return the insult. Deflect the comment with an "I" statement. For example, if a bully calls you a wimp, respond with, "Yeah, I'm working on that." If a bully is aggressive, leave the situation if you can and talk to an adult you trust. There is no shame in asking for help.
  2. Avoid the bully. While this isn't possible all the time, try to minimize your exposure to the bully.
  3. Get other kids to help you. Children who are self-confident and assertive are in a position to exert positive peer pressure on the bully. Bullies don't want to look bad in front of someone they respect.
  4. Stop acting like a victim. Weakness attracts bullies.  So stand up straight, look people in the eye, speak with a firm voice and act confident even when you do not feel confident. If you are bullied, don't let the bully see that you are upset. This only feeds his appetite for more bullying.
  5. If you are being bullied frequently or cruelly, talk to someone about the problem. This is not tattling. You are reporting violent behavior that needs to stop for your sake and the bully's.

Parents also should make school officials aware of any bullying that is occurring, whether the victim is their child or someone else's child. School officials need to know, and so do the bully's parents.

To Sum Up...
Bullies' anti-social behavior will cause problems for them as an adult, often preventing them from developing healthy, loving relationships and maintaining steady employment. Bullies must change if they want a happier future. Victims can take steps to "bully-proof" themselves by changing annoying traits, establishing a network of friends and seeking the help of a trusted adult if a bully becomes too aggressive to ignore. The cycle of bullying can be broken.