For many students, even the most normal school and social routines can be plagued by the often-frustrating reality of bullying. The National Bullying Prevention Center states that one in every four students are bullied during the school year.
Dr. Jamilia Blake, associate professor of school psychology, has studied the causes and effects of bullying at school and its impact on victims. She states how parents handle bullying situations could have significant effects on children.
“Bullying is a real concern that children grapple with daily and I think a lot of it has to do with how the school responds to it,” Dr. Blake said. “That determines how kids overcome it or if it is this perpetual problem that is reduced.”
Dr. Blake believes that the face of bullying is ever changing. Her research has shown that a bully’s personal environment and upbringing does not always necessarily contribute to their behavior. Consequently, schools can have difficulty profiling behaviors of bullies due to the lack of a set standard.
“There’s not a one-size-fits-all to bullies. It can look like so many different things; for example, it can be relational or cyber bullying,” Dr. Blake said. “I think some children bully because it feels good to be in control over other people’s emotions and others bully for instrumental reasons so that they can attain items or social status or being popular with their peers.”
Though there is no set standard to profiling a bully, Dr. Blake has found very defined traits about the environment of a bully.
“What we do know is that bullying does not occur in isolation with just one bully and victim, it’s a group phenomenon,” Dr. Blake said. “What encourages a bully to keep bullying is having students and bystanders who don’t report the incidents or tell them to stop. Peer attention, even silent attention, can be quite reinforcing to bullies.”
Direct causes of bullying behavior may vary, but the victimization of those it affects are often the same. Bullying can affect a child’s view on life and their own self-worth.
“I think that kids come to their parents when it gets really bad, but for the most part they try and weather the storm and manage it,” Dr. Blake said. “We need to consider how children cope with bullying.”
Dr. Blake believes that parents play a critical role in bully prevention. Being attentive to a child’s behavior may help parents recognize signs of victimization in their children.
“Look for subtle cues that your child’s social world is changing and that they are not a part of it,” Dr. Blake said. “Changes in a child’s normal behavior, interactions with friends, or routine coupled with mood changes, can be a direct sign of bullying.”
After identifying the issue, it is a parent’s job to listen to the child and get a gauge on the situation. Dr. Blake recommends that parents find out what specific information is needed in order to properly move forward.
“It is really important to lead with love and support your kid in their decisions and not to blame them if they are in fact victimized,” Dr. Blake said. “You want to be an advocate for your child, which means listening first and then being invited to offer solutions.”