Imagine that you have some characteristic that is prominent. This difference in appearance causes you to be ridiculed and leads to your ostracism. I have just described the plight of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's a classic case of bullying incorporated into our cultural folklore.
A psychologist named George Giuliani has brought this beloved Christmas tale into the light of examination. He has just written a children’s book No More Bullies at the North Pole. This book addresses the unfair behaviors bestowed upon Rudolph the proboscisally challenged reindeer. It is thought provoking for young and old alike. In the original tale, Rudolph’s nose causes him to stand out among his peers. His difference causes him to be ridiculed and rejected by his fellow reindeer. It is a stormy evening that changes Rudolph’s lot. His ability to perform an outstanding feat earns him acceptance.
This is a fairy tale but the reality is that children endure bullying on a daily basis. There is no fantastic feat that a child can perform to win them acceptance nor should they have to perform such an act to be accepted. According to www.stopbullying.gov, 3.2 million children in grades 6-10 are bullied daily in the U.S. This number does not include the children in earlier grades or upper classmen. Bullying is considered to be a wide spread problem in the U.S. It is a form of youth violence that can lead to physical injury, social and emotional pain and even death. The CDC reported that in the 2007-2008 school year, 25 percent of students reported bullying occurring on a daily/weekly basis with middle school students reporting more bullying than high school students.
There are four types of bullying:
- Cyber; in the form of emails, social networking and chat rooms
There are many definitions of bullying, but all descriptions include the following:
- An imbalance of power
- Intent to cause some form of harm
Victims of bullying are at risk for depression, anxiety, headaches, psychosomatic illnesses and poor school adjustment. The victims are not the only children at risk for problems. For instance, youths who bully are at a greater risk for substance abuse, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. There are victims, bullies and bullies, who are also victims. The latter group has the most significant risks for long-term problems. If you feel that since your child is not bullied and they are not affected, think again. Being exposed to acts of violence can sensitize one to these acts. According to stopbulling.gov, twelve out of fifteen school shootings in the 1990’s found the shooter having a history of being bullied.
Various strategies can be instituted to deter bullying, such as:
- School programs that are designed to stop bullying must be evaluated for efficacy. Many programs are never evaluated. School anti bullying programs must be on going not merely a day/week program.
- Cause and effects of bullying must be taught to staff, children and parents. Enforcement of the consequences of bullying must be consistent. Rules must also apply to all.
- The school culture must promote a safe and accepting environment. Bullying must not be condoned and students must also be vigilant in not accepting this behavior for themselves or their peers.
- The Department of Education has an Office of Civil Rights. Schools receive federal money so they are required to address acts of discrimination. The school and the administration can be held accountable for civil rights infringements or violations. Case examples include those tragic situations that resulted in suicide.
- Discuss bullying at home with your child. Use this article as a way to introduce the subject. Most parents don’t realize that their child is a victim until the abuse has been on going. Likewise, parents may not know that their child is a bully. Home violence is a risk factor associated with the bully.
- Personally, I want the parents of bullies to be accountable legally. If parents feel that they are on the hook for their child’s bad behavior, then they will feel more pressure to actively parent the child and change a character issue that could have long-term detrimental effects, if not corrected.
If you feel that bullying is merely a rite of passage and that this behavior is benign, I ask that you imagine this type of behavior taking place in your office or place of work. If Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer worked in an office, a lawsuit claiming hostile work environment and harassment would quickly shed more light on the subject than Rudolph’s nose ever could. Why should our children be subjected to these types of destructive behaviors when we adults do not tolerate harassment?
Stay well. Happy Holidays!