We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to email@example.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.
Q: My son has been the victim of bullying at his school, and we are trying to understand why and how to help. Our family is going through some difficult changes and there has been a lot of yelling and tension in our home. We are trying to work on that by seeing a counselor. Do you have other suggestions for us?
A: In 2010, the APA published a study where researchers reviewed 153 studies on bullying over the past 30 years. What they found was that bullies and victims share similar traits. Both lack social problem-solving skills and feel awkward and uncomfortable among their peers. When you add poor academic skills to the mix, a bully, rather than a victim, is likely to emerge. The study additionally profiled bullies with these traits:
- Negative attitudes and beliefs about others
- Negative self-image
- From families with conflict and poor parenting
- Negative school perceptions
- Negatively influenced by peers
The study also noted that victims are usually aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, are problematic in social skills and solving problems, isolate, are rejected by peers and come from negative family, school, and community environments. So continue to work on solving the family tension, work with the school and teach your son a technique called The Swarm. Basically, a group of bystanders swarm the bully and tell him or her to back off. There is power in numbers and bullies will often back down when confronted with a group that pushes back on them. Work with your son to identify who he can get on his team and stand up to the bully.
Also work with the teacher. She may be able to coach the class on the technique as well. Practice social skills and help him problem-solve when he encounters problems at school. Building his confidence to handle peers will go a long way.
Do you have any advice for parents of bullied kids?