For most of us, bullying is an unpleasant, negative subject. It is unpleasant to talk about. It is unpleasant to think about. Given the choice, most of us would prefer not to engage with it at all.
Yet sometimes circumstances force us to do just that. When our child is being bullied, this goes far beyond being just “unpleasant”. Bullying can and does cause lifelong psychological harm. Long-term adult struggles with anxiety, depression, social isolation and inability to trust others are all linked to bullying during childhood.
When we believe our child is being bullied, as responsible parents we must act to protect them. We also seek to provide our child with the psychological strengths to resist and the physical skills to defend themselves.
Our first step in defending against bullying is getting a solid working understanding of what it is, and how it works harm. Only then can we take steps to defend against it.
What Bullying is:
Bullying is repeated acts seeking to harm, intimidate or coerce someone who is seen as vulnerable.
Bullying is a repeated pattern of behavior. It is an ongoing and malicious misuse of power over others through verbal, physical and/or social behavior that deliberately intends to cause suffering and harm. This harm can be physical, emotional, or social — frequently a mix of all.
We often think of bullying as done by individual actors — the bully. But it can also be done by a group of people in league together. Individual bully or gang, they target those they see as less powerful and unable to effectively resist them.
To be clear on a vital point, bullying is a repeated pattern of malicious behavior against someone unable to effectively resist. This is what causes the harm.
Single incidents such as quarrels or fights involving roughly equal give-and-take aren’t considered bullying. This is just normal interpersonal friction. Unpleasant certainly, but not causing our child lasting harm.
Coming next: How does bullying work harm?