At some point in your life, you probably have already encountered a bully. They exist as adults intimidating their colleagues, using their position of power or material leverage, and threatening or shaming their victim. Sometimes, bullying among adults can lead to a physical attack.
Unfortunately, younger bullies act the same way. They use their popularity (social power) to isolate and intimidate their chosen victims. They call their victims names and embarrass them in front of their peers. And, it may also lead to assault.
Being bullied can negatively impact an adult’s mental health. To kids, who are more likely to experience bullying, it can have devastating effects. Those who were bullied when they were young carry the trauma or self-esteem issues until their adulthood, leading to mental health problems later in life.
No one is safe. Anyone can be bullied. However, researchers have identified traits that make a child more likely to experience bullying at school.
A Unique Physical Trait
Young people want to fit in with their peers. When one kid stands out among the rest because of their appearance, they are more likely to be bullied by a schoolmate.
The “different” or “distinctive” physical characteristics that may attract bullies might not be consequential. A child can get bullied because they wear glasses or braces. Sometimes, a child can get picked on because they have acne, their teeth are crooked, or they are thin or short.
This type of bullying can be very damaging to the victim because it severely affects their confidence. A child might see themselves as unattractive. They will try to hide during social events or distance themselves from their friends.
Some of these physical traits can be changed. Using an Invisalign treatment, which is less visible, instead of metal braces can prevent them from being targeted by bullies while still fixing their teeth. Acne can be controlled by using the right skincare products and with the help of a dermatologist.
However, there are physical traits that cannot be changed. The role of the parent is to build their confidence through pointing out the unique qualities that they love about their child and by encouraging them to pursue hobbies and extracurricular activities.
Isolation and Perceived Vulnerability
If a child is shy or appears shy, they are at risk of being bullied. Children who are introverted are more likely to be bullied than kids who are extroverted. Moreover, introverts surround themselves with fewer friends which makes them appear vulnerable to a bully.
Researchers have also discovered that children who are anxious or depressed can be targeted by bullies which can exacerbate their condition.
Bullies choose these children as victims because they think that they would not receive any push back or retaliation. Parents should teach their children positive body language such as looking a person in the eye to appear confident. This will make a child less likely to become a target.
If a child is already experiencing harassment, teach them how to respond with confidence. You two can come up and practice retorts that are direct but not antagonistic such as “that was not very nice” or “back off.” By practicing, you give your child the tools they need in order to dissuade a potential bully.
Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, or Disability
It is a sad truth that bullies target kids who have a different race or religion, a different sexual orientation, or have an illness or disability. A study has shown that these factors are the most common reasons why students are bullied in school.
Parents should ensure that these children have a strong support system around them to dispel bullying. If necessary, speak to the teachers and the bully’s parents about the incidents. The school’s staff cannot always monitor each child’s action. Parents should monitor changes to a child’s behavior and report the offenses to the school for immediate intervention.
Parents can also partner with the school to develop a program that will discuss bullying and its consequences.
In addition, parents should provide emotional support to their children. The impact of bullying should never be dismissed. To a child, it is a deeply traumatic experience. Tell them that it was not their fault and that they are not alone. Allow them to communicate their thoughts and feelings freely.
Bullying is never acceptable whether it was done to an adult or a child. It can damage a person’s mental health and can affect them negatively for years. But, the impact is especially bad to young people who are still growing and often do not have the tools or resources necessary to deal with the negative experience. Parents and educators should take bullying in schools seriously.