Due to the frequency of bullying incidents, a number of risk factors have been identified among those who fall prey to this type of aggression. While the presence of these characteristics does not automatically predict who will be bullied, they are factors to be mindful of and should be addressed when observed.
Those who are at risk:
Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what is considered “cool”
Are cautious, sensitive, insecure personality, low self-esteem
Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
Are depressed or anxious
Are less popular than others and have few friends/lack close friends
Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
Have overprotective or restrictive parents (possibly)
Have difficulty asserting themselves
In addition to risk factors for victims there are also identifiable risk factors for the aggressor.
Those who are more likely to bully others:
Are aggressive or easily frustrated
impulsive, hot headed, dominant personality lacking empathy
Have less parental involvement
Think badly of others
Have difficulty following/conforming to rules
View violence in a positive way
Have friends who bully others
Have a gradual decrease in interest in school or achievement
Lastly, bullies often experience power and aggression from those close to them, and learn to use this type of maladaptive behavior to control others. They may have:
Parents who show power and aggression by yelling, hitting or rejecting a member(s) of the family
Parents who show power and aggression with each other
Siblings who may bully the child at home
Teachers or coaches who show power and aggression by yelling, excluding, etc.
If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from those who can ultimately help.
If you have ever looked at your teenager and thought (or even said out loud) “what the heck were you thinking?” then you know how utterly bewildering it can be to get on the same wavelength as your child. We all know that teenagers can speak an entirely different language than adults (think “bae”, “basic”, “yolo”, and “I can’t even”) and it’s completely normal to have difficulties communicating with your teen, much less understanding them. So, in attempt to alleviate some of these difficulties, I have come up with a few tips and guidelines to surviving your child’s teenaged years.
You don’t always have to be the fixer. I realize that for most of you, this goes against every fiber of your being. You want to help your child. You want to save them and shield them from the evils and hurts of this world. You want to call that mean girl’s mother and chew her out. But the bottom line is this: unless the problem is a legal one or involves the safety of someone, then you don’t always have to fix it. Sometimes all your teen needs is a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. If your teenaged daughter comes home after being dumped by her boyfriend who is now dating her ex-best friend, you’d be shocked to realize the power of simply sitting down next to her and hugging her tight. I can almost 100% assure you that she doesn’t want you calling his parents, talking to her ex-best friend’s parents, or telling her what you think she should do. There is power in simply saying “I’m so sorry that happened to you. That must’ve hurt so much.” And sometimes that’s all they need.
Empathize! Think back to when you were a teenager… would you ever want to go back to that time? Most of us wouldn’t! Yes, there are probably a lot of great memories from that age, but mostly it consisted of drama. Friends who backstab, heart-wrenching break-ups, prepping for try-outs, stress over grades and sports and homecoming and prom dates and cotillion and pimples and college applications and SAT’s… get my drift?? Every so often, it may be helpful for you to put yourself in your teenager’s shoes to get some perspective. You may not be able to understand why your teenager locks himself in his room after school until it’s time to eat but when you were 17, did you want to hang out with your mom or dad while they helped with little sister’s homework? That’s not to say spending time together as a family isn’t important- just be thoughtful when picking your battles.
The harder you try to control your teen, the more push-back you’ll get. Parenting is a constant trial and error game of kite flying. My dad eloquently perfected this analogy. When you let a bit of string out, it may take a moment for the kite to stabilize before getting straightened up and flying strong. Sometimes, you have to reel the line back in a bit (or a lot) for the kite to catch wind and show you that it’s ready for more line. Get it? In reality, you have never truly controlled your child. If you had then there would’ve been no sleepless nights, no tantrums in the middle of Bering’s, and no arguments over when she gets the car. Ultimately, your teen is going to make his own choices. You can control the encouragement, consequences, love, support, and guidance that you give your teen. Keep your expectations crystal clear and there will be no room for “how was I supposed to know that?!” or “but you didn’t tell me that!”