Understanding Bullying

Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression; it is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It's a very durable behavioral style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first. Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age, if the normal aggression of 2-year-olds isn't handled well.

Many studies show that bullies lack prosocial behavior, are untroubled by anxiety, and do not understand others' feelings. They typically see themselves quite positively. Those who chronically bully have strained relationships with parents and peers.

Electronic bullying has become a significant problem in the past decade. The ubiquity of hand-held and other devices  affords bullies any-time access to their prey, and harassment can often be carried out anonymously.

Bullies couldn't exist without victims, and they don't pick on just anyone; those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully. No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either. Grown-up bullies wreak havoc in their relationships and in the workplace.

Increasingly, children are growing up without the kinds of experiences that lead to the development of social skills, and free play has been in decline. Yet, it's in playing with peers, without adult monitoring, that children develop the skills that make them well-liked by age-mates and learn how to solve social problems.

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