Bullies and Bullieds

Hermione Gerry gives parents advice on how to help to give them strategies for coping

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The subject of bullying and the emotional distress it causes to the victims has been much in the news recently. Bullying can take many forms and is sadly part of life. It is a type of behaviour which causes the victim great distress and lasting psychological damage and therefore needs to be taken seriously. Both bullies and bullied need help in their formative years to learn strategies which will help them in their adult life.

In my experience, of many years of working with children, I noticed that normally adults would label the bully a ‘trouble maker’/ behaviourally disturbed’ and would not even listen to their side of the story. The child would normally be quite young by the time they began to be treated in an aggressive way by those adults who were looking after them. A behaviour pattern would then develop of a child who was always being punished (even for behaviour they had not committed). The continual punishment of the ‘Bully’ only served to reinforce the very behaviour which the adult was seeking to eradicate, building up resentment and anger in the child and helping to train the bully to want to bully those who they saw as easy targets: definitely not what was needed or wanted. What is happening to that child, will be that they are internalising a view of themselves as a ‘bad’ person with a world which is against them. The treatment will cause anger and resentment in the child making them want to go and hurt others.

Without a bullied, there will not be a bully, therefore in order to help the balance the timid child, lacking confidence who comes into a room, head bowed, eyes looking at the floor absolutely inviting, by their demeanour, to be bullied, needs to be helped to understand their role in the behavioural interaction. They have to be shown that they are a part of the equation and shown strategies to cope with being able to be self-assertive and to believe that they can say “No, leave me alone, I will not tolerate your behaviour”. The training in self-assertiveness will not be developed overnight, but it is well worth the effort to help that child. School after all is not the only place where a child will meet bullies. Anyone who has experienced bullying in the work place will know how absolutely emotionally devastating and crippling that is. It leaves one with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, taking away the ability to do the job properly, if at all, as the mind goes blank. At this stage there is no teacher/ adult or parent to run to who will ‘protect’ as they see it, their child. I would strongly argue that the ‘bullied’ has to be enabled to be in control of their own destiny and strong enough to be able to stand up to any bully. It is a good feeling!

In conclusion, in order to create the right sort of psychological social balance both the bully and the bullied need the appropriate type of help and training to help them both at school and in their adult life,

Unfortunately human cruelty, left untreated is a fact of life and once children reach their teenage years another and more insidious form of bullying can, and does, take place, which can be devastating to those being targeted. This, in my opinion comes from role models on television, adults who think that is amusing and permissible to be rude and abusive to those on their shows, from social media, face book etc, where anyone can write whatever they wish, however cruel or untrue it is, As much of this cruelty is taking place in a virtual world it is hard to know, apart from changing attitudes and creating a more caring society what strategies can help the targeted individual.


Hermione Gerry
Co-founder Prospect House School

June 25, 2013