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Behavior Makeover: Bullying

My son's teacher told us that Scott has been bullying other kids. A few parents complained that he threatened their kids and called them names that I'm embarrassed to repeat. He also stole their lunches and ripped up their work. Apparently he's doing such a good job of tormenting them that they don't want to go to school. I feel terrible: last year's teacher told me similar stories, and I didn't believe her. I don't know what to do. Unfortunately, Scott's dad thinks this behavior is "manly." Please help!

– Jerri, a mother of two sons from Vancouver, British Columbia

"Why should I care how he feels? He's just a little suck-up."
"He's such a wimp – he deserved it!"
"I hit him. So what? Nobody likes him anyway."

Bullying has increased dramatically over the past decade. A recent study found that 80 percent of middle school students have bullied a classmate within the past thirty days. Do be aware that because only 15 percent of bullies fit the stereotype of someone who physically hurts others, many parents don't suspect their child is a bully. Other kids sure do: bullies also maliciously tease, threaten, name-call, hit, spread nasty rumors, sexually harass, or intimidate victims, and their efforts are always intentional. Bullies can be male or female, urban or rural, rich or poor, and be popular or lack friends. Their one commonality is their immense ability to wreak havoc on their victims' self-esteem. There's also another often-overlooked victim in terms of long-term self-damage: the bully. If not stopped, kid tormentors all too often become adult abusers who bully their offspring, spouse, colleagues, and neighbors, thereby alienating loved ones and friends and business relations they do really care about, and also punishing themselves with isolation, lost privileges, lost opportunities, and peer group contempt. What's more, one in four end up with criminal records.


From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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