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Anger and fear fuel bullying, says expert

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

(File photo)

(File photo)

To build the perfect bully, find a human suffering from low self-esteem, anger or abuse.

Throw a younger, smaller or different person into their path and voila, a bully is born.

If it were that easy to find the bully and the victim, experts would have solved this conundrum long ago.

However, even local psychologist Dr. Ken Marek remembers doing a profile on a young woman several years ago, only to discover none of the violence and aggression she was arrested for was evident in the rest of her character assessment.

“Sometimes, you just don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head,” Marek said bluntly.

As a psychologist, Marek has studied the effects of bullying on the victim, but adds it’s not a one-size-fits-all character or socio-economic factor that determines the traits of a bully.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it. They can have strict parents or good parenting, be rich, comfortable or poor,” he said.

“Some kids who’ve been bullied themselves never bully, others bully because they have been bullied.”

Marek says for whatever the reason, the bully has a lot of anger or fear, and they’re redirecting it towards someone who’s an easy target.

“Once they get other people laughing, so there’s a crowd effect and they’re getting attention for their actions, for a bully, their real strength is in numbers,” he said. “For the victim, that crowd effect can be terrifying.”

According to the 1997 Craig & Pepler study, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or simply do not support the bullying behaviour.

While they go on to say that 25% of children in grades 4 to 6 report having been bullied, they also note it occurs once every seven minutes on the playground, and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.

Intentionally physically hurting or belittling another person to feel better about oneself seems to be as common as, well, the common cold.

The over-the-counter prescription may be as easy as talking to the aggressive child, said Barrie police Sgt. Dennis Vaillancourt.

“When you look at the dynamics of the actual kid, there’s seems to be something lacking in their own lives,” Vaillancourt said. “(Bullying) gives them a sense of strength and self-worth and bullying starts to develop the big identity within them.

“When you find what’s lacking and see what’s at the root of the problem, you can turn that around.”

Vaillancourt remembers a Grade 6 child who was bullied at school.

“Basically, this other kid was being bullied at the skate park, and he was taking it out on the smaller kid at school. It was making him act out the way he was being treated.”

Vaillancourt said when dealing with children, he identifies them as having ‘bullying behaviour’.

He doesn’t want to attach the label and stigmatize the person permanently, because once the bullying action is addressed, he wants the child to have the freedom to move on.

In our rush to solve the problem, we might end up over-punishing the bully, said Tracey Elliot, whose young son was bullied by a boy at school after his father died.

When parents and teachers intervened, the boys took the power struggle out of the equation, and became friends, she said.

Now, the Innisfil mom believes parents and educators can do more.

“Maybe we’re not teaching as much about tolerance in the class as they could use,” Elliot said.

“It’s not a one child’s good, one child’s bad scenario, we should be teaching compassion, caring and community.”

Pointing to social media and television shows promoting bullies as characters with strength and courage, can be viewed by children as rewarding the bully, she said.

“All of us, as authority figures, need to step up to the plate. Kids are on a huge learning curve and we have to teach them right from wrong,” she said.

WEDNESDAY: A look at Barrie police’s Project i-Safe, which tackles cyberbullying.

Canadian Bullying Statistics
A study on bullying by the University of British Columbia, based on 490 students in grades 8-10 showed:

  • 64% of kids had been bullied at school
  • 12% were bullied regularly (once or more a week)
  • 13% bullied other students regularly
  • 72% observed bullying at school at least once in a while
  • 40% tried to intervene
  • 64% considered bullying a normal part of school life
  • 20-50% said bullying can be a good thing, as it makes people tougher or learn to solve problems
  • 25-33% said bullying is sometimes OK and/or it is OK to pick on losers
  • 61-80% said bullies are popular and enjoy a higher status among their peers.


Do you know someone who is a bully?

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