Bullying and Being a Victim

I think it is a very rare thing for a parent to admit their child might be a bully. I can't recall a parent ever talking to me about their child being the bully- they are always being bullied. But it is equally rare for a parent to see their child as a victim who can help themselves. It is much easy to blame another person than to look at what we are doing to help the situation. And sadly all children have the capacity to bully and to be a victim and most children will be in either category at some time in their life.

Parents also often misunderstand what bullying is. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. This behaviour isn’t seen only in children, I’m sure we have all work in an environment at some time where we have seen this behaviour in the adults around us!

In order to be considered bullying, the behaviour must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power:

  • Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others.

  • Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

  • Repetition: Bullying behaviours happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Kids bully for many reasons. Some bully because they feel insecure. Picking on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker provides a feeling of being more important, popular, or in control. In other cases, kids bully because they simply don't know that it's unacceptable to pick on kids who are different because of size, looks, race, or religion. But we expect them to know different and often get upset with them when they have had little help to do the right thing.

Think about the messages you are giving them:

Are they subconsciously hearing your beliefs and repeating them?

What do you say about, and how do you treat people who dress differently, have a different sexual belief, religious beliefs and racism?

Do you refer to people as dole bludgers, queers, or use racial slurs?

How do you respond when something upsets you?

Do you model good problem solving when angered?

Do you stand up and speak out when you hear or see an injustice?

Maybe you are not even aware you are doing it but children are sponges and take in everything you say and do.

When children lack social problem-solving skills they are more likely to become bullies or victims than those who don’t have these difficulties. And those who are having academic troubles are even likelier to become bullies. Typically, they are likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers. The typical bully/victim will often have negative attitudes and beliefs about themselves and others. In other words- bullies tend to be children who are hurt and need support but it is very hard for us to feel compassion towards or bullies!

Tips for Preventing Your Child from Developing a Victim Mentality:

We need to work hard to prevent our children from slipping into the ‘poor me’ mentality. It’s so easy to try and protect them but the best way we can do that it is prepare them.

Here are some things you can try!

Acting Helpless

When your child who sees themselves as a victim, they will allow bad things to happen to them. They’ll assume there’s nothing they can do about the obstacles they encounter and can believe their efforts to create change won’t be effective. We call it learned helplessness where they are constantly waiting for someone else to fix things for them and help them out. They will often remain passive when other students treat them unkindly which means this helpless attitude will increase their chance of re- victimisation by others.

Having a Pity Party

Self-pity and a victim mentality go hand-in-hand., and it’s a slippery slope! They can find themselves stuck in this mentality very quickly, particularly if they feel you are supporting this belief- even out of kindness! The child who feels like a victim may invest their energy into trying to gain sympathy rather than look for solutions to real problems. This can look like sulking, whining and complaining, rather than looking for solutions to improve the situation.

Focusing on the Negative

When your child ignores the nine good things that happen, and focus on the one bad thing, they have developed a victim mentality and will focus on the negative. Having a victim mentality causes kids to overlook the good things in life and focus on the negative which creates a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. They are more likely to use words like ‘‘always’ and ‘never’ when describing their circumstances.

Blaming Everyone Else

A child with a ‘poor me’ attitude will blame everyone else for things that do not go their way and unfortunate circumstances.  They may even provoke others on purpose, so they can get a negative reaction that will reinforce their belief that everyone is mean to them. These children often struggle to accept personal responsibility for their own behaviour and part in a situation. Rather than acknowledge their role contributed to a situation they will try and likely blame everyone else and insist there was nothing they could have done about it.

And this is why it is vital we teach our children about consent and about having and accepting boundaries with other people. We need to teach our children that the only person they have any control over is themselves. They cannot control what other people say and do but they can control how they respond to them. We will always have to live with hurts, frustrations, and “difficult people’ but we do not have to the sad, unfulfilled, difficult life as a victim.

The Power of others:

Bullying situations almost always involve more than the bully and the victim. They also involve bystanders—those who watch bullying happen or hear about it. These bystanders have the power to make change but often don’t

Depending on how bystanders respond, they can either contribute to the problem or the solution. Bystanders rarely play a completely neutral role, although they may think they do.

Bystanders might:

  • instigate the bullying by encouraging the bully to begin.

  • encourage the bullying by laughing, cheering, or making comments to give the bully power

  • join in with the bullying once it has begun.

  • accept the bullying by watching and doing nothing. Passive bystanders provide the audience a bully craves and the silent acceptance that allows bullies to continue their hurtful behaviour.

Why don’t more bystanders intervene?

  • They fear getting hurt or becoming another victim.

  • They feel powerless to stop the bully.

  • They don’t like the victim or believe the victim “deserves” it.

  • They don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

  • They fear retribution.

  • They think that telling adults won’t help or it may make things worse.

  • They don’t know what to do.

We can prepare children to become involved by discussing with them the different ways bystanders can make a difference, and by letting them know that adults will support them. It is important that children know that getting help is a valid strategy and not a sign of weakness or ‘narking’ on friends. Once children realise they have the power to make change, they often do.

Helpful websites:

Books! And ways you can use books to teach children some strategies about bullying and victim mentality

Questions you can ask when reading the b
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