While Bullying Benefits No One... Healthwise

By GalTime Teen Expert Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D.

Why Bulllying Benefits No One
Why Bulllying Benefits No One

It is no surprise that victims of bullying can suffer serious effects, medcially and psychologically. Study after study confirms the toll that such exposure can have on even the youngest kids. Self-esteem suffers, and feelings of isolation and vulnerability can evolve into thoughts of suicide or self-harm. As parents and professionals we have begun to take a stand and the result has been effective. Currently the majority of states have already passed anti-bullying legislation. Schools around the country have instituted anti-bullying awareness programs into their curriculums.

What maybe somewhat startling to some however, is that the act of bullying can negatively impact the bully as well. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick in England revealed that bullies are at increased risk for self-injurious behaviors and suicidal thinking, even if they are not targets of bullying themselves.

Such findings are indeed somewhat of a relief as they suggest that bullying really does not 'feel good.' Why then, do bullies bully? To offer one response to such a complex question is not easy. We do know however that act of bullying can empower the aggressor by making him/her feel that they are powerful and in control. In addition, we know that many bullies have difficulty managing anger, and can possess pent up anger or even rage. We can surmise from what we do know that bullying offers a release or a target of pent up anger for those unable to manage these feelings and as noted above enables the aggressor to feel in control and powerful.

A little knowledge can be a powerful tool. Armed with the information we have about bullies we can help harness their associated feelings into positive outcomes. After all, who wants to feel bad? By finding other more positive opportunities to empower bullies we can encourage change. Curriculum focused on anger management and the development of healthy coping skills is one place to start.

Related: Teaching Our Kids How to Deal with Social Rejection

Perhaps the "real life' events detailed below offer us something to think about:

Fifth graders Trudy and Dawn were often getting into arguments at recess. It was hard to believe that the year before the two had been the closest of friends. When things got more intense and the shoving began, Mrs. King, their teacher was quick to intervene. She called for the two to work out their differences through a peer mediation process. The entire class, especially, Trudy and Dawn were shocked when Mrs. King called upon Dillon, the class bully to be the mediator, so was Dillon. He tentatively accepted the task. It turned out, Mrs. King knew a thing or two about what she was doing, Dillon did a good job of mediating the two sides and in the end the girls were able to shake hands and acknowledge each other's point of view.

I would like to tell you that suddenly Dillon became a new person and never bullied anyone again, unfortunately I can't. What I can tell you is that there was a change. Dillon gained a new respect from his peers who were able to see him in a different light. Over time, he began to seek positive ways to help out in the classroom.

Change takes time. What this example emphasizes is that the bully can become the champion when given appropriate opportunities. It feels much better to be praised and admired than feared and avoided. Put simply, bullying does not feel good.

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