According to resilience therapist Janine Shamos, bullies are often “victims too in need of help and guidance”. Bullying can be defined as any intention to hurt another person, whether physically, emotionally or psychologically.
At least 66% of children will be involved in bullying at some point in their life, which can lead to depression, low self-esteem and even suicide.
Shamos points out that 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying or putdowns – and intervene in only 4% of bullying incidents. It is a misguided concept that bullying is a natural part of growing up.
“There is a clear distinction between bullying and teasing. Teasing is normal, as long as the other person can laugh about it. Bullying is often confused as character building, as victims are told to ignore the bullies and walk away, but the resentment they carry has long-lived consequences. It’s not just a case of boys being boys. It takes a special type of person to intentionally cause pain on others,” she says.
Bullying is not harmless teasing. It’s vicious and hurtful and effects both the victim and the bully. Most bullies try to make themselves feel important because they are trying to fulfil needs that are not being met. Children mirror those around them.
“If one grows up in an aggressive family and sees that being aggressive gets you what you want, you will mimic this behaviour in order to get what you want,” says Shamos.
“But it is not necessarily what you need.”
Bullies are seeking attention – a need that all too often goes ignored – so they make themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse.
“If we ignore bullies, they are likely to translate their anger into later life,” Shamos says.
“At least 70% of kids who are bullies in school go on to get a criminal record, or continue bullying in adulthood.”
Often bullies dont understand the feelings of others and are un-aware of what other children really think of them, believing they are respected. While the intention is to hurt and express their own frustration, the extent of damage caused is not fully comprehended.
“We cant hope to change our world for the better without engaging the bully and teaching him new ways to cope,” says Shamos.
It is important that corrective measures are put in place for both the bully and the target.