Bullies tend to Pick on People they Think are Uncool and Abnormal: A look at Peer Abuse

Q&A Elizabeth Bennett

Q: You describe yourself as a survivor of peer abuse. When most people think about peer abuse or bullying, they often think that it is physical. Howwere you abused by your peers and how old were you when the abuse started?

A: I was three when it started. A child from across the street threw rocks at me. Some of mine was physical but also verbal, mental and emotional.

Q: Bullies tend to pick on and torment people they think are uncool or not normal. Do you think you were targeted because you stood out?

A: Oh yes…I was a sensitive child and I cried very easily. I did not know how to stand up for myself. By nature I am not combative and I know that is what got me in trouble so to speak.

Q: How can we teach teens that being cool is standing up for themselves or for people who are being bullied?

A: We need to get parents more involved to talk to their children and set consequences. There is such a lack of accountability today and if kids knew they were held accountable for these actions, it may decrease. Plus, children need to be learning empathy a lot more. They are growing up far too desensitized today to the pain of others. Adults need to model behavior that reflects what we are trying to teach children. It does not hurt to talk to and make children aware of how this behavior really hurts others. Schools need to be reinforcing the dangers bullying on a regular basis. Parents need to be monitoring and staying on top of internet use a lot more Children need to be taught how to use technology properly. If we reinforce kindness instead of brutality then I believe children can learn that it is not so bad to be kind. We need to teach kids how to handle conflict but this is not normal conflict. Peer Abuse is about just that…abuse.

Q: What advice would you give teens that are too afraid to go to school because people are spreading rumors about them?

A: They need to tell their parents what is going on and then go to the school and see what the policies are about stopping this. Also, document everything and save any notes, email, texts and voicemails, so evidence is there. As for the hurting teens, I would reinforce that they are wonderful kids and so much better than those who are spreading the lies. Suggest getting themselves in activities away from school. Also, get a journal and vent these frustrations out. If the rumors are severe, I would suggest they talk to their parents about homeschooling. When it gets to a point where people believe the rumors, and make them worse, it can become psychologically traumatizing. Targets then need to be in a healthy environment. Telling them to "ignore" it will just make it worse. This type of stuff leaves lasting scars on a person and does not "prepare them for the real world."

Q: If a teen is being told by his parent or another adult figure to grow a tougher skin, when he is being called names or made fun of because of his physical shape or size, what can he do?

A: Continue searching for an authority figure that WILL listen and take them seriously. To survive in this world we need to develop thicker skin. At the same time, not everyone is blessed in this area. Get them in activities where they can build their self-esteem and where people appreciate them. Also, educate these adults that it takes all kinds to make the world go around and not everyone is blessed with thick skin. I know I was not and have had to try and grow it the best that I can. At the same time, it is still not enough. I am not wired that way, bottom line.

Q: I've read that bullies have higher self-esteems than the average student. On the other hand, why would someone put someone down, if they feel good about themselves?

A: This form of abuse is about control and power. It is about going after those who are different because these abusers cannot handle those being different from them. For them, this is entertainment and a lack of tolerance of others. It is important for them to remain on top and will do whatever it takes. Peers look up to them and feed them constantly with praise. For them, they must have their following so they can control and keep getting praised. These abusers actually make great leaders which is one reason I believe that people flock to them. At the same time, they misuse this to satisfy their own needs. Now, I do not doubt that they have insecurities in them. Our world today is basically insecure but I can assure you that they are pleased with themselves for the most part.

Q: As an adult, you write a Blog and have written books about bullying. If you could go back to school with what you know now, what would you do differently?

A: I would work on trying not to be accepted so much. I would stand up for myself as I have the confidence now that I never had then. I was beaten down so badly as a kid that I had NO self-worth and NO self-esteem and did not know how to fight back. Now I do have these skills. I would document everything and stay on top of the policies at school. Not get down to the abusers level but let them hang themselves with their own actions via documentation.

Elizabeth Bennett is the author of "Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying from a Psychological Perspective" along with the e-book "Child Safety Online: Top Tips to Protect your Child from Internet Predators.

By Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies

Sep 7 2011 in Whats New admin Comments Off on Bullies tend to Pick on People they Think are Uncool and Abnormal: A look at Peer Abuse

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