Bullies and targets

Warrenhasan odd relationship with Tom. They used to be closefriends but their relationship changed once Tom joined the cool group. Warren hangs around Tom and his mates when they play sport. Warren hates itwhen Tompusheshim away or when the boys physically knock him around. Tom and his crew don't like Warren - they call him a 'geek'. Despite these negative vibes, Warren believes their attention is better than nothing. Unconsciously, he prefers to be alienated by a popular group than to be associated with a bunch of'nerds'. Tom and his mates actually bully him more than they want to. They explained to the counsellor that he really annoys them, and they are heartily sick of him. Warren told the counsellor he is just trying to be friendly, and they are nasty to him.

About the bully

How to spot a bully

• bullies siblings and parents

• aims to dominate, command and control others

• has minimal empathy

• has an inflated self-opinion

• his schoolwork and school behaviour deteriorates

• associates with mean friends he doesn't invite home

• denies responsibility for his behaviour and blames others

• may boast about his bullying exploits

• 'sucks up' to teachers and parents - is superficially nice

• shows limited remorse

• is secretive about after-school activities

• has unaccounted extra money or gifts, e.g. from extortion or stealing

• offers devious and dishonest answers, and

• resists compliance and cooperation with parents and teachers.

Bullying behaviour

bully's eyes: cold and aggressive, not kind and friendly

facial muscles: fixed and tense, not relaxed

mouth: snarls or mean, not pleasant

body language: dominating and threatening, not calm

voice and words: demeaning, hurtful, aggressive, not friendly

manipulates target and cronies into a state of regular fear

blackmails target with words or gestures, e.g. 'Say nothing or else!'

plans his attack

uses aggression to release negative feelings and resolve conflict

enjoys abusing his power to dominate, manipulate and hurt, and

reacts angrily if caught, not sad about hurting someone.

There are many reasons why children bully. A small number are born more aggressive and lacking in empathy. Most are conditioned by their family, school and the prevailing peer norms of behaviour. See Chapters 3 and 9 for further discussion of this.

Types of bullies

Jules is an overweight, awkward boy who has difficulties with schoolwork. His migrant parents work very hard, have little time to help him and don't understand his homework. His grandmother lives with them and idolises his younger sister. She's got the lot: she is pretty, intelligent and has a friendly personality. Jules isfrustrated and jealous. His only relief is bullying others less powerful at school. Their pain helps him forget his own.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are the children we love and care for. But they sometimes misbehave at school like they do at home. It is important for a target to differentiate between kids who enjoy bullying, mean kids who don't care, and careless children who don't realise their behaviours are harmful. Once confronted, the latter are often surprised and ashamed. Thus the target needs to understand that not all bullies are the same. He also needs to understand his role in allowing this game to continue. There are two main types of bullies:

1. the malicious, or 'saltwater crocodile', and

2. the non-malicious, or 'the fowl that plays foul'.


The saltwater crocodile is extremely dangerous and cannot be trusted. If you get caught, then try to escape or fight back, you become history. This malicious bully at school is a sociopath or a psychopath in training. However, if you pretend to be lifeless, the crocodile has been known to lose interest and release people who play dead. Fortunately, only a very small percentage of bullies belong to this group. Crocodiles:

• have differently wired brains to normal people, affecting their social, emotional and cognitive functions

• are made, not born, and their cunning, aggressive tendencies can begin as early as two years of age

• are more difficult to change the older they become

• lack a conscience and empathy, and enjoy others' pain

• have minimal insight into how others perceive them, e.g. a Queen Bee

• manipulate others with superficial charm

• don't know how to relate effectively, and have poor intimacy skills

• displace their feelings of powerlessness onto someone more vulnerable

• enjoy the challenge of bullying children who fight when attacked or retaliate, and

• may be cruel to animals (usually boys rather than girls). 2. FOWLS THAT PLAY FOUL

There are many types of fowl - here are three examples:

• The peacock that struts his ego around the playground.

• The chicken that gradually pecks away at the weaker ones until it destroys them.

• The lyrebird that copies others and goes with the flow.

These bullies are basically non-malicious: they say things like, 'We were just having a bit of fun', 'We didn't mean to hurt', or 'If you can't take it, leave the group'. They are your ordinary, everyday bullies, your children, cousins and neighbours as well as their current or former best friends. They:

• believe their actions are non-toxic

• assume the target is a willing participant in the game

• claim that they have no intention of hurting the target

• appear oblivious to their target's vulnerabilities

• may or may not have empathy for others' feelings

• tease to connect, flirt and make friends

• want to be cool, powerful or popular

• tease, exclude, harass or bully when supported by their group

• are bored, looking for action or entertainment (like reality television)

• have a strong need to compete, win or dominate others

• react to a perceived insult, dispute or broken friendship

• view bullying as a way to climb the status ladder (especially true of ex-targets). They say, 'If you can't beat them, join them'

• sense at an unconscious level that they are taking power away from the target

• may or may not have emotional problems

• switch 'on and off - sometimes friendly, sometimes not, and

• are ashamed once their behaviours are exposed.

About the target

How to spot a target

A bully needs the following behaviours from a target. Askyour child's friends, classmates and teachers about whether she exhibits them.

• eyes red, teary, narrowed or wide open, looking down or away

• face white or red, with tense muscles

• lips tight or mouth open

• head down, looking away

• shoulders slumped, bent over or pulled back

• body movements paralysed, rigid or fidgeting, walking off

• voice very quiet, angry, upset, muffled, grunting

• retaliates verbally by blabbing, blaming or criticising back

• feelings are exposed: fear, anger, hurt, hate, embarrassment, teariness, frustration, and

• does nothing, looks like a rabbit in the headlights, walks away or retaliates.

How you become a target


identify a mean kid but don't think that she will hurt you

disregard the bully's feedback that she wants to annoy or upset you

feel sorry for a kid with problems who bullies back

try to please others to be accepted, but become vulnerable

try to join a group that doesn't want you

don't know what to do and remain powerless

can't avoid danger and protect yourself

become outraged that you were bullied, especially when you did nothing

prefer to fight back, get hurt, than enjoy a normal life with real friends

ignore your survival instinct and fight back when inappropriate, and

behave like a victim, not a warrior.

Warning signs

Any one of the following symptoms may indicate bullying. Discuss them with your child.


• Possessions are missing, damaged, scattered, e.g. books, money, clothes, lunch.

• Has bruises, cuts, scratches, torn clothing without a natural explanation.

• Describes being pushed, shoved, punched, hit and kicked.

• Is involved in fights in which she feels powerless.

• Complains of minor aches and pains, often sick with minor health difficulties.

• Sleeps poorly, begins (or resumes) bedwetting and has bad dreams.

• Appears pale, tense or frustrated.

• Makes unusual requests for money.

• Is ravenous after school (if her lunch or lunch money is stolen) or has no appetite.

• Is suddenly late for school, takes an unusual route or prefers to be driven.

• Tries to stay close to a teacher or other adults during breaks.

• Has poor communication skills: limited eye contact, bad posture, jiggles around, mumbles.


• Has sudden difficulty asking or answering questions in class.

• Does not participate in class activities or interact with peers in class.

• Exhibits a sudden deterioration in class work and/or homework.

• Lacks motivation.

• Is not achieving her potential.


• Appears anxious, distressed, uptight.

• Appears sad, depressed, teary, withdrawn, secretive.

• Has sudden changes in behaviour, e.g. is moody, or 'bottles it up and bursts'.

• Is more irritable or angry than usual, sarcastic, over-reacting.

• Denies and says, 'I'm okay', despite symptoms of anger or sadness.

• Is upset after a phone call, text message or email.

• Is unhappier at the end of weekends or holidays before returning to school.

• Is very unhappy at school - 'I don't like that school, I want to leave'.

• Starts to talk about herself in derogatory ways, e.g. 'I'm stupid', 'No-one likes me', 'I don't have any friends'.


• Is made fun of and laughed at in a sarcastic, unfriendly manner.

• Is teased, taunted, ridiculed, degraded, threatened.

• Feels embarrassed, ridiculed or humiliated at school.

• Is socially isolated, has limited contact with classmates at recess, lunchtime and after school hours.

• Is chosen last for a team, project, game, or for sharing a cabin at camp.

• Stops talking about other students and social events.

• Receives mystery phone calls with hang-ups.

• Becomes difficult at home or bullies siblings.

Shy child checklist

Shy kids are more likely to be bullied. Ask your child if any of the following statements applies to her:

• You don't feel motivated to try your best with schoolwork or homework.

• You are scared to participate in class or ask for help.

• You don't know how to start a conversation and chat.

• Lunch and recess is spent alone: in the library, computer room, walking the yard.

• You don't know how to make a bunch of real friends.

• It's hard to make social arrangements, e.g. phone or text someone.

• You don't like being excluded, alone or bored.

• You put up with one clingy or bossy friend.

• It's easier to mix with younger children or adults than with kids your own age.

• You've had enough of being pushed around, teased or bullied.

Some children are born shy or socially anxious, others become shy due to a series of events. All shy children are affected by the social behaviours they experience around them. Some very shy people can speak in front of thousands of people but not in front of their own family. Shy children don't necessarily lack confidence; they lack skills. You can use the 'Six Secrets of Relating' in Part Three of this book to help your child improve her social skills.

Key points

■ There are two main types of bullies.

■ Bullies and targets often exhibit telltale signs.

■ Sensitive kids make easy targets.

What to do

• Use the profiles in this chapter to assess whether your child is bullying, being bullied or both - and see elsewhere in the book for the appropriate action to take.

• Teach your child how to identify a mean or a merely inconsiderate bully.

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  • Cornelia
    How social skills classes help bullying?
    5 years ago
  • caragh stevenson
    Is there a ds game that helps with social skills and bully?
    5 years ago

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