Most of us have experienced bullying in one form or another, and if we haven’t, we know friends and family members who have. Dealing with the pain suffered by a family member in this situation can be just as difficult as facing the torment ourselves—but while we may not react to insults or threats against our own persons, we are usually all too willing to defend those closest to us.
Parents are especially likely to take action against those who bully their children—be they toddlers or young adults—whether by contacting a school principal, confronting a bully’s parents, or encouraging the victims themselves to fight back. Such actions, however, often have the opposite of the desired effect. Familial involvement in bullying incidents may comfort the victimized individual, but it may also inspire an escalation of the harassment, or even cause direct harm to those involved.
Parents and siblings of bullied individuals should be aware that any public intervention on their part could result in additional problems for the victim as well as for the bully. Not only could the bully choose to intensify his or her behavior, it is possible that the situation was not serious enough to warrant involvement in the first place. We tend to view any apparent attack on our family members as a virtual declaration of war, but it is important to consider the opposing point of view before acting on our emotions. A simple misunderstanding or momentary conflict is a very different thing from the repetitive and damaging act of bullying. Furthermore, being mistakenly labeled a bully may have many of the same negative psychological effects apparent in the targets of this hateful behavior.
That being said, it is also important to act accordingly when this type of situation does warrant intervention. A cry for help should never be ignored, but the key is to respond rationally, not emotionally. Encourage the bullied friend or family member to stay positive, but don’t suggest retaliation, and don’t retaliate directly yourself. In May 2011, Baltimore resident Kelly White encouraged her son to fight back against his tormentors and was subsequently charged with no less than five misdemeanors. Not only did she escalate an already volatile situation, she got herself into serious legal trouble. Instead of acting on White’s example, family members of bullied individuals should take rational precautions to protect the victimized party from serious physical or psychological harm, and speak with the appropriate authorities. Parents, school officials, and members of the community must work together to prevent and eliminate bullying, and to counteract any escalation of violent behavior.
Prevention is an essential part of the fight against bullying, and we should all maintain an awareness of how we treat each other as well as of how we react to the treatment of those around us. Don’t turn a blind eye to bullying, and don’t give in to the temptation to engage in the activity yourself. If you are being bullied, you are not alone! Ask for help, and someone, somewhere will be there for you.
For additional resources concerning bullying, visit hellohermainthemovie.com.