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The Myths Of Bullying

(Last updated Jun 5th, 2018.)

Today I want to share some of the common myths about bullying.

The biggest bullying myth is that parents will always know if their child is a victim of bullying.

The truth is most children are ashamed of the bullying and won’t want their parents to find out.

Peer rejection is the number 1 cause of suicide.  All children should be taught the truth about these myths:

1. Only some children face bullying at school

The truth: Nearly everyone is teased at some stage of their life.

The difference is that some children know how to defend themselves from bullying, while other children take it to heart and don’t know how to defend and protect themselves.

Children that don’t know how to respond to insults and aggression become insecure. This insecurity can then attract a cycle of bullying that may follow them through life, even affecting their marriage.

2. The bullying was because you were different

This is misleading. Most people get teased at some point and we are all different!

The truth: If you have faced bullying to the point where it has made you sad and affected your life, the real reason was probably that you didn’t know how to stand up for yourself.

Saying the bullying was because you were different makes out that bullies are normal and in the majority when really they are not.

Saying children face bullying because they are different also implies that deep down the bullying is somehow the victim’s fault.

The ‘difference’ blamed for the bullying is usually something the person can’t easily change, such as; body type, genetics, personality type, race, gender, intelligence or sexual preference.

Saying the bullying is because they are different leaves the victim with an inner dialogue to describe what happened in a way that will often leave them feeling inadequate, isolated and inferior for the rest of their life (eg. I was bullied because I was . . . ).

Instead of reinforcing the idea that it was something about this person that caused the bullying, children should be taught personal defence/social skills to deal with the problem.

A person who wants to overcome bullying can be taught self esteem and self defence strategies we have seen help end the bullying, sometimes in a matter of days.

After this, instead of this person saying “I was bullied because I was . . .” , their inner dialogue might now say “The bullying was because I hadn’t learned to stand up for myself yet”, and the problem will soon become a thing of the past.

3. Bullies are popular and their victims unpopular

The truth: Bullies are usually less likable than the people they pick on, they just don’t know it because no one has the courage to tell them to their face.

4. Bullies are winners and their victims losers 

The truth: Most bullies will grow up with a whole raft of mental health and relationship problems that will severely affect their quality of life.

Standing up to bullying is as important for the bully as it is for the victim. It is not a situation caused simply by one person being different and the other person lacking empathy, bullying is a situation that shows up patterns of emotional dysfunction that left unaddressed will likely affect both parties negatively for the rest of their lives.

5. It is vital for children to have friends

The truth: The importance of friendship in childhood is vastly overrated. It is NOT vital for children to have friends for them to grow into healthy well adjusted adults.

While it is important to learn to get along with people, research shows that it is much more important for kids have good relationships with their parents, teachers, and older children (if they are positive role models) than it is to have friends their own age. We have all heard the dangers of peer group pressure.

Children are vulnerable to the most serious forms of bullying if they feel ashamed of having no one to hang out with and end up desperate for someone to like them or start hiding off by themselves. People in general are much safer if they hang out close to the group but are okay about being on their own.

Because of this (and also to protect their self esteem) children need to be taught to be 100% okay about times when they might need to be on their own in public, such as eating their lunch by themselves at school. Parents and teachers need to teach kids it is okay not to always have friends and it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person.

Friendships come and go throughout life; the vital thing is knowing the social skills necessary to defend yourself such as how to feel confident in public when you are alone.

6. Bullying is a difficult problem to solve

The truth: If an adult or child is facing bullying, it is imperative that the situation be addressed. Saying the problem is too difficult to solve is not an acceptable answer.

7. It is important that children sort out their relationship problems by themselves

The truth: Children need help managing difficult relationships and most will not have the inner resources to deal with bullying on their own.

There are other times in life where children will need relationship coaching as well. For example most children will need help when they are caught doing something like stealing. In these situations they will usually need help finding the courage to confess and apologize in a way that will attract forgiveness and regain people’s trust.

Likewise, when a child is facing bullying they will need coaching and protection from adults and older children.

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Most of our work is aimed at helping empower adult victims of bullying in their marriage. If you need help with this please start at the home page of our site www.theNCMarriage.com

In this work we aim to . . .

a. Make the bullying stop.

b. Help people earn their family and community’s respect. 

We Helped Our Son Deal with Bullying and Want to Help Your Family Too

If the problem of bullying can be overcome when we are adults – how much easier is it if we can teach kids these skills before their self esteem is damaged by the bullying?

Our youngest boy was assessed as having Asperger’s syndrome when he was 6 and we ended up taking him out of school because the bullying he faced was so severe.

Back in a new school a year or so later, with just a little coaching from us and his older sister, and by grade six our youngest son was voted prefect of his school.

While still having symptoms of Asperger’s, our boy is now in High School and one of the more popular kids in our town.

He received no standard psychological counselling for the bullying he endured when he was younger, because the effects of the trauma (and most of his insecurity) disappeared as soon as he learned that he had the power to change the type of situations that once made him feel helpless.

Although most of the changes he made were subtle, this transformation did not happen by accident and had dramatic results.

He was surprised to discover that most of the time as soon as he felt ready to deal with it – the bullying or aggravation stopped without him needing to say or do anything.

Most bully’s sense vulnerability in their victims and once their victim stops feeling defenseless the bullying will usually stop.

Many of the kids that bullied our son (mercilessly) when he was younger, have now made an effort to apologize and be friends. He hasn’t chosen to befriend any of them but is on okay terms and doesn’t hold a grudge. He sees now that most of them have sad lives.

If you would like to learn the guidelines for helping children learn to deal with bullying – please check out the following series on overcoming bullying at the link below.

This series may also help you come to terms with what you went through if you were subject to bullying at school.

 

Kim Cooper

Are you ready to get started?  Peer rejection is the number 1 cause of suicide. Don’t take a risk, all kids should be taught how to defend themselves against bullies.

Check Out Our Short eCourse on Dealing With Bullies . . .

Kim Cooper

Author of seven books on the topic of relationships and positive mental health.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows, movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', 'End The Blame Game' and 'The Love Safety Net'.

This Post Has 21 Comments
  1. Hi Kim!

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I have a couple of comments to make for your consideration.
    1. I was never bullied at school. I was bullied and intimidated by my mother all her life and now even though she’s been dead 6 years, I still find her voice in my head telling me what to do ! So it’s not true that all children are bullied at school – I loved school! It was the place where I felt safe. I knew what the rules were (they didn’t change from day to day, or even hour to hour, as my mother’s did) and if I obeyed them then I was liked and appreciated. I know I am unusual, as I became a teacher (probably due to loving school so much) and one of our training days was on bullying. The trainer asked who had been bullied – most teachers put up their hands, then she asked who’d been a bully, and again, quite a few put up their hands. I believe I was the only one who did not.

    2. My last partner said he had been a bully at primary school and then was bullied at secondary school, so had experienced both sides of the coin.

    3. On another training day, the differences between male and female attitudes was discussed. The trainer said that boys, in particular, need friendship groups (or gangs) to “watch their backs”. I am sure that girls need a similar group (despite the fact they often fall out so frequently) which they feel is their “home” group, so I would take issue with your statement that children don’t need friends. If you belong to a friendship group, boys or girls, you have them to “watch your back” and so feel protected and safe. I’m wondering what research you used to back your comment that children don’t need friends?

    In conclusion, I’d like to thank you again for raising the subject. It is soooo important for all of us!

    1. Kim, thank you so much for these wonderful insights. I really appreciate the way you confront the myths about bullying, and I agree with you on all points. Jill said that people do need friends, but I don’t think you meant to say that it is not valuable and meaningful to have friends. You meant to say that it is not necessary. This is a great point. It is certainly not necessary to healthy social development to have friends. You also wrote that bullies are often less popular than the people bullied. Great point. The media presentation of bullying suggests that a “popular” and “normal” in-group is doing the bullying, but genuinely popular and normal people don’t behave that way. I really like your emphasis on skills for developing personal dignity and self-respect – something that inevitably conveys itself to other people. Thank you again.

  2. Perfect! Teenage daughter almost ended her life because of bullying by both kids at school, narcissistic dad and mentality unstable step mom. All the issues you mentioned we combated at school and her dads house. Dads house was easier to solve, she just stopped subjecting herself to their ways. School, that was a 2 year battle. Key for us was building her confidence and reminding her of her self worth. She was lonely during the process but eventually found a few friends who valued themselves also. She’s not popular and full figured. Now she embrasces her differences. I keep telling her you feel like the misfit because you are a leader, not a follower. Great article Kim!!

  3. I understand the point Kim was trying to make when she said children don’t need friends, and I agree. In other words, if a child does not have friends that must not be looked upon as an aberration or something that needs ‘fixing’. Some people are just most comfortable in their own company all the time. The pressure to ‘must have friends’ may lead to insecurity that attracts bullies!

  4. I also agree with Kim’s statement about not needing friends at school. I didn’t have friends at school until I was in grade 6 (11 years old). I came from an extremely dysfunctional and abusive family but I did hang around with the older neighbour kids. For me, this was all I needed. I found that the kids who were near my age / in my class weren’t people I wanted to hang around with because they seemed to have a need to be in clicky groups which I didn’t fit into anyway. Yes, I felt lonely at times, but I wasn’t picked on because I hung out on my own (although I did see a lot of other people being bullied). Towards the end of primary school, I don’t know what changed, but my school class group all started to integrate and meld and it was then I found out that a lot of the other kids thought I was great because I didn’t need to hang around them to fit in. I guess it’s all in the interpretation.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    One more myth I would like to add is

    7. It is important kids sort out problems with their relationships by themselves.

    Again this is simply NOT true. Kids need help managing difficult relationships and most will not have the inner resources to deal with bullies on their own. There are other times in life that kids need relationship coaching as well – for example most will need help in admitting they have done something they are ashamed of and regaining people’s trust.

    To answer your comments Jill, I might clarify that all kids are tested by other kids and some pass the test and some don’t! If a kid has the confidence to handle testing social situations they may not even know that they have been tested. For instance it is nearly universal (well in Australian schools at least) in primary school for most kids to be told by someone that they smell. The correct response is something like “So do you!” This will probably see both kids end up laughing. However if the child has no idea what to say and cries and tells a teacher instead that kid may end up bullied the rest of their life.

    If you NEVER had anyone at school say anything that was a put down that would be very uncommon indeed.

    On your second point I would refer you to the work of Gordon Nuefeld and Gabor Mate´. Nuefeld’s work over 20 years or more with the families and friends of kids who have commit suicide from peer rejection shows a clear pattern on this. Kids need strong and healthy relationships with people who are older than them. Their peers will never ‘have their back’ in the way an adult will. Likewise children with good relationships with older people (vertical attachment) are the ones that survive bulling – even when it is extreme. He postulates that most people don’t know themselves well enough until they are older to have genuine friendships anyway.

    Another great book called The Friendship Factor by Kenneth Rubin and Andrea Thompson describes the attachment styles we fall into – which are just about always determined by our relationship with our parents and not our friends.

    The other problem with insisting that kids need friends is that in reality it really doesn’t work. Some people don’t make friends in school and saying they need friends doesn’t change that and often makes the situation much worse.

    I was told that I was making a mistake taking my son out of primary school and home schooling him. The teachers asked how he was going to learn social skills at home? The answer of course was from us (his mother and father) and that all he was learning at school was that the social world was dangerous and something he had no idea how to manage. After a year and a half at home (with no friends) he transitioned back into school easily and the bullying stopped.

    Likewise when I was at school in about first grade I was very content to sit alone and watch the other kids play. To this day those are still some of the happiness memories of my life. I didn’t know how to join in and didn’t want to and didn’t care that I didn’t have friends.

    School turned into a living hell for me when one teacher decided that it was necessary I joined in and that my parents try and find friends for me.

    I found this humiliating and am positive I gained nothing positive from this experience that really could have ended up costing me my young life.

    The bullying was relentless after that, with teachers pushing me onto the battlefield from behind.

    It felt like being forced into public naked – or worse some days I felt so vulnerable I didn’t even feel like I had skin.

    Worse was that the only way I could relieve the torture was to pretend I was sick so I didn’t have to go to school.

    This humiliated me in front of the adults as well.

    When adults then started calling me a hypocondriac, even though I was only in third grade, I knew that they were cruel hearted people and that they had a problem much bigger than mine.

    Imagine being such an insensitive person that you need to make up a big nasty name and use it to insult a little kid with when you work for a system with rules that mean being sick is the only place that kid can hide from being publicly humiliated every day.

    This experience at school didn’t do much to make me want to be part of this world.

    If you had friends at school, that is great and explains why you think it a positive experience. But telling kids that don’t have friends that they need them is kind of like telling everyone they should have a car.

    Most people’s experience of cars is great – but the truth is that you really don’t need a car to survive.

    And if someone doesn’t have a car (or the means to buy one) telling them that they need one isn’t going to help them at all.

    1. The most do

      The most difficult time I had was making my daughter talk. We screamed we yelled and we cried for 8 months. When she finally spoke up I had a plan in place to move schools or enroll her in online school. I went up to the school and threatened a massive lawsuit if they did not take action that very moment. They took action. I also threatened legal action against the bullies. From what I can see I have been lucky. I learned she was afraid to speak up because she did not always attempt to defend herself in a manner I would approval of. Taught me a lot. I do influence her and I needed to teach her more. Her focus needed to be to speak to me and get me involved….her fear of me judging her almost stopped her from speaking up.

  6. This is certainly a really big topic, and as has been described already, people can be “all over the place” with regard to it. One of the frustrating things that is apparent is that there is a high percentage of people (both young and old) who are “quick to act and react” by asserting “opinions” that are often self-serving, shallow, and/or blatantly untrue. But unless they are successfully challenged, they are allowed to become and maintain an intimidating presence.

    This type of “Forceful Stupidity” needs to be both recognized, identified, and challenged. It is something that works against the Truth,… and the Truth is often one of our strongest allies when we begin to learn to make our own stand against these things, verbally or otherwise. Respecting ourselves internally is the key to being free of external pressures, as you know and teach very well.

    1. I’m going to “reply” to myself, because that might have been unclear ~~ trying not to use too many words can have drawbacks! I’m really trying to say that things like “peer pressure”, Hollywood, advertising, fashion, unreal scenarios popularized on tv, even well-meant advice, and “one size fits all” theoretical educational, psychological, and politically correct admonitions, do not in fact portray truth more often than they present illusory fantasies ~~ “sound bites” that are supposed to look and feel good, “gotcha” phrases and ideas that in reality do not fit a “real” person. The “real” person would have to do contortions to try to “fit in”, and the result is unsatisfactory anyway.

      I think it’s true that this needs to be examined much more deeply. In a popular (and shallow) culture that “pushes” blind conformity, the tendency of using “Forceful Stupidity” ~ (including “bullying” and exaltation of one’s own “opinions” over those of any others, etc.) ~ and also having no conscience with regards to being psychologically and detrimentally “invasive” and manipulative of another person’s personal territory, shows how little respect remains in our common territory for the individual and the deeper questions of life.

      Since the “world” is so clamorous and noisy about “doing its thing”, and reluctant to “slow down” or listen to anything else, it appears to be up to the individual to examine the situation and come to conclusions and follow their own compass ~~ not easy, but an age-old proposition, in reality. I think this is very much in line with the goals of your studies.

      1. Great to hear from you as always gak, I get you completely. The sound bites of forced stupidity you mention are based on shallow arrogance. I think they are first given birth to in the arrogance of our school system which sets out to provide glib answers to everything and then reward the kids who can spout the answers on cue without ever giving much though to the questions. Gravity is a great example. Ask anyone why things fall to earth when they are let go of and they will answer ‘gravity’, although to this day no one can really describe why in fact gravity works the way it is said to and so really the question remains unanswered. New thinking would suggest it is perhaps more to do with electro magnetism – but the kid who puts their hand up and offers this suggestion will most likely be treated as if they are an idiot. There is a cartoon called Harvey Crumpet where these sound bites are called fakts. On one hand I am compassionate because I know first hand how poor us humans are at dealing with uncertainty, but the danger of consoling ourselves with this kind of brutish and shallow knowledge base is a hefty price to pay for the self satisfied sense of security belief in these type of sound bites provide. Much worse is when judgements on kids and people are allowed the same false credibility. “Don’t listen to her she is stupid” or “Don’t worry what he says he is just a loser.” Our worship of fakts lend these kind of statements a credibility they do not deserve.

        1. Very true. Outright stupidity and lies (of course masking as uber truth!) seem to have manic “power” behind them in the hands of those who use them in mean and “put down” ways ~~ the old saying “might makes right” comes to mind, (but, NO, it doesn’t!). It would be hard for innocent children to see through this facade of superiority without excellent adult coaching and support. I agree with you on this.

          I think ALL bullies have an element of “stupid” in their character ~ either pretty darn obvious or lying there stubbornly right under a veneer of intellectual (or otherwise prideful) pretense.

          The facts of the matter are that it is ACTUALLY EASIER to change oneself than to directly change the bully! And from my own story and yours, I know we both know how hard it was to change even ourselves under the situations of duress and co-dependence that we were in. (But we did!) In your case, taking back your own self had a welcome and transformative effect (subsequently) on your partner, but in my case, I was just glad to get as far away as I could, and let it go. The transformative miracle never happened on the other end, although I allowed some space for it. You can only do so much.

          “Back in the day” (’70s-’80s), I had some of the Al-Anon wisdom to help point the way out of the irrational situation of victimhood and mess of being unintentionally associated with an alcoholic. It was fairly revolutionary for its time and it “saved the day” for me. Knowing first hand the horror of “up close and personal” destructive abuse, I’m thankful every single day for simple “peace and quiet”, and knowing and respecting and loving myself and God ~ all of this “in a good way!”

          This is how I know that what you are saying and doing is true and very beneficial.

          1. I’m having another thought as to why guidance is very important for the bewildered individual in these matters. Bullying needs to be divested of its many “politically and socially and even religiously correct” masks that it wears all to comfortably in our society. We accept far too much covert bullying without raising any internal eyebrows, or having our personal alarms go off to alert/warn us.

            Why is this so? I think it is not only because of codependent needs wishing to maintain a status quo illusion of safety, security and acceptance, but also that there is a very real and dangerous difference between people who are “gifted” (in a bad way!) manipulators and those upon whom they prey.

            The manipulators/users/abusers are inclined to chronically twist their projections of who they are, and of reality in general, in ways that the “innocent” cannot possibly conceive of or understand, or read between the lines, or even suspect the levels of chronic lying and deception going on. It is usually only after having been “bitten” or “hooked” by this type of evil that one begins to recognize the warning signs in advance. The power and influence of cult leaders falls into this category as well, in an extreme form. Obviously “bullying” and covert coercion can take many forms and wear many masks.

            It is very hard for us to “wake up” to this psychological/(and spiritual) phenomenon on our own, especially if we are the naturally trusting type, and this is why mature and concerned counsel and guidance can be not only helpful, but very necessary, to the young, innocent and new “babes in the woods.”

  7. Thanks for your fresh and thought provoking take on this critical issue, Kim. I’ve been following your work for the past 7 years with great respect. You have helped me to transition to a new, much healthier and wonderfully rewarding relationship and family life. I have no doubt your work on bullying and children will also provide readers with similarly effective pathways forward. I’m looking forward to reading your articles to inform my parenting. All the best, C

  8. I came from an abusive and violent family, I also felt safer at school. I was a very shy child but also had confidence in myself, and I was the teachers pet until I reached grade 4, by this time I was telling the teachers where to go and had formed a gang but only picked on the kids who stole from me or picked on me in class. By the time I was in year 7 I became shy again and also had accepted Christ. I had a hand full of girl friends that sat around the back of the school. I was good at English but no other class and the English teacher was the only one I liked. I gave all the other teachers trouble no end and was always at the principles office. I also used to wag school and shop lift with my friends for months on end. I know this didn’t agree with my faith but I was up and down with that as my family were atheists and gave me a lot of trouble about believing in god. When I was 14 and 9 months I got a job and was out of home by the age of 15. At 17 I met my husband to be and moved in with him at 18. We were married at 19 and have been married for 42 years now. He was a biker also from a very mixed up back ground with a faith in Christ. I worked in welfare for Life Line with homeless people also for Home Care. It has been a very difficult life for me but I’m still hanging in there. My husband thinks the world of me even though he has trouble showing it and I have two beautiful children both married that love me very much. My son is also Aspergers but with his green smoothies and vegan diet and nothing out of packets he copes better than any of us. He was also in trouble all the time at school and was bullied in his younger years, he left in Year 8. We have a beautiful property in a small town only 30 minutes from the beach, my son or daughter have not really ever held down a job neither have children but my daughter has done a brilliant job raising her husbands children. They also love their nanny. No doubt I had a very rocky start but I’m happy with my achievements. I am 60 years old.

  9. My daughter has been being bullied by her fifth grade teacher. My daughter has been compleat lay ostracized by her teacher. She’s been shamed, neglected and made to feel valueless. Everything has come to light recently and we have addressed the head of school who is in dis belief of our claims. This teacher is a narcissistic queen bee and my daughter has been her target. We are just sick about it. We don’t even know how to deal with the matter. We are not going to send our daughter back to the classroom. The teacher told us that there will be no acceptance no inclusion and no love for our daughter. She didn’t deny her neglect! She admitted it in front of the assistant head of school and she will do nothing about it!!
    I’ve just read this wonderful post about bullying to my child and husband and we had a great time discussing the issue more. We’ve been doing a lot of research on emotional Buse and bullying. We’re just devistated we have to figure out how to finish the school year, 15 more weeks or so. Thank you for allowing me to ramble and for such a thoughtful post, Kim!!!

    1. Hi mother bear – Good work! I highly recommend that you subscribe to this series, there is a lot of information that will help you right now. One article is all about transitioning into a new school and just how important that is.

  10. Hi Kim,
    Thank you for raising the issue of teaching kids personal dignity and self respect. I think it’s important for kids to learn and internalize the qualities of healthy friendship so they know how to be a real friend and choose real friends. Learning to stand strongly alone has been the most satisfying experience of my life- when necessary…of course.
    Paula

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