Dr. Alwin Spence
The trick is you must nip it in the bud.
At about age 10, and in the same class with a burly 12-year-old bully, it was my turn to be picked on by my older, bigger and stronger classmate. In a domino game with three of my peers, this bully demanded to be included instead of one of my friends.
We refused and he took our domino set and started to throw them away piece by piece. My friends and I sat and watched, not prepared to confront him. But suddenly there was a burst of energy and rage in me and with tears in my eyes, I sprang up and pushed him so hard that he fell and I was down on him punching him a few times. Still very scared I backed off, but as he gained his composure my three friends had gathered enough courage to defend me. The bully threatened me personally and left with some degree of shame.
My two older sisters got word of this encounter, found him and warned him not to come near to me. He never did.
The headmaster heard about it also and ordered the bully to go and search for the missing pieces. He found them and returned them.
The bully generally took your lunch, money, your piece of sugar cane, your mango, tangerine, ripe banana, or he may take away your pencil or have you do his homework. The weapon the bully used was his loud mouth, threats and an occasional punch or some pushing, but seldom anyone got hurt physically. It was more psychological hurt.
While the victim suffered, the bully was adamant in maintaining a position of dominance at all cost.
But what is this bullying practice, which seems to exist in many schools.
In 1993 (Pepler et al) bullying was defined as a type of aggressive behavior in which one child uses power in an aggressive manner, causing distress to a victim through physical and/or verbal means.
The effects of bullying can be mild to extreme. It can affect the lives of children on four levels, social, physical, psychological and emotional. This effect can last right into adulthood.
Bullying behavior is not unique to Jamaica where I attended elementary school; it is prevalent in other islands, the United States and Canada and around the world.
A report in 1997, which examined the prevalence of bullying in
Canada’s middle and elementary schools showed 30% of students reported bullying others at least twice for the term, while about 38% reported being bullied at least twice for the term. There were no gender differences in either bullying or victimization. The report is still relevant today.
At an early age one will notice a child using instrumental aggression or bullying to obtain a goal that is to get to play with all the toys without sharing.
By the time the child gets to grade one he/she begins to use hostile aggression which is unprovoked and seems to have as its goal, intimidation, harassment, or to humiliate the other.
A third form of aggression or bullying is called relational. Girls use this form more than boys. This is to undermine their victims’ social relationship mostly by setting up others against the victim. Ostracism is generally the result.
As the bully grows older, dominance becomes even more important, something for which one organizes. It is no longer a hit or miss. The spoils, which were shared as little bullies, now become bribes making blind supporters of them to him/her.
Intimidation on the part of the bully grows. This could lead to more victims and more fear, empowering the bully much more until this need for power becomes insatiable and the spoils bigger and better. To maintain this dominance, lies, bribes and physical threats are used.
There is contemplation of more serious offences such as civil disobedience, overthrow, uprising, attack and other various type of intimidation, all in the name of maintaining power. At this level the bully may even be unstoppable.
While my push and quick left-right-left might have caused second thought of the bully, others may even moved to new victims to practice his/her art.
So right from Kindergarten or earlier one can notice the trend. NIP IT IN THE BUD. RIGHT THERE AND THEN.
If not, it only gets worse grade by grade into adulthood.
There is no law banning a bully from becoming mayor, governor, prime minister or even president.
So the power of the bully may be accepted as part of the power of the position. This, if not monitored and checked, could become a serious problem, as the bully does not give up power easily, instead he is being facilitated by the position or power.
Had the bully who threw my dominoes away and to whom I aggressively reacted, I would have been mauled if my three friends did not stand up for me. Alone, I was no match for the bully. But I was not afraid of being beaten up for believing I was right.
The pussycats we see at times prefer to deny the truth to maintain power. At times it takes the total collectivity to subdue the bully.
Children who bully, grow up at times to be much more aggressive as adolescents and adults. So while some may outgrow the seemingly playful pushing and shoving, there are some highly aggressive children who develop into adults who create havoc in society.
This aggressive behavior must be terminated as soon as its ugly head is observed and identified. The earlier the better.
Making excuses and shielding the bully is dangerous as no one is guaranteed that he/she won’t be a victim to the one you once staunchly supported.