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Back to School…Back to Bullying? Types of Bullying- Types of Bullies

You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.
-Jeffrey Benjamin


When parents think of school safety, they may imagine fire drills and disaster preparedness lessons.  With school violence in the news and at the forefront of many parents’ minds, however, more and more schools are creating bullying policies and adopting programs to combat the issue.  Research reveals that students report the majority of bullying takes place on school grounds, most often in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria, bathrooms and in the halls.

Schools should take multiple steps to combat bullying and educate teachers, parents and students about the short and long term effects bullying can have on both the victim and the perpetrator.  Strong schools have programs that include the following elements: a clear school policy, faculty training, a curriculum that teachers can use in the classroom, a support system for students, and an open line of communication with parents.  Perhaps most important is that all adults and children in the school community foster a culture of caring.  When everyone involved has no tolerance for bullying and is dedicated to promoting a healthy and safe environment, bullies have no choice but to stop their negative behavior.

These steps are extremely positive and will help ensure a safe school campus.  However, as your child’s primary educator, you are still the first line of defense in keeping your child from being bullied or from becoming a bully.

Types of Bullying

Physical/Direct- hitting, punching, scratching, kicking, spitting or other forms of a physical attack.

Emotional/Indirect- spreading rumors or stories about someone, systematically excluding a student from activities, tormenting a student by making fun of a handicap or related issue, using sexist or racist slurs, name calling and various threats.

Cyber– using the Internet or cell phones to inflict emotional harm on another child by posting negative images, sending threats, leaving hurtful voice mails, creating negative web sites or posting negative information on a social networking sites.

Male bullying tends to be physical or involve intimidation and coercion (handing over lunch money) while female bullying tends to be indirect in nature.  Girls are more likely to exclude one another, spread rumors and use cyber bullying as a tool for harassment.  That doesn’t mean that girls never get physical or that boys never use the Internet to bully.  These patterns simply expose how gender can affect the type of bullying taking place in a given situation.

Types of Bullies

Current research reveals different roles children play in the bullying cycle.

Ring Leader– the person who leads or dictates the act of bullying through intimidation and influence

Assistant– the is the persons who participates in the bullying so as to avoid being a target of the ringleader.

Reinforcer– this child shows positive encouragement toward the main bully.

Bystander– a student who witnesses the act of bullying but stays silent out of fear and appears to condone the act because of his silence.  It is very easy for children to fall into this category.

Defender– the student who stands up against a bully or group of bullies.

A common myth is that bullies are anti-social and outcasts among classmates.  This could not be further from the truth for today’s bullies.  Recent research indicates that many of today’s bullies are typical kids who do not exhibit the stereotypical bully profile.  Many students engage in group bullying that allows them to feel they are not really responsible for their behavior.  It can be extremely difficult for children to walk away when it’s the popular kids who are doing the bullying.

Although many schools use the terms “teasing” and “bullying” interchangeably, it is important  that parents understand the difference between the two.

  • Teasing is a non-threatening back and forth that takes place between children on the same emotional and physical level.  Bullying, on the other hand, is when one or more children engage in systematic and organized behavior that is threatening, hurtful, physically harmful or spreads negative information via the Internet.
  • Research over the past 15 years supports that teasing can be a positive force in relationships.  School age children can use happy, fun teasing as an important part of play, and it can actually enhance their ability to express positive feelings toward one another.  Parents and children can enjoy teasing among each other too.  Teasing is even present in the animal world!  Juvenile monkeys pull the tails of other monkeys to engage them in play.
  • Teasing should be fun and mutual.  Make sure your child knows when enough is enough.

This post is part 1 of a 3 part series I will be posting over the next several days.  Read all 3 to get the full scoop on how to identify, approach and combat bullying.

Parts 2 & 3 will address the following-

  • Signs of bullying for both the victim and the bully
  • Steps parents & children can take to thwart a bully (both online and in person)
  • Steps parents can take to work their child if he/she is a bully

To read my entire Lesson Plan on Approaching Bullying, pick up a copy of my book,  Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting at, Amazon or other fine retailers.

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