Family Magazine

The Primary School Bully

By Gbollard @gbollard
Bullies are everywhere!
If you've been bullied, then chances are that you met your first bully in primary (elementary) school.
The Tools of the Primary School BullyThe nature of bullying changes as the bullies get older. The first level bullies tend to be much more physical than older children. Bullying is done by pushing, pinching, punching and tripping other children.
Bullying by stealing tends to be more "out in the open", with younger bullies often taking things in plain sight of the owners - in fact, often snatching them from their hands.
Lies are also one of the main weapons in the primary school bully's arsenal. Young bullies can often lie so convincingly that they are instantly believed by teachers.
Verbal bullying is minimal in the early years but as bullies develop their vocabulary, they become adept at hurling insults and abuse at children. It only takes a few choice words from a bully to crumble a child's fragile self esteem and leave a lifetime scar that will not heal.
The Bully's side of the StoryI was planning to cover this near the end of the series (and I still will) but based on feedback from my last post, I need to put in a couple of words to clarify things.
Nobody doubts that many bullies become bullies as a way of taking their frustrations out on others or repeating behavior that they are subjected to at home. Bullies have sad stories too and in a perfect politically correct world, it makes sense for us to sympathize with the bully's side of the story and understand their motives.
I accept that.
There must however be ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying. Bullies need to identified and their mis-behaviour needs to be stopped. School social workers have an obligation to investigate the background of a bully and determine if external factors are contributing to the behaviour but we as parents and victims do not.
Bullying must be taken seriously and it must be stopped!
Believe it or not, in the long run, you provide more benefit to the bully by drawing attention their behavior and ensuring that it is stopped, than by tolerating it.
Forget the "understanding" stage for a moment because the cessation of bullying will improve many lives, not just that of the victim.
Stopping the Primary School BullyThere are lots of theories on how to stop the primary school bully, many of them told to me by my own parents;
  • Ignore them
  • Hit them back
  • Try to be friends with them
  • Don't play with them
  • Let me (parent or grandparent) at them
  • Tell a teacher
  • Get your parents to talk to a teacher
  • Hide or Play somewhere else
I've never known any of these methods to work.
You can't hide from bullies - they will seek you out for their own amusement. You can't ignore them because they'll keep attacking you and your self esteem until there's nothing left. Above all, you must never agree with them. Saying "yes, I am ugly" isn't doing you any good at all.
You don't want to be friends with them!! and you're not "playing with them!". Why do your parents always think you are?
Telling teachers doesn't work either. Bullies are excellent liars and can turn the tables pretty quickly. Even worse, if you're found to be "dobbing", then the bullies can turn the whole class against you.
Even telling a principal doesn't seem to work. Principals can't act without concrete evidence and parents are often powerless to intervene. The best they can do is write a letter. Parental intervention in a bullying incident can quickly land a parent in hot water and turn things in the bully's favour.
Bullies are not a problem you can run away from. They're literally everywhere. Even changing schools won't help. Somehow the bullies at your new school will figure out that you're a great target.
The only thing that I've ever found that works with the primary school bully is to get them caught. Remember, these kids aren't necessarily too bright. They're often so fixated with attacking you that they'll chase and hit you whenever the slightest opportunity arises.
My "foolproof" method of bully disposal in primary school was to use myself as bait by waving at the bully when I was in a position which offered a teacher a clear view of the incident. I wouldn't hit back in such a situation but would make enough noise, ideally seconds before the fact, that I'd attract the teacher's attention.
It rarely failed.
It's very hard for a bully to talk themselves out of a scenario which was witnessed from beginning to end by a teacher on supervision duty.
Of course, the other thing that helps is to not be bully-bait. I'll talk about that it a later post.
Next Time: The High School bully (Secondary /Prep School for overseas readers).

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