Overcoming Popular Myths About Bullying, Part II

Myths about bullying are common, but some just aren’t as true as we’d like to think. Here are a few examples.

Probably the single most common myth about bullying, one that’s tested every single day, is the idea that once you’re grown you’re done with dealing with the bums. Daily experience will soon teach you better, whether you face an overbearing boss or a surly clerk at the DMV.

In Part I of this article, we covered a few other common misconceptions about bullying — it’s always physical, they’re all cowards, that they pick on others because they’re insecure. Somehow, people continue to believe these myths even when they’re demonstrably untrue. Well, here are a few more like them.

Myth 4: Bullying is just another form of conflict.

Not really. This myth about bullying is easy to understand on the face of it, because that’s what it sometimes looks like from the outside. But take a closer look, and you’ll realize that all bullying is simply an imbalance of power. The bully is taking advantage of someone who can’t easily defend herself or himself.

Conflict is violence or antagonism based on a disagreement, valid or not. Bullying is just someone using their strength against someone weaker to get what they want. Yes, this does describe many armed conflicts; and yes, it’s the basis of many human relationships — even most, historically. But it doesn’t have to be.

Myth 5: Bullies are just looking for attention. If you ignore a bully, they’ll leave you alone.

Parents love to believe that this myth about bullying is true, but generations of kids who’ve tried to ignore a bully and gotten beaten up in the process will tell you otherwise. It’s not so different in relationships with adult bullies. You might not get beat up, but ignoring a bully won’t make them go away.

As outlined in the previous myth, contrary to popular belief, bullying isn’t about attention; it’s about control. If you give some people the slightest bit of control — whether they’re a minor government functionary or someone in a position of real authority — they’ll wield it lake a sword to make themselves feel bigger.

Myth 6: If the bullying is only verbal, then it’s nothing to worry about.

Hello? Ever heard of something called self-esteem? Verbal assaults can beat down a person almost as badly as physical ones, and low self esteem can last for years and have terrible effects on a person’s life. This is one myth about bullying that’s insidious and hurtful, and you cannot ignore.

This is especially true if the person being bullied is a teenager. They’ve already got enough problems with peer pressure and dealing with the social and physical changes they’re going through. Mistreatment at the hands of a bully, even if it’s “only” verbal, can make it all the harder for them to prepare for adult life.

Myth 7: If my child doesn’t have any obvious physical differences, they’ll never have to worry about bullying.

Good luck with that. Bullying is about power. A bully is looking for someone they can control, someone unable to retaliate — so any differences your child has will just be an excuse for their behavior. If no differences exist, they’ll make them up. Please — don’t let this myth among many myths about bullying steer you wrong.