Bullying causes dangerous ripple effect in families

Darla was a tiny thing, no bigger than a peanut, and often adults mistook her for an innocent child who wouldn’t hurt a flea.

Darla was a tiny thing, no bigger than a peanut, and often adults mistook her for an innocent child who wouldn’t hurt a flea.

They were wrong.

Darla was a bully.

She bullied kids far bigger than her, kids smaller than her and even her foster mom.

She didn’t care. She seemed filled with a desire to lash out, to hurt and to inflict emotional pain on her victims.

Michelle, a foster mom for many years, pondered the question of how to help Darla late at night, long after all her charges were safely tucked into bed and she was sitting alone at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.

She knew from experience almost half the children who came to her were bullies, and she also knew that many of those children had faced a horrific childhood where bullying was an everyday fact of life.

But this little girl? She shook her head.

She seemed so tiny, so innocent. How could she help her?

It was Michelle’s custom to have the foster children help her prepare supper and help with the clean up afterwards. She decided to ask Darla to help her in the kitchen the next day. While they were busy chopping carrots and peeling potatoes, she said, “Darla did you know you called me a ‘f—- bitch 57 times yesterday.”

“I did?” the girl said, seemingly genuinely surprised.

Michelle took the opportunity to point out to her swearing at anyone is rude and unacceptable as is taunting other people with hurtful words just to watch them cry.

“But my dad yells and swears at my mom all the time,” she said. “And he yells and swears at us, too, at least he did until she finally reported him for hitting her again and we got put into foster homes” she added more quietly.

Helping Darla break her habit of swearing seemed to be only the tip of the iceberg for a child who had lived with bullying her entire life, but Michelle knew she had to start somewhere.

She truly believed the words, ‘kids live what they learn’, and she also believed bullies such as Darla need as much love and attention as the child who is being bullied.

A new study by researchers at York University and Queen’s University shows children who bully tend to have troubled relationships with parents and friends. These bullies may continue to bully throughout their teens if those problems are not addressed early.

Bullying is a relationship problem and children who bully are using power and aggression to control others. Many children who bully are morally disengaged and lack compassion for those they victimize or built for their actions.

Persistent bullying requires an intervention that focuses on the child’s behavior and problem-solving skills and interventions that focus on their relationships with parents and peers.

To determine if your child is a bully, think about how other children treat to them.

Do they accept instructions from your child?

Are they fearful or hesitant around him or her and is your child dismissive about the feelings of others?

It is stressful to live with someone who may be a bully, whether it be a child or a partner, but it is a cycle that needs to be stopped.

“Talking about it, facing the issue, not hiding it under the rug or pretending it is normal is the only solution. It won’t go away by itself,” said Michelle. “And remember bullying is a learned behavior.”

Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse.

Students who are experiencing bullying or are concerned they may be a bully themselves need to talk to a trusted adult such as their teacher, their parents or the family/school liaison worker. Adults may contact Neighborhood Place at 403-843-4304 or Victim Services at the RCMP office at 403-843-2224.