Monday, October 2

Once a bully, always a bully?


OVER the past couple of years, we have heard of cases of bullying in schools reported in the media.

These cases were not limited to boys (as we usually perceive bullies to be), but also girls who picked on other school girls.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. We have always believed that bullies are really cowards in disguise. Our perception has always been that these are people who actually have low self-esteem and in order to ‘redeem’ themselves pick on others to show ‘power’.

Marlene Snyder, development director of the US’ Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, said bullying provides kids a sense that they have power over others and bullies do it repeatedly because they usually get away with it.

Contrary to previous studies that bullies often suffer from some kind of emotional or social problem, recent studies have shown that there are bullies who actually have average to high self-esteem and are not social outcasts.

Instead of being a cover-up for their weaknesses, their bullying provides them with the popularity that they seek. Certain kids tend to look up to, or follow bullies because they see them as strong role models.

So what happens when bullies grow up?

A friend insists that a bully will always be a bully. She explained that while grown bullies may not actually physically taunt, shove, push, throw things or spit on people as they did when they were kids, they are still bullies in other ways, for example, display aggression verbally or have a tendency to find fault with others.

Many may not realise it, but this is often seen or experienced in the workplace.

For example, there are those in higher positions who subtly bully others by giving instructions to carry out certain tasks, but selfishly claim glory for themselves when the task is successfully carried out, without acknowledging the efforts of their staff or team.

And should the task fail, these bullies will put the blame solely on the staff or team involved, or point fingers at others without acknowledging responsibility.

Another form of bullying in the adult world includes having a false sense of superiority, which often results in harassing or humiliating victims in front of others.

Then there’s another side of the story –  those who were once victims of bullying, becoming bullies when they grow up or those who take out their frustrations on everyone else, except on those who bully them.

The same friend revealed that an acquaintance of hers, who resides in Singapore, was bullied as a teenager in boarding school overseas for his shy and timid nature, small physique and thick spectacles. Even as a married man today, he is still being ordered around by his spouse.

Yet, in stark contrast, he is known as a bully at his workplace where he holds a managerial post.

Experts say bullies often continue bullying throughout their lives because they have become accustomed to the feeling of being in power.

Children are often told by their parents not to get bullied and to stand up for themselves. But very rarely are their actions revealed by their victims, out of fear of further repercussions.

Because of this and being able to get away with their bullying, bullies lose their moral compass and such behaviour becomes ingrained in them.

Psychologists and experts also say that parents do not often address the issue of bullying with their children.

Didn’t the Eye just write that parents always tell their children not to allow themselves to be bullied by others, you ask?

Yes, as parents, we often advise our children to stand up for themselves. But we often forget to tell them not to bully or take out their aggressions on others. Many parents also will refuse to believe their little angels are capable of bullying other children.

According to the experts, this is why bullying happens and bullies get away with what they do, and subsequently this characteristic becomes a part of their personality as they grow up.

Unless of course, a life changing incident takes place and they finally realise that their actions have been wrong.