Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Nohea Kaneakua, 5, demonstrates being bullied with
older brother Vance, 10. Fortunately, they're just playing.

Taking the bully by the horns

Dorothy Wilhelm gives
advice about how to avoid
falling prey to harassers

Who they are

By Nancy Arcayna
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Everyone recognizes a bully. On the school playground there's the kid who steals others' lunch money, others who hang out in school restrooms intimidating kids who enter, and those who taunt and tease weaker kids.

They grow up to disrupt workplaces. And the bullies' unsettling behaviors can be a breeding ground for violence.

Dorothy Wilhelm presents the "Nobody Loves a Bully" workshop tomorrow to offer help in understanding and coping with these creatures. The morning session covers children and violence. The afternoon session's focus will be on workplace bullies.

"Bullying has become such a hot topic," Wilhelm said. "It takes place when actions are repeated with the intention of controlling another person or at least causing hurt."

Wilhelm, a Northwestern media personality and inspirational speaker, considers herself a "porcupine trainer." She uses the term to describe the prickly people we encounter.

"Difficult people are hard enough to control, but bullies are a horse of a different color," she said. "They don't necessarily have low self-esteem and generally feel good about themselves."

Seventy-six percent of people bullied in the workplace have to leave their job. If we don't do something about it when they are kids, the bullies end up in management positions, she said. Getting to the top is rewarded in our society, and many people don't care what they need to do to get there.

Bellamann Hee Jr., a community and crime prevention specialist for the state, adds: "Crime stems from violence in the schools. In order to prevent these situations from escalating, they need to be taken care of properly during the learning stages. Kids are like sponges and are able to soak up information."

"The workshop is an excellent example of how we can prevent bullying and learn to be better parents, teachers, mentors and role models," state Attorney General Earl Anzai said. "Bullying is a destructive force in our lives. Nationwide, bullying causes over 160,000 children to skip school every day."

"We are going back to the concept that it takes a village to raise a child," Hee added.

"If nothing happens to change a young bully's behavior by the time they are 23 years old, 36 percent of them will have a prison record," Wilhelm said. "The remainder of them will have perfected their techniques, and most will work in management positions.

"Many kids who are being bullied or bothered at school feel there is no reason to tell an adult because nothing will be done. Less than 25 percent of the victims report incidents."

Some kids are also being raised to be victims, she said. Such parents teach that it's not good to be competitive and that winning is not always the most important thing.

"If children are not taught competitive skills, and someone jumps out and demands their lunch money, they may not know how to react," Wilhelm said. "They lack problem-solving and decision-making skills."

Caregivers need to form alliances with children, letting them know that they are friends and not the enemy, Wilhelm said. A parent who instills confidence and trust in their kids leads them to make better decisions.

Kids also need to enlist the aid of adults to resolve situations. They need to be unafraid of asking for help. Some children have a fear of being blamed for problems. Also, victims should try to keep company with at least two friends at all times. Bullies are opportunists who normally strike when others are alone. They depend on victims' silence, says Wilhelm.

Middle schools seem to have the highest incidents of bullying due to adolescence, Wilhelm said. Kids become overwhelmed by hormonal and physical changes and tend to form isolated peer groups, she adds.

Bullying also is a part of many adults' lives. These bullies use words and subtler forms of intimidation than the physical violence employed by children.

"Some workplaces have a gatekeeper who rules the kingdom with a mind-set that anyone coming in is not going to be very successful. Nothing the employees do is right," Wilhelm said.

Negativity can cause co-workers to feel that what the bully is saying must be true.

"Nice people really finish last. Most people spend their life trying to get along with other people. The best way to control bullies would be a punch in the face, but we can't be doing that," Wilhelm said.

Unfortunately, because of bullies' high self-esteem, normal peer pressure doesn't work on them, "so we need to learn to take care of ourselves," she said.

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Characteristics of bullies

>> Controls others through verbal threats and physical actions.
>> Quick to anger and to use force.
>> Tends to have little empathy for the problems of others.
>> Often exposed to aggressive behavior such as physical and emotional abuse.
>> Chronically repeats aggressive behaviors.
>> Inappropriately perceives hostile intent in the actions of others.
>> Angry and revenge seeking.
>> Has parents who are poor role models for getting along with others and constructively solving problems.
>> Is likely to have contact with aggressive groups.
>> Sees aggression as the only way to preserve powerful and controlled self-image.
>> Has many more family problems and poor family communications than is normal.
>> Exhibits obsessive or rigid actions.

Characteristics of victims

>> Believes one cannot control one's environment.
>> Has ineffective social skills and poor interpersonal skills which make him/her less popular than others.
>> Has fears of inadequacy and exhibits signs of depression.
>> Blames self for problems.
>> Is isolated and afraid of going to school.
>> Is smaller and weaker than peers.
>> Lacks communication skills for dealing with stressful incidents.
>> Performs self-destructive actions.
>> Believes others are more capable of handling various situations.
>> Has family members who are over-involved in the his/her decisions and activities.
>> Progressive failures cause this person to put forth less effort
with each opportunity.
>> Feels external factors have more of an impact on his/her life than internal control.

Information from Richard Hazler, Ohio University

Boddah you?

What: "Nobody Loves a Bully" Workshop
When: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom
Cost: $35
Call: Bellamann Hee Jr. at 586-1443

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