Bullying, for most kids, is a fact of life. It will happen in some form, at some point in their lives. For parents, the question is: How can we better protect our children from bullying?
Asking this question, researchers used a validated biopsychosocial 10-item resilience scale to explore the relationship between resilience and experience with bullying and cyberbullying. The scale included statements like “I can deal with whatever comes my way,” “I am not easily discouraged by failure,” and “Having to cope with stress makes me stronger.” Also included were items assessing both the protective capacity of resilience as well as its reparative ability to restore equilibrium in the lives of youth when they face adversity.
Drawing from a nationally-representative sample of 1,204 American youth ages 12 to 17, what the researchers found should have us all rethinking resilience: uniformly, students with higher levels of resilience were bullied at school or online less often, and among those who were bullied, resilience served as a buffer, insulating them from being affected in a negative manner at school (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018).
In Hinduja’s words, “Resilience is a potent protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and mitigating its effect. Resilient kids are those, who for a variety of reasons, are better able to withstand external pressures and setbacks and are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less-equipped peers when facing this type of victimization” (Hunduja, 2018).
As Hinduja and Patchin note, there has been much attention to bullying, and various anti-bullying campaigns exist, however, what is often forgotten is the role and responsibility of the child who is bullied.
“We want children to learn and develop the skills they need to deal with problems, and yet we rarely help them engage with those problems so that they can grow in their ability to solve them. Instead, we seek to constantly protect and insulate them – instead of bolstering their self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose – which are all innate strengths,” says Hinduja (Hinduja, 2018).
The takeaway, according to Hinduja, is that kids do have the ability to become resilient, and develop agency to allow or disallow much of the harm that others try to inflict – and youth-serving adults have a responsibility to teach and model for them the proper strategies to deflect, dismiss, or otherwise rise above the insults and hate.
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