“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
Remember that little ditty from grade school? It was supposed to keep the bullies from taunting us. Supposed to keep the bullying behavior at bay.
It never worked. The verbal bullying continued, and we simply suffered the effects of it.
Lots of parents still think of that mantra, and even teach it to their children.
Plenty of fuss is made by parents and teachers over physical bullying. Many, however, take a more laid-back approach when it comes to verbal bullying.
There are four recognized types of bullying. They are:
This guide focuses in particular on verbal bullying and contains all the information you will need to confront verbal bullying and stop its long-term effects and harm on our kids.
We’ll look at:
Consider this your personal bullying knowledge box. Let’s open it and become a force for change.
Verbal bullying involves mainly insults, taunts, name-calling, and other types of verbal abuse. Nowadays, it often occurs via social media as well.
Verbal bullying is not limited to children in the schoolyard, either. Adults are often some of the worst offenders for committing vicious verbal bullying.
Verbal bullying, regardless of the age of the bully and the bullied, can start harmlessly enough – as teasing or a slight insult. But this can quickly escalate into verbal violence that causes serious harm to its victim. It also often escalates to physical bullying.
Why is that important? Because bullies don’t often choose just one type of bullying behavior to target their victims.
Those sticks and stones can break your bones – and those words certainly can hurt you.
People who have been the victim of verbal bullying often find their self-image and self-esteem damaged more severely than any broken bone. Fractures do heal rather quickly, after all. Verbal bullying can affect a person’s life for years.
Verbal bullying in childhood, especially at the hands of a parent, other trusted adult, or friends, can have long-lasting effects, resulting in low self-esteem and a poor self-image. A child bullied verbally will often see themselves as the worthless, useless, stupid wretch their abuser tells them they are.
In a school-aged child, the effects often manifest through declining school performance and participation. An individual who used to excel may start to let grades slip. A child who once thrived in school activities now sits on the sidelines and watches their peers, as their mental health suffers.
Verbal bullying, with its insults and teasing, strips away a child’s sense of self-worth. They lose the feeling of power over their lives. They begin to believe the insults and see themselves as something less than who they truly are.
When the bullying comes from within the family or their circle of close friends, the child may feel as if there is no way to escape, no way out. Things become dark and the world a cold, unfriendly place filled with danger and unrelenting assaults.
Those feelings of inadequacy and pain often lead to depression, in both children and adults. If left unchecked, the emotional toll of verbal bullying has even led to suicide attempts, as the victim simply gives up and gives in.
While you can’t stop every incident of teasing or playground taunting, you must also recognize that you do have a responsibility to both the victim and the perpetrator of verbal bullying.
Verbal bullies may need just as much emotional support from kind, friendly grownups as their targets. Bullies are often bullied themselves.
By offering the required support system, Positive Action can help educators begin to understand and deal with bullies.
Having a bully in your classroom often makes the environment feel unsafe, even for the kids who aren’t bullied. You need to regain control and recreate the happy, peaceful place your classroom once was.
It has also been found that not only classroom programs work, but whole-school anti-bullying programs promote a positive school climate. This in turn works as an effective method of bullying prevention for the entire institution and wider community.
Begin by repeating the rules and expectations for classroom behavior. Always model respect and kindness when interacting with your students.
Never engage with a bully in public, in front of other people including their friends and fellow students. This often leads to more bullying. Instead, take them aside for a private chat. Address their behavior, emphasize how unacceptable it is, and try to speak with them instead of at them.
Let them tell their side of the story. Listen to what they have to say. Try to get them to empathize with their victim. And then find ways to reward or praise them for positive behaviors. Using a ‘story-based’ such as Positive Action’s bullying prevention kit, students from between 5 and 12 can learn that their negative actions can be replaced by positive ones, which will help them feel good about themselves.
The bullied child needs care, comfort, and support. It’s your job to offer as much of that as you can.
Begin by watching and observing. When you see a normally active, happy child begin to dull and distance themselves – it’s time to have another private conversation.
Again, begin by listening. If there is any hint of abuse in the home causing the issues, you will have to act accordingly and get the authorities involved.
If the issues stem from classroom bullying, your best action is to offer advice and help in every way you can. Encourage the child to ignore the bully. Help them regain their power over the bully by not resorting to rudeness or fear.
Let them know that trusted grownups are there to help them, but that the victim has to tell them about the bullying. Let others in your school know that this child is being verbally bullied and may come to them with complaints.
Lastly, help them understand that by focusing on the positive things in their life, they can defeat the bully by simply not letting him or her get under their skin.
For further information, we recommend exploring our supplemental kits. It’s an effective tool to help reduce incidents through 21 short lessons.
By using our program, students will understand just how negative bullying is, and how they can feel better about themselves and others through positive actions and attitudes.
Have a read of sample lesson 13 to get an idea of what the kit can offer.