THE BULLY, THE BULLIED, AND THE BYSTANDER
Barbara Coloroso’s “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander” revolves around her view of bullying as a drama. In said drama, each character usurps the given role and adopts behavioral changes while adapting to the ensuing performance. Coloroso centers her writing at possible ways of rewriting the lines given to each character to break the recurring violence. In her views, bullying entails different forms of imposing terror, intimidation, and torment while ensuring that others avoid the bullied person (Coloroso, 2010, p.102). Therefore, Coloroso (2010) believes that because children can learn how to intimidate (p.67), said behavior is modifiable (p.5) Modification is possible if people can find the specific causes of bullying and tackle them in a joint effort. Coloroso presents different child issues that are reflected through bullying, victimization, and bystanders who fail to aid the victims.
Coloroso begins her writing by providing readers with information about past tragic events resulting from bullying. With each account ending in suicide, multiple murders, or the arrests of teenagers, Coloroso (2010) manages to show bullying as a problem that involves every person at all levels. In other words, while bullying originally begins with two opposing sides, the effects can escalate to the family, societal, and finally state level if uncontrolled. Coloroso is very clear on the effects of bullying as she provides the stories to reinforce her arguments. Consequently, the author expounds on the role of bystanders by arguing that bullying affects everybody and so, every person can bring change. After the introduction, Coloroso begins to explain the drama roles of the three players in bullying situations. In turn, the author provides insight into the characteristics and emotions of a bully, the victim, and that of the non-responsive bystanders.
Before beginning her analysis of the causes of bullying, Coloroso provides her views on the difference between teasing and taunting. Said differences, are according to the author, what forms the basis of friendships and bullying. There is teasing that Coloroso (2010) argues can originate from either side of the people involved (p.32). Consequently, teasing takes place between friends because it does not aim at causing any harm and said friends can switch roles without warning (Coloroso, 2010, p.32). On the other hand, there is taunting that the author argues to be what bullies do to their victims. Taunting is bullying because there is an imbalance in power (Coloroso, 2010, p.33) and the stronger person intends to cause harm through humiliation. The author goes on to state that, taunts involve laughing at the weaker party rather that laughing with the same (Coloroso, 2010, p.33).
Next part in Coloroso’s book focuses on the bullied child and the techniques bullies use to target their victims. Coloroso’s list of said reasons revolves around the victim’s character, body size, popularity, and ability to respond to bullying cases (Coloroso, 2010, p.43). Bullying victims will eventually develop what Coloroso (2010) refers to as “survival strategies rather than social skills” (p. 46). Signs of bullying find basis on the ability of recipients of bullying to communicate with a parent or responsible adult for a course of action (Coloroso, 2010, p.48). Even when a child lacks the ability to tell on bullies, Coloroso (2010) believes a child can speak “in five ways: with body, face, eyes, tone of voice, and words” (p.50). Thus, if parents cannot tell if a child is a bullying victim from the five signs, the author provides other means of knowing through changes in the child’s routines.
According to Coloroso, bullies are not angry and are not driven by conflict (p.20). Instead, the writer believes that a bully has contemptuous emotions that drive towards discouraging others so they feel better about themselves (Coloroso, 2010, p.21). Therefore, because characters emerge from learned habits and the child’s home is the first learning venue, Coloroso sets about explaining the different families that bring up bullies, victims, and bystanders. First, there is a “brick wall family” that believes the power is equal to control. Coloroso (2010) argues that the dominant figure in a “brick wall family” is the parent who ensures control through violence, threats of severe punishments, threats, and at times said parent can bribe the child to have desired results in bullying circumstances (p.78). Consequently, the children from a “brick wall family” perceive love as a conditional feeling in the home and see everything in life as a competition (Coloroso, 2010, p.83). Coloroso introduces the “jellyfish family” that according to her has a laissez-faire kind parenting. Coloroso (2010) argues that this particular family can produce any of the three parties (p.84) depending on the emotions of the parents. Consequently, there are two types of a “jellyfish family” where one type shows incapability to set boundaries, and another has parents psychologically or physically abandoning their children (Coloroso, 2010, p.86).
Finally, yet importantly, there is a “backbone family” where parents believe in modeling and teaching their children to respect them rather than demanding said respect (Coloroso, 2010, p.86). In turn, Coloroso (2010) argues that parents from such families bring up their children in a peaceful atmosphere with much love and encouragement to face life (p. 91). According to Coloroso, a “backbone family” produces the ideal children, who do not fit either group because they can “fend off verbal attacks of bullies (p. 92). Her focus on said family finds basis on relationship existing between parents and their children. With the parents paying attention to the needs of their children and encouraging positive perceptions in life, the children’s confidence exempts them from the three groups.
Coloroso addresses a number of issues in her book, all of which find basis on childhood bullying. Throughout, the author emphasizes the importance of family in curbing bullying incidents and the effects of the same among children. Her approach is different in the sense that she includes a different party that society has overlooked for a long time. Consequently, Coloroso approaches her identified issue by looking into the backgrounds of children and involving their families in their ability to cope with and react to the different challenges thrown at them by the world outside the family. In addition, her treating bullying incidents as drama is a fresh approach in the sense that it allows her to analyze each part critically and present her readers with situations with which they can identify. While doing this, Coloroso offers her own insight to the problem and what she believes is the most effective solution for each of the involved people. Her solutions dictate the need for parents to be involved in their children’s lives while society ought to take care of each other, both the old and young.
In the case of a bully, Coloroso’s argument that bullying is the effect of contemptuous feelings rather than anger is well founded. Her argument on the function of contempt is plausible because when angry, people look to cause bodily harm swiftly and when the feeling subsides, order is restored. However, contempt feelings lead to the need to see a person suffer over an extended period while rallying people for support. In turn, bullies gain satisfaction from not only their humiliated victims, but the witnesses, as well. Therefore, it is safe to concur with the author on the role of the home in producing such a child. Children are fast learners and they tend to learn from the actions of adults rather than the words adults use when addressing said children. Therefore, children who come from homes where parents pay little attention to what they do, they are bound to look for attention from other sources. For bullies, the aforementioned attention comes from their peers while because they are viewed to be stronger. After all, Coloroso (2010) argues that in the homes of most bullies power is equivalent to gaining control (p.78). Bullies can only stop when they learn to empathize with their victims and understand their actions can bring about a ripple effect where the victim retaliates and harms the society.
The victims are the most pitiful of the represented lot. Again, Coloroso emphasizes the importance of parents ensuring that their children grow up confident and capable of standing up to bullies. In other words, how a child is treated at home will be reflected by how said child allows the rest of the world to treat him or her in different settings. Their response to bullies is also a matter of great importance because most children will be afraid of their tormentors and choose to keep quiet despite their sufferings. Therefore, parents need to help children gain the necessary confidence and ability to stand up to possible bullies while taking care not to turn into bullies. In addition, if a person is unable to stand up to bullies, it shows that they lack self-confidence and can be in need of therapy to reverse the effects of bullying and the low self-esteem. Lastly, it is important to note that Coloroso does not blame bystanders for bullying cases. Rather, she puts emphasis on the need for third parties to report a problem or bear witness when someone else comes forward. In addition, Coloroso argues that children who are brought up in loving homes are capable of standing up to bullies and are the most responsible when it comes to witnessing bullies at work because they exhibit poise and stand up for the victim.
Coloroso’s approach to bullying offers a new perspective to the problem. With the introduction, where she provides real life cases of bullying and the results of the same on the victim gives enough evidence to warrant the need for her research. Consequently, her book provides a different part to the argument by introducing the bystanders to bullying. Witness accounts provided in the introduction section aid in proving beyond reasonable doubt that there are indeed children who witness bullying accounts, but opt to keep quiet due to different reasons. The cases of children retaliating to bullies also warrant her claim that the society is involved as a whole and incidents of bullying can end with more casualties than when they began. “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander” is a well-written text that allows readers to relate to a given situation from different angles. The gradual presentation of Coloroso’s arguments takes readers through a systematic understanding of bullying as a concept, the roles of the involved parties, and the existing fears faced by each of the involved people. Her thorough analysis also makes her conclusions acceptable and easier to understand.
Coloroso, Barbara. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School--How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Print.