Understanding Bullying in Teenagers

Teens, although highly vulnerable to slights, are quick to dish them out. Testing each other, and the world, they are often uncensored in their expression. It is important to help teens process and digest their experiences, that they might grow from them.

Bullying is often a way that some teens attempt to feel more powerful. Bullying is any act that includes being ridiculed, taunted, excluded or shamed. This can be done directly, as in publicly humiliating someone, or indirectly, as in spreading rumors. People who have a healthy sense of self-esteem seldom consciously choose to hurt others.

Victims of bullying are often left vulnerable to feelings of self-hatred and self-destructive behavior. Experiencing hurtful behavior during adolescence can ultimately lead teens to question the honesty and safety of future relationships with their peers.

Where is bullying learned? When teens watch TV shows where people respond in hostile manners towards each other, they are influenced to believe that this is an appropriate way for them to behave. Imitating these behaviors disrupts the teen’s ability to form close and lasting emotional bonds with others.

Teachers, parents, classmates and siblings have all been known to say things that were experienced as hurtful. By teaching teens how to slow down and tolerate their immediate discomfort, they can begin to understand what they are feeling, and think about how they want to respond.

Unless a fellow classmate is pathologically disturbed, simple techniques like using humor or walking away have turned around a good number of “bullying” situations. By helping the teen understand what the taunting means to them, we also have an opportunity to address underlying self-esteem issues that existed long before a particular insult was delivered.

Even within families who get along well most of the time, there can be occasional disagreements. Have you noticed how passionate adolescents can get when expressing their opinion? In your relationship with your teenager, it is important to model healthy conflict resolution skills.

The foundation of any respectful argument involves avoiding: raising your voice, swearing, name-calling or pointing your finger in their face. You never want to use threats or taunts, which will only escalate the tension between you.

Teen Talk:

The purpose of someone saying mean things to you is to upset you. However, did you know that your thoughts about the words are what give the words power to hurt you? There is a very old saying that goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Of course words can hurt your feelings! But what this means is you have a choice over whether the words said about you, hurt you.

Nobody is perfect, and we all have our little imperfections and faults. One option for making a bully stop teasing you is to not give them the satisfaction of seeing that their words have hurt you. This takes away their sense of power over you.


Bottom line, life is not always fair and not everyone will like us. Teaching the acceptance of oneself and how to be comfortable in one’s own skin is invaluable in living in a world of diversity–where differences in preference and opinions abound.

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