Bullying happens everywhere; at school, the park, or even your own apartment. The effect last a lifetime, unless, as a parent you intervene and handle it tactfully.
Like a hazy picture conjured up by a frightened mind, the vividness of the episode is something I will never forget; Me, lean and small, frightfully inadequate to face him. Him, large, and tall, the menacing look of a 4-year old sending shivers down my spine. And yet, I had to face him, confront him for a reason I cannot now clearly remember. All I can remember though, is me pummelling this big little giant till I actually bled, surrounded by my little friends cheering me on, but satisfied at seeing that he didn’t get away from calling me names and using his frame to scare me down.
It wasn’t until many years later, that what I had experienced when I was little, (a memory so vivid that I still wonder from where I got my guts), was actually ‘Bullying’. I don’t remember what triggered it, what angered the boy enough to become a threat to me! What I do remember however, is the fear that I’d experience every morning when school hour drew near, of hiding and looking inconspicuous everytime I saw him and behaving invisible whenever he appeared.
There are cases of bullying that have deep psych-social impact, affecting the child’s ability to communicate, socialize and make friends, in turn leading to withdrawal disorders, depression and self-imposed exile.
Fascinating facts on bullying
My conversation with people over several years has revealed some fascinating facts on bullying:
- Children get bullied irrespective of their size or where they come from. Kids who were huge and looked threatening were as prone to being bullied as those of smaller build. Noisy over-the-top teenagers also suffered bullying at the hands of their quieter counterparts (yes, totally contrary to the nerdy, geeky stereotype).
- Bullying almost always stemmed from a sense of establishing power, of showing ‘Who’s the Boss’. Yet, there were many instances of bullying that rose from feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, a way to ‘Draw Attention’ or even in some cases as a ‘Cry for Help’. When children were unable to cope or handle a personal, family situation or a part of it themselves, their way of working around it was to get aggressive or transfer their negative feelings onto siblings or other children.
- Bullying almost ALWAYS affected both the parties involved. The impact as most cases show, was almost always negative.
- Depression and feelings of inadequacy in adults, extensive research has shown, have strong links to bullying in childhood.
How to provide the right support to our kids when it comes to bullying
Although Bullying is inevitable and an essential part of growing up and coping with the world, kids need to be taught how to handle it, and we as parents need to know how to provide the right support and lessen the lasting impact.
- Understanding signs and handling it- Unless a child shows visible bruise marks or tells you something first-hand, it is not easy to identify bullying. Some signs that you need to note are; your child’s change in behaviour, eating and sleeping habits or moodiness and avoidance of certain situations (like going to school). If you suspect bullying, an easy way of making your child open up is by asking open-ended questions or those as a conversation starter, “I haven’t been getting great sleep but notice you are having the same problem too, do you know why?” or “Have you ever had someone make fun of you?” . Let your child know that whatever is happening to him needs to be shared with someone, whether the parent, teacher or even a sibling.
- Listen to your child calmly, without getting upset and angry, and offer support and comfort. Tell them it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
- Praise your child for opening up, reassure them that it’s not their fault, and remind them that they are not alone and many people get bullied at some point of time in their lives.
- Ask them how they want to take it forward, so that they don’t feel excluded from the situation.
- Approach the bully’s parents only if you feel that the bullying may get worse or that your child’s complaint may get them serious retribution. Always have a school counsellor or teacher to mediate. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy and offer peer support. These range from a warning, talking to the bully’s parents and detention to internal exclusion within the school, fixed term exclusion and permanent exclusion, depending on severity.
- Advise your child to avoid confronting the bully, hit or shout back which doesn’t solve the problem, and instead buddy up with a friend. He needs to rein in his anger (which is what bullies thrive on) and avoid retaliation as much as possible. Cooling tactics like Counting till 10, taking deep breaths or walking away also help. Advise the kid to keep a ‘poker face’, act brave or ignore the bully altogether.
Finally, never dismiss their experience altogether. If your child has plucked up courage to tell you that he’s being bullied, it is crushing when he’s told, ‘sort it out yourself’ or ‘it’s all part of growing up’. Telling them to ignore it only means teaching them that bullying has to be tolerated, rather than stopped, setting them up for further bullying in the future.
Cover Photo Courtesy: www.microage.com