“When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper. They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless.”
Every child is likely to experience teasing at some point during their life by a sibling or a friend, which is usually not harmful. However, when this teasing becomes recurring, physical or from one child who is exerting power over another child – it becomes BULLYING.
Physical bullying includes pushing, hitting, slapping or punching. Verbal bullying includes personal attacks, put-downs, gossip or teasing. Emotional bullying includes tormenting or excluding people, or spreading rumors about them.
Bullying could affect the child’s self worth, confidence and outlook to people around him or her, which could lead to suicides and homicides. Thus it is very important to take bullying as a serious matter and not just leave it at, “Oh! It happens to all and he or she will get over it and become tough.”
One may not be aware of his or her child being bullied unless the child informs or there any visible injuries or bruises.
Look and listen for:
1) peer rejection
2) poor grades in favorite subjects
3) aggressive social behavior (hollering , throwing and hitting)
4) symptoms of anxiety (panic, stress, daydreaming, worry, fear )
5) poor appetite and poor sleep
6) Avoids any situations he or she previously enjoyed.
These could be signs of bullying
If your child does not willingly open up about the issue, bring the topic out in a roundabout way, like maybe if you see a situation on a TV show, use it to commence the conversation. Ask “what do you think of this situation, or what should have the child done in this situation?”
If the child shares the experience of being bullied, focus on comfort and support to the child as they might not share the experience out of embarrassment or fear that the parents will be disappointed. Praise your child for being brave enough to talk about it. Remind the child that he or she is not alone and lots of people get bullied at some point. Reassure that they are not at fault. Help them restore their self-confidence and self-dignity.
Bullying back or fighting back might only escalate the fight to violence and more turmoil. Everyone has experienced bullying in some or the other forms, be it mild or incessant, one should never feel helpless in any kind of situation.
Hence, the best way to help the kid could be by offering strategies to deal with bullying on an everyday basis.
· Avoid the bully and always have a friend accompanying you. Suggest that your child stick with two or more other children when at the playground or the bus stop.
· Remove the incentive for bullying. Social incentives like dominance hierarchy which is usually instinctive cannot be removed. However if the child appears timid or is alone, it is a motivation for bullies and that can be removed.
· Help him learn new ways to handle the conflicts. Teach your child how to respond to a bully in a bold assertive way. Practice with him at home in a role-play situation. Demonstrate the difference between cowering and whispering, "Oh, go away, please leave me alone." versus standing tall, using a deep, loud, voice and saying with authority, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
· Talk about specific incidents that help in dealing with each incident. Just asking the child to ignore doesn’t usually work. Brainstorm with him on a variety of options he would have as an alternative to being violent.
· Do not react by crying or anger, instead practice cooling down or counting 1 to 10 in the head or taking deep breaths or focusing on something positive. Smiling or crying or reacting might only provoke the bully more.Be brave and firmly and clearly ask the bully to stop or defend self from the hit or blow and leave the place in peace.
· Always tell an adult, a teacher, parent or bullies parent, or school authorities. Talk to someone the child can trust, to deal with the bullying experience.
· Determine if your child has healthy friendships with other children. Encourage your child to invite friends over to your home or to invite them to accompany you on an outing.
· Maybe join self defense classes like karate or tai-chi.
· If you must discipline a child for a specific act. Yelling, hitting or harsh punishment will only encourage your child to continue his own aggressive behavior. Instead, look for constructive consequences, such as assigning chores at home.
· Discourage your child from spending time with friends who behave in aggressive ways.
· An intervention with a psychologist can help, especially when the parent feels that more help is needed to control the situation or even to help the child to develop his personal identity and self esteem.
And if all this fails then you may need to step in. Approach the principal with a calm, matter-of-fact attitude and you should be able to put together a plan to control the situation.
“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a ﬁghter.
Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.”
-By Dr.Leena Sanghvi (Parekh)
(Certificate course in therapeutic skills for helping professions)