Is bullying a concern? How bad can bullying in school actually get? It is one of the aspects in school environment that is often neglected and not dealt with proper approach. Unarguably, more pressing academic and administrative work is taking over the priorities of both School officials and parents. But this should not be the case, the emotional development and well being of each child deserves just as much attention if not more if we want to produce capable and more compassionate adults in to the world we have to confront this issue head on.
It is unfortunate that the growing up years includes this type of experience. Almost every child is marred with incidents of being bullied. A simple teasing can easily escalate to a tormenting bullying scenario if not addressed properly. A bullying experience can either make your kid tough and victorious in the end or scarred and devastated with pains that he will carry throughout his life.
So what do we know about bullying? Bullying is defined as a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying happens in a consistent basis and there is an actual intent to torment or inflict hurt to another.
What are the kinds of bullying that children go through in our present environment? There are five (5) major types of bullying that today’s children have to contend with.
1. It can be Verbal bullying where one is making threats or name calling the child. This is done with the intent to humiliate and sow fear on the victim. It may also take the form of insults, sexual harassment and racial remarks. Spoken words can cause so much pain to a child. The victim of this kind of bullying is pretty hard to discern as they may be made to think that this is normal. It may seem harmless and the snide remark may seem innocent but the effects on a child’s self esteem will be dampened. When done consistently toward them, their grades and relationship with others will eventually suffer as well.
2. A more aggressive form is Physical Bullying. This type includes kicking, tripping, hitting, and causing destruction to a subject’s personal belongings. This type usually happens when a group or a gang of bullies pick on a perceived weaker target. Another is when a larger or stronger student picks on a smaller or younger one. This kind of bullying is the one that we can easily spot as there are most likely physical injuries done to the child or hid belongings that can be seen without having to ask them about it. Experiencing this at a young age can be traumatic for your child and may cause them to not want go back to school and to have constant fear hovering over them.
3. Covert Bullying is one of the more popular ones in school setting. This type is normally done behind a victim’s back. It is directed towards a victim in hopes of destroying that person’s reputation and to humiliate them in public. The technique includes starting a rumor, making an unkind joke, doing faces when the victim isn’t watching, or simply mimicking the victim’s gestures with the intent to make it look laughable and humiliating. Since this is mostly done discreetly, adults may not be able to detect it is happening thereby making it hard to control and stop.
4. Another subtle type of bullying is Alienation. This normally happens when a victim is made to feel like an outsider. This kind of bullying happens with the help of conspirators who are there precisely to make the victim feel alone and alienated in occasions like break times or school activity like games and social gatherings. Treated like an outcast by her peers, the victim in this case will have hard time creating friendships and may lead them to grow up always feeling isolated and alone.
5. Cyber bullying is the modern way of doing this behavior. Due to influx of technology, bullies have found their way to torment their victims not only in person but also in the cyber world. iT can be done through text messages, emails and social media. This kind of bullying is a combination of the above mentioned ones only this time it is done through the help of technology. Some examples are creating fake accounts of the victim to make other view him negatively, spreading nasty gossip, and or posting a humiliating video/picture of the victim. The victim of this kind of bullying will most times feel that the situation that they are in is inescapable. Because of the wide scope of the internet, victims may feel trapped in this vacuum of humiliation and attacks. If not detected and prevented, young kids may actually think that their life is over because of it.
Knowing the different forms of how a bully operates is so important in counter attacking the bullying problem. Having a vast grasp of the different scenarios the kids may go through or is going through is one step closer to solving the problem. Adults will now have an idea on what could be happening to our kids. It gives us a list of red flags to monitor and an idea on what to ask the kids so that they can freely open up about these possible scenarios.
We then ask, what clues do we have to watch out for to know if our kids are being bullied? What things should we look out for and carefully observe? Are there visible indicators that the child is a victim of bullying? Yes, we can be watchful for these warning signs. If your kids are showing these stress behaviors, you have to act immediately and appropriately:
• Seeing your child frequently in tears
• Increased sign of passivity and withdrawal
• Abrupt decrease in grades and difficulty in learning
• Appearance of unexplained bruises
• Frequent complains of physical hurt like stomach ache and headache with no apparent cause
• Fear of going to school
• Abrupt change in social climate with friends (example drop in invitations for parties or playdates)
When some or all of these red flags becomes present in your child’s behavior, it is time to investigate. An adult needs to intervene to resolve these bullying issues upfront. We cannot seat back and just let it pass, at the very least, we need to check on our child real condition because they might be struggling and we are not even aware of it. If we truly want our children to succeed in school, they have to feel safe about their academic environment. If they always feel terrified, or ashamed, or humiliated they are more likely to fail not only in their academics but also in their emotional development. There are a lot of proactive ways to intervene. Your action can save a child’s life.
But how do we help them in this situation? What do we tell them and who to talk to? Here is a list on how you can navigate through this difficult phase in your child’s life:
1. Give your child a safe space where he or she can open up about her situation. If there are instances that your child mentions a specific incident where you feel he or she might have been bullied, show empathy. Make the child feel that you are on his side. If your child is scared to talk about him/her being teased, read her a story that shows similar situations so that she will not feel alone in that kind scenario and you will gain more of her confidence to open up about it. You can use illustrations and stuff toys or dolls to act out situation that your child may identify with. Make yourself available for them to feel safe to share how they are being treated at school.
2. When your child has finally opened up, this is your chance to equip her on how to deal with bullies. Encourage him/her by filling him with positive words about himself/herself. Teach her how to be assertive in the face of a bully. Model to her how to stand up and look the bully kid in the eye and tell them to leave him/her alone. This may diffuse the conflict and may discourage the bully child from harassing your kid again. Give her techniques like avoiding the bully and their known path. Advise to go in groups and avoid isolated places around the school. Let her know that it is alright to tell an adult about her experience, sooner rather than later.
3. Make proper documentation of the bullying incident. As a parent it will be tempting to go directly to the other parent or to the school administrator to report the problem. It would be wise though to properly document the incident before you go to other authorities to make sure that your claim will not be prey to “he said this, she said that” kind of argument. It will also serve as an evidence or a transcript of what happened to your child which is very helpful in case an investigation ensues.
4. Talk to the other parent and do so with precaution. This is probably the most logical thing to do, let the adults resolve the issue. However this technique can be very tricky as it can turn out pretty ugly for both camps. Naturally parents will take the side of their kids with little regard whether they are at fault or not. So make sure that you only do this maneuver when you are in close relation with the other parent so that the confrontation will be done in the atmosphere of friendship and in hope of better resolutions. If you have no relationship with the other parent, observe first if they are open minded about these matters before going up to them.
5. Talk to the school administrator/teachers. If the latter did not work out, it is time to elevate the concern to the school officials. Since this things happen in the watch of the school personnel like teachers, you will need to inform them of what your child told you so that they can keep a better eye on it. They are in a better position to catch or to stop the bullying as it occurs. They can also create an atmosphere that banishes the attitude of bullying in the school environment.
Many learning institutions have stood up and rose to the challenge of bullying in the campus. They have raised awareness on the matter by holding seminars both for students and teachers to effectively deal with bullying behaviors. You may check with your district if this is being done within the area. Also, some school came up with the approach of designating the campus grounds as bully free zones, making the culture of bullying a taboo. These and many more initiatives all make the campaign against bullying a success and moving towards lesser incidents of bullying more achievable.
We cannot simply downplay the effects of bullying in our kids life as a phase they will eventually grow out from. The effects of this attitude both on the victim and perpetrator have lasting consequences in their lives. We have thoroughly mentioned the possible effects on the victim above but it does not discount the fact that the bully child also is a victim of his own behavior in the future. Being a bully, according to studies, also has a devastating future effect in the person that the child will become. The report said that bullies usually turn out to be inefficient adults, with low tolerance for other people’s behavior, have difficulty forming meaningful relationship, most likely to be aggressive and abusive to their partner, and in some cases it is also linked to future criminal acts. This is why addressing it at the early stage for the victim and for the bully benefits both parents and children in the long run.
As responsible members of the society, both parents, institutions like government and school should work hand in hand in creating a bullying free environment for children that we may raise up better individuals.