At some time or another, your child may fall victim to a bully. Statistics have shown that at least one in ten kids are bullied during their school years and if action is not taken to stop the bullying, it can have a lifelong affect on the child. Parents need to be aware and they need to recognize the common symptoms that are displayed by bullied kids.
What is bullying?
We have all heard the saying -sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me! . This is far removed from the truth. Although physical bullying is bad, emotional bullying is equally harmful and when the bully humiliates their victim, the child will suffer from the affects of the intimidation and humiliation for many years to come. Bullying occurs when a child becomes the victim or the target of a certain child or of a group of children. In most cases (if not in all cases), bullying is deliberate and bullies will go out of their way to pinpoint their victims and make their lives unbearable.
- Physical abuse (hitting, punching, kicking, etc)
- Mocking or teasing their victim
- Threatening (threats may be done face to face or via SMSes, etc.)
- Stealing or taking the child’s belongings (their lunch, money, schoolbooks, etc)
- Calling the child insulting names – boys are often called -gay or referred to by other derogatory terms
- Racial insults
- Preventing victims from playing games or becoming involved in activities
- The spreading of rumours (using cell phone applications like Mxit or BBM to spread hurtful rumours is now becoming increasingly common in South African schools)
Why my child?
One of the hardest things for parents to come to terms with is trying to understand why their child has fallen victim to bullies and why their child has been singled out by intimidators. The reality of the situation is that bullies target kids who appear to be -different’. One must remember that bullies are themselves unhappy and they are looking for a way in which they can release their pent up anger and their own feelings of inadequacy. Bullies seek children who are unusually quiet and reserved (often loners) and who are not physically able to defend themselves. They perceive kids who are overweight or who have a disability to be the perfect victims.
A bullied child – the effects and symptoms
A child’s physical and mental health will be severely impacted by bullying. A once-happy child will become an introverted, sad and angry child. The child will attempt to fake illnesses to try and get out of going to school and since kids who are bullied need to constantly -watch their backs’ their schoolwork will suffer as they will be unable to focus in class.
The affects of bullying include:
- Depression (in severe cases of bullying, especially with teenagers, kids may become suicidal)
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
- Difficulty forming relationships or trusting others
- In later years, children who have been bullied or who are bullied will turn to drugs, tobacco or alcohol as a means to try and -fit’ into a crowd or as means to escape their feelings of inadequacy and sadness
If bullying is not dealt with and stopped, the problems will continue and the bullying will become worse. When kids have been bullied, the affects are felt long after the bullying has stopped.
Why children don’t want to name and shame
One would think that if a child’s life was being turned upside down by a nasty bully, the victim would approach teachers or parents to help them to stop the bullying. Older children (this especially true for boys) are scared to talk of the abuse as they feel embarrassed or ashamed by it and they believe that they actually deserve to be ill-treated. Remember, a bully threatens their victims and kids are usually fearful of the bully and of his or her threats.
What parents can do
Bullying is a very serious issue and if it’s not stopped, it can have long-term effects on a child. If you suspect your child is the victim of the school bully, report your suspicions immediately. Go to the school principal and if action is not taken, you have every right to report the bullying to your local school department, such as the GDE!
Research has shown that children believe that when they report the bullying to an educator nothing is going to be done to stop it. Due to this reason, parents need to take a stand and the necessary action to stop the harassment. Parents and children can visit the Childline website (www.childlinesa.org.za/content/view/34/88/) where more information and assistance may be obtained on how to handle bullying in schools.
Parents must not assume that the victimisation will blow over or assume that bullying and teasing is just part of growing up. The tormentor won’t stop unless they are forced to do so! Boys are usually the target of bullies and parents need to encourage their sons to talk and to express their emotions.
Depending on the severity and the nature of the bullying, it’s often beneficial for a child to attend counselling sessions. Even after bullying has come to an end, the child continues to suffer from the affects, and a trained and compassionate counsellor will help the child to gain perspective on his or her feelings and emotions.
Parents should also bear in mind that even though it appears that the bully or bullies are in charge – bullying is often a cry for help and these kids are suffering from low self-esteem or they are acting out their own anger. Like their victims, bullies require the right guidance and assistance and they need to find positive methods and positive outlets to deal with and cope with their emotions.