“Girls in my school weren’t exactly fond of me. Once, a girl took my clothes and threw them around the room, and then, throughout the day, I got shoved in lines and corridors.”
I am sure you have heard similar lines before and are familiar with the term ‘bullying’.
A bully can be anyone with an evil intent to hurt others. It can be done through means of inflicting physical or emotional pain, mockery, humiliation, isolating someone deliberately, gossiping, backbiting, etc.
Children can become victims of bullying due to multiple factors, such as the colour of their skin, religion, gender bias, sexual preference, the amount of fat on a person’s body or lack thereof, or simply because of being different from society’s cultural norms.
Bullying is a severe threat to our community because it can lead to children developing severe mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety as they grow up, or, God forbid, in certain situations, they may even take their own lives.
The OECD TALIS survey taken in 2018 (involving 17 EU-member states) revealed that 29.0% of principals of England reported that physical and non-physical forms of bullying among students occurred at least weekly in their schools, second largest only to Finland, which had 29.4%.
This statistic shows how little attention is given in this country to bullying. Indeed school management as well as the community at large, and to some degree, parents too, are somewhere responsible for not employing effective strategies or addressing the issue with the seriousness it merits.
Here are some useful and practically effective ways you, as a parent, can implement in order to help prevent bullying taking place in schools.
Be a Reliable Support System
Children need an environment where they feel that parents are there to listen to their problems. It can be quite challenging for kids to come to you for help, as they are afraid that you may think less of them or, worse, ignore their pleas for help. A better approach is to lend them an ear instead of advising them. Your child will understand that you are actively listening to them rather than listening just to reply.
It has been suggested by experts to not march up to the bully or the bully’s parents as it may make matters worse for the bullied child, leading them to develop more stress and anxiety. Instead, a recommendation would be to ask the children themselves what the best course of action would be. It will help assure your child that their consent matters, and in this way, you will be able to resolve this far more effectively.
It is also okay not to have all the answers yourselves, as you are not a professional; hence, why it is advised to refer them to a professional who is trained to deal with children suffering from the effects of bullying, as they will have the expertise and resources on how to tackle the problem.
Recognize Unspoken Signs of Victimhood
Parents must understand the changes in their children’s behaviour, such as underperforming in school, not going to school or not attending school-related activities, or changes in mood or appetite. The last thing you want to do is to put them down or disparage them for speaking their minds. If the condition requires, get them off school for a while until their mental health improves. School is undoubtedly important, but it should never be at the expense of your child’s mental health or sound education.
Encourage Your Children to Support Other Victims
In addition to taking necessary actions when your child is the victim of bullying, you must also teach them that they must stand up against bullying when they see it; otherwise, they are only adding to the problem by not doing anything about it. Doing so will help create a better school environment as well as reinforce social cohesion amongst the students, hopefully minimising future incidences of bullying.
Promote Positive Behaviour at Home
Children pick up different behaviours at home. If the home environment is hostile and aggressive, the child might think that this is normal. Parents’ behaviour will inevitably rub off on their children, which will lead to them exhibiting the same attitude towards others, such as in educational settings. Therefore, parents must ensure that the domestic environment is as peaceful and amicable as possible by acting responsibly and instilling positive values in children.
Notice Early Signs of Perpetration
Observe how your child behaves with other children from a younger age, as certain habits develop from an earlier age and often lead to them turning into potential bullies. Notice and speak up about it whenever you see your child hitting, teasing or calling names to someone else. Let them know if they do not have anything nice to say to someone they must stay silent.
Addressing the root of the problem immediately, rather than brushing it off as habits that the child would grow out of, would help acknowledging that such actions are problematic and prevent it from manifesting into something bigger at a later stage.
Cyberbullying – The New Trend
Cyberbullying is an advanced form of bullying, and it should never go unnoticed. Words can hurt even when written through a screen.
A simple solution to this is to constantly monitor your child’s online activities.
One may also resort to monitoring software that either prevent offensive language being used (as well as other unethical aspects of the internet) and may even be able to record chats and other screen activities.
This would be certainly be useful, as you would be able to produce substantive evidence of bullying incidences (such as abusive messages) if required by authorities.
Bullying is an issue that will not be resolved overnight. Therefore, we must continue to put our best efforts into building a bully-free society so that our children grow up in a mentally and morally healthy environment with self-confidence. To do this, we must constantly cultivate positive values in our children and, as parents and citizens, act more responsibly at home and in the society.