Bullying is a sad reality and exists everywhere, whether we acknowledge it or not. Many people remain, silent spectators if the child being bullied is not a family member. Some feel that it is “politically incorrect” to intervene. Sounds ridiculous right? However, when it involves a kid from our family, then bullying seems evil and sparks an outrage.
How do you know that your child is bullied?
There are many symptoms which can point to the fact that a child is being bullied.
The kid is hesitant to use the school toilet and rushes to the washroom, as soon as he or she returns home: There are chances that the child is being bullied in the school toilet. It is the favourite “pickup spot”. Toilets are a place where there are no cameras and teachers around and thus considered “safe” by bullies.
The kid constantly says, “I don’t want to go to school”: There is a chance that he or she is being bullied or feels threatened by another kid or perhaps even a teacher.
The child constantly demands pocket money to buy snacks: There have been many instances where senior students have tormented kids for money. No wonder, some kids feel compelled to borrow extra pocket money from unsuspecting parents.
The child loses close friends quickly: There are chances that those are the very ones who resorted to bullying. The child thus feels much safer, when alone.
The kid resorts to negative self-talk: This is another indication of the steep decline of self-esteem due to bullying.
Sometimes your child might just walk in, after school and complain that she or he was called names, teased, pushed around or threatened. Here is where you take charge!
We give you the below eight steps to deal with bullying:
1. Listen to the child
When a child reports that he or she is bullied at school, the first thing that occurs is - parents go wild. They can’t help but overreact. There have been many cases where parents have rushed to the school and confronted the teacher or perpetrator.
All you need to do is to solve the problem. So listen to the child and what he has to say. Ask, “How can I be helpful?” The last thing which a child wants is you getting angry. He or she will feel bad that they upset you, and never open up if they are victimised in future.
So, if you lack self-control, send a sibling or a favourite aunt to their room. Provide a comfortable setting to get the child talking - this is very important.
Do not say, “What did you do, to provoke him”. Do not tell the child to “toughen up and face the bully”. That will make things worse – especially if the kid isn’t good at self-defence. You do not know the gravity of the situation. The next time around, if things get worse, the child will feel guilty, never complain to the parent and end up being a “doormat”. So, don’t react and you will get closer to solving the problem.
2. Check out what works: If you have been bullied at some point in life, the child’s situation may bring up unhappy memories. However, you may have been offered “tips” in childhood, regarding how to face bullies. Some may have worked - so advise your child accordingly. The following commonsensical advice might work:
a) Just pretend that they don’t exist.
b) Walk away, in the other direction.
c) Complain to the nearby teachers.
3. Don’t settle scores with bully’s family.
While it may seem tempting to break into the bully’s house and smash his dad’s nose with a guitar – avoid it! You are neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor is the bully’s father - ‘The Predator’! Most of all, you are not helpful. If you want to set an example and help your child, then do it the right way!
4. Teach your child the right way to react
This is one of the most important steps the child will learn. Bullies usually pick on “reactive kids”. Teach your kids not to take teasing to heart. You may, in fact, practice at home with you kids, by calling names and having them ignore you. This will help them gain some control over the situation and respond appropriately in real life situations. However, some bullies get physical. So, you should also teach them how to get away from bullies and their hangouts, and whom to approach when things go out of control.
5. Approach the teacher who might help
It is the schools’ responsibility to ensure kids study in a safe environment. However, in most cases, teachers are the last ones to know that a child is being bullied. Bullies are smart enough to avoid doing their stuff in front of teachers. It is friends first, parents next and finally the teachers who come to know about such an incident.
Take a prior appointment and meet the teacher at her convenient time, when she will be more receptive to your inputs. However tempting it may be, do not rush to the teacher with your complaint during working hours (you had conveyed your concerns when you called up – and request ed for an appointment. So she will be apprised of the situation anyway). Schools have their way of tackling such incidents in the form of warnings, meeting the bully’s parents, temporary suspension or even permanent rustication – depending on the gravity of the situation.
After your meeting with the teacher, if you feel that nothing has been being done to stop this bullying, write to the principal – referring to your conversation with the particular teacher. “As a follow up to my meeting with the teacher, I would like to know what is being done by the school to resolve this problem”. However, if the school fails to respond and the situation gets worse, you may consider taking a legal option.
6. Switch on your support system: As a parent, you may need to act tough and coach your child how to face the harsh realities of life. But in the middle of the night, you might feel like getting up and crying, for all the hardship your little one has been through. It’s understandable; as a parent, you need your support system. Talk to parents of other kids who may also be your friends or family members. They may give you some tips, having faced similar situations. That way, you will know that you are not alone. Many parents have travelled in the same boat; they have faced similar problems and come out on top.
7. Teach your child to express what’s happening: Some kids are too young to find the right words to complain. Teach them the right words - let them know what bullying is. Educate them about inappropriate touches and unacceptable forms of behaviour. Let them know where to draw the line. And, be open, ask them to notify you when such things occur.
8. Encourage your child to take up an interesting activity: Let the child develop his talents. Allow your child to take up a physical activity like dance, gymnastics, karate, tennis, cricket or just about any sport. This enables them to become physically fit and stronger. Most importantly, they will develop friendships and feel good about themselves. That’s the opposite of how bullies make them feel! Your child will develop a positive outlook toward towards life and be a far cry from the vulnerable kid the bullies look for - in the first place.
Tell us about your experience. Do you have any anti-bullying tips? Do let us know in the comments below.