Bullies! No one wants their precious children to be bullied , but if one is not discerning you may not even know. Before we even talk about how we can stop bullying lets define what bullying is and give some statistics.
Bullying can be defined as verbal or physical abuse that is consistent, intentional and there must be power imbalance; i.e. the bully feels he has some power over the person being bullied. While bullying is not restricted to children we shall be looking at child bullying in this article. Almost one-third of young teens worldwide have recently experienced bullying, yep that’s huge!
There are different forms of bullying sometimes verbal (contrary to the popular rhyme words do hurt), physical, exclusion (ostracism) , and cyber bullying. Many times bullying can involve all of the above and more. Children can be bullied for different reasons, for their looks, for their size , and for no reason at all, however there is no justifiable reason for a child or indeed anyone to be bullied.
Sadly, your children may not actually tell you if they are being bullied (for a variety of reasons) so we must watch our children carefully to see if any signs of bullying. So as a parent how do you know if your child is being bullied?
- Mood swings: For teens mood swings may be expected, but when there is a sudden change it may mean that something is going on.
- Lack of interest: When your child suddenly looses interest in usual activities or routines.
- Missing objects
- Acting like they are hiding something
- Reluctance to go back to school
- Drop in grades
There are so many signs and it really is sometimes hard to know what exactly is going on but just keep attentive and be prayerful. Once you are able to confirm that your child is being bullied talk to your child, don’t shame or blame them or make them feel it is their fault they are being bullied. Rather find ways to affirm them and counsel them to repair any damage that has been done. Talk to their school about what’s going on and get them to intervene. Your interaction with the school will make a difference. In a a nutshell some steps that should be taken immediately include;.
- Counselling: Talk to them or/and get a qualified person to talk to them. Bullying is traumatic and they will need to talk about it and heal from it all
- Reassurance : Let your child be reassured, let them know that you care and that the bully is wrong to have acted in such a harmful way
- Take it up: It may be necessary to take it up to the school to ensure that it never occurs again, not just to your child but any child at all.
- Respond: Your response will depend on the situation but you will definitely need to respond. If you do nothing your child will feel let down and will be reluctant to open up again. Your response may involve talking to the school authorities, the bully’s parents or even changing your childs school depending on the severity. Whatever you response needs to be make sure do not just ignore the incident.
- Build up self-esteem : You must do your best to build up the self esteem of your child. You can do this by celebrating your child’s accomplishments and by showing interest in what they do. Let them know that though no one is perfect but that they are pretty good at certain things. Do not be overly critical and even when they do something wrong criticise the act and not them. A healthy self esteem is critical for preventing and dealing with bullies.
- Role play: Act out certain scenarios and teach them how to respond. Ask them what they should do if a person calls them names i.e. If someone makes fun of them for being tiny a good response may be to ignore them and walk away or tell them in an assertive voice not to try that again. Another response may be to inject humour and say something funny like ” yes o I am small but mighty”. Teach them not to shrink under the hurtful words.
How can you prevent bullying?
Some steps above can also prevent bullying e.g building self esteem. Another preventive measure is to ensure that you the parent are also not bullying them or calling them or anyone else unkind names. You also need to ensure that your domestic help and relatives at home are not doing same. This is because if your child is already used to certain behaviour in the home then he will feel it’s normal and also accept same in school. Ensure that the communication lines between you and your child are open so that they are free to confide in you.
As busy parents we must be very observant and prayerful to ensure our children are not harmed by the destructive act of bullying. Where you or any of your children bullied? How did you handle it? Please share in the comment section.