Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bullying- Is Your Child A Victim?

It's a harsh reality of the world that each and every child will, at some time in their life, be bullied in some capacity- be it emotionally, socially or even physically. Though it is observed everywhere, it is shamelessly rampant in schools and our children, being inexperienced and impressionable, are most affected by its consequences.

I've been bullied in school, I remember the pain it caused and the lack of desire in going to school was the only thing that seemed to make sense. I think back as to why this was, I was a plump child in mid school, and that's when girls start to become mean. It takes very little for the 'popular kids' to band up against the shy awkward types. And now that I have school going children, I am dealing with this nightmare all over again except that it is much worse because as a mother you don't want your kids to be hurt in any fashion by anybody.

So what exactly is bullying? Everything that gives mental, emotional or physical stress to anybody is bullying. Though frowned upon, it is prevalent in schools to an alarming degree. It's scars can last a lifetime and in extreme cases it leads children to self harm, even suicide. It develops feelings like low self esteem, self loathing and lack of confidence.

So how do you know your child is being bullied? Most children will not ask for help because either it is too embarrassing or they feel you don't have the patience or the time or the understanding to help them. But some tell tale signs are:
Lack of desire to go to school, deteriorating grades, frequently lost or damaged property, unexplained bruises, depression, dietary changes, change in social activities, difficultly sleeping or nightmares, general anxiety, you get the picture.

About a year back my daughter was being tormented by a teacher, she was given unfair grades, yelled at for no reason and she would be getting told off for others' mistakes. Life was a mess for all of us. She became moody and withdrawn, there was a loss of appetite and the usual bubbly demeanor was gone. Obviously it didn't seem to be getting better, so I approached the supervisor. On my face she said she would look into it and was very supportive but things just got worse as she herself taunted my daughter about complainng about teachers to her mom and this set off the already angry teacher further. I suppose divine intervention came at the opportune moment and her teacher changed and with that change so did her entire mood and attitude. She was back to being a happy enthusiastic kid. But not everybody gets that lucky. When dealing with bullying outside the peer group it is more tricky, and really listening to your child and then being objective is important.

I came across this very nice poster for advice to be given to children on bullying- obviously within their peer group:

And what are you as a parent/teacher/bystander going to do about it? The rule of thumb has to be ZERO TOLERANCE. As long as adults do not acknowledge this alarming issue, things are not getting better.

If you are a parent it is your job to detect the bullying, then prompt the child to discuss his feelings, this is half the journey. If in the unfortunate case you are unable to do much, your very presence will be a huge source of solace for your child.

As a teacher it is your responsibility to protect children when they are under your care and bullies are no exception. They have to be taken to task and the underlying cause determined with the help of the parents. Often bullies are victims of unfortunate circumstances themselves.

As a bystander you still need to support children or adults being bullied around you, even one person can make a difference. You cannot watch in silence. Stopping bullying on the spot sends the strong message that this type of nonsense will not be tolerated.

All the categories of people mentioned on the right have to be educated about no tolerance towards bullying. It would save immeasurable potentials of children, teen aged lives and heaps of money in health bills.

Sometimes we think to ourselves that we should let the children handle the situation themselves because in all likelihood things will just get worse and how will they learn real life lessons and toughen up? And though I agree that the world has all sorts of bullies at every corner, a point comes when bullying can break your child. If the tell tale signs are there, take a step towards your child and team up with them and see where your mutual efforts take you. 

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