Bullying is a growing cause of concern for families and schools. Statistics have shown that many kids encounter bullying – either as a perpetrator, a victim, or an observer. It is a specific interaction which builds on a power imbalance between peers. It is a form of aggression that may have long-lasting psychological implications for both, the victims as well as the bullies.
Occasional aggressive behavior can be a normal part of play, however, bullying is repeated, planned and built with the intent to cause harm or exert more control. It may be in different forms, like spreading rumors or a physical assault or cyber bullying.
Most commonly witnessed in childhood, the effects of bullying sometimes continue to linger even after leaving school. The effects can be so long term that it can also impact the normal behavior of an individual to some extent. The harmful effects of bullying include experiencing more physical symptoms and illnesses, poor school performance, and lowered self-esteem. In extreme cases, bullying has also been linked to violence.
Since bullying is a repeated behavior, it is important to break the cycle of reinforcement. For the kid and even caregivers, understanding and recognizing such hurtful behavior is critical. Parents or teachers should be on the ball with identifying certain behavioral changes in the kid as these can be an indication of bullying. Victims of bullying, for instance, may become cautious, quiet, or shy.
While going through such mental trauma, kids become worried or unhappy with low self-confidence. There may be chances that they distance themselves from their close friends. Such symptoms are an indicator that the kid is facing some troubles in his social group and parents should not waste any time and speak to their kid outright. Often under peer pressure and the fear of failure, kids may restrain from speaking to their parents about bullying. Parents should ensure that their child has a comforting atmosphere at home where their problems are heard without any presumptions. This way, kids will understand that telling an adult about bullying is the right thing to do and that they are not to blame. It is important that kids feel comfortable in sharing and expressing themselves freely.
Parents sometimes face trouble in interacting with kids about bullying as they lack the language and strategies of dealing with bullying. It is important for adults and caregivers to help those who are bullied learn strategies for coping with bullies, and to help witnesses learn to stand up to bullies and deprive them of an audience. Friendship is another way of dealing with bullying as meaningful friendships can reduce the risk of victimization. It is integral that parents teach their kid to respect limits and personal space of other people and friends. They could begin with encouraging their kid to understand limits and saying “NO” or “STOP” even in normal play.
Additionally, encouraging kids to stand up to the bully and helping others if they are witnessing bullying can prevent the problem from aggravating. It is important to help kids understand that it is normal to experience fear and apprehension when standing up to a bully and that when done in a group, these feelings become easier to overcome. In order to deal with their feelings about being bullied or about experiencing/witnessing abuse and violence, kids should be encouraged to reach out to a trusted adult.
Parents must ensure that the kid understands that feeling bad, angry or scared is normal and that they are not to blame. Regularly counseling children about the importance of not changing themselves to be a part of a group can also be a helpful tactic. Each kid has his/her own individuality and they are special in their own way. A positive sense of self is an important quality for kids to develop.
At this point, it’s important to bear in mind that a child may not always be at the receiving end of bullying. There are cases when after having experienced bullying the kid feels the need to retaliate and starts becoming the bully himself. Often this conduct may go unnoticed by parents. However, there are ways to avoid such behavior by encouraging kindness in social interactions. Parents can start with teaching kids to be kind and to respect their peers, juniors, and adults. Positive role modeling starts at home, it is critical that adults also demonstrate positive behavior in their daily interactions towards house-help, friends, and their parents.
Promoting habits of sharing and turn-taking in your child can go a long way in ensuring that they grow up to become a considerate and humble adult. Parents should always reward and acknowledge small acts of kindness or any good act that the kid does. Help kids recognize their own behavior and feelings and teach them to express anger or fear without hurting anyone physically or emotionally.
TV shows like Galli Galli Sim Sim, Sesame Street and the videos available on www.galligallisimsim.com and sesamestreet.org can help parents explain such habits to their little ones. The “I love Elmo” segments in these TV shows have been specially designed to help parents know more about the strategies that can help build resiliency in their child.
In conclusion, it’s important for parents to realize that bullying should be taken very seriously and dealt with immediately. If left unchecked, bullies get the message that adults find mean behavior acceptable and the problem may get worse and involve more kids. By creating open lines of communication and support networks at home and at school, teachers, parents and students can work together to create a safer environment for all kids. If needed, parents should not shy away from speaking to the teachers at school to ensure a comfortable environment for their kid to study and learn.
This article was also featured on Zee News.
Senior Manager – Education & Research,
Sesame Workshop in India
Sesame Workshop in India