Supporting Children at School and Protecting Them from Bullying
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It is not uncommon for parents these days to be concerned about bullying, especially given the innumerable media reports of bullying in school and their tragic repercussions. Almost half the number of school going children experience bullying in their school as well as in their neighbourhood at some time or the other. Schools generally take steps to control bullying and have school programs that provide child counselling. However, not many children report that they are being bullied; most are embarrassed and are reluctant to take the matter to the elders. Which is why, it is of utmost importance for parents to monitor and find out if their child is a victim of bullying or is actually the aggressor.
Children occasionally get into fights. Childhood fights and conflicts with friends, siblings or other children are normal. Both the children who are involved are equally upset. They feel remorseful and are apologetic, and seek ways to resolve the situation. Bullying, on the other hand, is a wilful, repetitive act seeking to control another person. The bully is rarely apologetic, rarely takes blame, is manipulative, and, in general, denies his or her involvement unless seen doing it. Children who are perceived as “different” are often targets of bullies. Children who are new to a school are also picked on. Bullies find some protection in these differences. Bullying can range from physical violence, such as tripping, shoving, punching, or kicking, to the emotionally damaging, such as isolating someone, teasing, taunting, or name calling (including racial remarks). These days, adolescents also resort to emails and social networks to harass others. In such cases, your home is no longer the refuge from bullying, since the situation follows the kid anywhere he is connected to the social media.
Is Your Child a Victim of Bullying?
Here are some indications that psychologists recommend you to look out for:
- Does your child often come home with bruises, but doesn’t give a proper explanation as to how he got them? Are his books or clothing torn?
- Is he or she reluctant to go to school? Does your child complain of headaches or stomach-aches frequently? Parents sometimes are impatient with children not wanting to go to school; they do not recognize this as an unvoiced cry for help. Does your child get frequent nightmares?
- Does your child avoid being alone with other children?
- Does your child ask you for money more often? This could be because someone has taken your kid’s pocket money.
- Is her school work suffering? Even if your child generally struggles in school, has there been a drastic drop in her grades?
- Is your child more irritable, tearful, sad, or depressed?
- Does your child appear to be a loner, with no friends to speak of, and doesn’t get invited/go to the homes of other kids?
If your child displays just a few, but not all, of the above indications, there is still reason to look further. While bullying need not always be the cause for the unhappiness of a child, other reasons, such as peer pressure, falling grades, and other stressors at school, can still affect the child psychologically. Hence, going for child counselling to arrive at the root cause is advisable.
How You Can Support Your Child
- Spend time with the child and find out what the problem is, and if someone is bullying her, who it is. Your child may not want to name the bully for fear of a backlash; so just encourage her to keep talking until the child feels confident enough to tell you.
- Learning that your child is being bullied can make your feel angry, but this will not resolve the issue. Reporting and discussing the situation calmly with the school authorities will ensure that they take the appropriate steps to put an end to the bullying. Be persistent with them until there is an outcome and the situation changes, without losing your temper.
- Do not contact the parents of the bully directly.
- Bullying can crush a child’s self esteem and can have long term consequences. Take care not to trivialise the issue. Don’t say, “It’s just a part of growing up; you just have to be strong and deal with it.”
- Don’t blame the child for not handling the situation better, but listen and be sympathetic.
- Let your child know that you love him and will always be there to support him.
- Help the child develop social skills by encouraging him or her to make new friends and participating in extracurricular activities. Sports, even if the child does not like physical activity, are about team and socialising. Or else, find other activities that involve your child mingling with his or her peers.
- Remember that you cannot immediately expect the child to overcome his fears. Sometimes, when the child is to overwhelmed, psychological help may be necessary. Child counselling can help the child regain his self confidence. You can call the Centre for Emotion Focused Practice to know more about the child counselling services that we offer.
Is Your Child a Bully?
It can be tough to accept that your child is tormenting other children. Nevertheless, nipping a delinquent behaviour in the bud will ensure that your child does not grow up into adulthood as an anti-social. If you fear that your child is showing bully traits, then psychologists recommend that you observe him or her for these indications:
- Does your child verbally or physically threaten his or her siblings or other children?
- Is your child constantly bragging?
- Does your child get poor grades?
- Does your child lose his temper often? Is he frustrated easily? Does your kid lie or cheat?
- Is he or she rebellious and aggressive?
- Is he or she violent and break things wilfully?
- Do you think your child spends time with other children who are a negative influence on him/her?
How to Reform a Bully
Bullies are not born but created. A child seeking parental attention, but not getting it, could slowly develop oppositional and defiant behaviour. Peer pressure could also compel the kid to behave in an anti-social manner. A need to be popular at school can often turn some children into bullies. Snubbing a “weaker” or sensitive classmate can give a feeling of superiority and an emotional high. The kid’s aggressive behaviour could also be a result of some troubling situation at home, such as fighting parents, fear of their divorce and a general insecurity.
- Bullies can also be manipulative and can make up stories where they appear innocent; so do not believe what the child says immediately, but get the facts right.
- Do not trivialise the matter or deny it saying it is just a part of growing up, etc.
- If your child is the aggressor, find out the real reason behind the behaviour.
- Do not shout at him/her and do not blame yourself.
- Tell your child firmly that you do not tolerate bullying, that it has to cease, and that he needs to change his negative attitude.
- Get the child away from negative peer pressure. Encourage him or her to get new friends. Encourage extracurricular activities.
- Continue to monitor the child, and keep in touch with the teachers as well.
- Your child could be stubborn and refuse to discuss his or her problem with you; a non-judgemental approach can help you get around this attitude.
- The bullying could also be due to a psychological disorder or sometimes undiagnosed hyperactivity.
- Bullies can be turned around if they get the love they seek from their parents. Let your child know that you love him or her, no matter what. Make him or her feel special. A loved child will turn out to be a caring individual.
Child Practitioners at the Centre
Mathew Gaynor is a practitioner at the centre who has experience in treating children.
To get an appointment or to make enquiries, please call (03) 9820-5577.
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