Bullying In School - Steps To Be Taken As A Parent
Bullying is something every child faces at school at some point of time in their school life. Now with the introduction of online schooling there are new ways of bullying by children. At school level many children bully on how the other child looks (body shaming), the way the kids learn (learning issues), children are made fun of their race or religion, they are made fun of social status and things they bring to school like lunches, stationeries, children also emotionally bully other children by spreading rumours and half-truths.
Most kids face teasing with a family member like sibling, cousin or uncle at some point and it is fun and not harmful. If both of them find it funny there are no issues but when teasing goes one level higher and it hurts the child and it is repetitive and unkind it crosses over to the thin line of bullying and it needs to be stopped.
A parent or a sibling cannot be at the side of the child when bullying happens in school. In school bullying can be physical (hitting, shoving, punching, kicking and other physical attacks), verbal (name calling, teasing, commenting, snide remarks), emotional (spreading grapevines, sabotaging the reputation, breaking confidences), cyber (using email, messages and other social media to harass people) and sexual bullying (crude comments, sexual name-calling, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching).
Teasing vs bullying
Teasing is for fun while bullying is intentional tormenting of the child. Bullying is sometimes sly while at other times it is mean. When your child is bullied they may also react in very different way. Sometimes they may refuse to go to school. Sometimes they turn aggressive and sometimes they go into a shell. In school not only kids bully each other there is bullying from the adults too.
Prevention is the key
We have read about many incidents where bullies have been teachers. The best way to help our children is for us to be informed and then help them help themselves by confronting the bullies. Every day or at least every week talk to your child about school and the teachers. I talk to my children almost every day and I find out which children are the ones they get along with and which they don’t. Communication is the key. If you find a problem or suspect your child to be a victim, ask more questions about social situations to your children. While speaking to them keep your emotions in check, control frustration, irritation and anger and don’t overreact to the situation. They need support and assurance and not drama.
Signs of bullying
If you are not sure but you suspect your child to be a victim look out for bruise marks, scratches and healing wounds. Have eye contact when you speak to them to find out if they are hiding something from you. Look out for signs of withdrawal and the way they refuse to accompany family functions and shopping trips. Low academic performance, lost or destroyed belongings, having nightmares and having health issues are some signs of bullying. Depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, emotional outbursts, secretiveness and distress are other main signs to look out for. School buses are also a place where children are bullied because there are no authoritative adults. My son refused to go to the school by bus for some time when the older children were bullying and both me and my husband spoke to him to make him understand the nature of bullies and how he should not become a victim of bullying by reacting to it.
Responding and taking action
Listen to whatever your child tells you. Do encourage them with questions if necessary, but do not interrupt their flow of the story. Focus on listening and not on solving the issue. Weigh the pros and cons of the story of your child. Listen calmly and make sure they understand that it is not their fault. Tell your child that they have your support and you believe in them and you are happy that they came and confided in you. Try to find how you can help. Ask them what kind of support they require. Go to the school and talk to the teacher at school and if the child is being bullied by the teacher, meet the principal. The school is sure to have a code of conduct and a bullying policy. Reassure your child that you will always be there for them and they can talk to you anytime.
When your child goes to the play area or to the bathroom ask them to take a friend with them so they are not alone with the bully, secondly teach them that reacting to the bully makes the bully feel powerful- ask them to practice cool down activities such as counting to 10, walking away and taking deep breaths. Ignoring the bully works in some cases as sometimes the bully gets bored when there is no reaction and finally asks them to talk to adults whom they trust at school to ease the situation.
As a parent make sure that the school your child studies in has acceptance of children from all religions, caste and creed. Find out how they deal with bullying. Use parent teacher meetings to discuss issues. Inclusiveness is very important as the child’s confidence can be injured. Make sure your child establishes good friendships and participates in lots of activities in school so they have a positive influence with their friends.
Umayal Subramaniam is an Early Childhood Educator with over a decade of experience and runs her own play school. She is a commerce graduate with an MBA in finance and a mother of two boys. She is currently pursuing her research in Multiple Intelligences.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.