Bullying in Children: Prevention & Response

Cases of bullying among children will always be a matter of concern among parents. Bullying involves the aggressive exertion of unbalanced power or control from the abuser towards the victim. This behaviour is usually sustained over a long period of time, or at least has the potential to be a constant burden on a child’s life.

Various researches on child abuse show that children experience violence in places or locations that are familiar to them, and are at many times committed by people they know. This is no exception when one considers the stereotypes that exist regarding bullying at school by peers, and even educators/staff.

Children who are the victims of bullying usually go through a variety of changes, both visible and subtle. Here are some signs that indicate that a child might be the victim of bullying:

  1. Experiencing bouts of unpleasant emotions and severe psychological stress. For example, increased anxiety when talking about school, or even not wanting to go to school or join any extracurricular activities. This is usually accompanied by general feelings of low self-confidence, and a tendency to say negative things such as “no one likes me”, “I have no friends” etc.
  2. Experiencing a decline in achievement at school. This is due to more effort being exerted towards avoiding drawing attention to themselves and becoming targets of regular bouts of bullying, rather than focusing that attention on any type of academic pursuits. In such an environment, the child will no longer have any desire to learn, as they will find it difficult to focus on their studies for fear of incurring torment or harassment.
  3. Having bruises without them explaining why. Victims of bullying will often feel anxious when confronted with their deteriorating physical conditions (such as showing up with blue and black splotches on their face/body). Therefore, they will often simply choose to stay silent about the matter and bottle up the pain, maybe even lie so as to not draw attention to themselves.
  4. Describing other people’s circumstances in negative terms such as “they’re stupid” or “he deserves all the pain he gets in life”, as well as feeling unconcerned when others are noticeably suffering.
  5. Thoughts of revenge. This is the most dangerous impact that bullying can have as it can potentially motivate a child to commit violence against others as an attempt to take revenge for the ill treatment they have experienced.

Bullying in children cannot be taken lightly. This can affect a child’s quality of life in the long term, and can lead to the child developing low self-esteem and a long term pessimistic attitude about life.

If the child experiences noticeable changes due to bullying, here are some actions that can be taken on the part of the parent:

1. Listen                                                                   

  • Approach the situation seriously but don’t be intimidating. Control your emotions; make sure that you are there to help your child, first and foremost.
  • If you don’t agree with how your child has been handling the bullying, avoid criticising them. This is because every child differs in their ability to handle criticism, and might simply lack the maturity to understand their situation with clarity.
  • Make it understood that they are not at fault, and that you won’t take any action without telling your child first.
  • Communicate using interactive, non-violent means.

2. Give Support

  • Encourage your child to interact with more amiable friends in class, or help them to make friends outside of school.
  • Teach children how to protect themselves, such as how to ask for assistance from trustworthy adults.
  • Discuss and make further plans as to how to deal with overly aggressive children around them. Do not encourage your child to take revenge, especially physically.

3. Handle with Care

  • Talk to the school and find out what they can do about the situation.
  • Check your child’s condition regularly.
  • As a precaution, guide and supervise your child when using social media and moderate what they watch on television. Avoid shows that contain violence. Be a good example by teaching each other how to respect one another.
  • If you require assistance, you can go to the nearest health, legal, or social service center located within your area.

The earlier the instance of bullying occurs, the more serious the future implications are on the child’s emotional, social, educational and psychological development. Indeed, the impact of bullying can threaten every party involved; victims, perpetrators, as well as youngsters who regularly bear witness to acts of bullying. Hence, there must be a comprehensive effort to prevent the occurrence of bullying on a societal level. Preventive action can be applied first within the family unit simply by way of proper parenting methods, such as instilling religious values ​​in children and teaching them how to love others.

In addition, it is very important for parents to teach empathy to their children, which is fundamental in helping youngsters understand the emotional state of those around them. Empathy should start at home. When a child trips up, parents can help calm them and provide positive reinforcement. Such actions help to make children more aware that they are not going through moments of difficulty on their own. Additionally, when children establish a secure bond with their parents, children are more likely to show empathy for others, directly preventing them from bullying or even becoming bullies themselves.

Reference: Ministry of Education and Culture, Research and Technology, Intelligent in Character, Freedom from Bullying

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