A pre-teen came back from school, upset. The reason was that she felt excluded during lunch. No one had said anything mean to her but she was ignored as the rest of the girls chatted away to each other, without replying to her comments. This happened again and again, and though there was no physical abuse, no verbal taunts and no fights, her friends chose to consistently ignore her. The result was that this otherwise bubbly girl retreated in to her shell and became reticent. Very often she would refuse to go to school.
This bullying story is not uncommon and this could be any school and any child. However, this should not go unnoticed. Bullying in any form has a negative impact. It not only affects the self-esteem of the one who is bullied, but it also creates an environment that is detrimental to general wellbeing of all. It is necessary therefore, to understand what is bullying. When parents and schools partner to create a bully-free environment, a supportive and collaborative community is created for all.
What is bullying?
Bullyinginvolves deliberately hurting or upsetting another person through hurtful words, actions or social exclusions. It is often an unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It may not just be one incident, but a behavior that is repeated (or has the potential to be repeated) over time.
What are the different types of bullying?
Physical: Hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, grabbing etc.
Verbal: Insults, name-calling, teasing, threats and racial slurs.
Social: Gossiping, rumours, and exclusion from group activities.
Online: Cyberbullying through text messages, email and social networking sites.
(See Channel News Asia’s video on Cyber-bullying here).
What are the warning signs?
According to the Children’s Society, the warning signs of a child being bullied are:
• Unexplainable injuries and bruises
• Changes in eating habits
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books and stationeries
• Sleeping difficulty
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches
• Feeling sick or faking illness
• Declining grades
• Refusal to go to school
• Sudden loss of friends or isolation
What can parents do to help?
1) Nurture a Bully-Free Environment
Empower your children to stand up against bullying, and to report if they see their friends being bullied as well. You can also talk to your children about the various ways they can support a bullied friend.
2) Stay calm and support your child
Dr Eileen Kennedy Moore, author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, suggests that parents should teach their children to keep their reactions neutral in case of bullying. This discourages the bully from picking on them again. Similarly, parents should stay calm themselves while supporting their child. Dr Jole Habel explains more. Watch the video here.
Other preventive suggestions include, regularly talking to your child about the things going on in his or her life, being in touch with the teachers to know how your child is doing socially, andlistening and responding to all complaints about bullying from your children (even if they seem trivial).
3) Nip bullying in the bud
It is not enough to talk just about being bullied. Have a discussion on being a bully as well. Talk to your child about empathy and trust to ensure that he or she does not engage in bullying behaviour. It is also a good idea to have a discussion on consequences and put certain corrective measures in place (if needed).
Read Parent Coach, Tina Feiga’s tips here
Where to Get Help?
- The school is always the first point of contact for any bullying incident at school.
- Singtel and Touch Cyber Wellnesshave launced a mobile app notAnoobieas a resource for parents. The aim is to protect children from online bullying.
- •Bully-Free Programme @ Children’s Society
Parents as Partners
Parents and school form the very pillars on which children’s developmental stages are based upon. Taking a united stand against bullying ensures that positive experiences shape their growth.
(This article was originally commissioned by GIGIS. It has been modified to fit this space.)