#AtoZ Parenting

Is your kid bullied at school? Know the signs. Know, what to do.

Have you ever been a victim of bullying?  Do you know that every third child in India is bullied at School?

When I was in 5th standard, I had a classmate, who used to eat my tiffin every day and give all her boring veggies to me. I went to the class teacher to complain. She warned the girl. But nothing changed. Then I reported it to my father. He came to school immediately the next day. The bully saw my father talking to my class teacher. My father even waited till the lunch break to talk to the bully.

But, she just didn’t turn up at the lunch break. Surprisingly, from the next day, she and I actually started having good conversations. Maybe, she realized what she was doing was not ok. Super glad to share that we are still in touch.

Yes, even I was bullied at school. When talked about it, bullying can stop. The key point is to educate ourselves as well as the kids about it.

Let’s have a glance at some intriguing facts that emerged when we were researching the topic.

The problem of bullying is more prevalent than we think. A recent newspaper report throws up some serious numbers. About 42% of students of class 4-8 and 36% of class 9-12 are victims of harassment in various forms. They mostly are bullied at school.

What does bullying mean?

It simply means someone is being hurt, embarrassed or insulted by another person’s actions or words. It is mostly an aggressive behavior by the bully to show his power over the other. The bullying doesn’t stop with one instance. It always gets repeated. On many occasions, it causes serious problems for the victim and leaves a long-term scar on their psyche. In some cases, the bully themselves got shaken up by the negative impact of what they had done. It left a deep guilt in them which they could never forget.   

A kid can get bullied at school, home, college or online as well. Not every bully is the same. They may find various ways to trouble the victim. Among a few methods, the bully may be spreading rumors, threatening, hurting physically, being sarcastic or excluding someone from the group.

Types of bullying.

Physical Bullying.

Physical bullying means hurting a person’s body or their belongings. It includes kicking, punching, slapping or any other form through which the bully can hurt the person physically. Bullies also take or break someone’s belongings.  It is the most common way used by bullies to victimize a person.

Verbal Bullying.

When someone says or writes mean things about another person, it is considered as verbal bullying. The aim is to demean, insult or humiliate the victim. Verbal bullying is more common than physical bullying. It is often more persistent than physical bullying as it can be done even when physically we are not in the same space. It can also be done without anyone noticing it. I can speak in soft tones and bully you. No one will be able to notice it. In physical bullying, we need to be alone if I want to bully you without anyone noticing it.

Cyberbullying.

This type of bullying didn’t exist when we were in school. But, it is the most serious issue today.  India is ranked third on the list of Global Cyberbullying. We see children handling smartphones, internet, and many other gadgets. Cyberbullying is when a bully uses these as a medium to threaten or hurt the victim. To give an example, posting hurtful images or messages, teasing by messaging in the groups, or posting means statements on social media platforms. Because children are carrying gadgets almost all the time, it is easier for bullies to target the victim in cyberspace.

Social Bullying.

When the child is bullied on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation, it is considered as social bullying. A bully can hurt the person, physically, verbally or through digital mediums.  Bullies target those who are different from others and corner them.

Bully Targets following children-

A New Joinees at the School.

Bullies generally target students who are new at school. New kids have left their previous school. They are emotionally vulnerable as they miss their friends as a support. It is easy to victimize them. So, if you are planning to change the school of your child, prepare them for it.

A child with a disability or an illness.

Children with special needs are often targeted. Also, any kind of illness, allergies or down syndrome makes them vulnerable.  It happens because of the lack of empathy amongst the bullies. So as a parent, make sure that there is enough support provided by the school.

Specific Physical Appearance.

This is one of the most common reasons for bullying. If a child is thin, tall, short, obese, wear glasses or any other ‘difference’ in appearance can make them a victim. A bully will pick up on those features to tease or humiliate the child.

A Talented or determined kid.

You be bad, you are targeted. If you are good at something, you may again be targeted.  

The bully like to torment. Anyways they will find a reason to trouble you. A lot of kids are harassed when they take some extra efforts in what they do. Their talent receives a lot of attention from everyone. Bullies feel inferior because of this attention to others. They want this attention for themselves. When they do not get it, they put down people who get it.

Kids with Vulnerable Personality traits.

If a kid is an introvert, anxious or submissive, they are more likely to get bullied at school. Bullies target kids who are suffering from trauma or depression. Their personality traits make them vulnerable even to respond to the acts.

The first thing that parent needs to do is, observe and understand if their children are showing any signs of being bullied.

Know the signs.

  1. Broken or missing belongings such as toys, school supplies, lunch boxes etc.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms – not talking to anyone. Staying lonely.
  3. Brings back uneaten tiffin or demands more food while going to school.
  4. Change in sleeping cycle.
  5. A frequent headache or stomach ache complaints.
  6. Unexplained scars, marks or cuts on the body.
  7. Doesn’t want to attend school or college.
  8. The sudden and noticeable decrease in academic scores.
  9. Moon swing without any cause. Children may act anxious, angry, sad or moody.
  10. A sudden change in behavior. Ex- If your child was openly talking to you, but if he suddenly stops about it.
  11. Decreased self-esteem.
  12. Mention about self-destructive actions such as running away from home, talking about suicides or hurting themselves.

How to help children deal with bullying?

First thing first. Identify the bullies.

Who is bullying your little soul? It can be anyone from his own sibling or some seniors at the school. Talk to your child or talk to the child’s friends. They will be good sources for you to know the truth.

Ask your child to report everytime he is bullied at school.

Whenever you feel that the child is a victim of bullying, tell them to talk to the teachers or any other school attendant present at that particular moment. Immediate reporting of the event helps a lot.

Make the school management aware of the happenings at the school.

As soon as you know about the bullies, do report it to the management of the school. The management will look into the issue and will take the necessary action.

Contact the bully’s parents.

Let them know about it so that they also will know about their child’s behavior in school. Bully’s parents will also need to keep an eye on them. Clear your doubts to find the reason behind their behavior.

Empathize and tell them it is not their fault.

Most of the children bullied at school think that it is their mistake. It must be something that they did which triggered the incident. Such is never the case. Sit with your child if he/she feels so. Tell them about the reasons why this must be happening. They will stop blaming themselves.

Create a comfortable environment.

Most children do not share what is happening at the school. Because they are threatened by the bullies.  The only thing that can help in such a situation is making the child comfortable. Forcing or yelling will only make them sad.  

Suggest your child to stay in a group all the time.

As soon as your child admits that he is bullied at school, tell him to make friends. Suggest him to stay with a group or wherever makes him feel secure. Bullies target lonely kids.

Help them act brave, ignore the bully and control their own anger.

They need to stand up and state clearly, this bullying is not right and will not be tolerated. When the bullies see a child as strong, they back off.

Communicate with them frequently to restore confidence.

Take them for an outing with people they enjoy. Introduce them to various activities. Boost their confidence and self-esteem. A positive attitude helps greatly to come over such situations.

The feeling of being bullied at school can destroy someone’s life completely at an early age. But, we parents can do a lot to save our children. Let’s take a step ahead with all the possible ways to ensure our kids are not victims of bullying.

The Author

Manasi Kulkarni-Kutwal

Manasi Kulkarni-Kutwal

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