By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Bullying can be defined as repeated and systematic harassment and attacks on others considered weaker. It is any behavior which intends to hurt another person physically or emotionally. It includes not only the more obvious actions like punching, kicking, name-calling and teasing, but also spreading rumors, pointing out physical handicaps, shouting racial taunts, excluding victims from groups, and humiliating.
Children who are intimidated, threatened, or harmed by bullies often experience low self-esteem and depression, whereas those bullying may go on to engage in more serious antisocial behaviors as adults. Bullies often have been the victims of bullying or other mistreatment themselves.
Young children are more likely to tell parents or caretakers about them being bullied than older children. If you suspect that your child is a victim of bullying, look out for the following signs:
- Reluctance or refusal to go to school
- Starts bullying younger siblings or children of relatives and friends
- Becomes aggressive, rude or disobedient
- Becomes withdrawn and shuts himself up in his room
- Difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting
- Comes home with physical injuries
- Stops eating
- Poor academic performance, seems distracted
Remember, bullying occurs without the knowledge of teachers and parents, and that most victims are extremely reluctant to talk to adults about their problems. They may be ashamed and afraid that their parents and teachers may end up making the situation worse.
There is no 'right' time for you to talk with your child about bullying. Ask the child directly if he/she is being bullied. The child might deny it initially, but with patience he/she would surely relent. Provide practical solutions on how to find a way around it. Plan out ways with your child to avoid the situations where the bullying occurs. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to teach their kids to physically fight back. This can only make things worse. Work with the school immediately to make sure your child is safe, that effective measures are undertaken to stop the bully, and that monitoring at school is adequate.
Bullies often target lonely and timid children. Encourage your child to socialize and make friends. This will also make them feel confident. Focus on the child's strengths and interests and motivate the child to enhance his/her capabilities.
If your child is the bully, take the situation very seriously. Talk with your child and tell him that this kind of behavior will not be acceptable. Try to find the underlying cause of your child's behavior. Seek help from a school psychologist, social worker, or children's mental health centre in the community if you would like support in working with your child.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.