After taking the time to decide on the right school for our child and seeing the little one sitting behind a big desk with only pigtails sticking out – we go home with a tear in our eye and a warm heart. You have put in the effort, paid the money, interviewed the teacher, prepared your child; now she will be safe and it is a matter of learning and doing homework for the next decade.
Your perfect dream comes to an end when your first grader comes home during the first week in tears, telling you about the horrible child in her class. He makes jokes about her hair, he calls her dumb, he teases her for wearing glasses and takes her lunch treats from her bag when the teacher is not watching. Not once did you up to this moment consider the possibility of school yard BULLIES….
Every child – bully and victim have a right to be at school. The rights of the children do vary though in the sense that all children have a right to be educated and play in a safe environment. They have a right to experience a sense of community within the school, feel a sense of social value and feel that they are being listened to. The bully makes his victim feel small, weak, alone and useless. They do not treat their victims with dignity and respect that they deserve, therefore stripping them completely of their rights.
The bully’s attack can be verbal or physical or both. He/she tends to like the students who are timid , shy and struggle to stand up for themselves. Ironically they like scaring others, because they are scared. They exert power over others in order to feel less powerless. These bullies have a fear of being dislikes and abused and therefore rather put themselves in the abusive role than make themselves vulnerable. Quite often they have been abused by classmates or adults. They have an intense fear that others would make fun of them – so they will pick on weaker children to look cool. Their behaviour becomes so entrenched that they need someone to help them break the pattern.
If parents suspects that their child might be bullied look out for the following signs:
- Minor ailments in the morning before school, for example headache or stomach ache.
- A constant theme of not wanting to go to school in the mornings.
- Requests to be driven to school instead of taking the bus or walking to school.
- A refusal to take part in school activities.
- Noticeable cuts and bruises, a loss of money and property or damages to his school clothes or property.
- If your child becomes withdrawn, develops a lack of confidence, struggles sleeping and experiences nightmares.
- If he suddenly starts wetting his bed.
- Starts requesting money on a more regular basis or even talking money without your consent.
- If your previously responsive child do not want to discuss what is wrong in his life currently.
- A sudden increase in aggressive and irrational behavior
- When he is obviously hiding the truth behind unlikely excuses.
Some practical advice for children dealing with bullies:
1. You have to be courageous to confront a bully.
2. You have to put your foot down and say: “That is enough!” If you cannot say it, ask a friend or an adult to say it for you.
3. Bullies like to get to you when you are alone. Try and make sure you always have a friend or two close by.
4. Ask for help. If you are too shy, write down the bully’s name and what he does that you do not like and put it on your teacher’s desk. Someone needs to know. If he is bullying you, he might be doing it to others as well.
5. Do not try to fight with a bully. Violence is not the answer. You are beter than him!
6. Talk to yourself – tell yourself that you can stand up to him. Say it over and over and over again. Soon you will believe it!
7. Always stick to the facts and avoid your feelings when you talk to the bully. You do not want to give him more ammunition.
8. Lela Davidson said it is OK to BAIL, when BAIL stands for
- B – Be direct: “I do not like that! Please stop.”
- A – Avoid bully
- I – Ignore bully
- L – Laugh at bully. Make a joke along with bully to disarm him.
It is important that parents keep the following in mind when dealing with a bullied child: The child needs to feel valued. The bully strips him of his worth, makes him small and weak. Parents need to reinforce that the child is needed in the household, he has a purpose, his life is meaningful and most of all he is loved unconditionally for the person he is. Do not try to overcompensate by buying gifts or codding your child – he needs unconditional acceptance. It is important to focus on the child’s happiness and comfort at home and at school. Lastly it is very important that in addition to the school community that the child belongs to, the alternative safe communities (eg. Church, scouts, art clubs,etc.) are found where the child will feel accepted and learn other coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately the victim’s parents live with worry over their child and the bully’s parents usually with a combination of worry and embarassment.