People can be cruel, you only have to watch news programs on television to realise that evolution has endowed us with a potential for viciousness which still simmers beneath the veneer of civilised behaviour. All parents and childcare professionals need to be aware of the damage bullying can do to our precious children. No child should be a victim of bullying as it can lead to lasting psychological problems including depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and thoughts of suicide.
Let's define bullying: A bully exhibits repeated aggressive behaviour which causes another person hurt or distress. Bullying can be physical, verbal or more subtle actions such as cyber-bullying using the Internet or mobile phones or other digital technologies to harass. The person being bullied usually cannot defend his or herself, and in most cases does nothing to cause the bullying.
Bullying can happen anywhere, but often it will be in the school building or yard, the school bus, the child's neighbourhood or on the Internet.
I have heard some people saying that bullying is inevitable and is just an experience children have to go through. But it should not be tolerated, it is not a passing phase that children will grow out of. It can and does cause lasting and serious harm.
As parents, nannies and childcare professionals we have to be aware of the warning signs of bullying. The signs that a child might be the victim of a bully are:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost, missing or damaged personal possessions
- Frequent claims of illness. such as headaches.
- Pretending to be sick in order to avoid school
- Falling academic results and general loss of interest in school work
- Listlessness, the appearance of helplessness and loss of self esteem
- Negative and self-destructive behaviour such as harming themselves or talk about suicide
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Sudden loss of friends.
- Change in socialisation habits.
More often than not children do not ask for help. bullying can make them feel helpless and may be telling themselves that they can manage the situation on their own so that they will be able to feel in control again. Also children may fear reprisals form the bully if he believes that his behaviour has been reported to an adult. Being bullied is very humiliating to the victim, they often do not want to repeat the things being said about them and they may be worried that it will appear trivial to an adult.
What should you do if you suspect you child is being bullied?
Immediately contact your child's teacher and explain your fears. She may have noticed some bullying behaviour but is unaware of the extent of it. The teacher may recommend that your child sees the school counsellor, or you can make that request yourself. If you feel that you are not getting satisfactory answers take it further by contacting the school principal or even the Department of Education. If you feel that you are not getting the full story from your child, talk to his friends and the parents of his friends. Do listen to your parent's intuition as the damage caused by even relatively brief episodes of bullying can last a lifetime.