It has all happened to us — being young, being mocked by one or more other children, and ourselves making fun of another person. That’s normal; it’s part of the development of social skills in children. However, when offensive gestures or words become repetitive, we are talking about bullying.
There are three roles a child can play in bullying: the abuser, the victim, and the witness. The aggressor (abuser) is the one who commits the actions or says the words. Other attackers may accompany him. The victim is the one for whom gestures or words are intended. Finally, the witness may have seen or heard a situation of intimidation. They play an extensive role in the fight against bullying, sometimes becoming an abuser themselves.
Bullying can take many forms: psychological abuse (hurtful words, threats, false rumors, inappropriate gestures, blackmail, and so on) and physical violence (beating, tripping, and so on). Bullying can also be experienced in the form of discrimination or voluntary exclusion of a group.
When attending a daycare, it is normal to see children excluded from others over a short period and with good reason (for example, one child takes another’s toy without asking). However, from an early age, it is essential to instill in our children values of tolerance and respect. We must make them understand that it is normal that we do not get along well with everyone, but we must respect and tolerate everything and everyone. As an adult, it can sometimes be challenging to learn to tolerate others, hence the importance of instilling it as early as possible in children.
The development of social skills is critical for bullying, for both the victim and the abuser. The child must learn to manage conflict appropriately and respectfully and to be sensitive to others through the development of empathy, among others. The child must also learn to assert himself respectfully. In many school settings and sometimes even on-call, social skills and development programs are often provided to children. As a parent, you can find out more about these programs from the teacher or administrator. It would be beneficial to also use the lessons or tips (i.e. listening, speaking respectfully, problem solving, etc.) from the programs in your home. This ensures a measure of consistency.
In a bullying scenario, it is essential to understand that both the abuser and the victim need help. The child must learn to name situations that bother him, so if your child is being bullied, he can get help talking to an adult. Then talk to the teacher so he or she can direct you to the right resource at school. If the situation does not get better, it is essential to discuss it with an intervention professional (i.e. social worker or specialized educator) available at schools. It’s important to verify that the principal of the school was informed that there had been intimidation and that your expectation is that they follow up and keep an eye open on the matter.
It is vital for your child to understand that to denounce is not a weakness and that they do not deserve to be intimidated. If you see that your child is anxious or opposed to the idea of going to school, seems more irritable and moody, or experience sleepless nights, do not hesitate to question them about the possibility that they are intimidated. If you open the door on this, your child will be more inclined to name the situation that bothers them.
On a personal note the topic of Bullying is one that is very close to my heart because as a child I experienced years of abuse an at times administered my wrath to others as a way of showing that I am strong to my abusers and onlookers. What’s mind blowing about bullying is that it has been a persistent problem that has refused to go away and is rapidly increasing. More disturbing and alarming is how children under the age of 10 are so involved in picking at their peers and making them feel alienated.
Sadly, this aggressive behavior isn’t inborn but an attitude that is easily picked from society at a very fast pace, quicker than children can understand their school work. However, before a way forward can be pursued and implemented, some basic information about bullying must be understood. It is very likely that children see evidence of bullying around them every day but sometimes confused on which is to be classified as bullying. An as a result they are left feeling lost and confused which is why I felt the need to write “Bully Here, Bully There, Do You Care? Anti-Bullying Workbook”
In this workbook children are introduced to bullying in a way they can comprehend so they can better understand this social problem and how to appropriately react or respond when they are bullied or see someone else being bullied. It also provides them with an opportunity to explore effective ways to cultivate self-worth, values, effective communication skills, and deal with bullies.
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