This is how a victim of bullying shares her story:
“Although this might sound like a small thing to many of you, it had a huge impact on my life. I was constantly bullied by class fellows and my friends. They would call me names and put their hands over their faces when I crossed ways with them. Because I believe I’m an emotional person, I was really struck by it. I started to lose confidence in myself and started to have trust issues. I fell back academically and to somber extent, I had this confused personality where I would often find myself thinking whether or not I should trust some person…”
Bullying. Even though you may find it all over the internet and watch movies like Table No. 21, when it comes to actually supporting a child being bullied at school, most brown parents would worry more and do less. (The big boys eat all my Guddu’s lunch every day! My poor starving Guddu!)
Bullying usually takes place between individuals with an unequal state of power, which is usually age and sometimes gender based as well. For example, Guddu must be bullied by boys who are senior to him, thus ensuring a greater sense of authority and control in the hands of the bullies who are easily able to empower Guddu who is younger and, in the eyes of the bully, ‘weaker’ as well.
Shamir, a senior high-school student, says “Bullying is probably done to mark certain territories and to take respect. As in to tell them that it’s your territory, to tell them you’re in charge”.
Signs of Bullying
Before you begin to deal with a bullied child, you need to identify one. A smart brown parent may notice certain behavioral changes and personality traits that were not there before and ponder upon why they are emerging in the child. Below I have managed to list down some major and minor signs that may determine whether or not your child is being bullied:
- The child is being too clingy (doesn’t let go of your company even for a little while)
- Nightmares, night terrors and troubles while sleeping
- Sudden change in the eating habits
- Skipping activities once joyful (e.g. suddenly not interested in swimming, basketball or other activities that used to be very pleasurable to the child)
- Being upset after coming home from school
- Avoiding going to the bathroom at school (since usually bullies tend to bother the victim in places that are remote as compared to places where mostly people are; this includes parking lots as well)
- Engaging in negative self-talk (e.g. saying things like ‘I am not tall enough’ and ‘I don’t have pretty hair’)
- Losing school supplies and eatables on frequent basis (lunch, stationery, and toys etc.)
- Slowly isolating one’s self and not making any new friends (might as well be losing the old ones)
- Unexplained bruises and marks on the body (this is a major and one of the most notable sign that the child is being physically bullied)
Role Flipping: A major sign of bullying
At times, a child who is being bullied at school or in the neighborhood may bully other weaker children as a consequence. This is because the child might feel pressurized by the bully to such an extent that in order to retaliate, the child would let it all out by treating another child the same way he/she themselves were treated earlier. This phenomena of role flipping may also occur in some cases as a result of copy-cat behavior, whereby children imitate the actions of others, who are in this case a lot more powerful than him/her. Who doesn’t like being in power? Therefore, in such cases, a victim of bullying flips his/her role to become a bully themselves. Thus, you brown parents out there need to observe, whether the starving Guddu you have at home is playing nicely with Buntoo next-door? Or is he eating all of Buntoo’s parathas as a result of what happens with his own lunch every day?
How to help your child deal with bullying?
When you have identified certain patterns in your child’s actions and/or appearance that have justified that the child is being bullied, there are a couple of things that need to be kept in mind before you confront your child about it and begin to talk things out:
- Listen and be open: a lot of us confuse ‘listening’ with ‘hearing’, whereas the difference is huge. Hearing is a process whereby noises and voices enter your ear even when you’re paying the least attention to them. Listening involves understanding what you are hearing and giving a feedback as well (which can be in the form of a verbal reply or by the nod of the head). Many times, people don’t talk because they fear that they won’t get any positive response. Maleeha, who had been bullied throughout elementary school, has developed a strong sense of insecurity when it comes to sharing her problems with someone. When asked why she did not share her bullying experience with parents, her answer was, “no one would have taken it seriously, so I just didn’t share my problems”.
- Be on your child’s side: remember that no matter how hard it is for you to see your child suffering, he/she is trying very hard to fight back and be strong. The child needs your love and support; and needs to be affirmed with kind words that boost up the self-esteem.
- Deviate the child’s attention: try to engage the child into playful activities that could help deviate their attention from what they go through at school. It is best if you can also join him/her in those activities.
- Ask the child to write it down: if your child likes to write, regularly asking him to write about the bullying experience would help to channel all that negative energy and frustration inside the child onto the paper, resulting in something productive and positive. Rather than resulting in aggressive behavior and role flipping.
- Tune into the child’s body language: read your child’s facial expressions when he/she is talking to you about what happened. Watch the child react to your questions before he/she answers them. Take note of any other physiological reactions. This would help you understand your child and how he/she is taking the pressure of the bullying.
- Let another trusted adult do the talking: sometimes, the child may be more close to a specific individual in the family who is not either one of the parents. At other times, the parent might feel as if they are not capable of taking out the time to patiently listen to the child. It is completely alright if you let another trusted individual talk to the child instead of you doing it yourself. This person can also be a teacher or a school counsellor.
- Do not overreact: almost all brown parents overreact sometimes. Esp. mothers. Knowing that your child is being bullied is something very upsetting as a whole to know as a parent. But when you are listening to your child, overreacting can make the situation worse and your child may not share anything with you next time in the fear of making you mad. When the child is done talking and is not around, you can cry and rant as much as you want. Talking to your spouse about the matter helps tons.
- Do not blame your child: blaming your child for taking it too hard on himself would only result in lower self-esteem of the child. It would make him anxious and reduces what he would tell you. Avoid doing this.
- Do not retaliate against the bully or his family: All those Chaudhries and Jutts need to hear me out on this one, you do not go banging on Pappu’s door in the middle of the night just because he punched your kid at school. Retaliating against the bully and his/her family usually results in more bullying and may even result other issues on a wider scale, as you involve more people. If the family of the bully is to be involved, it is best if done in the presence of a counsellor or a mediator, in a peaceful setting, that can help resolve the issue.
- Do not stop your child from reacting: Yes, you read that right, mother. Do not stop your child if he/she wants to fight back or engage in a brawl with the bully. Doing this would only make your child realize that he/she really is the weak one here and needs to stay suppressed; this would result in deeper self-esteem issues. However, do mention to the child that the consequences of the fight can be brutal and would result in heavier penalties that you would not like to see your child suffer from.
- Do not say stupid stuff: Ayesha, who used to be constantly bullied throughout school-life because of her hair, was asked whether or not she shared this with her parents. Her reply was, “Yes, I did. They said it’s okay, that they are kids who only want to tease you”. Please do not tell your child things like, “this is a part of growing up”, “everyone goes through it”, “it is not a big deal”, “stop thinking so much”, “your father and I have gone through tougher situations”, or worse, “handle it on your own”.
Bullying is not a part of growing up, not everyone goes through it- and even if they do, that is no excuse for your child to go through it whatsoever. Yes, it is a big deal to come back home and not want to go to school the other day. Yes, it is a big deal to have marks on your body from being hit by boys who are double the size your child is. Yes, it is a big deal that your child is going through something like this. It may be something small to you because you are an adult, but the child you have is small, he has a small world and being bullied is something very big and very harsh. Facing something like this can cause anxiety and yes, children get clinically diagnosed with depression as well, and in their case it leaves a much more permanent mark that lasts till the very end. If you and your spouse went through something similar and successfully came out of it, does not mean your child can do the same. And no, your child does not have to handle something like on his own. He needs you.
Contributed By : Ghaliya Shafqat
picture credits :
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