Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Is My Kid Being Bullied?

Out of shame and/or fear, a lot of times children do not tell adults that they are being bullied. Adults working with children should be vigilant about the possible signs that they are being bullied at school. For parents, these are tell-tale signs that a child may be victimized by bullying.

Children may:
•Be frightened to walk to or from school or be unwilling to go to school at all •Ask adults to drive them to or from school or change their route to school
•Begin to do poorly in their school work
•Arrive home regularly with clothes torn and/or books or belongings missing
•Continually lose pocket money
•Become withdrawn, start stammering, stop eating, attempt suicide
•Cry themselves to sleep and/or have nightmares and call out, “leave me alone”
•Have unexplained bruises, scratches, cuts
•Have unexplained psychosomatic complaint (e.g. feels ill in the morning frequent stomach pains, headaches, chronic fatigue.)
•Refuse to say what is wrong
•Give improbable excuses to explain of the above
•Not have a single good friend to share free time with, never bring classmates home, never get invited to parties.
How To Help Your Child?

Researchers indicate some children are more prone to victimization because they are anxious, fearful and unassertive by disposition. They are generally weaker physically and are more over protected at home. Their demeanor signals to the bully that they will not retaliate or be able to defend themselves effectively when picked on. But this should not be taken as the victims’ fault. Not all children having this disposition will end up being bullied, because there may not be a bully around to make life miserable for them.
The problem lies with the bully himself/herself. Children who bully others pick on people because they need a target-victim. They will also try to find an excuse to justify their action that the victim is different and therefore deserves to be picked on (e.g. speaking with an accent, being overweight, having pimples). Children with special needs are more vulnerable, because they may have specific problems such as poor coordination, speech or language difficulties. Sometimes the bullying can be worse if the child’s special needs are not immediately apparent (e.g. hearing loss or cystic fibrosis).
School staff should be made aware that these children need extra help. In some cases, preparing all the children by discussing issued generally may avoid problems. It is important for children being bullied to know that it is not their fault, and to realize that the bullies are not omnipotent. It is natural for victimized children to feel scared, completely helpless and quite alone. They need to be told that the situation is not hopeless and that adults will intervene on their behalf, and they should not feel guilty or shameful. They need to understand that by not telling anyone they are fueling the power of the bully and reinforcing his/her aggressive acts. It may be encouraging for kids to know that it is possible to succeed in life in spite of being bullied at school.
Many well-known people were bullied when they were young. Here’s a brief list: Phil Collins (singer), Harrison Ford (actor), Mel Gibson (actor), Daryl Hannah (actress), Tom Cruise (actor), Michelle Pfeiffer (actress), Dudley Moore (actor), Neil Kinnock (politician), Frank Bruno (boxer), Janice Long (DJ), Amanda Ross (TV presenter), Duncan Goodhew (Olympic swimmer), Michael Grade (Head of Channel 4 TV in the U.K.), Sir John Harvey Jones (industrialist & TV presenter), Ralph Fiennes (Polar explorer). No doubt the list can go on. There is a lot that parents can do to safeguard your child against being the target of bullying.
Consider the following tips:
•Being a social isolate highly increases the probability of being bullied. Having even one friend on the playground is one of the most powerful protective, especially for boys. Increasing the social opportunities of your kids is the most useful prevention. Invite other children, and groups of children, over to the house. Encourage sleepovers. Widen your child’s social circle by encouraging him/her to participate in group and community activities (e.g. the Scouts/Guides, volunteering at the Food Bank).

•A bully preys on children who signal fearfulness and submissiveness. Teach assertiveness, which is different from being aggressive. Raise your child’s self-confidence. Enroll him/her in classes and groups that develop competencies in activities that are valued by peers (e.g. music, art work, computer skills). Help your child develop interests in areas which enable him/her to feel good about himself/herself.
•Do not teach your child to fight back. Fighting back is the worst defense. In many instances the victimized children are actually physically smaller and weaker than the bully and fighting back can result in real physical harm. Besides, not all bullying takes the form of physical aggression. Counter-aggression to any form of bullying actually increases the likelihood of continued aggression. This also answers a question often raised by parents, which is whether martial arts training is useful. The foregoing argument applies here, that it is not advisable to teach your child to fight back at a bully. On the other hand, martial arts training in its essence serves to bring out other valuable qualities other than brute force or vengeance. They teach self-restraint, self-discipline and confidence in your own physical potentials-all are important signals to the bully that you are not an easy prey.

•Discuss possible bullying scenarios with your child and how best to handle those situations. In encountering a bullying incident, it is natural for children to feel panicky and therefore play into the hands of the bully. Responding appropriately (for example, how to stay calm, using strategies like humor or verbal comeback to defuse the situation, or telling the bully assertively to leave one alone) signals to the bully that you are not an easy target, and decreases the chance of being further victimized.

•It is important to know what goes on in the school day for your child. Make it a routine to ask about his/her day in school; ask what upsets them, not only what they are happy about.
•It is important to know what goes on in the school day for your child. Make it a routine to ask about his/her day in school; ask what upsets them, not only what they are happy about.
•Establish parent networks at the school and support groups with other parents and perhaps church members. Talk to other parents; where there is one victimized child there are likely to be others.

1 comment:

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