Beating the bullies in Bahrain

Child psychologist Mariam Adel Alammadi on what to do about bullying Discuss this article

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In society bullying can often be minimised to simple playground banter or teasing but, as a guardian, it’s necessary to make the distinction between harmless playground teasing and bullying. So what is bullying?
Bullying manifests itself in four main forms. Firstly, verbal bullying is when a child is being called hurtful names, inappropriate sexual comments are verbalised, racial slurs are made towards the child and others taunt or threaten them.

Secondly, social bullying involves damaging a child’s reputation or relationships. It can include deliberately leaving someone out, telling other children not to be their friend, spreading rumours about them and publicly embarrassing them.

Thirdly, physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions such as hitting or kicking a child or breaking their things.

Parents also need to be vigilant of cyber-bullying which is often much harder to detect and has become particularly prevalent as more and more children have access to the Internet.

Cyber-bullying is harassment on the Internet and involves things like vicious forum posts, name calling on profiles, mean or cruel email messages and making threats. Cyber-bullying can occur on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and through anonymous emails and instant chat messaging.

It happens because it’s easy for the perpetrator to hide his or her true identity. Unlike the playground, the bully does not have to be bigger and stronger than the victim. It can also encourage bullies to behave more aggressively than they might face to face.

However in some cases the child is aware of the identity of the individual or group online and it is important that parents find out this information.

All bullying can have a huge psychological impact and no one form is more serious than the other.

It’s vital to understand that children often don’t seek help as bullying makes them feel helpless. It’s not necessarily a reflection on your skills as a parent and despite your closeness to your child, they often try to handle it alone feeling embarrassed and scared to be perceived as ‘weak’.

Children may also fear backlash from the child(ren) who bullied them and have most likely threatened them. Bullying can also be a humiliating experience that children want to forget. They may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. There is a sense of isolation with children who are being bullied and they feel as if no-one cares and can understand.

Children may fear being rejected by their peers with most children wanting parents to feel proud of them and associating popularity as success at school.

When a child is being bullied a parent needs to be aware of the observable signs. Firstly, and most importantly, has your child’s demeanour changed - do they have sudden changes in temperament? Often if a child is being bullied at school they may dislike talking about their day and try to avoid the subject. Some children try to do this by telling you they don’t feel like eating dinner and want to skip meals. Alternatively a child might come home from school ravenous because they have not eaten their lunch due to an incident of bullying.

Secondly, is there a change in your child’s performance at school? Do they have declining grades, loss of interest or feign illness so they do not have to attend? Thirdly, a sign of bullying that can be seen easily is unexplained injures, lost items, destroyed clothing or soiled school bags.

Children may also become more isolated and avoid social gatherings particularly those that their classmates will also attend.

It is important to note that the way children handle bullying varies from child to child. However, you know your child best and you should be able to differentiate the differences in their behaviour from past to present.

If you find out your child is being bullied what next? Firstly, before you take action as a parent, you need to comprehend what incidents took place – when, why and how?

The best person to provide you with this information is your child. Children often don’t understand what bullying actually is and will say ‘other children just don’t like me’.

You need to educate them to understand what bullying is and that it is not acceptable. Start a conversation with your child by asking some non-threatening questions about school such as – what was one good thing and one bad thing that happened today? What is lunch time like at school, who do you sit with? These questions may help your child feel you are interested and care which may prompt them to open up.

If here a child begins to confide in you, explain how wrong bullying is and that they need to tell you as much as possible so that you can make it stop. Find out as much information as you can and then contact the school and arrange to see a guidance counsellor or the principal explaining your child’s situation. Be very clear that you expect adequate action to be taken and your child has the right to learn in a non-threatening environment.

Schools should take any allegations of bullying very seriously and ensure the situation is dealt with as soon as possible. Follow up and ensure something is being done to deal with the situation.

In the case of cyber bullying, ensure your child does not respond, block the person in question. If this child attends the same school print a copy of the threats and take it to the principal. If you feel messages are particularly threatening or serious, get in touch with police and provide them with a log of dates, times and content of bullying messages.

After you’ve taken the necessary action regarding the bullying and are happy with the outcome, it’s important to spend time with your child and model how to treat others with kindness and respect. This is an important step as, quite often, victims of bullying can become bullies themselves to deal with the anger and humiliation they felt.

Understand that this may have been a traumatic time for your child and allow them the freedom to talk about it openly and honestly. Show your child there is no place for bullying and that everyone deserves to be treated in a caring manner. Break the cycle and beat the bullies!

By Time Out Kids staff
Time Out Bahrain,

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