Lifestyle / Family

Tshepiso Makhele
5 minute read
22 Oct 2018
1:06 pm

A blow-by-blow look at bullying

Tshepiso Makhele

Kids who are subjected to bullying can fake aches and pains, or a parent might get frequent calls from a school nurse asking for an early pick-up.

Picture Thinkstock

I remember my school days, Standard 5 – now called Grade 7. First year in middle school, and finally away from primary school; feeling like a big girl now. That feeling didn’t last long though.

Growing up shy has its down side. I was the kid who hardly ever said anything and just wished to be invisible. Strange, I know, but my introversion was very evident – and so I was bullied.

Bullying is very testing for children to deal with. It left me feeling afraid and degraded and often feeling very worthless, like I can’t do anything right.

Bullying can also make a child stop wanting to go out because they are scared they might see the bully. Even though you are not the one in the wrong, kids who are bullied often start to question their value and blame themselves for being targets.

It can be hard for parents to spot the signs of bullying though. I don’t blame my parents for not seeing it, until it got so bad I had no choice but to report it at home.

Because school is a hot spot for bullying, a child who is being bullied might not show interest in going to school. Behaviour such as this should not go unnoticed.

I had repeated excuses of why I couldn’t go to school. Kids who are subjected to bullying can fake aches and pains, or a parent might get frequent calls from a school nurse asking for an early pick-up.

According to what I’ve read, headaches and stomach aches are common physical displays of the stress and anxiety related to signs of bullying, but in my view these are also illnesses that are easy to fake as justifications to stay home.

If you feel a child is faking an illness, asking an open-ended question can help to create a non-confrontational environment.

Apart from having trouble sleeping, bullied children tend to lose friends. Such a child might be hesitant to hang out with friends, indicating that bullying is occurring within the group.

I would feel anxious about what might happen the next day at school, hence experienced difficulty falling asleep, waking up the next day extremely tired.

Sad and lonely black girl feeling depressed bullying school

Picture: Istock

My little girl is in crèche and was also bullied the first few weeks of arriving; something that is common when kids are new at school. Because I went through the same experience – though much later in my life – I could spot the signs.

She would have an intense emotional reactions toward conversations about crèche, and show a reluctance to talk more about the subject, indicating to me the topic brought anxiety.

A kid might also have torn clothes and some physical bruises. In the case of my child, there were stolen belongings. Her earrings were missing. So the first time I thought she just lost them. She wasn’t interested in explaining how the earrings got removed from her ears – but when it happened the second and third time I sat her down, making her feel mommy is not upset, but concerned, allowing her to open up.

Children who struggle to be assertive or are less confident often have a victim stance, walking with their head and shoulders down, which often indicates to a bully that they are meek.

Extramural activities such as karate can help build their confidence and make them less prone to being victims.

A change in a child’s interaction with family is also a sign that something is wrong. If a kid is not as talkative as he or she normally is and would rather sit alone, or become obsessed with electronic devices, this could be a signal.

Your child can be on the other end of the stick; being the bully, rather than the victim. You need to take action right away to end this behaviour.

It’s hard to admit if your child is the bully, because parents often feel this has something to do with their parenting, so acknowledging that their kids are acting improperly might make them feel like they have failed as parents.

The child might begin getting into trouble at school for fighting, or acting aggressively. Such a child can also be confrontational, rash, and get angry quickly.

These are just some of the many signs that you have a bully in your hands. The child might also lack empathy for others, and have a history of discipline difficulties.

It’s important for parent to pay attention to their children’s friends. If your child’s friends show signs of bullying, there is a possibility he or she is also part of it.

Some kids become obsessed with being popular and experts say this is an indication of insecurities. This type of bullying includes excluding other children from groups, acting in a unfriendly manner and treating other kids as if they are superior.

Graphic: Costa Mokola

Help your child to deal with a bully

Talk to your child’s teacher: When you report an incident, be detailed about what happened and who was involved.

Encourage positive body language: encourage your child to hold their head up to look more confident.

Contact the offender’s parents: make it known your aim is to solve the problem together.

Rehearse the right way to reply to a bully so that your child feels prepared: teach him to speak in a firm and strong voice and say something like, ‘Stop bothering me.’

Train him/her to get help: fighting back isn’t the answer; so instead, encourage him to walk away and look for help from an adult

Applaud improvement: when your child lets you know how they handled a bully, let her or him know you are proud.

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