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Bullying PDF Print E-mail

When Patience Ndlovu collects her daughter Loveness from school, she notices that Loveness seems out of sorts. Loveness walks towards the car with her head down, throws her bag on to the back seat and gets into the car without greeting her mother.

“What’s wrong?” enquires Patience.

“Nothing mom.” They drive in silence for a while.

“I can see that something is wrong,” Patience says eventually. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Loveness shakes her head. “It’s just ….. Miss Singh asked me to go and get something from the office. When I got back everyone was laughing … and then I found out they were sending an SMS of me around … and it said FAT COW.” Tears start running down Loveness cheeks.

Patience looks horrified. “Do you know who sent the SMS?”

Loveness shrugs. “No. Well, I have an idea who it could be, but I can’t prove it. It’s those girls … they’ve always hated me. They’re always calling me names and telling me that I look stupid. And they gang up on me and make sure I’m not included in things.”

Patience looks surprised. “You’ve never told me this. Maybe I could have done something.”

“Like what?” asks Loveness scornfully?

“Well I could have gone to see your teacher.”

“And then? They get into trouble and then they just hate me even more and say even meaner things. It won’t help – they won’t change.
It’s not like they’re hitting me, or anything like that.”

“But you know that what they’re doing is bullying you,” Patience says indignantly. “Why don’t you speak to your teacher?”

Loveness sniffs. “I’m telling you, it won’t help. They’re too clever. They’ve got it in for me and now even some of my friends are on their side. Only Cookie is still my friend – but she’s not in my class.” She starts crying again. “I wish I could go to another school!”

  • How will I know when my child is being bullied, emotionally or physically? She will not necessarily tell me.
  • How do I get my child to talk to me about problems she is experiencing at school or with her friends?
  • How can I protect my child from being bullied? How can I prevent bullying from happening?
  • What can I do when I find out that my child is being bullied? To what extent can I fight my child’s battles with her peers, and to what extent should I leave her to sort things out? At what point do I intervene?
  • What do I do if my child is seen to be one of the bullies?
  • Can I hold the school responsible if my child is being bullied?

1.If your child has unexplained injuries, is consistently unhappy about going to school, becomes withdrawn, doesn’t hang out with friends, becomes more aggressive or insecure, or if her work deteriorates, she may be experiencing bullying at school.

Remember bullying includes verbal and psychological forms such as threats, teasing, mockery, racial slurs, hate speech, rumour-mongering, ostracising, manipulation and domination.

Emotional bullying is harder to pick up than physical bullying, but can be equally if not more distressing and damaging to a child – and is probably far more common.

2.If your communicate with your child on an ongoing basis there is a far better chance that she will tell you when things go wrong. Create opportunities to talk together as often as possible, while driving or preparing supper.

Do things together. If she still doesn’t talk to you and you suspect that she is having a hard time at school, ask the teacher if s/he has picked up anything and ask the teacher to keep watch.

Or ask someone you know your child trusts, to talk to your child. Make sure your child knows she is safe with you and can talk to you, and that you will back her up.

3.Parents can teach their children how to behave if they are being bullied. It helps if they recognise that they are not yet victims (they are victims only if they give up). They are simply targets of the bully’s bad behavior. Teach them to follow these steps:

  • I should ask the person to stop the behavior.
  • I should tell the person that that behavior is unkind or makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • I should warn them that if they ever do it again I’ll report the behavior.
  • I should be assertive but not aggressive. (Assertiveness involves confidence and control, stating my case, listening and then insisting on my turn to speak, walking away to safety and asking for help if the bully does not stop. Aggressive behavior such as insulting and hitting should be avoided.)

You can also discuss what your child can do if she sees bullying happening. How can she speak up and stand up for what is right?

Onlookers who don’t do anything actually support the bully and keep the cycle going. However children are often afraid to act or unsure what to do, so this needs to be talked about.

They can tell the teacher, or they can ask the bully to stop, or, if the bully is a friend they can say, “Come, let’s leave x alone and go and eat our lunch,” or they can take the targeted child out of the picture by inviting him/her to go and chat somewhere else.

They should not be expected to put themselves in danger and should not add tension to the situation.

4.First explore your child’s story with her. Make sure that she is not exaggerating. If it is indeed bullying, encourage her to challenge the bully in an assertive way (see all the steps in 3 above) the next time it happens.

What if it persists? You cannot challenge another child on school property. Your first course of action is to suggest that your child speaks to the teacher. If she is reluctant, or if the matter has not been satisfactorily resolved, you should speak to the Director of Studies.

Speaking to the bully’s parents is seldom helpful, and you should rather ask the school to intervene.

An aggressive attitude is not helpful, and it may work well to assume that you are all working towards the same goal – developing happier children.

Try to get some corroborating evidence before you leap in and accuse (but don’t draw other children into the dispute).
Remember that the other child’s story is probably very different.

Throughout the process it is very important to boost your child and give her the tools to cope in an unpleasant situation – because, despite all your efforts, the situation might not change as you would want it to.

Remember that the bully is most likely someone who is feeling insecure, disempowered and possibly being bullied him/herself. Remind your child of this.

Encourage your child to develop friendships outside the bullying gang. Having a support structure will help her cope much better. But if she feels unable to cope, you may have to consider removing her from the situation by changing class.

The danger is that you have allowed the bully to get away with bullying behavior, and your child has not necessarily developed coping mechanisms.

5.Again, communication is the key. Remember why bullies bully – it is often an issue of low self-esteem – and develop strategies within your family to deal with this behavior.
Bullies often don’t know how to socialise properly, and/or don’t care about others feelings. Bullies often have misdirected leadership potential. Help your child to use these skills constructively.

Discuss the way she can engage with others without being the boss or calling the shots; listen, take turns, include others and share. Therapy or counseling might help, but most important is that your child should feel loved and valued.

6.You can expect teachers and the Director of Studies to intervene in incidences at school – if they are made aware of them.

When bullying happens outside school premises, it is likely to be happening at school too, and you should make the school aware of this.

This page is adapted from part of a series produced by Speciss College, based on an original series of pamphlets produced by Sacred Heart College in South Africa. The pamphlets were produced following a Parent Ethos Workshop at Sacred Heart College, at which parents identified and discussed issues which concerned them in their parenting. This proved so helpful that they decided to create a resource for all parents. Please note that the gender reference in each page is decided according to the gender of the child in the scenario, and has been used interchangeably throughout the series. This publication is intended as a helpful resource only. Neither Sacred Heart College nor Speciss College can take responsibility for the outcomes of referring to this pamphlet. The pamphlets have been adapted, with permission, to suit Zimbabwean conditions. Copyright resides with Sacred Heart College.

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