Definition of bullying
"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself." (Dan Olweus)
Dan Olweus, creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, provides this commonly accepted definition for bullying in his book, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do (1993):
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Why don’t children speak up when they experience intimidation and bullying?
Children usually do not speak about being bullied. This can be attributed to several reasons such as:
- They don’t know this practice is called bullying, especially when it occurs in a cunning and subtle way.
- They feel embarrassed that this is happening to them or that they are not able to handle it.
- They are afraid of the bullying person; most bullies use threats to protect themselves.
- They hope that bullying will enable them to become accepted and to ‘fit in’ within a group of bullies.
- They are worried that no one would believe them or understand them.
- They are worried about being labelled a ‘snitch’.
- They are worried about the reaction or response of their parents (excessive worry, reprimand, rebuke, etc).
- In terms of Cyberbullying, they are afraid that parents would restrict their access to and use of internet.
How do I encourage my child to speak up if I feel like s/he avoids telling me about what’s happening?
You can try to seize or create an opportunity to talk to your child. For instance, you may opt to watch a movie or tv-show with your child about bullying steer the conversation and ask him/her about what s/he thinks the hero/main character feels about this bullying experience, as well as the action that needs to be taken in his/her opinion. Other follow-up questions include: ‘Have you ever seen something like this in reality?’ or ‘Have you or any of your friends ever experienced a similar situation?’.
What are the warning signs of bullying?
Sometimes it can be difficult for us to observe any warning signs concerning the practice of bullying. However, it should be alarming if you find some warning signs such as if the child:
- Suffers from physical marks, with no convincing reason (including cuts and bruises), particularly if they are of a frequent nature.
- Experiences frequent loss of belongings, with no good justification, or loss/disappearance of items from the house.
- No longer wants to go to school or to spend time at social gatherings.
- Shares his/her feelings of loneliness.
- Demonstrates an evident change in behavior (excessive anxiety or clinging to parents) or in everyday routines (such as refusing to eat or to walk down a certain road, etc.).
- Develops unwarranted negative or aggressive behaviors.
- Complains about physical pains with no medical reason (such as headache, sleeping problems, etc.).
- Begins to bully others (for example, siblings).
- Suffers from sudden decline in academic performance, along with having difficulty in concentrating.
- Shows dissatisfaction about himself/herself that wasn’t of a great importance before (including his/her own look or appearance or the new place s/he goes to).
What do I need to do if I learn that my child is being bullied at school?
There are certain interventions that you can carry out with your child as well as with his/her school:
- Listen. Just listen, with no haste and without jumping to conclusions or passing judgements. thank the child and acknowledge that it is both right and brave for him/her to tell you about his/her experience.
- Show empathy and respond to his/her feelings, no matter how difficult it is, and even if the child gets into details that sound scary for you. This experience is tough and hard for the child. If the child feels that you are anxious, perhaps s/he would feel discouraged to share the details with you.
- Avoid blaming the child or making statements like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ or “I told you to stand up for yourself!’, or ‘You must have done something wrong to make them outraged against you!’ This will discourage the child from talking to you again.
- Try to collect as much information as possible about all the parties involved in the problem by ask questions (make sure you ask and listen, more than you talk and judge)
With the School
- Report this incident to the teacher and to explain how you are handling it.
- Stay calm and to avoid overreacting so that you do not risk compromising your relationship with the school and the school staff. However, the school staff need to take this issue seriously. They need to appreciate and recognize that you care so much about this issue and that you will continue to closely monitor it.
- Appreciate and acknowledge any progress made by the school towards achieving the commitments and actions you have agreed on.
- If you believe that your child is at risk at any time, contact the school for immediate intervention.
Source: unicef.org - unesco.org