20th September 2010
note that I have written the article both for the benefit of
the children reading it and their parents. Some of my points I have
directly challenged parenting styles and attitudes of late." -
Bullies and how to deal with them
A year or so back I was privileged to be invited to several schools in Westville to talk to the children about bullying. At the time there were serious cases that had occurred in other schools and was quite a treat listening to the different and sometimes very similar opinions and ideas the kids had.
The topic never really goes away as bullying is, and I say in despair, always will be part of school culture. Therefore this article is definitely for children as well and equally importantly parents to read and discuss.
What is a bully?
A bully is someone who hurts you. They can hurt you in different ways from hitting or pushing, to calling names or making the victim look stupid in front of friends.
They can steal from other children or even pester others doing things like kicking the back of a chair or pulling clothes or hair.
Sometimes, but not always bullies are bigger than the victim, but often the bully has the bigger mouth and the following of a little gang.
What we need to know that their behaviour is WRONG and you can do something to stop them. Parents should never make light of a child’s claim of being bullied. One must remember that their entire life is home and school. They lack the wisdom and experience of age to deal with these sorts of problems if confronted.
Why do they do it?
Sometimes bullies act the way they do because they actually don’t know what they are doing is wrong. They see the same things being done at home by their parents or older brothers and sisters so that they think it is okay to behave like that. This however is no excuse and corrective action must be taken.
They can also do it because they have friends who encourage them to do it. Often they do it because they want to look cool and possibly want to cover up their own fears and problems. Some bullies are bigger than others around them and bully kids around them around just because they are physically able.
There could well be other reasons but it must be realised that none are acceptable and action must be taken to sort out the problem.
It is very sad to note, that in my experience with children, often the bully gets his or her behaviour directly if not supported by their parents.
When or if accusation is made that your child is a bully, be careful with your response. In my personal opinion if you arrogantly deny the claim, or started getting hysterical, overly defensive and threaten lawyers and such, I would think, “Now I know where the child learned his behaviour.”
Listen carefully to what the teacher or principal has to say. Sometimes they spend a lot more time with your child than you do. Parents, as I have stated before, are the foundation and mould from which your child will develop their personality and behaviour. If you are not setting a suitable example, you have only yourself to blame.
If you are being bullied, what must you NOT do?
This is the trick question when I talk to kids. Often, they are not quite sure what to say.
To help them, I tell a story, one of my favourites:
Think about Great White sharks, the ones which jump out the water, in the Western Cape. Their main food is seals. A seal has to go into the water (equate school) to eat, play, socialise, etc. They know there are sharks in the water, but they have to go anyway. A seal can’t fight a shark; it has smaller teeth, swims slower and is a lot weaker overall. So, if a seal senses there is a shark near, and the shark is hungry, what must the seal NOT do?
The seal cannot do nothing. It cannot hope the shark will change its mind and the problem will go away. It won’t. It is the same with a bully. A victim must not do nothing.
Do not suffer in silence. The bully is doing the wrong thing and is hurting you.
Do not fight back or be tempted to do the same thing back. That is what the bully wants. A bully will want to fight because he or she probably can fight well. The victim may end up hurt and be in equal trouble when the school and parents find out.
Do not bully other children in order to try feeling better. You will get into trouble and it will not solve your problem.
Very importantly, do not make up stories. Do not report someone if nobody is bothering you. Always tell the truth.
If you are being bullied, what CAN you do?
You must tell somebody. You have the right to be helped. Tell your parents or a teacher. Keep telling them until they believe you or do something about it. Adults, I remind you, do not take reports lightly. It might seem like an insignificant problem to you, but can be utter misery and lead to major problems if not addressed.
Do not worry about being called a ‘tell tale’. You are doing the correct thing by reporting the bully and you have the right to be happy at school or at home and not have others hurting you or bothering you.
What if your friend or somebody else is being bullied?
Listen to them if they want to talk to you about it and support them.
Do not join in the bullying or join the laughing. The same could be happening to you.
Choose your friends carefully. Be friends with others that are kind and do not hurt other people. If your friend is too scared to report what is happening, go with them to a teacher or another adult. You can also go yourself and report it.
Try and be somebody who attracts friends because you are good, kind and helpful to others.
Again, do not worry if you are called a ‘tell tale’. You are doing the right thing by reporting a bully.
Other types of bullies.
If you have a cell phone, a bully can send you nasty SMS’s. This is also wrong. Show an adult the messages, or ask your parents to change your number if the bully does not stop. Do not send bad SMS’s back.
There is a type of bullying where the bully spreads nasty lies or stories about you that are not true. Your good friends will know they are lies. Ask the bully to stop the story telling. If you are a good person, the lies will mean nothing.
A bully can intimidate you. This means he or she tries to force you to do something you don’t want to by threatening you. He could try make you steal something or hurt somebody else. Do not do what they say. Report the bully to an adult you trust.
The fact is that some children can suffer from bullying for years and they can become very miserable. It affects their school work, their friendships and can even affect them later in life when they are adults. Continuous bullying can affect a person’s self confidence in a negative way. It is therefore important to have the bullying stopped as soon as it starts.
It is also important to know that bullying does not have to happen to you or your friends. No child, whether age, size, culture or sex deserves to be bullied.
A child must be encouraged to ask for help and you can get the bullying to stop. In severe cases in senior schools, bullying can rise to a new level. If a bully hurts someone it is not only wrong, but against the law. The current Child Care Act states that a child between the age of 10 and 14 is criminally capable to a limited degree, but still does know the difference between right and wrong. Over the age of 14, a child is fully criminally capable. That means that a child over 14 can be arrested, brought before a court and tried for a crime.
Parents, be aware of this. It does not mean you must rush to the Police station if your teenage son comes home with a bleeding nose, but it does mean you need to do some serious parenting if it is your son who issues the bleeding noses.
Currently, the law is taking an especially dim view on crimes against women and children, and courts do not take a soft approach even if the aggressor is another child.
I cannot stress enough how much a child learns behaviour from us adults. Adding to that is the level of maturity to which we apply this problem. A child needs to know that home is a refuge and you are the guardians in every sense of the word. School should not be a miserable place where your son or daughter is afraid and victimised. Your attitude should never be either that they should “toughen up” and take it, or get hysterical and over react. You need to be the stable protector, the sensible and wise councillor to whom your child can be open and free to seek advice or help.