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Beware of bullying

Arham’s mother is in a lot of tension nowadays as her third grader, who once used to be happy in school, now hates going there. “He makes such a big fuss every morning that I have to literally drag him out of bed”. According to Arham, there is a boy in his class who not only eats his lunch daily but also teases and ridicules him. “What should I do to help him?”
According to Samina Owais, a psychologist in D.I Khan, bullying is a common prevailing problem among children that has increased nowadays. It has three types of people involved: the bully, the one being bullied and the observant.
Bully is a person who willingly tries to hurt others by making them feel uncomfortable through hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, spreading rumors, name-calling or abusing. “Bullying is a pattern of aggressive behavior with repeated episodes”, says Asma Khan, psychologist in Islamabad. Bullying can be emotional, verbal and physical. It can be based on religion, cast, race, gender and physical disability. “A bully may consider himself powerful, popular and stronger like a super hero and attack those who are not. They actually want to impress others”. Moreover, home environment, violent attitude of parents and ignorance on their part can trigger such practices. “Verbal abuse and conflict among parents and older siblings encourage the child to communicate and behave in the same manner at school as it is a normal activity for them”. Some kids suffer from inferiority complexes and in order to hide them, they bully. They are a jealous type and cannot bear successes and achievements of their fellows. They humiliate them and embarrass them through different techniques. Some children are born bullies. Bullying bothers everyone and they do not really know how hurtful their actions can be. “Bad company and lack of attention or pampering especially from parents encourages this habit”. Parents tend to overlook such acts considering the child to be young. However, according to Samina, mimicry is a common trait in children. “When they see hostile and aggressive acts in cartoons, movies or video games, they try to copy them and apply them on others especially submissive classmates.”
Bullying can however, have a different impact on the victim. It can badly affect his personality leading to poor academic performance, low self-esteem and confidence level and can cause psychological disorders like anxiety and depression in the long run, if not timely treated. Asma informs that there are multiple reasons for becoming a victim. This is regardless of the fact that the child may be intelligent, creative and good in curricular and extracurricular activities. He may even be popular with a lot of positive attention. “But there is a possibility that the target may be shy, introvert, a new admission to school or belong to a low-income class or a caste that is considered low in the society”. A child with low IQ level or disability is also more prone to being bullied. Eventually, the school becomes a place of fear. And this is a nightmare for parents.

The bystanders or observers do not know what to do or how to behave in the situation. They actually have the power to play a key role in stopping bullying by discouraging the bully, defending the victim or by reporting to adults. But some may feel powerless. Such children do not know what to do because they panic or get worried. “They get confused whether they should join the bullying, keep silent or help the victim. They fear revenge from the bully”, explains Asma.

Bullying can be a humiliating and embarrassing experience that influences the child’s personality. It can make him sad, lonely, nervous and give him a sickening feeling. Do not take the matter lightly. Random incidents are normal but if it gets repetitive then you need to be concerned. Early intervention is necessary to avoid long-term damage. Samina suggests a toolkit for the victims that can help prevent such acts. Ignore the bully; the victim should stay away from lonely places during recess or free time and be near to friends or adults. Do not bully back; try to ignore him and move away, bullies often give up when they do not get a response. Tell the bully to stop. Never hesitate to ask other children for support. Most importantly, inform your teacher or parent. “Parents should create a friendly behavior with their child so that they do not hide such incidents from them and keep suffering”. Talk to the school administration and teacher and if necessary contact the offender’s parents as well to inform their child’s conduct.

When talking about bullies, parents need to revise their way of parenting. Create a friendly, cool, and calm environment at home. Teach them a sense of self-respect and respect for others. If he is impulsive and gets angry quickly then divert his attention immediately by taking him away from the place. Try to cure his negative emotions, if necessary consult a psychiatrist. Talk to him about the negative effects of his violence. Actions speak louder than words, so what you do is more important for your child. Make them habitual of sharing their daily routines. Listen to them carefully and advise them in a cool manner. “Read moral based stories to them. Make them learn open hearted and broad-mindedness so they can digest the successes of their mates and take them as a healthy competition”, explains Samina.

A child who grows up to be a bully can show signs of it even in toddlerhood. He may hit, bite or kick others. Parents need to get a hold of their kid from that time because they usually tend to overlook their behavior considering them young. Immediately give them a signal that their action is wrong. Say NO, in a low but strict and firm voice. Try to educate him that his actions are affecting others badly. “Training starts from early years of life. Cool and calm parenting leads to a better and strong child”, says Asma.
Schools can also play a key part in eradicating this attitude through awareness campaigns, behavioral developmental classes and counseling sessions. Parents and teachers should co-operate with each other to eliminate this social evil. There should be complaint boxes in schools. Stage dramas should be arranged on the subject to illustrate the downside of it.
Whether your child is shy or bold; a boy or a girl, your parenting can make a difference. There is no ideal or perfect formula of parenting. However, constant love, care and attention can definitely make a difference. Just try to nip the evil in the bud to avoid a big disaster.

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