Is your child being bullied?

There is a big difference between children being teased and children being bullied but how do you know the difference and when to take action against those making your child’s life a misery. Well, teasing is normally harmless, good-natured fun that is not meant to be nasty or serious. More often than not, teasing comes from someone close, a family member or friend. While a child may be upset at the onset, this is usually short-lived. The person who is teasing doesn’t mean to harm the child in any way. On the other hand, bullying, is a completely different matter and a serious one too.

What is bullying?
If your child informs you that they are being bullied at school, you should take it seriously because bullying can make the victim depressed, anxious and even fearful. It is cruel and the aggressor aims to hurt or belittle the victim. It’s one-sided as the same person always gets picked on and the same person does the picking on. The abuse linked to bullying ranges from mostly verbal, followed by physical and cyber. Verbal abuse consists of being teased or insulted, while physical consists of being pushed around, hit or beaten. The rise of cell phone use in teens has seen them becoming victims of cyber-bullying According to research, 57% of school-going children in South Africa say they have been bullied at school and the reality is that it could be more. “These statistics reveal a culture of bullying that has permeated South African schools. It is an indictment of our education system that two out of three learners are worried about being bullied at school,” warns expert Shirley Wakefield.

The reasons for bullying are varied
Your child can be bullied for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
Age– Younger children may be picked on by older kids.
Race or culture– They may be the minority and get picked on for that.
Their looks -They may be tall, skinny, short or overweight for their age.
Physical characteristics– Wearing glasses or having a speech impediment or having braces can make your child a laughing stock.
Academics– They may be extremely bright or struggle in class.
The way they dress– Their taste in clothing may not be fashionable or trendy.
How much money– They may be tortured for having money or for not having money.
Disabilities– They may have a disability and the bully makes them feel bad about it.
Parents -A parent may be extremely overweight, be unemployed or have a certain occupation or position in the community.

Why bullies bully other kids?
Studies show that often children who bully others have been bullied or abused themselves, and may feel inadequate in their home and school environment and so try to deal with their own situation physically or verbally as a way to regain power or control over their own situation. It’s often a cry for help and these children need to learn to understand their feelings and why they are doing what they are doing. As bullies grow older, they may become more violent in their actions. Childline South Africa advises that bullies need to understand the consequences of their actions, find other rewarding outlets for their power-seeking drives and practise self-discipline and empathy for others.

Bullying is often difficult to manage
If you suspect your child is being bullied, it is best to speak to them about the situation. While the child may blame themselves, they are not to blame for their situation. It is the behaviour of the bully that is questionable. Parents should also enquire about anti-bullying policies at their children’s schools.