This week was full of incidents of bulling at school and it was such a coincidence that I had also watched one episode of Glee, Season 2, last night where Kurt was bullied by a football player because he had come out of the closet. I know bullying happens in every culture and every country... But I find it draining! It instills fear in the bullied person and the sense of not belonging!
At school students come up to me to tell me they have been bullied. But yesterday was different! After school, this student of mine told me that he had bullied his friend and gotten into trouble. I thanked him for being honest and coming forward admitting his hurtful behavior. You do not usually get students who would come forward and admit to such an act...
I thanked him for trusting me… he was unsure why I had said that… I told him that he trusted me not to change my opinion of him after hearing about what he had done to another student. I assured him that my opinion of him will never change… that I know he was a good person deep inside and just took the wrong path this time… but can easily go back to the right path and do the right thing.
We talked about how usually bullies inflict pain onto other ‘weaker’ students either because of their own low self-esteem/confidence or because they were trying to work through something. They mistakenly believe that they would look stronger and more powerful and that it would increase their own self- confidence, which doesn't. The bullies' behavior would in turn affect the bullied students' self-esteem which means no one really comes out of this a winner. I explained to him that it is sometimes a vicious cycle and it has to stop somewhere and stop with someone.
I asked him if he was ever bullied, made fun of or made to feel inadequate and he said yes… I was not surprised. I knew that usually the bully was bullied before… not always the case but many times it was. I asked him if it felt good to him to be bullied and I do not need to mention what his answer was as I am sure you guessed right… I then asked him that if he knew how it felt like then why he would do the same to someone else…
He was unsure how to answer that question… he just did not know exactly why he did it…he just did … went with the flow… followed another’s lead and did it. I then asked him what he thought he was going to do about it to which he replied stop his bullying and stop others from bullying that same student.
Honestly, I do not believe that this student would have come on his own accord to inform me of what he did if he was not crying out for help. He did not feel very good about what he did and he wanted someone to stop him. His view of himself is probably shot as well and he would need a boost of confidence in order to stop his actions. He needs to feel good about himself before he can move away from such behavior.
If it is hard for teachers to hear of bullying cases it must be triply hard for parents to find out that their child has been bullied or is the bully.
Here are some tips for parents on how to handle their child being bullied:
1. Encourage your child to report any bullying incidents to you or the teachers.
2. Validate your child's feelings as it is normal for them to feel hurt, sad and angry.
3. Ask your child how is s/he going to solve the problem. Your child needs to do the thinking before any grown up jumps in. This empowers them and helps to make them feel stronger. It also helps your child work through this predicament.
4. Your child might need some guidance or a push to start the thinking process so coach your child in alternative ways to dealing with the problem; avoidance is often a good strategy, play a different game in another place, play near a teacher, look for new friends, join social activities outside of school. All of these help in developing new friends.
5. Talk to your child's teacher, coordinator or school councilor. Make sure they are aware of what is going on. Also encourage your child to be assertive and seek help from his teachers as well.
6. Do not take matters into your own hands and confront the bully or the bully's family. it is understandable that you would feel protective of your child but you would be doing your child more harm if you get involved.
7. Teach your child to defend him or herself, maybe even enroll your child in a self-defense or martial arts class.
8. Avoid labeling or name-calling the bully...the bully is also human and someone's else's child... they are misguided and need help... if you do the same to the bully what is the difference between your actions and the bully's?
9. Let your child know that it is okay to express their anger but that there are positive ways of doing that.
10. It is also a good idea to teach them how to use humor. For example, if the bully says to Omar, "Hey boy, you're ugly." Omar can respond in a few different ways; for example, "Thanks for sharing!" or "Yes, I know, I always have been.'