Effects of bullying on a child and how to stop it
One could argue whether truly it is variety or children that is the spice of life. The United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF) defines a child as anyone below the age of 18. So here’s the baby welcomed into the world with open arms, big smiles and numerous gifts.
Before you know it the child has grown up, ready to start school and interact with the larger society outside of family. It is at this stage that some children experience bullying at home or outside of home.
Bullying has been defined as a conscious, wilful and deliberate form of aggression that is intended to cause harm to another person.
The formative years of a child beginning from birth to age eight are a very crucial period, this is when the child develops intelligence, personality and social behaviour. According to UNICEF, people develop best intellectually, emotionally and inter-personally when their formative years are free of repression, natural disasters, malnutrition, polluted water and armed conflict.
There is no need saying that these early years are the most crucial in our lives as we grow to become adults. It is important for parents to be emotionally vigilant to know if their wards are battling any form of challenge in this period especially bullying by their mates, so that they can grow to become healthy and confident adults.
Types of bullying
Physical bullying: this is using one’s body or using objects to cause harm example is punching, pinching, slapping, kicking, spitting , breaking another person’s belongings.
Social abuse: example is excluding others from play or game, making others look foolish or unintelligent, gossiping, spreading rumours. This is more common amongst girls
Verbal abuse: This is bullying with words like making threats, unwanted/ embarassing name calling, harsh teasing
Cyber bullying: using the Internet, digital technology or mobile text messaging to threaten, embarrass or humiliate.
Sexual abuse: taking advantage of a child sexually
While girls are more likely to involve in indirect forms like gossiping and spreading rumours boys tend towards the physical forms of bullying.
The bullying “set up”
Three sets of people can be identified in instances of bullying:
· The bully
· The person or group being bullied
· The bystanders : they encourage the act by forming an audience, laughing, commenting, participating. Bystanders also encourage bullying by doing nothing to stop the act
Negative effects on children and adolescents that are bullied
· Low self esteem
· Lack of confidence
· Poor school grades and absenteeism from school
· Social anxiety, social withdrawal, loneliness
· Contemplating suicide, attempting suicide and committing suicide
Negative effects on children and adolescents that are bullying others
· Feelings of guilt in later life
· Aggressive behaviour
· Joining gangs and crimes in adult life
· Dropping out of school
· Difficulty with social interactions and relationships
· Resulting to violence when stressed or stretched
· Juvenile delinquency and substance abuse
What parents can do about it
· Let your child clearly know the boundary between bullying and friendly teasing
· Open lines of communication for your children, let them be able to tell you what they are going through
· Let your child know how to be confident and cope with bullies, teach them to know how to walk away from trouble makers.
· Show them how to deal with the situation when confronted by bullies. Teach them what to say and how to act confidently when confronted, this can be done through role playing and demonstrations at home
· Teach your child not to be a bystander to bullying. Bullies are often encouraged by the laughing and giggling of bystanders, teach them not to be part of such, without an approving audience the bully will likely not continue.
· Encourage your children to stand up for their colleagues that are being bullied
· Encourage them to report cases of bully to adults around them, in school or at home
· Don’t hesitate to seek professional help should a child Develop anxiety or depression
· Recognise that bullied children are not likely to tell you what they are going through because they feel too ashamed or are afraid of retaliation from the bully, hence the need for emotional vigilance
· Let bullied children know that you care and understand their challenge, show same affection to bullies too, let them know you care
· Let the adults in the school or community report the cases of bullying to appropriate quarters, bullying will only thrive if nothing is done
· Help the bullies come out of the habit by organising programmes that will show them better ways of relating with their peers.
· Create help lines where children can freely lodge complaints and pour their hearts
If you are being bullied know that…..
· It is not your fault, bullying is an unacceptable aggressive behaviour
· Don’t keep it to yourself, let an adult know what you are going through, tell your teacher or your parents
· Learn to walk away rather than waiting to get verbal abuse
· Walk with a group of friends, bullies find it easier to pick on you if you are alone, walk with a group that will boost your confidence
· Engage in activities that will improve your self worth and confidence
For the bullied and the bullying child, the social and mental consequences are indeed profound. Often, bullying others is an escape from unaddressed negative emotions like sadness, anger, low self esteem, etc.
The onus is on the adults, care givers, teachers and the community to provide a “bully free” environment for all children so that they can grow gracefully and live up to their potentials.