Bulling is real and must never be ignored. A child can be targeted by a class mate, a group of them or peers in the neighbourhood or a sport club. Don’t forget that bullying also happens online. Whoever they are, what they have in common is that they “habitually seek to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable”*.
Be aware of the following signs, that may point to that a child is bullying others:
- Has friends that bully other children
- Easily gets into fights (physically and verbally)
- Blames others for their problems
- Does not want to be responsible for their own actions
- Anger has increased over time
- Is very competitive
- Has money and belongings with no explanation where it comes from
Bullying has many underlying reasons. It can be that the particular child lives under unhealthy home circumstances and tries to get control of at least something in their life, as they are not able to do so at home. It can also be that popularity and social status is very important to the child, who wants to impress to fit in a group of peers. Others may be insecure of their role in a group and covers up by bullying others. A victim of bullying can bully someone else as revenge. Peer pressure, lack of empathy, stereotyping and prejudice are other examples.
Peers, teachers, parents and other adults easily tend to label children as “bullies”, which do even more damage in the situation. It sends signals to the child with such behaviour that bullying is what is expected from him/her and it makes it harder to get out of, even when they want to.
Bystanders are another difficulty. It is those standing on the side, looking, observing, laughing, filming. Not doing anything to make it stop can be just as harmful. Teach your children to be UPSTANDERS instead. Someone that is not afraid to act when something is not right, that stands up for peers, that talk with teachers or other adults they trust.
If you find out that your child is bullying others, be there to guide and help. Behaviour can change, and often does. Be calm, but clear about that the behaviour must stop. Empathy and learning to treat others with respect is crucial for him/her to learn from an early age. Do not put blame on the child, but talk about the behaviour, why it’s wrong and how it affects others. Emphasise that you will help to stop it, even though he/she may not want to admit what is taking place. Also, be observant on your child’s online usage.
Be involved and communicate with your child’s school, sports club or similar where the bullying takes place. Policies and guidelines should be in order and through that consequences should follow. If you support such decision, it will give a strong message to your child that bullying is wrong. Check in with the school or club on a regular basis to find out the development. When needed, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance by a counsellor who can help your child and give tools to relate with peers in a positive way. Counselling can assist with anger, impulse control, self-esteem and much more.
You can be a changemaker. Listen, believe and act. Be that one adult, children feel comfortable going to with their concerns.
(*Definition from Oxford Languages)
Would you need urgent advice or help contact:
Lifeline 0861 322 322
Childline 08000 55555
South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) 0800 20 50 26