ParentingPep Talk

Anti-Bullying Guide for Parents – Signs to look out for and its remedies

Bullying harms both the bully and the victim. Photo courtesy: Alexas_Fotos
Bullying harms both the bully and the victim. Photo courtesy: Alexas_Fotos

Texy by Poyani Mehta

A bully according to the Cambridge Dictionary is a perpetrator (male or female) who seeks to harm, intimidate, coerce (someone vulnerable). Someone who hurts verbally or physically and frightens someone, often over a period of time and often forcing them to do something they do not want to do.

“I got made fun of for being fat in elementary, middle, and even high school. People would always go out of their way to tell me how fat I was and how unattractive that made me, especially in comparison to other girls. My nickname in third through fifth grade was ‘sumo wrestler,’ and once a boy drew a sumo wrestler on the blackboard and labelled it with my name. Even today, objectively knowing I am a pretty small person, I always feel fat. I’m working to unlearn harmful beauty standards and body dysmorphia, but years of bullying means I get triggered in the most unexpected ways, like when I’m at the beach or when a fat girl is made fun of in a movie.” — Amy, 22, 8 Girls Get Real About Their Bullying Horror Stories

On any given day while reading the newspaper, watching television or while on the internet, we come across articles or incidents on some form of bullying. It is rampant not just in big cities but in small towns too.

People of any age could be a victim of bullying and can happen in any strata of society, schools, colleges, workspace, marriage or any relationship. As a parent to a young daughter, while writing this article the very thought of a bully or a bullied victim is a matter of great concern for me. One should not take bullying lightly or ignore it. Many a time teasing, mocking, scoffing may happen between friends but if targeted aggressively and consistently then it is time to take corrective action.

Here are a few forms of Bullying that parents and children need to look out for :

1.] Type of Bullying – Verbal – saying mean derogatory things to a person, name calling, passing false rumours and insulting.

Scenario – A boy is teased consistently due to his body size ‘fat shaming’ him, a slow learner is tormented and bullied to undermine her confidence, false rumour mongering about a child causing him emotional hurt and humiliation.

Signs to look out for in the bully: Aggressive, physically stronger, mean and rude, purposely picks on someone, make snide remarks.

Signs to look out for in the victim: Signs to look out for are anxiety and stress, low esteem, eating less or suffering from bulimia, not wanting to go to school or college, withdrawn within oneself.

Solution: The traumatised victim needs to know there are various people who could help them deal with their suffering and they are not alone. Courage to open up to their parents, teachers, or the school counsellor.

2.] Type of Bullying – Physical – involves pushing, shoving, hurting, physically and pinching.

Scenario: In the school bus a younger child is pinched and bitten just for the fun of it, shoving and tripping someone in the college hallway.

Signs to look out for in the bully: Tries to act snarky, aggressively trouble someone, repeatedly insult or makes fun off, violent outbursts.

Signs to look out for in the victim: Crying incessantly, unexplained bruising and cuts, torn clothes, not willing to go in the school bus, wants to travel with known company and or friends.

Solution: Not to take things lying down and complain to the administrative staff if at school/college or take the help of parents and relatives to deal with the underlying issue.

3.] Type of Bullying – Cyber – Creating havoc in a person’s life by defaming them on social media, Whatsapp and online over the internet.

Scenario: A person or individual trolling someone be it a commoner or a famous personality just because he or she finds some fault in them. Sending hate mails or threatening to harm them online just to scare them.

Signs to look out for in the bully: Repeated online stalking, making fake profiles of someone, prey on someone vulnerable.

Signs to look out for in the victim: Mood swings, change in eating and sleep patterns, wants to be left alone, fearful of being seen outside.

Solution: This could be resolved if the victim is brave and courageous and does not give in under pressure. There are complaint cells wherein the bullied victim can complain to the police and action is taken against the perpetrator.

4.] Type of Bullying – Social – Consistently excluding a person from groups. Sometimes regional differences in India causes meaningless bullying, such as excluding the company of children with disabilities and underprivileged children.

Scenario: Excluding a new student in a group, just to be popular amongst friends isolate a person, sharing images of a person in Whatsapp groups causing embarrassment to the victim.

Signs to look out for in the bully: Continued dominance, socially aggressive, continued exclusion of someone from forming friendships.

Signs to look out for in the victim: School grades may fall, bed wetting, low attendance, insecure or frightened all the time.

Solution: Parents should be on the lookout if their child is under any pressure; whether he or she is not able to make friends easily, wilts easily, make note of their behaviour when online with friends.

Why does bullying take place?

We must understand that at times, bullying may be seen as a ‘rite of passage’ or ‘it happens’ or ‘a part of growing up’ that gets likely ignored by the people in the periphery but we must also remember that bullying is a choice since it is a behaviour. It is a bad choice but can be changed with proper and timely guidance.

Sometimes, the hardest part is that of a parent is accepting the fact that their child is a bully. Remember, the first step towards a positive change and healing starts with acceptance.

In fact, we must learn to accept that bullying is actually a problem, a kind of a challenge that is affecting the bully as well as the victim. We urge you to perceive bullying as the need for help by the bully as that is what is going to solve the problem.

Bullies can be made to realise what they are doing for fun or to tease in reality is cruel and ask them to imagine themselves in the same situation and their reaction to it. Set up ant-bully squads in schools with the help of the students, to monitor and keep strict consequences for the wrong actions.

The parent, teachers and counsellors play a major role in bringing a positive change by conducting anti-bullying workshops and programmes to sensitise students, teachers and parents.

Teachers are the early detectors since they are in direct contact with students and should bring it to the notice of parents and higher authorities so that proper action can be taken. We, as parents are equally responsible for letting our wards know that we are here for them and they can freely come and talk to us regarding any situation, instead of succumbing under pressure. We must empower our children to take the help of a peer or teacher if they’re being bullied.

A counsellor needs to first identify the form of bullying in the said child, put in the effort to inform parents and educators how to recognize the warning signs and lasting impacts of bullying, while working with the affected students to create a safe learning environment.

As rightly said by Chris Colfer, “When people hurt you, overtly, think of them as sandpaper. They may scratch or hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless”.

Sources for reference

With inputs from Ms. Vandana Bajaj, Special Educator and Clinical Psychologist.

poyani & daughter
Poyani & daughter

About our writing program student:

Former librarian of Gopi Birla Memorial School, a Storyteller, actor in children’s theatre with The Secret Passages Storytellers and The 3 Musketeers, a team member of The Peek A Book Children Lit. Festival, Poyani enjoys baking, is very for of animals, music and travelling. When she’s not busy with work, she likes to spend quality time with her 11-year-old daughter. She occasionally likes to write travel stories as well.

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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