Bullying is the practice of repeatedly doing harmful acts, consciously intended to hurt another person physically and emotionally. In most cases, bullying is deliberately intended to instill fear in a seemingly weaker, or unwanted party and hence the ability to control another person.
Bullying might be perpetrated through the use of spoken words, negative emotions, or physical violence. Child bullying is a common phenomenon in schools, homes, and online. Consistent bullying is a source of harmful mental and physical health effects, which generally causes unhappiness instantly and sometimes into the future of the victim. Many adults can relate to the emotional torture endured through bullying and no parent would like to see his/her child castigated through the painful ordeals of bullies. This explains the apparent need for anti-bullying campaigns for our children.
Causes of bullying
- Stress and Trauma. Stress and traumatic experiences are the most common catalysts of bullying behavior experienced by children. Most adults or children who engage in bullying behavior have a probable experience of a stressful situation within the last 5 years. For instance, a parent who experiences a stressful financial or social situation might pour his/her frustrations on a child whenever s/he requests financial assistance. Harshness thus becomes the parent’s strategy to discourage the child from soliciting money and manage his/her financial strains. A child who experiences stress might also easily turn into a bully.
- Disconnection. The lack of connection between the parent and the child might also elicit bullying behavior. Disconnection leads to emotional rifts and loss of empathy between the parent and the child, implying that the parent does not care about the emotional, social or physical welfare of the child. Explicit disconnection leads the parent to find the child as a source of disturbance and hence will scold him/her for no apparent reason.
- Gender superiority. The feeling of being patronized by someone for being a boy or a girl is yet another for turning a bully to establish self-security. For instance, when males are given some responsibilities at schools, girls might feel that the role was given based on preference for masculinity. In response, some girls revert to aggressive behavior against their male counterparts as a means to re-establish their position. The boys might at a point do the same, and this becomes a coping strategy for all.
- The bullied becomes the bully. Victims of bullying are highly likely to turn into bullies against others as a way to self-heal.
Effects of child bullying
You can tell that a child is a victim of bullying by just observing his/her behavior around others at home, or at school. These observable behaviors are the obvious effects of bullying. They include the following:
- Loss of self-esteem/self-worth/self-respect – they fear expressing themselves and cannot challenge or question their friends or colleagues.
- Poor academic outcomes, including boycotts of some lessons, constant absenteeism, and poor academic grades.
- Constant avoidance of conflict, even when it’s due
- Obvious disconnection with school or home and may prefer not going home or school.
- Socially withdrawn and disinterest in making quality friends
- High emotionality and obvious indication of vulnerability and poor levels of resilience
- Mostly stressed out, depressed or anxious
- Highly suspicious of other people
- Sleeplessness, mostly crying and having nightmares
- Feel wary or suspicious of others
- In advanced stages, bullying can elicit tendencies to self-harm and sometimes suicidal Keep up to date with behavior
Anti-bullying movements aim at reducing cases of bullying and the harmful effects associated with bullying to the victims, especially children.
Schools and communities are required to have plans adequate to prevent any type of bullying. In the spirit of discouraging bullying and the rise of bullies, schools often implement anti-bullying training and projects.
Children are acquainted with skills of recognizing actions, languages, and words that may point to bullying, which helps them avoid joining in the bullying behavior. They are also exposed to how it feels to be a victim of bullying, and the school policies on bullying. They are also taught how to respond when they identify or come across a bullying situation. Anti-bullying campaigns also target parents and staff, to teach them what child bullying entails since some might be perpetrating them unawares, how to identify a child undergoing bullying, and how to handle the situation.
Anti-bullying campaigns also put in the spotlight children most susceptible to bullying, including children with special needs and exposes to the public mainly via media the laws on harassment and discrimination, and the need for mutual respect.
Anti-bullying campaigns against children are thus active in the following areas:
- Helping children, parents, and the community to understand what bullying entails – involves training children at school, at home, and via media on actions, activities, and behavior that amount to bullying. It also entails emphasizing why bullying is unacceptable and how/where to seek help, as well as how to stand up against bullying safely.
- Encouraging open communication – in their vulnerable status, children and other vulnerable groups need a warm and safe place to report their experiences. A parent and the teacher should be the primary persons the child feels safe to check for support. It’s advisable for the parent to check in with their children, seek to know their daily experiences at schools, listen and understand their worries and concerns, and always offer a listening ear to them. Avoid telling them off or appearing scary, unfriendly, or unconcerned about what the child wants to let you know. This is a vital stage of creating a safe space for the children, and in recognizing instances of them experiencing bullying.
- Encouraging the child to do what s/he loves doing – Victims of bullying are often sensitive and susceptible to hurtful feelings, even when an act was least expected to cause harm. There is a need to boost their resilience, self-healing, and recovery of their self-esteem. Encouraging them to partake in their hobbies, interests, and other preferences can help boost their self-worth, self-confidence, and recovery from bullying experiences.
- Modeling positive treatment of others – By teaching children how best to treat others, and important values like empathy, kindness, and respect, bullying can be gradually eradicated.