There is a word as prevalent as it is nightmarish. It haunts the hallways of schools, hides in the dark places and lays in wait for its next victim. Many children face the light of day pregnant with fear that this day will repeat the horrors they felt yesterday and the days before that. So many children are facing the morning school run with a fear that could level a heavyweight boxer by the second round.
Bullies have the ability to rip away the innocence, the joy and the wonder that should form the basis of our children’s reality. From the subtle look over his shoulder to see if his captor will allow him to make the choice he is faced with to the blatant assault he endures at the hands of the “ones in power”.
South African media has launched a tirade of articles in recent weeks exposing the hell that many children find themselves never escaping. From social media rants, emotional barrages, group punishment to full-blown physical warfare.
I don’t profess to be an expert on the material, but this is what I have experienced:
Consistent, repetitive, unwanted, negative attention aimed at a person or group by another person or group which results range from a feeling of unwanted emotional pain to social isolation or physical pain or a combination.
As a dad, the mere thought that someone could put my child in this place makes my internal atomic capabilities come alive. Honestly, the thought of my sons feeling victimized by one of these ‘thugs’ renders my rational thought processes useless. Few things cause anger to rise more than the thought of my children being hurt. But as a counsellor, I remind myself that the bullies may be the greatest victims in this scenario!
I have watched as one child attempts to hold control over another only to be rebuffed by an authority figure, at least while in their presence. I then see that same ‘bully’ brought to his knees in sobs of worthlessness when verbally attacked by one or both parents as they highlight his pointless existence. They berate, vilify, emotionally maim and make it blatantly clear and public, that he is a failure, always will be and is the author of all the troubles he, they and others experience.
In that very moment, the bully and has crossed over, he has become the victim of a much more powerful enemy.
In no way is it ever acceptable to bully another child, whether it be using social media, words, social status or physical force. I have no space or place in my world for tolerating that behaviour. But, Parents, not all actions you deem wrong in a school setting can be classed as bullying and not all children you deem ‘bullies’ deserve that label.
Lets look at an example in pre-school, when your child comes home a little upset that there is another boy/girl who is mean/telling them what to do. In this situation, don’t jump to the “B” word, there may be some other factors to take into account:
- Your child is not a natural leader but a follower. Mom and Dad, that is ok, don’t imprint your issues on your child they can be amazing followers, successful, fulfilled and whole.
- Sometimes the fact that your child is being told what to do is an opportunity to teach them how/what behaviour to accept from others. They need to know that it is ok to tell another child they don’t want to be their friend until they are treated with kindness. Resorting to the “B” word prematurely, can stunt a learning opportunity and leave them in a victim mindset.
- We teach people how to treat us, that means we need to experience different treatments in life, within a safe environment obviously. I believe it is far more beneficial to let my kids discern what type of people they want around them and have the freedom to express this, when they are young, than waiting for them to utilise this tool well into adulthood.
That being said, perhaps it’s also important not to go after the easy win. It’s extremely easy to label a child a bully than to engage with the parents, highlighting behaviour you have seen in them, repeated by the child. Confrontation can be so difficult, but, in the example I mentioned above, emphasising the fact that the child’s behaviour stems from the bullying of the parents may at the least give him a memory that once, someone felt him worthy enough to stand up for him, and at most, may jolt the parents into seeing that if someone is brave enough to confront them on this issue, perhaps they best listen and make some changes.
At the end of the day, your child is the most important responsibility in your life, or at least should be. If the treatment isn’t stopping, changing schools is not the losers way out. If you are in doubt, concerned or seeing behaviour in your child that makes you think they are a bully or victim, don’t wait! Speak up, seek guidance. Don’t overreact, but don’t be complacent either, both the victim and the bully can be saved.