Bullying: Holding The ‘Bull’ By Its Ear

Words: Paribha VASHIST

It is a possibility. Your child may be in a desolate state most of the time, or they may be hesitating to openly share their feelings. This reticent behaviour may be indicative of poor mental health — but, bullying could be the potential cause. Bullying is not new. It has been in existence for long, and it is not just limited to the traditional perception of ‘mean girls’ spreading rumours and ‘athletic boys’ asserting their physical dominance. It has, in fact, taken multifarious forms — from physical, mental, and cyberbullying to prejudicial bullying, to name a few.

Bully Conundrum

The reason for bullying, in simple terms, is the utilitarian and hedonistic nature of human beings. As pleasure-seeking individuals, we hope to maximise our satisfaction and boost our social status — even if it comes at the cost of another person. Bullying is merely the reflection of this self-seeking attitude in its extreme form.

Bully behaviour is also furthered if the bully can ridicule an individual who is in a weaker position and elicit a positive recognition for that act in their social circles. When they are condemned for it, they would never continue with the practice. This is exactly how the problem of bullying can be addressed at the micro-level.

Well, since the impact of bullying is not just limited to the bully, but also their victim, it’d be imperative to look at four general tips for a parent to follow to effectively safeguard their child’s well-being:

1. Make your child recognise their self-worth. The extent to which a victim is affected by a bully’s aggression is also dependent on how an individual perceives oneself. If your child regards oneself in a lowly manner without any ‘self-worth,’ being ostracised and targeted by an external source, they would only increase their feelings of self-resentment. So, helping your child identify their worth and inner happiness becomes paramount. When your child realises their value, independent of societal perception, they tend to exude self-confidence which is contagious to those around them. A bully would also hesitate to target a person who could potentially outsmart them, and isn’t also bothered by the bully’s actions, or existence.

2. Have clear channels of communication. In many cases, children hesitate to speak up and share their concerns with their parents, if they do not feel comfortable enough to confide in them. This could be due to a multitude of reasons — one, being the lack of communication. In this fast-paced world, both parents and children are so occupied with work-related commitments that they often fail to interact with each other regularly. As a result, parents only get to know about the issues that their child is facing when it is too late. So, to prevent this possibility, take some time out daily to have a healthy conversation with your child and address any early signs of bullying that you may notice.

3. Confront the bully. Here, the emphasis is on ‘strategy.’ When dealing with a bully, it’s crucial to cover your bases, as upon confrontation the bully might want to take revenge. Bullies are often kids who are themselves constantly suppressed and neglected in one social sphere and, therefore, crave attention and hope to establish their supremacy by asserting dominance on another. So, in this desire to fit better in peer groups and bolster their popularity, they spread rumours, target individuals based on certain prejudices, engage in slut-shaming and, in extreme cases, exhibit physically and sexually violent behaviour. Thus, by showing sensitivity, while dealing with the bully, and by appealing to their ethos, we can make the bully realise their mistakes. In this case, a restorative approach towards justice would be mutually beneficial, and taking help from an experienced counsellor would be the right way ahead.

4. Build a strong support system. The long-term solution to counter bullying is to build a robust support base for children in schools and colleges. Having a community structure with regular group interactions and counselling sessions would prevent minor instances of bullying from escalating. Moreover, when children have a social group to rely on, they feel less depressed and are more willing to form diverse associations with their fellow mates, which is good for kids who tend to exhibit bully behaviour and kids who are likely to be bullied. A grassroots’ level solution of this sort creates a level playing field for all children and effectively addresses the feelings of insecurity and want for social recognition. So, there it is: parents should collectively ask the school and/or college authorities to adopt this structure.

Things To Do

  • Spend your time and resources to help your child recognise their self-worth; this could take the form of mindfulness, spiritual enlightenment, or discovering hobbies
  • Always have regular interactions with your child and resolve any issues that they may face at the early stage itself. If, however, your child is already being conditioned to bullying, take the help of a counsellor and strategically confront the bully
  • Try to eradicate bullying from its ‘roots;’ focus on building a strong support base in schools and colleges.

This list isn’t exhaustive, by any means, but its implementation could go a long way in ensuring a happy and safe social environment for your child.

PARIBHA VASHIST is a first-year Bachelor of Economics student at Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi. A voracious reader and a naturally gifted writer, Vashist is zealously passionate about international economics, environmental policy and sustainable development. She wishes to effectively disseminate, in her own simple, yet profound way, scientific knowledge and policy tools to bringing about a positive, healthy change in our increasingly madding world.

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