Busting the bullies

By Drum Digital
05 April 2014

You might think of a bully as someone who, backed by a gang of supporters, picks on a vulnerable person, pushes them around or grabs their sandwiches during break time – but bullying comes in many more forms. Here are some tips for helping your child deal with a bully.

When is your child being bullied?

Bullying is aggressive behaviour intended to hurt another person physically or emotionally. The bully tries to gain control over the victim. Human behaviour researchers define bullying as deliberate, negative behaviour designed to cause injury or discomfort in another person through physical contact, words or gestures.

Bullying is any behaviour that makes the victim uncomfortable or unhappy, or affects their human dignity.

It involves your child being:

  • Teased, called humiliating names or belittled.
  • Struck, pushed or kicked
  • Physically belittled and forced to behave differently.
  • Having their possessions taken and/or damaged.
  • Ignored and deliberately excluded from social and group activities.
  • Being made a target of hurtful gossip.
  • The recipient of insulting SMSes and e-mails (or other written messages).
  • Singled out for their appearance or certain people’s perception of them (prejudices).

Characteristics of a bully

Research reveals interesting facts about the self-image of bullies. In some cases they’re arrogant and egocentric (they think only of themselves) and feel good when belittling others. In other cases the bully is self-conscious or ashamed about something and intimidates others to feel powerful and in control. Bullies experience uncontrolled rage, exhibit aggressive behaviour and sometimes have poor role models. Children who are abused at home often bully a smaller or younger kids at school to vent their feelings. Bullies must be helped to understand the consequences of their damaging behaviour and to change it.

Bullying and suicide

There appears to be a strong link between bullying and suicide attempts. Some children are ashamed and become so withdrawn they can’t or won’t talk about the abuse they’re subjected to.

Encourage your child to do the following if being bullied:

  • Keep notes on incidents. Write down the times and dates when hurtful things were said or done to him or her. Writing about it could help them feel better and this information can be used when the child is ready to talk about it.
  • Try to avoid the bully. If it’s impossible ignore him or her.
  • Loudly tell them to stop. In some cases people aren’t even aware they’re being hurtful.
  • Don’t retaliate by shouting, hitting back or making disparaging remarks online. If they do any of these things, they are also being a bully and using negative behaviour to gain a reaction.

Here’s help

Send an e-mail to Janine Shamos, a counsellor at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), at janine.shamos@gmail.com.

Call Sadag on 0800-567-567 or Lifeline on 0861-322-322 or 011-728-1337.

Read more about bullying, and how to handle it nobully.org.nz, kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/problems/bullies.html, webmd.com (Bullying in Boys and Girls: How to stop bullying), stopbullying.gov

Find Love!