Bullies are everywhere

A shocking story has emerged from Gauteng : a mother alleges the education department failed to help her son after bullies forced him to drink his own urine.

I was a teacher for sixteen years and can confidently say: Show me a school playground and I will find you a bully.

Admittedly the extent and severity are often strongly influenced by both the attitudes of the staff and the surrounding community from which the children come.

While staff cannot be everywhere all the time, it is quite another matter to choose not to get involved. That is tacit consent and gives a green light to bullies everywhere.

The dreadful situation in which bullied children find themselves needs to be revisited: not only can children not defend themselves physically against a bigger child, or a team of bullies, but to report it either to parents or teachers could lead to the bullying becoming more intense. If the bully is punished by the authorities, who do you think he is going to take it out on when no one is looking? And kids know this.

Children can be vicious to anyone who is different, or smaller, or isolated. Often bullies have major problems of their own and they’re just acting out. And yes, kids have to learn to fight their own battles. But up to a point. Young kids are simply not emotionally equipped to deal with serious victimisation and it can leave lifelong scars. Parents and teachers who do not intervene and  thereby give the playground bullies free reign are sending out a powerful message that bullying is OK.

And bullies become adults. Scare tactics and intimidation are found in many workplaces and marriages. Only finding yourself acceptable if you can lord it over those around you is a very unattractive trait that many people carry into adult life. And in our harsh, competitive society bullies often do come out tops - in the short run at least.

It helps to remember that bullies are cowards at heart and seldom pick on those who have the wherewithal to fight back or choose not to engage.

But before you deal with the bullies in your own world, do watch out for the bullies in your child’s life:  and that includes cyberbullies, who are becoming more and more common. Nobody has to take this lying down.

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