"Bullying" is when a person purposefully hurts another with words or actions.
Bullying does not see age. From a 5-year-old getting beaten up for lunch money to a 24-year-old being mocked over his appearance - bullying is a matter of power imbalance.
Bullying comes in many forms – Verbal, Social, Cyber, Physical. Bullying strips away a person’s self-worth through name-calling, taunting, teasing, and inappropriate sexual comments. It may erode a person’s self-confidence by making them a pariah, spreading rumors, and embarrassing them in public. Bullying forces a person to HIDE ― it humiliates them, physically hurts them, pushes them into isolation, makes them feel depressed, and brings out erratic behavior. It may also lead a person to suicide.
If your child is a victim of bullying, the first impulse may be to just jump in & deal with your child’s bully, but fighting your child’s bullying battles may not be the best way to solve this problem for them. As a parent, your responsibility should be to arm your child with strategies to deal with the bully on their own :
- Speak out: Tell your child that they should always speak out to either you or a trusted elder. Assure them that you are always available to listen to them. Make them comfortable about confiding in you. When your child talks about the bullying incident, listen to them empathetically, without bias or judgment. Let them know they aren’t at fault for being a target.
- Exude confidence - Bullies avoid people who are confident & assertive. Even, if your child doesn’t feel confident, tell them they should try & exude confidence & should speak to the bully in a calm, confident, assertive tone. Teach them how to stand up for themselves. Play “what if” scenarios to build their confidence. Practice responses with them such as, “That wasn’t nice,” or “Back off,” or “Leave me alone.”
- Act unaffected – Bullies generally tend to pick on people whom they can control. Tell your child to pretend that they are unaffected and conceal their feelings of anger, sadness, or irritation, in front of the bully. This will deprive the bully of the feeling of control & will eventually lead to the bullying being stopped.
Remember to assure your child of your constant conscious presence every step of the way & praise your child for every small victory (in their efforts against bullying), as this will give them the much-needed confidence to stand up for themselves & deal with bullying.