Take The Bull(y) By The Horns
When you write a weekly column, often the bigger struggle is what to write about. I scout for topics, ask friends and those who follow this column what they would like to read. A word that crops up every now and then is bullying and when a friend specifically mentioned about her little daughter’s brush with bullies, I had to talk about it.
Since I’m not a subject matter expert in the area, I threw the question to our in-house expert, our 12-year-old. I assumed that with her practical day to day observations she would definitely have an edge over my theoretical advice. (Pssttt… I also had an ulterior motive— to get the conversation started and this was a bait she would definitely bite)
Bite, she did and here are some bytes she gave to chew on. What follows is a more organised crux of our conversation, with minimal inputs from me.
Ignore. Most wannabe bullies back off when they don’t get the attention they crave for.
Laugh it off or with them. This often brings their defences down and they really don’t know what to do next.
Stand up to the bullies. Look them in the eye when you confront them. Stand straighter; it makes you appear taller. Stand behind your friends when they confront their bullies. This intimidates them and when people know you are a team, no one messes with you.
Be confident or atleast look confident. They can’t tell the difference.
Never cry. Don’t give them that pleasure; never ever.
Report to home room tutor, bus mother, teacher. If it’s happening in school and if you are unable to manage it on your own, report the bullies to authorities. They have the superpowers to summon parents and take punitive actions. This is imperative also because the bullies may be preying others as well and will continue to do so if they go unreported.
Tell your parents. They are the best people to run to because they usually know what to do. And no, it doesn’t make you a tattletale.
While she was talking, I was making mental notes of what we as parents should be doing. Self-esteem and communication seem to be the cornerstones on which our children can build defences against potential bullies.
We need to work on our child’s self-esteem on a regular basis. How she views herself is something that will decide her reaction to the bully’s words. She needs to be aware of her strengths while we gently point the flaws and that she is loved for who she is. I know it’s easier said than done and this might be another discussion altogether but it essentially needs to be practised.
When a child is loved unconditionally, the communication channels open up more easily. Not just as parents but as teachers or caregivers, we need to take our roles seriously. The children we take under our wings need to feel safe and comfortable to approach us.
According to my 12-year-old, this is basic stuff and that I am just stating the obvious. She may be right but my aim to write this today is to start conversations in our homes and schools. Every time you confer with the teachers on your child’s grades also ask about your school’s anti bullying policy. Talk about it on social media, rope in counsellors and psychologists and see how you can be useful where you are.
Tackling bullying needs concerted efforts from parents, schools and the community at large; just keep the conversations going. The message that bullying shall not be tolerated needs to go out loud and clear from all the directions.
Bullying is a growing menace and can get really ugly if it isn’t tackled on time. We have to take the bull by the horns; shoving it under the rug isn’t an option.