Teens

Identifying a bully

Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. It can be physical, verbal or over the internet and social media.

Before something can be done about the increase in bullying, one first needs to be able to identify a bully.

Colleen Johnson, an educational psychologist, says that children are put under a lot of pressure in today’s world.

“Children are dealing with their parents’ behaviour, divorce and reconstructed home environments.”

She says that these are some of the environmental influences that children are dealing with and may model this behaviour at school.

“Some children are in environments where they themselves are being bullied at home, this may be by a parent or sibling, and they may act out at school,” says Johnson.

She adds that some bullies may have ‘small man syndrome’ where they feel the need to assert their power in a physical manner or they may be more verbally competent than their peers and use verbal sparring to undermine their classmates.

According to Johnson, bullies are often children who have little empathy for others and tend not take responsibility for their actions.

“They are often aggressive and angry children that haven’t found constructive ways to deal with their emotions and take them out on other people,” says Johnson.

She adds that sometimes children who bully can be emotionally immature for their age group and therefore resort to physical aggressiveness and meanness.

Johnson says bullies often like to be winners and are poor losers with a low frustration tolerance who cannot cope with losing.

“Children who are disciplined harshly or in a punitive way often act this out and may become bullies. Bullies are often defiant attention seekers who are popular with lots of friends.”

Johnson adds that it needs to be remembered that bullies are victims too.

“There is often underlying reasons for their behaviour.” She says that they often feel the need to be in control and to feel good about themselves because they have a low self-esteem.

“These children have a poor self-image and lack confidence, they compensate for these feelings by acting out and try to dominate their peers through aggression or isolation,” says Johnson.

Impacts of being bullied

Johnson says bullying causes stress on children, has a negative impact on their self-esteem and cripples their confidence in their own abilities.

“This affects all areas of their life especially in their scholastic performance.”

She adds that these children often feel isolated, become introverted and develop psychosomatic symptoms, such as headaches, to get out of going to school.

“Victims of bullying may start cutting or harming themselves and this could lead to suicide.”

She says that if parents identify that their child is being bullied, parents need to address the problem immediately.

If they are being bullied because of a physical reason, such as a mole, then parents should remove it to alleviate the problem.

“Parents should also ask their child how they can help them. If the parent confronts the bully this may make things worse for the victim and it will disempower them.

“If the bullying occurs during break time, the child may want to sit near the teacher on duty or surround themselves with their friends, making them inaccessible.”

She adds that if the bullying continues the parent should contact the principal of the school.

The parents’ role

If your child is a bully, Johnson suggests that parents try and assess what is causing their behaviour.

“Look at the child’s environment and how you, as a parent, deal with and speak to people,” says Johnson.

She says that if a parent belittles or is derogatory towards people the child will model this behaviour.

“Parents should also take note of what their children are being exposed to. This includes television shows, cartoons and the PlayStation games they play.”

Johnson says that children should not be exposed to age inappropriate entertainment.

“Reinforce positive behaviour, if you see your child do something good, praise them for it.”

Parents should encourage group activities where their children are put in a position where they have to co-operate with their peers.

Johnson says that karate is a positive outlet for children as it teaches self-discipline and will allow their child to channel their anger constructively.

“Children also require consistent boundaries and limits and should be taught that other people are not there to be hit or hurt.”

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