When I started to discuss about writing an article on bullying, the concerns came pouring in from fellow educators and parents of school going children. Not to mention from children themselves. This is not a new issue. Not a unique challenge for schools. Not something each of us has not known in our growing years. However, the proportions it has taken now, take a look at the few of these links below as a sample – I thought of tackling it one step at a time. It does need to be tackled. It does need to be stopped. And for that it needs to be understood.
As an educator, for any topic that is vast and complex, one which has varied level of understanding and thus tolerance of by children, parents and teachers in different contexts and geographies, I structured the topic of ‘Bullying’ in three parts. That of understanding, preventing and dealing. What else you would like me to include in this series?
What is understood as bullying in schools and what factors lead to becoming a bully or a child at risk of being bullied?
What does it mean?
The dictionary meaning of Bullying, in Hindi, ranges from ‘Badmaash’ to ‘Gunda’ and ‘Dhaunsia’; ‘Harcelement’ to ‘brute’ in French; ‘Acoso’ to ‘abuso’ in Spanish; ‘ Mobbing’ and ‘Drangsalieren’ to ‘Tyrannisieren’ in German… the words range in intensity. However, the common essence is that of unwanted and aggressive behavior.
What does it look like?
Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power balance. Often, the behavior is repeated. It may be amongst the same set of children or the bully/bullied might change over time. Or, the circle of influence of the bully might expand. Children who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
How is a situation identified to be that of bullying?
In order for a situation to be considered as that of bullying, besides the behavior to be aggressive, look out for :
A clear indication of bullying is fundamentally to be understood as an imbalance of power. Children who bully are most likely to use either their physical strength, or access to some secret like an embarrassing information, an escapade, a prank that may be considered unpardonable or unacceptable, a rendezvous that is not acceptable to the family/school/peers of the child/ren who is/are being bullied. Sometimes, children who are popular for their attitude or appearance, or are cognitively sharper etc. use this power to control and /or physically and/ or emotionally/ psychologically harm the other child/children. The imbalance of power can change over time and at different situations, with same or different people. Bullies often make threats, spread rumors, physically attack, verbally abuse, form cliques, exclude the other child/ren from a group.
Who bullies and who gets bullied?
There are several factors that can make a child or a group of children bullies or get bullied.
Some of those who are potential targets for being bullied for example are:
- Children who look different from their peers in some way or the other as obese/underweight, short sighted/astigmatism/wear correction or reading glasses, new to class/section, from different socio-economic strata – poorer or richer, studious/smart/nerd/laggard.
- Children who stammer, appear anxious, have poor body image, exhibit low self esteem.
- Children who have few friends, who are less liked, are less popular, belong less to any group in class/school.
- Children who are annoying, unclean, provocative, smelly or antagonise some child/ren for some reason.
- Children who are depressed, come from in-attentive/broken/separated/ busyfamily, or are over chaperoned and monitored, or are not heard or attended to adequately.
Likewise, there are some factors that can create bullies out of some children. Some of those for example are:
- Children who are very close to their peers over years and are constantly pre occupied towards making themselves popular in any which way they can.
- Children who like to dominate, who like to steer conversations, who like to talk but not listen, who want to compete but not collaborate, who do not like to acknowledge contribution or give credits where due.
- Children who are aggressive, get easily frustrated, think less of others, think of themselves as more competent than others, cannot tolerate those who they or others think are more competent than themselves in any way.
- Children who have contempt for rules, have friends who break them, who want to rebel continuously on every matter and also bully others.
- Children who have seen and experienced verbal and/or physical violence as a way of expressing their views and asserting themselves.
More on bullying, in part -2 . Please send in your views and concerns, thoughts and queries. Especially situations that according to you were incidences of bullying and how was it handled. Or was it? How else could it have been handled differently and/or better? Please exclude or change names as necessary to maintain confidentiality. I will include it in the next discussion in this AskNiv series on Bullying. You can post your mail id if you want to be notified when it is published.