Note: The response to Part 1 has been so encouraging that I decided to publish the Part 2 of the series incorporating some of the reactions I received to Part 1 (which was on understanding what is bullying). This article will enhance our understanding and help us tackle some aspects of preventing it from happening at all.
I will begin this part of the series by picking up from what some of the readers of this blog have shared. What construes an act of bullying? What really are the qualifiers of an act or a person that it can be understood as that of bullying and a bully? One thing that is clear from our definition of Bullying in Part 1 was that there is an imbalance of power. That, the people who bully have some sort of unhinged power over those they bully.
Sharing a video here (about 2.16 minutes) as a starter. You may want to watch the 98 minute documentary Bully (PG13), directed by American director Lee Hirsch.
You may also consider discussing the topic of bullying before and after watching movies like : Billy Elliot, The Fat Boy Chronicles, Ben 10 Alien Force, Cyberbully, Hercules, Jimmy Neutron, Justice League Unlimited, Spy Kids, The War and Bully, The Avengers. The 2015 film – A Girl Like Her, with teenage girls, is running on NetFlix now and has been shared by one of the readers of this blog as yet another film that one could watch for evoking strong emotions followed by discussions.
October is declared in America as the National Bullying Prevention Month. Parents and schools in various parts of the world are grappling with this and making efforts to prevent and stop bullying by advocacy and awareness. Today’s PTI news item is in all the news papers mentioning that actress Kate Winslet was bullied for being overweight through her school years. http://www.ptinews.com/news/7904110_Kate-Winslet-was-bullied-for-being-chubby- In Bangalore, a community support page for the victims of bullying was started this July and is actively sharing information to stop bullying –https://www.facebook.com/bullying.is.evil/
Here are some facts that you might want to keep in mind while defining the act or the person:
Fact no. 1 – Bullies usually pick on those who have less of social power (peer), psychological power (knowledge and potential of below the belt hurting capability) and of course physical power (in size and/or strength, training/swiftness).
Fact no. 2 – Often enough, people who bully, have suffered the same at some point in time i.e. they have themselves been victim of bullying.
Fact no. 3 – Sometimes, the people who are bullies and have been bullied, suffer with depression and anxiety. More than if they were only bullies or only victims of bullying. These individuals might need more help and counseling as they are likely to swing in their behavior from delinquency to risqué.
Fact no. 4 – Actions like spreading rumors, name calling, willfully excluding a child or group of children from a group activity, subjecting another child/ren to an embarrassing situation by creating it themselves or making them embarrass themselves in front of others are forms of social bullying that need to be recognized by students and teachers. As school is the place where it happens most.
Fact no. 5 – It is assumed that most often bullying has a bias for boys. More often than not, physical bullying does happen in boys but social and psychological bullying happens among girls as well. More often, as the girls grow older.
Fact no. 6 – Many children who bully are insecure about some aspect of themselves and as such have a sense of low self-esteem, many of them may have poor social skills and are anxious or depressed. However there are enough instances when bullies are actually popular boys/girls and have positive self-esteem. These children often are boastful of their behavior and wear bullying prowess as a chip on their shoulder.
Fact no. 7 – It is known that the act of bullying usually happens in secluded spaces, when no other student/teacher/parent is around. However, there are many instances when students pay attention, collude and laud act of bullying and the bully him/herself. Often times, the adults in the environment rarely recognize it as bullying even if they are in the vicinity of the act.
Fact no. 8 – Very often adults and children ignore the bullying, assuming that the issue will resolve itself over time. On the contrary, bullying reflects imbalance of power and it repeats itself. Ignoring indicates to the bully that their action and intention can continue without any consequence. Adults and children, both need to stand up and speak up about bullies and bullying to ensure an incident does not become a habit.
We have understood what construes bullying and are working on possible ways of preventing it we should keep in mind that one of the best ways is to equip our children with the information in a manner that they can prevent it on their own. By giving them scenarios and vocabulary. And keeping the channels of communication open at all times. For example, when you read story books dealing with the subject together at leisure or at bed time often enough, they tend to open up dialogue and helps you understand your child’s emotions and situations better.
Here are some references for your home library:
The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, for all ages.
This deals with the common peer problems of exclusion and prejudice. The Star Belly Sneetches have a star on their bellies to symbolise superiority and prestige, and the reject the Plain belly sort.
Move Over Twerp by Martha Alexander, for grades 1 to 3
The first day that Jeffrey rides the bus to school, older boys shout at the youngster and remove him from his seat in the back of the bus.
What a Wimp, by Carol Carrick, for grades 1 to 5
Barney and his family move from the city to the country where his mom said that people were so friendly. But, he soon becomes the target of Lenny Coots who targets Barney as his easy, smaller and younger victim.
Bully on the Bus, by Carl W. Bosch, for grades 1 to 6
Written in a “ choose your own ending” format, the reader decides what action to take while dealing with a bully. The reader can choose from many alternatives that including ignoring, talking to an adult, confronting the bully, fighting, and reconciling. There are many options and opportunities for excellent discussions with this book.
Check some more of these popular books listed on these sites:
More on bullying, in part -3 when I will be talking about signs of bullying, effects of bullying, talking about and responding to bullying . 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.