How to deal with bullying


June 21, 2016

Dear Readers,

Shani G is a 29-year-old mother of three who worries over her 10-year-old son who, she says, "is a bully". He pushes his younger sister and brother around and gets into trouble at school for getting into fights with other children.

She can't understand his behaviour as he is the oldest child and has shared in everything that she and his dad have given to them all. His dad is a decent man and is supportive. She just can't understand why he won't behave and picks on other children. She loves her son but is getting short tempered with him. She asks Check Up how to cope with the problem. What should she do?

Bullying can be a real problem, but Shani should take heart that bullying is treatable. Bullying is a form of abuse whether it is manifested as physical, verbal, or emotional pressure. There is behaviour that is intended to assert power over another individual. It is harassment. Bullying doesn't just occur in children, but lingers into adulthood and can be associated with some aggressive or manipulative behaviour at the work place. Bullying has real consequences as the bully's targets are at risk for stress-related illnesses and depression!

It used to be thought that bullies were people who suffered from low self-esteem, but studies have shown that in fact, they have very high self-esteem! However, they are easily hurt emotionally and behave defensively and aggressively towards persons who they feel may have slighted them. Any threat to their ego and they behave in a fashion that tries to show them to be in control of and superior to others.

Bullies have a personality trait that allows them to perceive, themselves as special and deserving of special treatment. This leads to them be exploitative and authoritarian and lacking in sympathy and empathy for others. They often are charming, stubborn, manipulative, dictatorial, and without remorse for their actions. While some of this can be genetic, one also has to wonder about what may have disturbed the child and what emotional needs may have gone unfulfilled, unknown to the other family members.

As bullies often interpret people's behaviour as hostile towards them, they tend to be short-tempered and experience difficulties in establishing healthy relationships. When adults present this way, it often means that their aggression went unchecked during their childhood, but it is never too late to learn!

Some bullies behave quite well in some situations but practise bullying to get their own way when necessary. Whenever bullying occurs, giving in to the bully is reinforcing the bullying behaviour. Targets often feel defeated. This behaviour cycle has to be broken! Bullying behaviour must not be tolerated, although it takes a strong character to stand up to a bully.

Children bullies are often defiant and aggressive even towards their parents and teachers, and they are rarely sorry about their behaviour. Bullies are just as likely to be popular and admired by peers as they are to be social outcasts! And bullying behaviour can begin as early as pre-school. At school, joking will turn to teasing in the bully's hands as verbal bullying is very common. If not controlled, bullying can escalate into violence and assault. Parents can often spot a child who is becoming a bully as the child bully

• Feels that his behaviour is always justified

• Uses aggressive behaviour with his siblings and with other children

• Is always the "boss".

If a child exhibits these signs, then it is up to the parents to teach him what acceptable behaviour is and to provide repercussions for inappropriate behaviour. Set negative consequences for the bully. Bullying occurs in social situations when the child is interacting with others. Withhold these social outings until the bullying behaviour stops, and as actions speak louder than words, practise whatever you preach to the child. Don't be a bully yourself!

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