By Sharon D'Penha
School bullying is a very common cause of poor performance among students. Children who are bullied by other children tend to slow down as far as progress at school goes, and they tend to want to stay away from school altogether. Research has shown that violence among peers may cause a low rate of literacy among children of various age groups.
According to a September 2003 report in the Journal of Urban Health, 15% of children reported feeling unsafe in school, while only 8% felt the same way outside school. In the same study, nearly 31% of all children said their schoolmates "get away with anything." Billingsley, Janice, "Many Children Don't Feel Safe at School”, HealthScout.com, Sept. 2003.
School bullying peaks during your child’s early teenage years, but it is experienced in most primary and secondary schools. In order to help our children, we need to know more about the nature of bullies and their victims.
Our task as parents and educators would be easy if all we had to do was give a child a questionnaire to complete in order to discover whether they are a potential bully or victim. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that.
How to spot a bully?
There are different types of children who turn into bullies.
· Some are ‘Attention seekers’: they want to be the centre of attention most of the time. They can be very friendly to some people (to the point of being overfriendly or overgenerous) and aggressive to others.
· The other type of bully may be dubbed ‘Wannabes’: they are underachievers and underperformers, but they want recognition for skills they don’t have.
· Yet others are known as ‘Gurus’: they are task-focussed and have no people-skills. They are sometimes regarded as favourites and valued by the teacher, either because they come from rich and famous homes, or because of their genuine knowledge in a narrow field.
· There are also those called ‘Sociopaths’ who interest only in personal gain, survival and can be very deceitful, manipulative and evil.
Is your child being bullied?
If your child is being bullied, you will be able to observe both physical and social signs. You may notice your child has come home with wounds and torn clothes, and when questioned, he won’t give a satisfactory or believable answer. Complaining of headaches and stomach-aches could be another sign of being bullied, especially if this happens right before the child is leaving for school.
Socially, a child can run down in numbers at school: his grades may suddenly go low instead of going higher, he may not like to participate in school activities and events anymore, not like to talk to his best friends any longer, he might keep to himself all the while. It’s important to find out what is causing this distress and change of attitude in your child, and it would be unwise to put it down to “typical teenage angst”.
What you can do?
You may not always be able to confirm your suspicions. "Bullies may instil a sense of shame in victims," says Kate Cohen-Posey, author of How To Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies. "Either they internalize the names they are being called, or feel like they should be able to handle it themselves."
All children are entitled to courteous and respectful treatment by students and staff at school. Educators have a duty to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. Fortunately, most educators take their responsibilities to stop bullying very seriously.
If you have any concerns or even unproved suspicions, speak to your child’s school in the first instance and ensure that together you form a Plan of Action to combat not only the bullying, but also the resulting issues (lower grades won’t necessarily go away when the bullying stops: you will need to bridge your child’s gap in knowledge).
For a chance to understand your child’s learning potential and strengths, as well as to increase their sense of self-worth, assess their Learning Style on www.creativelearningcentre.com.
Make your children ‘BULLY-PROOF’: get wise, act now!