Bullying: what is it and how to handle it

Going to school should be an exciting venture for a child. After all, it’s their first approach at having social interaction with other children of their own age, as well as a chance to be original and to learn how to appreciate their individuality. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are many children being affected by a social issue that has gained attention globally over the past few years: it is bullying.

Bullying can be something as tame as spreading rumors about a person, teasing a child for their choices or behavior, or even more extreme and worrying actions. The first step to attack these issues is to learn more about bullying and how it works.

Bullying explained

This type of behavior is not associated with one kind of conduct, on the contrary, there are several different actions that can be cataloged as bullying. The broad definition of bullying encompasses all the intentional actions performed on an individual or group of individuals that can be tormenting for them in a physical, verbal or psychological way. These actions can be something as simple as name-calling, shunning or mocking, to more serious issues like hitting, shoving, or threatening and extortion; and they can be both performed in person or online.

These actions often make the victims feel bad about themselves, lowering their self-esteem, and causing real and concerning psychological issues. It’s something that needs to be taken very seriously, especially when it happens to children that are starting to build up their personalities and self-worth.

What are the lead causes of bullying?

There’s not just one reason why a child might feel inclined to bully. There’s a spectrum of possibilities for this behavior to arise. However, there are some common characteristics that repeat in most cases:

- Some children feel insecure about themselves or about something in their lives, this makes them more propense to pick on someone they look at as weaker to feel better about themselves.

- In some cases, bullying gives insecure children the chance to feel powerful, important, or more in control of the situation they’re living. Bullying makes them feel popular.

- Bullying can be the result of a repeated behavior, this means that a child might treat their peers according to the treatment they receive at home. In this type of situations, the bullying seems as natural for the bully, since that’s all they know.

- A pattern of aggressive behavior may be the cause of bullying for some children. This is related to a defiant personality and anger management issues, that should be treated by a specialist.

Oftentimes, children who bully tend to do some victim profiling, as they look for a specific kind of victim, someone that may be smaller than them, with a different cultural background, different tastes or personality.

How to act in case your child is being bullied

There’s no easy way for a parent to know that their child is being bullied, so the first step towards helping your little one is being attentive of his or her experiences at school, by having good communication so you can discuss his or her problems openly.

In some cases, children can be quiet about this out of fear or embarrassment, so it’s important to be cautious and delicate when dealing with this subject and to be vigilant in case some of the following warning signs appear, so you can identify if your child is being bullied.

- If a child is not acting normally, or if they seem anxious or worry, this might be a sign that something is happening.

- Lack of sleep, the inability of sleeping well, or lack of appetite can also be signs of bullying, especially is there’s no apparent reason for these behaviors to appear.

- Frequent bruises or injuries can appear when a child is being bullied.

- In some cases, a child that is being bullied will avoid the situations or places they feel as dangerous. A child that often doesn’t want to go to school, or is avoiding going to the park all of a sudden might have a good reason for it.

This issue can be tough to talk about, so give your child the chance to communicate with you freely. Encourage them to talk about these issues and seek help when needed. Some good ways to help a child that’s being bullied are:

- Always offer emotional support and listen to what your child has to say, and praise him or her for coming to you with their problems. It’s important that your child understand that talking about it is the right thing to do.

- Take your child’s opinion into consideration when looking for the best course of action to follow to deal with the bullying.

- Since all bullying situations are different, identify the main issues and look for the best approach to solving the problem, you can go to a specialist for guidance, like teachers or counselors.

- If the bully is threatening physical action for denouncing them, and you’ve already discussed the issue with a specialist, you can try talking about it with the bully’s parents, but make sure to do so with a mediator present.

- If the bullying continues or intensifies after following this advice, learn more about the different laws that apply to your community and consider taking legal actions.

- Teach your child safe ways to deal with the bullying, like being surrounded by friends in places where the bullying might happen, not reciprocating the anger directed to them, this might make things worst, ignoring the bully by walking away and acting brave, and always make sure to talk about it with an adult.

How to teach children not to bully

Sometimes, parents learn that their child is not being bullied, but that he or she is the bully. This is a very difficult situation to be in, but there are a few steps that help tackle this conduct.

- Make sure that your child knows that bullying is completely unacceptable and that continuing with that behavior will have serious consequences for him or her.

- It’s important that you understand the reasons behind your child’s actions, this way you can help your child manage any problem he or she might face that is triggering this conduct.

- Teach your child by example how to treat others kindly. Children should learn from their parents how to be respectful, kind, and empathic.

- Always encourage well behavior, this is called positive reinforcement. Be proud of your child’s achievements and let him or her know about it, and focus more on the good things that on the bad behavior.

- Be aware of your child’s social life, sometimes, children can be easily influenced by friends who are having problems, or can be stressed by the environment they are in. This is a serious issue, and a delicate one, be sure not to make your child feel judge, but supported, and encourage his or her favorite activities that could lead them to make new friends.

- Chat with a specialist if you feel overwhelmed to figure the best plan to help your child.

Bullying is a worrying issue that can lead to awful consequences, it must always be taken seriously. It’s always a good idea to talk to someone about it, both for parents and kids, so looking for a specialist help can do wonders to ease the problem. After all, communication is always key to have good mental health.

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