“It’s been reported that as many as 57% of South African students have been bullied at some time during their high-school careers. When one considers that we have 2.2 million school-going children in this country, those percentages translate into truly staggering numbers.” – SACAP: SA College of Applied Psychology
Whether at school or college, in the neighborhood park or mall, children of all ages can find themselves the target of bullies. When that happens, these bullies can:
- Cause feelings of worthlessness
- Cause bodily injury
- Cause ongoing mental health problems that affect your child’s development and future career prospects
So what can you do?
- Tell your child not to give bullies what they want. A bully likes dominating and instilling fear in others. If your child shows they are intimidated or scared, that response usually makes the bullying behavior continue. Your child should try to keep calm and simply walk away. Then, tell you, the parent, or a responsible adult he/she trusts, what is going on as soon as possible.
- If ignoring a bully’s taunts are not effective, take a firm stance. Suggest that your child stands tall, looks the bully in the eyes, and clearly and loudly makes a statement like, “Stop doing that now. If you keep on bothering me, I’m going to report you to the principal (or the police).” Or, “I’ll talk to you, but I’m not going to fight.” Sometimes, a strong statement will make the situation better, and the bully will leave your child alone. If your child is not used to talking firmly, help by rehearsing what to say and what tone of voice to use.
- Encourage your child to form strong friendships. A child who has loyal friends is less likely to be bullied, and will have peers who stand up for him/her.
- Talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor, or to the principal of the school if the situation with the bully does not stop. You might not want to get involved because you think your child is embarrassed to have you do so, or because you believe your child needs to learn to deal with these situations on her own. No. That doesn’t work. If you want to protect your child’s physical or mental health and well-being, you need to take action. Your child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive, and positive environment, even if it means both you and the school staff need to become more involved.
· Let a neutral adult authority figure confront the bully. This is generally a better approach than having you speak with the bullying child or his parents. Rather ask the school/college head or a trusted teacher make the approach on behalf of you and your child.