Laila Khondkar, Director, Child Right Governance and Child Protection, Save the Children in Bangladesh is a well-known expert in this field and she addresses a very relevant but misrepresented aspect of bullying in the current context. She says, “A vital question we need to address is how a child learns to bully? It is essential to remember that children initially learn from adults. They do what we do, not what we tell them to do. If they see misuse of power by a person of authority, or they see parents or teachers mistreating others and not giving them due respect then they learn from that. So it is of utmost importance that teachers and parents model the behaviour they want to promote.”
Amir Abdullah, a soft spoken, shy boy of grade IV, was having a regular school day when some of his peers approached him during Physical Education class, teased Amir, and pulled down his pants. Prior to this incident was a series of other occurrences where he was bullied by this very group.
On investigation it came to light that these boys were serial bullies and picked on other shy children too. Amongst them, one of the boys was identified as the initiator, whereas the others were found to be his followers. The remaining children who watched them bully from afar were recognised as bystanders.
The conclusion that can be drawn from such a scenario is that apart from the victim, all the others are culprits by direct or indirect participation. What most fail to realise is that in every bullying scenario, there are two victims — the child who is being harassed, and the bully himself! We need to understand that at the end of the day, the bullies too are juveniles.
Children abuse others for multiple reasons. Some suffer from low self-esteem; others victims of deep rooted insecurities. Abusive behaviour towards peers often gives abusers a false sense of empowerment and security.
Seeking popularity is another incentive of bullying behaviour, especially for those children who may not be doing well academically and are constantly made to feel bad about that. Learning disabilities and mental health issues can also cause children to act out.
There are parents, abusive or overly strict with their children, and others who take no steps to set ground rules. Both extremes often show similar manifestations in the child's behaviour.
Children who are neglected at home and crave attention from parents often lash out at others in an attempt to get noticed.
Many a times a child is bullied at home by older siblings, causing the younger one to replicate this behaviour in school. For that matter, the child's role model —a parent, a teacher or a coach, who may just be bullies themselves set the example for the child to follow.
There can be multiple reasons for someone to turn into a bully. For both parents and teachers such behaviour should be a wake-up call to realise that the child is asking for help.
The fear of being bullied, or becoming labelled as a bully, is so deeply ingrained in the mindset of the parents and the children themselves that all interviewees wished to remain anonymous. All names used in the entire series of articles have thus been changed upon their request. We would like to express our sincerest thanks to all those who were brave enough to narrate a traumatic experience they do not wish to relive.
Star Lifestyle also thanks Laila Khondkar, Director, Child Rights Governance and Child Protection, Save the Children in Bangladesh and Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, Associate Professor, Dept. of Child Adolescent & Family Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health in helping us with their valuable insight.
The best way to address the topic of bullying is to take adequate steps to ensure that it does not start in the first place. The role of parents can never be undermined; neither can be the role of schools in ensuring the safest environment possible for the healthy growth of their students.
Parental aspect —
Parents need to provide structure, and set boundaries as children grow because they depend on these very rules to set them on the correct path. Explaining to the child that lying, or any sort of name calling, hitting, pushing, or groupism is not acceptable behaviour can yield great results.
Teaching them empathy and talking to them about what it feels like to be bullied can help them realise how wrong this can be.
Communication is key to finding out how a child is behaving in environments outside the home. If complaints from school, or other parents, lead you to suspect that your child is gradually showing signs of being a bully, accepting reality will be the first step towards solving the problem. Denying or belittling these incidents only harms the child in the long run.
Parents should exercise caution, but be careful not to blow it out of proportion. According to Laila Khondkar, they need to start asking some tough questions — Is anyone in the child's home environment being mistreated and are all family members being respected equally? Are conflicts in the family resolved in non-violent ways? Could someone at home be bullying the child?
She believes, “Even though we cannot say with certainty that a child's bullying behaviour always stem from a troubled Schooling —
The administration must ensure that complete cooperation from parents is a pre-requisite for admission at the institution. Schools must equally realise that parents can expect the same.
Children should always grow up in an environment where they have full assurance that parents, the teachers, and the administration are all ready to help. This can help them define their character and set their own rules; knowing well they all they need to do is ask in moments of crisis.
A child who is bullied definitely faces long lasting negative effects, but a child who is a bully and grows into adulthood unchecked, can face unwanted repercussions later in life. And both makes it possible that their insecurities are handed down to their next generation — a very frightening consequence that just may become reality.