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Joanna from Psychmatters

By Joanna Kleovoulou,  Clinical Psychologist and  Director of  PsychMatters Therapy Centre. She loves being with family and friends, travelling, connecting with nature, walking & yoga.  

Bullying is rife and not something new in our schools.  Often parents and teachers minimise this problem either because they are not sure how to deal with it effectively or they do not comprehend the severity of the impact this may have on a child’s overall development.

Research findings:

In a 2013 survey conducted by a S.A. consumer insights company, Pondering Panda, which polled 2064 learners between 13-21 years, and 1015 family members, revealed:

  • 68% of learners were concerned about being physically assaulted or threatened with a weapon at school
  • Dangerous weapons in schools was a significant issue for learners, with 45% believing other learners brought guns and knives to school
  • 52% said bullying at their school comprised teasing and insults, while 26% said it was characterised by being pushed, hit or beaten

Reasons why bullying occurs:

  • the values of the society and culture we live in
  • violence experienced in the family or home environment
  • learned behaviours –  forms of discipline and lack of respectbully3
  • stress during pregnancy
  • inconsistent parenting
  • lack of involvement from parents
  • lack of boundaries
  • high levels of aggression

To compensate for low self esteem children might feel the need to overpower others. Biological factors including brain chemistry can also influence the ability of individuals to manage stress which can be triggered by :

  • the frustration of expected rewards
  • being shamed
  • having one’s actions or freedom restricted
  • isolation

Aggressive responses to bullying tend to lead to more violence and more bullying for the victims. Teaching children how to stand up for their rights; to be assertive rather than aggressive and to access support through friends, teachers, parents and professional services is vital to address this problem and create a peaceful society.

Survival Tips

  • Ignore: Bullies feel powerful when others react – walk away or ignore cruel behavior and signal that you do not care.
  • Resist Retaliation: Bullies want control over you and your emotions. Handle your anger constructively through exercise or writing, not through physical force. You do not know how the bully will react and you don’t want to get hurt or into trouble by using violence.
  • Take charge of your life: You cannot control other’s actions, but you can stay true to yourself. Exercise is one way to feel strong and powerful and it lifts your mood. Focus your attention on hobbies and extra murals where you can make new friends, feel good about yourself and channel your energy. Walk tall and hold your head high. Using this type of body language sends a message that you are not helpless.
  • Talk about it: Talk to a trusted friend, psychologist or a teacher who can give you support. Talking is a good outlet for fears and frustrations. Report bullying especially when it threatens to lead to physical or psychological harm.

Are you the Bully?

  • Lose-lose: Bullying backfires and everyone including the bully suffers in the long run.
  • Walk in other’s shoes: Think about how you would feel should you be on the receiving end.
  • How you want to be seen: Bullies may be feared, but are not respected. If you would like others to appreciate your true strength and character, find a way to use your power positively.
  • Seek help

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.

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