It is not always easy to identify children who are victims of bullying. Every child is different and children have difficult days, so don't be too quick to jump to conclusions. Observing patterns of behaviour that are not typical for a child such as significant changes in behaviours of appetite, sleep, or general social functioning can be a good indicator. An outgoing child may become increasingly withdrawn, and a quiet child may start having temper tantrums. One common sign is that children become most isolated and start refusing to go to school.
What we can do for bullied children is for parents to manage their own emotions and not over-react. Being direct, and talking about how their children feel being bullied are positive steps. We can try as best to normalise these feelings of sadness, anger, and shame. Assure them that they are loved; this is not their fault and we will help them. Let them know they can talk to us about anything.
Additionally we may talk with our child’s school. By calling to set up an appointment to talk with their teachers. Teachers are likely in the best position to understand the relationships between children and other peers in their school. Once the bullying has been stopped, it is important to stay alert to other possible problems that the child may be experiencing. Research shows us that bullying can trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as social isolation and loss of interest in school. If we do notice this, it would be good to seek help from a psychologist.
What Makes Bullies?
Whilst abusive or overly strict parents can sometimes cause children to act out and bully others, it is more common children whom are neglected whom are at higher risk of becoming bullies. Often these children bully others as a way of gaining attention that they lack at home. Older siblings whom are bullied themselves also have a higher tendency to bully their younger siblings to empower themselves, which may lead to a vicious cycle.
Parents need to provide enough attention and care to their children. They must also understand that they cannot only be their child’s friend. They must be parents and draw boundaries when needed. Being your child’s role model is a lot more important. When parents do not discipline their children, children can develop bullying behaviour to compensate for their maturity and insecurities.
Written by Dr. Joel Yang