A Measured Response
A 44-year-old Zimbabwe writer
As a father of two children, an 8-year old boy a 3-year old girl, I read a lot of stories from media about children being bullied and in the worst case scenario driven to suicide. These stories make me reflect on how my children would react when being bullied. At home I encourage my children to share whether they have experienced bullying when they interact with other children at or outside school. However, if I was to learn that my child is being bullied, the first reaction would be to get angry at the bully and their parents. I have seen many aggrieved parents angrily confront the parents of a bully. However, instead of resolving the problem, this approach usually ends up worsening the situation.
I would therefore let the natural anger subside and then attempt to get more details from my child on the types of bullying they were facing, such as physical assault, verbal abuse or having their possessions forcibly taken by the bully. With this knowledge, I would take three steps in attempting to stop the bullying. The first would be to teach my child to stand up to the bully. In doing this, I would not want my child to get involved in physical fights with the bully, but learn that they also have the power to say no to the bully. The second would be to advise my child to always report any case of bullying to their teacher if it is at school and to us, the parents, at home.
Lastly, I would probably seek to constructively engage the parents of the bullying child personally or through the efforts of the school administration. This is not an easy task because it is natural for a parent to get angry after learning that their child is being bullied; it is also natural for a parent to come to the defense of their child when accused of bullying. It is therefore important that the engagement process be guided by reason and not emotions.
Communication Is Key
A 36-year-old college teacher
My daughter is 4 years old and has not yet experienced bullying. But considering the great harm school bullying may bring to children, it's never too early to talk about it and teach her how to protect herself. The first thing I would do is to encourage her to inform me immediately in the event that she is bullied or hurt at school. This creates a comfortable environment where she can tell me everything taking place in school, especially something she thinks is wrong. Through conversation, I can identify what type of bullying may occur and find solutions with her together.
If she informs me that she has been physically hurt by her classmates, my reaction would be to contact the head teacher to get more details. I would also assure my child that her safety and well-being really matter, and that we, the parents, and her teachers would help her in case of need. The bully should be educated by the school and his or her parents, and I would request an apology if necessary.
I would also encourage my girl to face the bully, and teach her to tell the bully to stop bullying. For example, she may say something like, "Leave me alone," "I'm going to tell your mother/teacher," or "Don't do that." Also, I would encourage her to assist her friends or other classmates if they were bullied. Some help from others can make a great difference and may stop bullying. Lastly, I would counsel the victim of bullying so that they will not become a bully. In this case, family education is crucial in teaching children to respect others. Through daily behavior of parents, a child can learn that everyone deserves to be treated well, including how to thank teachers, praise friends, and showing kindness to store employees. Fostering children's confidence and independence is the best protection parents can offer to protect their children from school bullying.