How to prevent childhood bullying

Ingy Deif, Monday 19 Nov 2012

Bullying can have a devastating effect on a child's happiness and wellbeing. Ahram Online asks a panel of experts how to deal with this recurring phenomenon

photo: AP

A study issued by the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research in 2008 stated that 30 per cent of schoolchildren in Egypt suffer violence, eighty per cent of which is from one child to another.

Azza Tohami, an educational and behavioural consultant, says that although incidents of violence – physical or verbal – have been increasing recently, it is very common for a child not to talk about it.

There are a number of sign that a child might be being bullied:

Increased periods of silence,

Increased desire to stay at home and avoid school,

Mood swings and changes in appetite.

Tohami says parents should not pressure children into talking about bullying. Rather, they should tell them they are always willing to talk and let the child take the next step.

She offers the following general guidelines for dealing with the problem:

The parent should listen carefully to the child, showing compassion not judgment, and respond with comments like "this must have really annoyed you " or "those words must have really hurt your feelings." It is very important for the child to see that you feel his anger or pain. Never trivialise the act or tell him "this is a simple matter" because it could frustrate him and make him feel lonelier.

The second step is for the parent to ask “how would you prefer to deal with this problem?” and then suggest methods in a way that gives the child the impression he was the one to propose the idea.

The general advice for a child who is being bullied is to tell him first to tell an adult or supervisor. If this does not settle the problem, the child should learn how to politely and confidently tell the bully to stop. When physical bullying is involved and if no adult will interfere, sometimes we advise the child to retaliate to end the vicious circle.

Why does a child become a bully?

Although we perceive childhood as period of innocence and peace, a child can become a bully due to psychological factors.

“Many factors could contribute to a child resorting to bullying,” says Radwa Said Abdelazim, psychiatry consultant and dance movement therapist at Cairo University.

She stresses that it differs from one community to another and the reason could be genetic. “It may run in families as in the case of pathological lying and stealing. It could be aggravated by disruptive family environments (addict or antisocial parents, domestic violence.)

Dr Abdelazim points out that bullying can be caused by depression. “Pathologically a lot of children who lack social skills and the ability to express their own frustration with their environment, act out their attempt to control other territories by being aggressive to others.”

Dr Abdelazim points out that the bully, the victim and the bystander (who participated by watching without intervening) are all affected by bullying.

“When these incidents arise anxiety prevails, and it is well established that anxious children fail to learn. Anxiety hinders new information processing and blocks memory. So you can imagine how a child would feel when surrounded by a group of other children threatening him. Loss of safety, a major affect on self-esteem and self-image, a threat to his own self boundaries.”

Dr Abdelazim stresses that all sides benefit from management of the phenomenon: the bully, the victim and the bystander.

“Maximum benefit occurs when managing the problem involves the school and the home as partners alongside specialists," she says. "Those kids greatly benefit from psychotherapy, and learning social skills and improving their ability to communicate and express their frustration and anger instead of acting it out.”

Finally, she doesn’t rule out the possibility of medication. "Some medication may play a role alongside community/environmental measures. A management plan usually takes months, and sometimes years if we are addressing community bullying. Persistence plays a key role in preventing relapse.”

Hala Kattar, a life coach, says parents of bullied children should do the following: 

Raise the self-esteem of the child by enrolling him in activities and interests in which he will excel, regardless of your own preferences and choices.

Explain that bullying is something anybody might experience.

Boost the child's sense of security by telling him recurrently how much you love him, and surrounding him with family, and praising him occasionally among them.


For more Life & Style news and updates, follow us on Twitter: @AhramLifestyle or our Facebook page)

Short link: