What is bullying?

By: Sindy Haman (Matron)

Bullying is a pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way perceived as smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullies are made, not born, at an early age, if the normal aggression of 2 year old isn’t handled with consistency.

Studies show bullies lack pro-social behaviour, are untroubled by anxiety and do not understand others’ feelings. Those who bully have strained relationships with parents and peers. Bullies are bullied themselves and often intimidating others makes them feel powerful and strong. The flip side to a bully’s rage and aggression is tender emotions of fear, sadness and shame.

Anger, fear and sadness trigger a cascade of physiological responses that affect almost every organ in the body preparing it for survival actions. When a child is left to cope alone, the child’s brain uses another class of emotions called inhibitory emotions to prevent themselves from being psychologically overwhelmed. A child develops defences, like aggression, which turns into bullying behaviour.

Learning about emotions and trauma and processing emotions instead of burying them, the brain rewires, healing occurs and people function better.

Different types of bullying exist: verbal bullying – it can involve name-calling, threatening and disrespectful comments about someone’s attributes (appearance, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation etc.).

Physical bullying: Physical intimidation, hitting, kicking, pushing and touching in unwanted and inappropriate ways.

Relationship bullying: Deliberately preventing someone from joining or being part of a group.

Cyberbullying: Spreading mean words, lies and false rumours through e-mails, text messages and social media posts.

Sexual bullying: Repeated, harmful and humiliating actions that target a person sexually.

Prejudicial bullying: It can encompass all the other types of bullying. When this type of bullying occurs, kids are targeting others who are different from them, and can open the door to hate crimes.

Education regarding bullying is essential in order to eliminate and reduce its occurrence. It is important to be aware of your own child’s emotional well-being to be able to identify signs that your child may be a victim of bullying, some of the signs can be unexplained injuries, changes in appetite, frequent sick days, missing personal items, suffering grades, tendency to self-harm, isolation, avoidance of usual activities, loss of sleep, exclusion from social activities.

Although these signs can be indicative of other struggles – it should raise red flags for those taking care of children. Discuss concerns with your child and seek expert help if you are concerned or unsure as children who are being bullied may be too scared to speak up, for fear of victimisation.  

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