Tackling bullies

26 Jan 2019

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Bullying is unacceptable and can easily be dealt with if you know what to do

Mummy was worried as she felt that Asif was hiding something. He was not eating or sleeping well and came up with one excuse or the other for skipping school, which was totally unlike him. When she insisted that Asif must share what was ailing him, he broke down into tears.

Asif was facing a problem at school, which most children undergo at one stage or the other in their lives. Murad, a new boy in his class, was bullying him. Being big for his age and weak in academics, Murad found Asif, who was slightly built but very good at studies, an easy target. He often shoved Asif during recess, snatched his lunch and made fun of him for his below average height and weight. To add insult to injury, he threatened physical harm if Asif reported this harassment to the teachers or his parents!

This is quite a common situation faced by kids in school or college and it always needs to be addressed. Parents and teachers need to take necessary steps in protecting each every child.

faced by kids in school or college and it always needs to be addressed. Parents and teachers need to take necessary steps in protecting each child.

When related to children, bullying can be defined as aggressive or nasty behaviour with peers or schoolmates. Many school-going children are victimised by bullies. The apparently stronger children tend to use their physical strength against the weaker ones, call them names, embarrass them in front of peers or harass them in other ways.

Most children feel afraid to stand up to bullies and suffer in silence. This attitude makes the bullies feel more powerful and they harass the victims more ferociously.

The psychological effects of being bullied may range from depression, low self-esteem, loss of confidence and a general decline in performance at all fronts. Physiological harms are a lack of appetite, restless sleep and an inability to concentrate.

Most children cannot comprehend why they are being bullied and blame themselves for the agony they have to face. What they fail to understand is that the kids, who are bullying them, are insecure about themselves. Bullies feel that their victim is smarter and more popular than them.

Often from emotionally insecure backgrounds, bullies desperately want to gain attention, to be loved and accepted. To achieve this goal, they go out of their way to make other children feel bad about themselves. This negative behaviour gives them the satisfaction that they are not the only ones who are isolated. But here, we will not talk about how the personality traits of a bully can be corrected, as this is for the elders (parents and teachers) to ponder and work upon.

Friends, today I want to discuss with you all how you should tackle a bully if you are targeted by one. How should we deal with this universal problem? Here are a few tips, which may help you to overcome the hostile behaviour of a bully, whether he is at school, in a playground or among your acquaintances.

Don’t react

When someone is bullying you, he gets a deep satisfaction when you show that you are upset. Though you may find it hard, but try to take a deep breath to calm your nerves, hold your head high, ignore him and walk away coolly. Although it is difficult not to react in such situations, try to send the silent message to the bully that you simply do not care. Sooner than you will expect, the bully will lose interest in targeting you as he will not find you weak or scared of him.

Always stay in a group

If someone is bullying you, take extra care to move with your friends or class fellows. If you walk back home from school, try to be part of a group. During recess time at school, stick close to your peers and schoolmates.

Bullies are often emboldened when they find their victim alone and more vulnerable.

Keep your cool

It is quite natural to get angry when someone is harassing you for no fault of your own. But always remember that if you show an angry response, you will only add to the satisfaction of the bully, because their aim is to upset you. It takes a lot of courage to hold your temper. Even if you are boiling within, keep your smile intact, or quip a humorous response and move away.

You can vent out your anger at home by doing some physical activity like jogging or punching a bag. Those of you who like to write can share their emotions in their diary.

Never use physical force

Often bullies are physically stronger than the person they are targeting. If you lose self-control and react by hitting, kicking or shoving, you may hurt yourself because you can never tell how the bully will react. Your teachers or the elders around you may get the wrong message that it was you who was misbehaving or picking up a quarrel.

If you feel the bully is trying to assault you, raise your voice and shout to gain attention/help. If you are alone, talk to him in a confident voice and quickly move away. Even if you are feeling scared, never let your body language show it.

Often, I have seen parents advising their children to hit back if someone is hitting him/her. But personally, I disagree with this attitude. Not only do we encourage physical violence with this advice, but the child can get hurt due to the more aggressive response of the bully and he may be harassed more in the future.

Don’t let your confidence shake

Always remember that the person bullying you is insecure and has low self-esteem. He may call you names or make fun of you, but believe in yourself and your worth. A shaky confidence has far reaching effects in our life. So, every day, stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that what the bully says about you is not correct.

If he makes fun of your grades at school, resolve to work harder. If he bullies you because of your less than normal physique, ask your mother to change your diet pattern, sleep properly and be sure to exercise daily. You can join a gym or play outdoors with your friends.

If you have the will, you can make being bullied your strength rather than your weakness.

Know your strengths

Always remember that Allah has blessed each one of us with a special trait. Instead of pondering on the bad names a bully calls you and feeling depressed, hone your qualities and work hard to polish them. Some of you may be good at academics, others in sports and some maybe good writers or orators. Instead of developing an inferiority complex, find out your potential and work hard on it. When you will shine out in your particular field, the psychological wound inflicted by the bully will slowly and surely heal up and you will feel better about yourself.

Talk about the bully

Frankly tell your classmates, peers or siblings that you are being victimised by someone. There is no need to feel ashamed of yourself if a bully is targeting you.

Discussions often lead to solutions. You may feel better when you know that your friends are ready to support you. You may get sound advice on how to work out the problems you are facing.

Report the bully

The person bullying you will always threaten worse behaviour if you report him to your elders. Never give an ear to this intimidation. If you keep the bully unreported and unnoticed, you are not being fair to yourself. You are also strengthening the bully by hiding his nasty ways. Remember that he needs emotional help and the reason for his bullying must be sorted out.

Muster your courage and talk in detail about the issue with your teachers and parents. It will not only appease your frustration, but you will feel much better after you have told someone who is stronger than the oppressor.

Keep a soft corner for the bully

This may sound strange to you but more often than not, bullies are often victims of some sort too. I firmly believe that all children are born innocent and pure. The good or bad in them is the outcome of circumstances and attitudes. The wrong approach of parents, favouritism within the family or school, and family disputes may lead a child to aggressive behaviour. They look out for and vent their frustrations on the ones they can target easily.

When your elders have sorted out the problem between you and the bully, try to extend a message of friendship to him. Write a note or send him a verbal message that you do not abhor him for his negative behaviour. With the right approach, you may be fast friends with the person you had earlier avoided.

Published in Dawn, Young World, January 26th, 2019