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Bully-proof your child

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    vijigermany's Avatar
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    Bully-proof your child

    Bully-proof your child

    Classroom tormenting could go from mild ragging to being fatal. Here's how to spot the signs and step in before it gets out of hand

    It started with elbowing, slapping Rohit Shah on his head, making him move from his seat. His tormentors were a mixed group of seniors and classmates. Then one day, the Class VIII student was locked into a toilet cubicle for over two hours until the janitor discovered him.

    "They were five bulky boys from Class X and they warned me not to tell the teacher. I also convinced the janitor not to report the incident as I was terrified of the repercussions," he says. Rohit faked illness and skipped school for a week.

    Bullying in school and college often slips under the parental radar because of the fear it strikes in the victim. Also, when does goodnatured jesting turn dangerous?

    According to a survey conducted in 150 schools in Mumbai and Thane by the Parents Teachers Association United Forum (PTAUF), 70 percent of students experience bullying in school, but only 20 to 40 per cent report it. Seventy percent even admitted to bullying being their pastime.

    "Bullying consists of three basic types of repeated abuse - emotional, verbal and physical," says psychiatrist Harish Shetty. "Verbal abuse could be on basis of race, religion, gender, sexuality or any physical disability."

    Dr Arundhati Chavan, professor at SNDT college and president of PTAUF who led the survey, says, "Bullying leaves a lasting mark. Victims may shy away from the crowd and develop an inferiority complex. Repeated bullying may also make them aggressive and prone to lashing out."

    Usually, victims are targeted for being perceived as weaker, or different. Sometimes, it arises out of pure jealousy or to assert power or seniority.

    Rohit, for instance, stood out for being quiet and organised. But it wasn't this that singled him out. In the boys' only school, Rohit had a talent for befriending girls.
    He was beaten, harassed and called names for months, and one day, as he was returning home, his seniors surrounded him and started beating him up. Almost the entire school gathered, but no one intervened. A teacher was passing by and he reported this to the principal.

    Is your child being bullied?
    According to Dr Shetty, children are reluctant to approach parents, or even friends with their problem. "If my mother noticed the bruises," says Rohit. "I'd lie that I had fallen while playing. I even started sleeping with the lights on. On bad days, I'd go home and cry in the toilet."

    Some children are afraid that the authorities will not be able to help. Slowly, they show signs of withdrawal. Rohit gave up his favourite sport, basketball, to avoid his tormentors on the court.

    Look out for these signs:
    - Sulks and refuse to maintain eye contact

    - There are injuries and (s)he tries to hide them with longer clothing. (S)he may not let anyone touch him/her

    - (S)he seems to lock himself/herself up and weep

    - Is angry at younger siblings without provocation »Is reluctant to go on school outings, on the school bus or even down to play.

    - Complains of nightmares or wants to sleep with you

    - Talks, screams or urinates while asleep

    - Wants to join self-defence or karate classes. May start carrying a knife or similar weapon for self-defence

    - Is unmotivated towards favourite activities »Resorts to stealing money to pay off the bully

    How to help
    Dr Shetty says, "Allow your child to talk freely. (S)he may try to underplay the abuse, exaggerate or deny it. Don't interrupt with 'why did you not tell me earlier'" With kids, pay attention to their drawings and paintings. They might even transfer their feelings to their dolls and you can use this to talk to them - ask why the superhero is beating up the bad guy; or why the dolly is sad. For older children, you share your stories, to see if they reciprocate. Don't doubt your child's story. "Hug him or her a little stronger and a little longer," he says.

    Approach the teachers. The school should talk to the bully's parents to understand where his/ her anger comes from, and counsel it. After all, the bully is also a child and an impulsive move such as a police complaint or violent retaliation would affect his future.

    "Children who have trouble coping with studies or are abused at home usually take it out on others," says Dr Shetty.

    Rohit says that you should always tell a parent or teacher. "Or you will always be a punching bag."

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    Last edited by Parasakthi; 23rd May 2012 at 10:12 AM. Reason: External Link Removed



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