Parenting Tips

Specialist consultation: Children, bullying and parental reaction. Where are we wrong?

About bullying between children and about the reaction of parents.

I’ve written in the past about how many remarks I’ve received as a mother with long-haired boys. I was almost a victim of adult bullying who did not understand how to agree or control my child and let him wear his hair the way he wants. For many adults, it is inconceivable that a child can decide what he or she wants to look like, how to wear his or her hair, or how to dress. The same adults have expectations that in adolescence or adulthood, these children will be upright and unyielding in the face of the influences of others. I talked a bit with Andra Zaharia, a psychotherapist and  ATLAS  parenting specialist:
I’ll start with a story: my boy is 11 years old and has long hair. Four years ago, we moved into the block where we still live, and he befriended the kids in the neighborhood (a large gang gathered at the playground in front of the block). They used to call her “the little girl”, but he kept telling me that it didn’t bother him, that it was normal to call him that since he had hair like a girl. Last year, however, he refused to go out again. Then he said he didn’t want to play with his friends anymore. Last fall, I discovered that he was really avoiding them. If they were in the park, it would be a pain for him to walk past them with a hood on his head, or hide behind me. In the gesture of putting the hood on his head, so over his hair, I tended to believe that exactly the nickname “little girl” had made him get to this point. In the spring of this year after asking me to leave him alone in the park, he managed to rebuild his relationship with them. Now he goes out to play again. My question, after this period of turmoil in my mother’s soul, was it about bullying?
All children make jokes and have fun together on behalf of each other, but there is a big difference between a joke and aggressive bullying behaviors. As long as we are talking about jokes, children do not feel offended or offended and laugh at what they say, but when the “jokes” are one-way, repetitive and constantly target some members of the group, when the boundaries are deliberately taken too far. we are definitely dealing with bullying.
Bullying, as it is defined, is an aggressive, repetitive and intentional behavior that aims to exclude or humiliate a person. In most cases, bullying does not involve a real conflict, but only the desire of a person to gain power or authority by putting others in an unfavorable light.
Bullying can come in three forms: verbal (harassment, insults, criticism, threats, inappropriate language or inappropriate sexual connotations), physical (harassment, threatening, harming, hitting, pushing, destroying property, obscene gestures, violating personal space, stalking a person in the middle of a group) or social (gossip, making false rumors, embarrassing in public, deliberately provoking a sense of embarrassment or insecurity, deliberately excluding and inciting others to behave similarly.
Looking at all of the above and the situation described, your son’s experience can be framed in the picture of the bullying phenomenon.

The second part is that I, after considering the bullying of the “girl”, started talking to her about what she could have done – tell them she was bothering him, tell them to stop, and so on. .

His response was nervous: “And what do I do after that? You don’t think I told them that? Do you think that all children do what you tell them you want to do? I tell them, yes, and what if? Sometimes, it seems to me that it would be best to beat some of them … ”So what do we do when we notice that this option is also possible? Can roles be changed from bullied to bully?

As I mentioned earlier, bullying involves an unequal power relationship between the victim – the bullied – and the bully – the bully, in which the victim does not have the skills and resources to defend themselves.
Children who are at risk of becoming victims are often shy, less popular and with fewer friends, are perceived to be different in physical appearance, clothing style, social status, ethnicity or race, have lower self-esteem and self-confidence. , they have weak sports skills, they are less physically strong, and all this makes them seem vulnerable and easily dominated.
On the other hand, the initiators of aggressive behavior are concerned with having power and influence in their social environments, have a low level of empathy and do not care about the emotions of others, are not adherents to rules and consider violent behavior as true evidence of power. low level of tolerance for frustration and often have no close relationship with parents.
As we can see, the characteristics of each role are different and are based on specific personality traits. However, recent studies have shown that those who have been bullied may in turn be aggressive and risk becoming abusers of others, just as abusers may become victims of bullying.

Which is easier for us as parents to identify as bullied or bullied? 

I don’t know if we can consider that one of the roles is or is not easier to identify by the adult, because everything depends on the relationship between parent and child. In some cases, when it comes to physical bullying, we may find that the bullied posture may be easier to notice due to injury or physical injury, but the same may be true of bullies when the victim retaliates to he defends himself.
The more open and closer the parent has a relationship with his or her child, the better he or she will know what is going on with him or her, what are the difficulties he or she is going through both socially and emotionally, as well as emotionally. When this connection does not exist, when the child-adult relationship is one based on basic existential needs, when the parent does not know what his child is facing in everyday life, any of the roles can be difficult to identify.

What drives a child to be bullied? 

Andra Zaharia: Behind every behavior there are some needs that need to be met, and this is true even in the case of bullying.
The need for attention. When a child is interested in the attention of others and captures it through acts of violence or aggression against others, he receives validation from others and will feel encouraged to manifest this behavior in the future.

The need for power and control. Where children have not learned that relationships between people presuppose equality in rights and obligations, where empathy, respect, understanding and unconditional acceptance have not developed enough, where violence and aggression have been allowed or even encouraged, an acute need may arise. power and control.

In these situations, domination and manipulation of others bring with them feelings of greatness, importance, and satisfaction that, in order to be maintained, will lead to a perpetuation of abusive behaviors.

The need for status. When children become interested in a certain social status, to be “cool”, they will try to achieve it by testing various types of attitudes and manifestations more or less appropriate. If the greatest popularity comes through violent conduct, they will continue to gain popularity.

What can we do as parents when we notice that our angel is the bully of the gang?

First of all, it would be to initiate a discussion with the child in order to elucidate what is happening and to identify what led to this situation. It would be advisable for the discussion to be not an accusatory one, but an exploratory and clarifying one, in which the parent can get a real access and a more accurate picture of the facts, thoughts and emotions of his child.
Once these issues are identified, we can discuss the negative effects and consequences of bullying on everyone involved, express disagreement with this type of behavior, communicate any limits and rules we want to implement to prevent its perpetuation, to provide them with examples of positive and healthy ways to meet the needs they meet through bullying.
It is important that these discussions take place in a supportive and safe environment, because any negative or punitive reaction from the parent will not only strengthen the idea that violence and aggression are acceptable, but will close the door on genuine communication between the child and parents.
I will tell you again an episode from my life and that of my child. It could even be a series, because episodes like this happen every day at school. There is a colleague who beats them, spits on them, pulls their pants off, hits them with their chairs, throws their backpacks, walks around the class during class and much more. (The management knows about this case, but nothing has changed since it found out. As they were more online this year, it was better – although he put music on Zoom, wrote a chat on the chat, etc. ) What should this child’s parents do? 

Unfortunately, bullying is common in our country, especially in schools, with Romania ranking 3rd out of the 42 countries in which the World Health Organization has investigated the extent of this phenomenon. In 2016, Save the Children Romania launched the first national study on the phenomenon of bullying in Romanian schools, which showed that 17% of 11-year-olds admitted to assaulting other students at least three times in the previous month, the percentage of those 13 and 15 years, respectively, being 23%.

Or, in more detail, 3 out of 10 children are excluded from the peer group, 3 out of 10 children are threatened with being beaten or hit by colleagues, and 1 in 4 children has been humiliated in front of colleagues. Following these reports in 2020, a series of rules were developed to prevent and combat bullying in educational settings. However, the phenomenon is still present in schools, including during online schooling.

When neither the child’s parents nor the teachers can manage the situation correctly, it is necessary to call a psychotherapist. It is obvious that the whole family needs specialized support, a complex and personalized approach, to overcome this moment.

But what should we, the other parents, do? What should we tell our children to end this story?

What can parents do when a child is bullied? The bullied child needs family support to overcome this situation. In this context, parents should act as soon as they become aware and provide support for the child to open up and talk about what he is experiencing, about his emotions and thoughts.
If the level of emotional stress is above average and the child can not manage it alone, then parents should inform teachers about what happened and help their child by teaching him how to control their own emotions and reactions, to develop social skills. constructive by not feeding aggressive behavior, distancing oneself from the situation, being assertive, orienting oneself to make friends with other colleagues and asking for support from teachers when needed.
As long as children react emotionally, crying or getting angry, they will only encourage unacceptable behaviors. If the child still shows major distress, it is recommended to seek specialized help in the person of a school psychologist or psychotherapist.
In your experience, what are the most common mistakes parents make? Where are we wrong? What are the buttons that we press and trigger such behaviors in our children?
First of all, the most common mistake parents make is based on their lack of knowledge about bullying, its short-, medium-, and long-term effects on both the victim and the perpetrator. in these situations. If we know that exposure to bullying decreases school performance, increases the risk of dropping out of school, increases the risk of alcohol and drug use, leads to difficulty having healthy social relationships, and increases the risk of antisocial behavior, we may not pass. in view of so easily the inappropriate “teasing”.
Lack of attention, poor communication between children and parents, the application of punishments and corrections, especially physical ones, allowing and accepting aggression and abuse of power, of any form, in the family environment and not only, can also generate a parental behavior pattern. deficit that the child, like any child, will imitate and carry on.
The more parents become aware of all of the above, the more things can be adjusted and get back on track.
Specialist consultation: Children, bullying and parental reaction. Where are we wrong?

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