The class bully
While bullying cases in Singapore are nowhere as violent or deadly as in the United States, they are on the rise.
70% of the 4,000 Singaporean students surveyed, reported some kind of bullying experience during their education life. Conducted by the Harvest Centre for Research, Training and Development and the Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth, the 2006 survey revealed that bullying occurred even in pre-schools.
While most of the bullying occurred mainly in the canteens and playgrounds in primary school (grades 1 through 6), the bullying in secondary schools (grades 7 through 12) also took place inside the classroom and in the toilets.
Even more worrying is the advent of cyber bullying which entails sending insults, pornographic images and threats of bodily harm via internet or the cellphone. Where traditional bullying was limited to physical or verbal abuse, the internet has given the bullies a longer arm to intimidate and torment their victims.
Wired Safety, the world’s largest internet safety, help and education resource, monitors 76 countries on cyber abuse. It reported that Singapore has the highest incidence of Internet bullying among kids outside of the United States!
Parry Aftab, its Washington-based executive director, said the results were shocking as he has “been to Singapore and seen how well-behaved the children are.”
What is Bullying?
Bullying is the act of intimidating and coercing a weaker individual or group to do something against their will, with the intention to cause physical, mental or emotional harm through harassment and assault.
The most common form of bullying among children is verbal abuse, which can come in the form of taunts, teasing or name calling. If unchecked, this form of abuse can escalate into physical terrorizing like kicking, thrashing and even rape.
Why do Children Bully?
Bullies generally start at a young age, with boys exhibiting physical terror and girls leaning towards emotional or psychological intimidation.
Children bully for various reasons – to seek attention from their peers and parents, to feel significant and in control, and to imitate violent adults or television programs.
James* who used to bully as a child, said that he did it to make friends as “the new kid in school.” He adds that “the bully is the most insecure person in class generally.”
Effects of Bullying…
Bullying has long-term effects on the victim and the bully. For the former, it robs them of their self-confidence, emotional well-being and future promises. For the latter, it is an erosion of self-worth and a rapid decline into an addiction in torment to boost their ego.
The fear and emotional trauma that a victim suffers can provoke a greater tendency to drop out of school. Some children who are bullied become bullies themselves. And young bullies who are not disciplined eventually become abusive adults, and/or criminals.
What to Look Out For…
Victims will not complain for fear of repercussions from the bully. However, they usually exhibit some of the symptoms listed below:
1. trouble sleeping
2. difficulty paying attention in class or any activities
3. make frequent excuses to skip school
4. sudden shunning of a previously-favoured activity like riding a school bus or visiting the playground
5. appear troubled, listless and discouraged constantly
How to protect your child from the Bully
Unfortunately, bullying is a rite of passage to growing up. Managing bullies is an important life-skill to impart to your child.
1. Seeking Help. With the recent spike in school violence, it is critical that we take the child’s worries seriously. Acknowledge your child’s bravery by seeking help. Assess the severity of the bullying situation – whether it is something that your child can handle or if you need to step in with the authorities (school or police).
2. Explain the dynamics of bullying. Despite their loud and bold actions, bullies are basically cowards who gravitate towards easy targets, namely the weaker sex, the younger age, the less aggressive and the loner. They act mean and put others down to cover up their own insecurities and lack of confidence. Bullying is defused when their power and control is taken away.
3. Empower Your Child. Brainstorm with your child on ways to deal with a less severe bullying situation. Help the child come up with a realistic and executable plan to deal with the bully, like partnering up with a pal, or not reacting to the bully’s taunts. If the bullying is not severe, allow the child to manage his own affairs. This will raise his self esteem significantly. Martial arts classes are also a great confidence booster as they are good places to learn about discipline and defensive strategies.
4. Talk about your own experiences. Share your own experiences in school. This will help the child know that he is not alone in such situations. Also, offer him a wide array of age appropriate books and movies with being “true-to-self” and triumph over harassments themes. For example, “The Breakfast Club”, “Mean Girls”, “Clueless” for the older kids and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” or Tigger and Pooh gang for the younger ones.
5. Foster out-of-school friendships. Get kids involved in extracurricular activities like youth church or other classes where they can create another social group and learn new skills. This will also offer them another perspective on the oppressive situation.
6. Keep a close eye on the situation. Monitor the state of your child and the bullying. If things don’t improve, with your child’s agreement, contact the relevant authorities and get a resolution to the problem.