Bullying is becoming a dangerous, life-threatening epidemic vulnerable children can hardly escape from. Sadly, this has led to many disturbing results – mentally and physically – for affected victims. In Nigeria, there have been many recent cases of bullying, especially among secondary school pupils, many of which have had damaging and irreparable consequences
The tragic death of a Junior Secondary School pupil 2 of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, allegedly tortured by some seniors, has rekindled conversations around the issue that seems to have been normalised over the years.
Bullying can occur randomly or regularly. According to Crisis Prevention Institute, one in 10 bullied children is bullied daily, while one in five victims are bullied once or twice a month. It noted that the bullied student could rarely predict when bullying would occur, and if they could, teachers and staff might often be unable to address the incident. In fact, school management is most times oblivious to the first acts of bullying.
Schools are struggling to curb this social menace which requires combined effort of teaching and administrative staff. However, schools alone cannot effectively protect kids from bullying. It must start from home; parents should also be involved in protecting their kids from bullying. The following nine tips can help schools and parents to check bullying.
Parents who talk to their children freely about their friends from an early age help establish good communication with them. It’s reassuring for them to know you are interested in what they do and that you always have their back.
“Encourage them to talk openly about their day. Ask them open-ended questions which will encourage a response,” a family counsellor, Nidfreke Bassey, advised. “Your questions shouldn’t only be about trying to have conversations with them, you should listen to them and the answers – their fears, doubts, happiness – can all be found in the answers they provide.”
Educate kids on bullying
Children begin to learn how to behave at an early age. They watch what their parents do and follow your example. It is thus important to always treat others with respect. Say “please” and “thank you,” and be respectful, kind, and friendly toward others. Children will observe your behaviour and pick up these good habits.
Bassey noted that explaining to young kids on learning to respect themselves and others can help them form healthy and long-lasting relationships.
He said, “Explain to your child the importance of being nice both at home and in school. Also, teach your child the impact their actions might have on others. Teaching them honesty and fairness from a young age will help in this aspect.”
Spot bullying in your kids
Not all children will display signs they are being bullied. The effects of bullying can be serious and place a child in distress or danger, so get help as soon as possible if you’re worried, so parents need to pay attention to the subtle signs in their children.
Bassey stated that most times, parents chalk these signs of their kids being bullied to childish actions, consequently losing the window period to address their problems.
She said, “Look out for injuries that can’t be explained, faking illness or regular stomach aches or headaches, change in eating habits – skipping meals and binge eating, nightmares or trouble sleeping, not wanting to attend school, dropping grades, a reduction in enthusiasm for school-work, avoiding social situations or a sudden lack of friends, decreased in self-esteem or feeling helpless.”
Boost your child’s confidence
A child who is encouraged and nurtured is likely to have more self-esteem and confidence. This can reduce the likelihood of them being bullied. Bassey noted that other than engaging kids in confidence-building hobbies, parents can have self-esteem boosting conversations with their children.
“These talks can go a long way in helping to steady your child throughout their life. Children with high confidence and self-esteem are a lot more difficult to bully,” he said.
Set distinct rules on bullying
Schools are expected to come up with rules to allow pupils know what behaviour is expected of them and which will likely lead to punishment. The rules should also be enforced. This helps to keep the balance in schools. When kids are younger, keep rules simple and as they get older, shape the rules to help them meet their maturity level.
A school owner, Nwachukwu Williams, noted that rules guiding bullying must be stated in clear terms and should cover multiple scenarios.
Rules need to enforce respect, responsibility, and safety. The consequences of breaking these rules should as well be clearly stated and in the case that a student flouts any of the rules, punishment must follow to deter a recurrence,” he added.
Safe communication channels
Communication is key to building rapport. When schools create open communication channels with pupils, they will feel more open to talk about their problems—including bullying. Having classroom meetings is one way to build that communication. Classroom meetings provide a way for students to talk about school-related issues beyond academics and can help the management stay informed about what’s going on among pupils.
Williams stated that empathic listening is crucial to building safe communication channels with pupils who want to know that they’re truly being listened to.
He said, “Students need to feel welcome to talk to their teachers one-on-one, especially if they feel they’ve been bullied. It should be noted that a student who is being bullied might not want to talk in class or if the student who’s doing the bullying is in the classroom. So, schools must create an adequate and safe reporting system that helps such students.”
In an average child’s life, many people are involved in their education and growth. All these people have impacts on how well a child develops. When they work together, the biggest difference can be made in a child’s life. Engaging parents on their child’s behaviour—whether their child is a perpetrator of or on the receiving end of bullying—can be helpful in resolving the issue.
Williams stated, “Working together, parents and teachers can provide a consistent approach to introduce more productive and appropriate replacement behaviours. This makes the message more likely to sink in and stick with the child. It can even help the child recognise when another child is being bullied or is a bully.”
Monitor hot spots
In every school, there are certain places where bullying occurs the most, and these tend to be areas where adults are not likely to be present often — spots such as hallways, bathrooms, playgrounds, and school buses. When an adult is present, kids feel safer, and bullying is less likely to occur. It’s important for adults to be alert and to give their full attention when multiple pupils are present.
A 2012 study carried quoted by CPI showed that 47.2 per cent of bullying occurs in hallways or stairwells; 33.6 per cent of bullying happens in the classrooms while 20 per cent of bullying situations takes place on school grounds, playgrounds, school buses, when kids are walking to and from school and in lunchrooms.
“One way to checkmate these behaviours is to have open communication. Staff must work together to keep these ‘unsafe’ spots always monitored,” Williams said.
Teach kindness and empathy
When pupils can approach ideas and problems from multiple perspectives, they’re less likely to bully others. Students should participate in activities that boost social-emotional learning. Schools should also find ways to help children understand and appreciate their identity as well as others’. To achieve this, empathy and kindness are required, Williams noted.
He said, “Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy and kindness can be taught to kids from a young age. Schools can teach children to appreciate the diversity in character of their friends and schoolmates.
“One way to do this is to have kids get together and talk about their differences. Teach them conflict resolution and build their understanding of those around them.”