Every parent desires to provide the finest education for their progeny in the best schools and universities across the country. Children look forward to leaving their nests and going to school to discover new things every day. Each child has their dreams as they grow up. But no one hopes that they will be taunted or heckled. Most of the time, it’s brushed off saying it is normal to get roughed up by seniors or peers. Teasing is normalized. But when teasing crosses the line, it turns into bullying.
The word bully means “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce”. Bullies are those who habitually terrorize, insult, and physically and mentally torture the weak and smaller ones. Bullying is seen as a sign of power and control. Attacking the self-respect of more vulnerable ones is a thrill for these people. In schools and colleges, it begins with the entry of new students or freshers.
While taking the risk of playing Devil’s advocate here, all children are not in-born bullies. They turn into one too. Role modeling – peers/family members/television/society in general – goes a long way in turning them into what they become later.
Is ragging different from bullying?
Ragging… It is considered an offence and is against the law to engage in ragging. However, bullying (the alter ego of ragging) is STILL not considered as serious an offence despite high crime rates. This century-old phenomenon is still rampant in schools and colleges. Even though ragging was forbidden years ago, overt and covert forms still exist.
Typically bullying is invading someone’s personal space, taking away their belongings, eating their lunch without consent, pushing and hitting them, teasing someone about their body parts, clothes, appearance, and above all, insulting or demeaning them.
Bullying changes colours at different ages. When children are quite young, bullying will be limited to breaking stationary, throwing the bag around, pushing and kicking them, taking away belongings without consent, and name calling too. Bullying among older children is perceived as more serious vis-a-vis younger ones. In all age groups, the effects are serious. Younger children can get more terrorized and might develop an aversion and dread to go to school. The fear of bullies adds to separation anxiety among toddlers similarly.
As they grow older, above 10 years, typically both genders will bully children by demeaning them, insulting their appearance, or possibly even talking about status and money as well. Above 14 years, they begin to mimic on-screen bullies or video game villains. The language turns abusive and name-calling becomes vicious. Insults can be serious. At some point, blackmail also enters the scene. In most ragging and bullying cases that come to light in schools, children have been seen to dare their peers into doing something adventurous and if they refuse to comply, they would be called names or made fun of in class openly.
Media reporting & unreported cases
Newspapers and media are full of cases that have been prematurely closed by police due to varied reasons – lack of evidence, fear of losing respect in society, and intimidation by families of bullies. Many cases have been closed because of societal pressure again. Recent cases this year have been extremely shocking with children committing suicide since they couldn’t handle and tolerate the abuse because of bullying.
An important question for all: why is it still there? Why aren’t the voices loud enough to make punishments stringent in educational institutions? The trouble is that lawmakers have made laws against ragging but hardly get implemented.
Anti-bullying laws are not adequate in our country to penalize offenders. We have had scores of movies highlighting the problem of bullying over decades. Bullies are so relaxed that they think they can easily get away with a fine or some mild punishments. Sadly, victims and their families suffer life-long scars thanks to them. They never feel remorseful.
Be it an engineering college, medical college, or any other professional degree college, the educational institution is more often than not seen to be hand-in-glove with families of bullies. The cases either go unreported or are made to look like a mild offences. A disciplinary action like the suspension is all that happens in most cases. Loopholes in law end up making the perpetrators look like victims too. Every year, suicide statistics are on the rise as well. More youngsters are falling prey to this vicious crime.
The consequences of bullying are so strong that victims are not only scarred for life but also families too suffer. There are ways to deal with bullies. If nipped in time, bullying won’t take scary proportions.
Sadly, many dreams have got snuffed out prematurely thanks to bullying, and emotional and mental stress. Pressure on children to perform in school is already taking a toll and bullying makes it worse.
How to deal with bullies?
How to empower our children to deal with bullying?
As they say, the earlier the better.
Nip it in the buds.
Let’s start with some tips to counter bullies:
1. Teachers and parents can orient children about bullying. Schools can conduct workshops to sensitize children on the same. Teaching children about consent and boundaries is extremely important too. A strong NO can stop a lot of bullying the first time. 2. Movies and plays can be screened or organized to talk about bullying, 3. Every school must be equipped with counselors who can help children in distress. A safe space will ensure that children will talk about their problems and report bullies. 4. The institution heads must take initiative by taking every complaint seriously. Be sensitive to the child who is complaining. Parents also must take their children’s words seriously when they approach them about getting troubled by kids in school. Shooing children off when they come to share something must instantly stop. Immediate help goes a long way in nipping things in the bud. 5. Schools must have a buddy program where every child in class must be assigned a buddy – a classmate with whom he or she can share their troubles or distress. 6. Recognize the body language of a distressed child. Many times, a child stops sharing with parents, peers, or teachers for fear of being labeled as silly or constantly scared or anxious. 7. If a child is exhibiting bullying behaviour, institution heads/counselors must counsel these children separately, and inform the parents about this as well. Early intervention can go a long way in making these children realize what they are doing. 8. Schools can keep a fine as a deterrent. They can begin with oral warnings in the beginning. Then go on to suspend the bully. Parents can be warned right in the beginning about the child’s behaviour. Expelling the child can be considered in rare cases. 9. Teach children what to do in case they are bullied – for instance, provide numbers or email addresses of school authorities to contact anonymously and report complaints. Setting up help desks in the school can go a long way too. Senior children can volunteer for the same. 10. Posters across the school about the consequences of bullying can deter bullies too. Going one step ahead, there must be CCTV cameras everywhere in the school as well.
Please say NO to bullies! Do not encourage your children at home or school to tease or bully anyone. It hardly takes any time for a “mild teasing” to spiral into emotional and physical bullying. Every child deserves a safe and beautiful future. Let’s raise happy children and a stress-free generation!!
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One thought on “Catching em Bullies”
Very nicely written Priya. I truly understood what you wished to convey. I agree with the point that bullying is quite rampant in every age group. There are even times when some parents , unknowingly, take pride in the fact that their child knows how to bully other fellows and keep them under their control. This should be discouraged too.
The possible steps that you have talked about are very practical and should be looked upon by all schools…