Friday, 26 April 2013


Understanding Bullying

     The relationship that many of us have with our schools can best be described as a love-hate relationship. We get to learn new things and get a welcome break from the monotony of our home but we also have to negotiate many a skirmish with the people who make school seem worth the effort, our friends. Fortunate are those who have a supportive peer group which helps combat everyday challenges like impossible assignments, difficult teachers and even our issues at home.

     As always, there is another side of the coin that may have slipped from our sight because we have settled down snugly into the comfort of company. The inhabitants of this other side find it painful to get out of bed every morning and walk into school, fully expecting a lonely day and maybe even terrible verbal taunts with a couple of punches thrown in for effect. These children are, what is typically called, the ‘targets’ of bullying- a condemnable act of aggression in which one party inflicts harm, emotional or physical, upon another party as an expression of one’s power over the other. This power imbalance can be in the form of physical prowess, number of members in the group, or even ability. Bullying happens habitually and involves an element of coercion (aggressive force) in which the target is greatly intimidated by the bully.

     Before we take sides and declare all bullies as “evil”, it is important to look at the possible explanations for their behaviour. Research in the area suggests that bullies lack social competence which is the ability to understand the perspectives of other people and awareness of what others think of you. They may perceive rejection from their classmates and may assume that they are a “misfit” or in other ways inferior to others. Such deficient ways of processing social information may be due to neglect or other forms of inadequate family or community environment. In such contexts, what children learn about human relationships is not healthy. 

     Another contrasting theory suggests that the bullying child may actually have a superior understanding of the emotions and “weak points” of the victim and uses this knowledge to manipulate others into isolating the victim from the peer group, spread rumours in bad taste or engages in other forms of indirect bullying.

     Targets of bullying often believe that what happens to them is not in their control and tend to bear taunts and teases. They tend to assume that they are personally inadequate in some way and blame themselves for things that are happening to them. Both parties may feel like their bonds to their social world are weak and exhibit deficient social skills, that is, they are unable to regulate their behaviour in a constructive way in order to build friendships and cooperation.

     It is very important for you to inform your teachers and parents if you are bullied either verbally or physically by your classmates. Assert yourself to the bullying classmate without getting into a fight. You may merely say, “Do not hit me. I will complain to the teachers. You decide if it is worth it to get into trouble.” 

For both the sides- those who engage in bullying and those who get bullied, here is something to think about: No one has the right to invade someone’s personal space such as one’s body or mind. Bullying is an intolerable offence. Feel good about who you are and embrace what you are good at. Identify friends who will support you and find the strength in yourselves to create wonderful memories of your school life. Here’s to cooperation and camaraderie!