By Kartik Bajoria
One of the most unfortunate truths of childhood, or for that matter any stage of one’s education, is bullying. Be it at school (day or residential), college, or at a master’s programme, there are always those few disgruntled peers who resort to picking on others and make a nuisance. Many of these institutions and the students there pass it off under the garb of tradition or dismiss it as a bit of ‘harmless ragging’. But let us be under no misconception – there is no undivided opinion on this – no form of bullying is acceptable.
So what can we as parents do to prevent our children from being at the receiving end of bullying? To put it plainly, there is simply no fool-proof way of ensuring that one’s children will not be subjected to bullying. That would only be possible if we kept our kids under a rock or away from society, which ironically, would in itself be a type of bullying. Rather than investing energy and effort in trying to prevent our children from being subjected to this practice, we ought to focus instead on preparing them in their reactions to it. What steps can they take if and when they do face any kind of bullying?
Talk about bullying at home. Too many times, we tend to overlook this, assuming that it will be common knowledge. Quite the contrary. The first time a child is bullied, it will come as a huge shock to him or her, especially if they are not aware of its very existence. It is like a girl experiencing her first menstrual cycle without any prior knowledge of it. Bullying in itself causes emotional upheaval; the least we can do therefore, is to tell our children about it, so that at least it isn’t this big, bad, shocking and unknown thing.
Talk, record, report
In most scenarios where children are bullied, it is considered ‘uncool’ or ‘cowardly’ for those bullied to tell someone about the incident. Children who ‘report’ the act to their parents, seniors, teachers, are often labelled ‘snitches’. We need to explain to our children that reporting an instance of bullying is in fact, the exact opposite. Not only are you standing up for your own rights and dignity, you are also helping (in the long-run) the perpetrators themselves, whose behaviour will be checked and stand a chance of being corrected, before it is too late and becomes a personality trait.
By talking about bullying to their own friends and family, the individual begins to heal. Sharing of trauma helps one recover from it to a great extent. Similarly, writing about bullying, specific incidents, will not only maintain an accurate record, it will also prove to be cathartic. And of course, like I mentioned before, report the problem immediately to someone in a position of authority, be it a parent, a school teacher, a guardian. If we can explain the importance of taking these essential steps to our children, they will be a lot better equipped to deal with bullying, and ensure that they, if not entirely, to a large extent, negate the ill-effects of bullying.
Since we are living in a connected, digital world with more and more young people being active users and citizens of the internet; it is also pertinent to mention that as parents, we need to explain cyber dangers to our children and help them guard against it. No longer is it enough to only deal with bullying that takes place in the physical realm. With children adopting many social media platforms and identities, they are also always at risk of being assaulted online. Be it mean comments, viral rumour-mongering, even being solicited by unsavoury/perverted individuals; we are in a time when we must talk to our children about the existence of these realities, and ask them to be cautious.
Similar rules apply here as the ones we discussed in reaction to traditional bullying, with the added caveat that in the online space, it is best advised to use various tools that developers and social media platforms inherently offer – such as Block User, Report User to the concerned application/website. Also, we must ask our children, to not get into an unnecessary tit-for-tat verbal slug-fest online, tempting as it may seem. Things can escalate needlessly and quickly get out of hand.
Bullying, remember, is a result of a sickness in society, one that stems from frustration, unhappiness, and cowardice. We must combat it with confidence and surefootedness.
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools.)
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