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What to do if your child is being bullied?

Bullying in South Africa is a serious problem in schools. There have been several recent cases of children committing suicide after being victimised by fellow students. Bullying can be defined as the intentional, conscious desire to hurt, threaten or frighten another individual. It can take the form of physical abuse or verbal and psychological abuse which is more common in girls. It can start as early as crèche and takes place most often in the playground but also in toilets, on the way to school and in parks.

image 467How can one recognise if one’s child is being bullied? One can’t usually ask the victim directly if they are being bullied as one may not always get an honest answer. Many victims are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers that they are being bullied for fear of being victimised even more by the bully.

Physical signs of bullying include cuts, bruises and torn clothes. Emotional or verbal bullying indicators are more subtle. Bullied children act differently from their normal behaviour, for example, a normally bubbly child is suddenly quiet. They are anxious and nervous, don’t sleep well, eat less than normal, are easily upset and irritable and don’t want to go to school. They may also be asking for more money or stealing money if the bully is extorting money from them. In some cases, children may start bedwetting and stuttering. In worst-case scenarios, a bullied child may commit suicide or may end up being killed by the bully.

What can one do?

  • Discuss the issue of bullying while watching a related TV program or reading a related article.
  • Tell your child to tell an adult when they are bullied– a teacher, parent, or guardian.
  • Let them know that it is not their fault and offer your support.
  • Tell them to avoid the bully and not to go to quiet or unsupervised places alone. They must always be with a friend.
  • Tell them to ignore the bully. The bully is looking for a reaction. If they show that they are not threatened, the bully will move on. If they cry, run or hide, this will increase the bullying.
  • Role-play - Pretend to be the bully and teach your child to respond appropriately.
  • Teach them “fogging” – a verbal technique that will put the bully off-guard.
  • Teach them to control their anger and instead practice assertive techniques. Build their self-esteem. Teach them to walk and talk confidently. They must look confident, walk upright and tell the bully that they don’t like what they are doing.

Schools can adopt anti-bullying programmes by raising awareness, encouraging learners to stand up to bullies and taking firm disciplinary measures against bullies.


Specially written for www.babiesonline.co.za by Sara Essop

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