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About bullying

My first post in this section is about bullying. As they say, it has boiled up…

My older children (12 and 14 years old) go to an international high school. Stories about bullying among classmates or other students are already, unfortunately, becoming commonplace. Bullying has always been, I saw it in my school many years ago too, it was called 'badgering'. The term 'bullying' appeared recently and now 'cyberbullying' has been added. It is when they are bullied in social media or SMS.

So, recently there has been an 'anti-bullying' week in my children’s school. Teenagers were told about what bullying is and how to behave with others. 

So, what is it? 

Bullying is usually organized by one (leader), sometimes with accomplices, and most children witness it. When bullied a victim fails to protect itself from attacks. This is exactly what distinguishes it from a simple conflict, where the parties are approximately on equal footing. Bullying can be in physical form (pushes, beatings, other violent acts, damage to property) and in psychological form (threats, insults, jibes, slander, isolation). 

Why does this even appear? 

At school age children tend to 'flock together', they want to feel belonging to a group, unity. If there are any positive reasons to feel this unity, everything is fine, bullying is not needed. If children are busy with something, they have a common goal, common interests. In a modern school, they do not, they came to school– have studied –came home. Children are gathered in one class by chance, they do not have common interests, as for example, in study groups and afterschool clubs. That's why they're looking for a common idea. Sooner or later, they realize: we can rally against someone. Then comes this very rallying in a flock against others. Many children note the special fascination, prowess, fun, euphoria that overtakes bullying participants because they are together, which means they are good. It is not so important what is meant by it: 'We are tall and handsome, rich and fashionable, smart or on the contrary, tough cookies, cool flunkers.' It is important that everything is fine with us, because there is still no self-confidence, no their own self-esteem and they really want to feel equal to the situation.

If one victim leaves, children will choose another, as a gear has been already kicked up. You can stop this only by changing 'settings from the top'.

Often bullying is explained from the ethology standpoint: there are alpha individuals, there are omega individuals, etc. All this, of course, is true, but humans are still more complicated than monkeys, and everything does not narrow down to this. At least, this theory doesn't explain why there are groups without bullying, well, with their own celebrities, mediocres and 'specials', but at the same time without violence.

There are studies in which it is reliably confirmed that those who do not fit into common standards of behavior, thinking, emotional responses are usually bullied in the groups. There is even a so-called 'psychological profile of the victim.' It is proved that the 'victim' itself provokes an aggressive attitude towards it. Yes, it really does! But the victim, as a rule, does not want and realize it. And often it's not its fault at all. In a modern school, a conflict between the group and the victim is artificially created, the thresholds of emotions are brought to an extreme level due to the depletion of resources and already low tolerance.

But the main thing is an illusion that only some abnormal people are bullied. Yes, sometimes it happens. And sometimes quite the opposite. And any other way. Glasses (freckles), leanness (fatness), nationality, poor clothes - everything can be used as a reason.

Only the one who leads the group can eliminate cruelty and bullying in the group. Everything that happens in the school is completely in the hands of the teacher. It is the teacher who most often gives rise to the bullying, encourages it and at the same time often displays the greatest cruelty. My son's teacher (at the INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL) taking a roll call in the class after a few school weeks says: 'Who is it here with a hardly pronounceable Russian name?' How will the classmates feel about my son after this phrase? If the teacher himself has already shown an example of who and for what can be bullied.

Well, everyone knows that one child cannot stand against a fighting line, it does not have any resources for it. It will try to apply different strategies for getting out of an unbearable situation: being a clown, giving back-talk, truancy, crying. A pushed to the brink victim can bring himself to a terrible riot, and then a teacher's opinion that the child is difficult and unpleasant will simply be confirmed.

No matter what the student does, it himself will not cope with the situation. NEVER! It happens only in fairy tales and in some movies that an outlaw suddenly turns into a prince, and everyone immediately entertain him. In reality, a child gets a self-esteem lowered for the whole life, a soul affected fate,  a label of a person not accepted by the team ahead.

What happens next? It is customary to send such a child to a psychologist with a recommendation to 'teach him to communicate with other children.' As happened in school that my children go to. The psychologist taught everyone. 

But adults! Have at least one of you tried to imagine how it feels when a child was bullied in the team under the leadership of the headteacher, and then it had to go to a psychologist and learn to 'be friends with those who bullied him'? Cruelty is a disease of the group, not of the victim. And it is the group that needs to be treated, starting with the teachers!! The teacher has no right to make light of the student in any way. Such 'teachers' should not work with children. If there is an authoritative adult who does not accept violence, there will be no such teacher.


So, what should parents do? 

First, about the mistakes:

The first is to wait that it will pass by itself. It won't pass. Children have some problems with morality till certain age. Moral guidelines and rules should be set by adults.

The second mistake is confusing the concepts of 'bullying' and 'unpopularity'. No one is obliged to like anyone, but you are not allowed to bully. Bullying is always violence. Many children do not need any popularity. Introverts, self-sufficient personalities can live without it at all, but it is difficult to experience violence. 

The third mistake is to overcome bullying by 'individual work with a psychologist' referring to both victim or aggressors. It is needed to work with the group as a whole. Trying to solve the problem of bullying by solving personal problems of the involved is like trying to solve the problem of accidents on the roads by developing reaction time, politeness and love for a neighbor in each individual driver.

The fourth mistake: to punish the aggressor, to intimidate the instigator.  This may save a particular child, but the group that has already flew into a rage will immediately choose another victim.

The fifth mistake is to praise the victim. It doesn't always 'work.' All the advantages of the victim in the eyes of the group, captured by the excitement of bullying, will be instantly turned into disadvantages. If you won an academic competition -you are a'nerd', helped someone - an' apple-polisher ', did a drawing well – an 'Aivazovsky type'.

The sixth mistake is to cry poor mouth, trying to explain to the aggressors how bad the victim is and call for sympathy. It will not help, only strengthen them in the position of the strong, who wants to execute, wants to pardon. And the pity will offend the victim, humiliate or reinforce its helplessness. Especially, if it's a boy.

The seventh mistake: accept the rules of the game. 'Either I am beaten , or I beat', 'you should run with the pack', etc. ' Give as good as one gets, so that others do not do the same!' If an adult stirs up aggression, he only stimulates it. Or if an adult says ' Think about what your fault is?' or 'Forget it' . The messages for the child sound like this: 'The world is like this, it will not change, I will not help you in anything. You can capitulate to violence or become an aggressor yourself, or cut off your feelings and not show what is going on inside.' The child hears: 'No one will protect you, do not even hope, cope as you can.' As you can - this is only about an established person who is already ready to act independently, but not about a child. Such behavior deprives the child of the feeling of safety for the whole life. You are an adult and your purpose is to protect your child, do not move away from him in such a difficult moment for him, do not underestimate the importance of this bullying.

The eighth mistake is to remove a victim or aggressor, narrowing down everything to their personal features. The action may well continue with other main characters. A victim suffers having received experience of humiliation, denial and insecurity, a self-esteem injury, and even impaired emotional development due to long and severe stress. Witnesses suffer, those who stood apart and pretended that nothing special was happening, and at the same time got the experience of powerlessness over the power of the crowd and shame for their faintheartedness. Persecutors suffer, getting the experience of jackals in a pack, the experience of impunity, the illusion of their strength and rectitude. This experience leads to the callousness of feelings, cutting off opportunities for delicate and close relationships, and ultimately to destructive, antisocial personality traits. Finally, it's all bad for the group as a whole, for its effectiveness, its ability to cope with difficulties. Violence is a terrible energy guzzler, the group has no longer the strength for anything else, including for studying.

So, what to do?

Parents should carefully monitor the mood of the child, be able to 'safely' talk. You need to call the phenomenon by its name in time, go to school to talk with a teacher, a deputy head teacher, a head teacher. In a successful case, to start working together with the class, in case of conflict - to leave school. 

I wrote a letter to the head teacher (this was not an isolated incident, there are other teachers who simply ignore the names of the students and call them 'You, the boy in the corner', 'You, the tall one' and so on). They promised to look into it and that this will not happen again. You can not leave it without action, the child should see that this is not normal!!

What do I need to pay attention to?

The child does not want to go to school, is capricious, protests, cries, tells unpleasant stories about the teacher or classmates, etc.

There were sensible changes in the child's behavior and condition (he became sad / excited / aggressive / inhibited, changes in sleep / appetite, stuttering / enuresis / encopresis / obsessions appeared etc.).

The child does homework for hours, does not cope with its level, needs constant help from adults, gets low rates.

The child has not had a single friend in the class during a year.

The pace of intellectual and speech development of the child has decreased compared to the preschool period, the child is constantly bored at school.

I think I'll write more about it...