We are all aware, and increasingly, of the horrible scourge of bullying for our youth. In recent years we have made quite a bit of progress as a society with regard to bullying: campaigns, visibility, awareness… And it is now less common to hear that “these are children’s things”. However, deep down, we know that all this is still not enough and that we must continue fighting to eradicate bullying.
It is true that we talk a lot about data on bullying, victims, even boys and girls who end up committing suicide when the situation overwhelms them; prevention measures, seeking help… All of this is very necessary. But we don’t talk so much about the other perspective of the matter, the part that provokes, the boy or girl who bullies. And, of course, from their fathers and mothers.
Denial: a common reaction to the news
It’s hard to get the news your son or daughter is bullying a classmate. There are many thoughts that flow, contradict each other and bombard our head at that moment, and different ways of acting to tackle the situation. Carmen Cabestany, teacher and secretary of the NACE association (No to School Harassment), explains that many parents, when informed that their child is bullying a classmate, respond: “not my son“, “Who has said that?” or “Where is the proof?”
The negation It is one of the reactions that fathers and mothers can have when giving them the news. The psychologist Úrsula Perona comments on this that “denying it does not benefit the victim, nor the harasser, nor society in general. When parents act blind and defend our children because we think it is impossible for them to commit bullying, we are reproducing a myth that is totally false, because all kids can potentially be bullies, even those who have been victims of bullying”, says Úrsula.
Therefore, we have to debunk this myth in order to tackle bullying properly. If some parents detect or are informed that their child may be engaging in abusive behavior against another boy or girl, “the first thing is take responsibility for the situation, and this does not mean that they are guilty, but they should speak with their son or daughter, with the school, find out what is happening and seek help from a professional, who will be the person who, from a distance, will be able to guide us in all this in the best way”.
Behind every stalker, there is also a victim
Úrsula Perona emphasizes something very important: “When a case of bullying occurs, there are 3 main actors: the bully, the victim and the observers. But, in addition, I would also add to society in general, despite not being an involved party, nor a party that witnesses it, but as a society we have a very important role in terms of whether or not bullying continues”.
If we adopt the perspective that Úrsula brings us, we see that there are many perceptions and attitudes that we need to change in society as a whole. And, as far as bullying is concerned, there are many myths that we should banish. One, as we have already said, is that “my son would never do that”. But there is also another very important one, which we parents who are normally concerned about the environment in which our children learn usually reproduce: I do not want a problematic child in my child’s class.
You probably know of a case where this has happened. There is a boy or girl in your child’s class who is causing problems, annoying other classmates or even bullying one of them. And the reactions of fathers and mothers can be different. But, normally, there is that father or that mother who demands that the school or the other parents take action, that the child who is causing problems be expelled, that their parents take charge of dealing with them. All this from little empathy and, sometimes, from anger. And, of course, from the concern that none of this affects your son or daughter.
“No child or adolescent is violent if nothing is happening to him”
But in these cases, as professor Sandra Alguacil told us, “adults normally try to understand how someone close to them feels and behaves when they suffer a traumatic situation; we listen to them, we understand, we accept, we help: we empathize.” However, when this does not happen in our socialization process, but in that of our children, “unfortunately, our attitude tends to tend more towards misunderstanding and selfishness than empathy.”
What to do when our son commits bullying
We have to bear in mind, as Úrsula Perona tells us, that bullies and victims of bullying often share certain characteristics, especially related to the intrapersonal: low self-esteem, insecurity, few social skills, difficulty in solving conflicts… “No child or adolescent is violent if nothing is happening to them: there may be family problems, he may have been a victim of bullying himself, that his parents are divorcing or other causes such as trying to fit into the group.
“Denial benefits neither the victim, nor the harasser, nor society in general”
As we can see, the causes can be very diverse, but the point is that there is always a reason behind these behaviors. And in the case of our son or daughter, the first step will be to try to identify what is the cause that is moving him to behave like this.
Professor Carmen Guaita tells us that “one of the myths of bullying states that parents are the last to know. Unfortunately, it is true in many cases. However, in many others, parents recognize that their son or daughter’s attitudes of violence are also present at home and They don’t know how to redirect the problem.”.
So, this is a compilation of advice that Carmen Guaita and Úrsula Perona give us to carry out if we find ourselves in this situation:
- It is never too late to redress this situation, nor to set clear limits and boundaries, to listen to him more and spend more time with him.
We must discard any soon of violent punishment, but we must make him see the consequences of his actions.
Our attitude cannot be that of defend him at all costs and deny the evidence, but try to find out objectively what is happening, the reasons behind it.
Once we have identified the problem that is leading our son or daughter to have that behavior, it is essential to address it and work on it.
If necessary, psychological help can help find a solution to the problem that our child is having and that leads to problematic behaviors.
We must rethink the messages we send to our children and what we do or do not do when we are with them. Let’s remember: the example is always fundamental.
The joint help between fathers, mothers, schools, professionals, educators… is ESSENTIAL to deal with these issues. Only by collaborating together and coordinated will we be able to solve this situation in the best possible way.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.