OVER the next few weeks RTE’s Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy intends to tackle the often hidden plague of bullying that can grow in the Irish schooling system and leak out into society and our workplaces. Dr. Eddie throws down the gauntlet in that we can no longer be bystanders while our children and friends are struggle under the weight of bullying that has terrible psychological costs.
This series of articles examines Bullying in Primary School, Bullying in Secondary School, and Bullying in the Workplace.
Bullying - Primary School
We rear our children fill them with hope and optimism and then release them to the school system for growth, education, skill development and self discovery. For many parents they are fortunate if their little Johnnie or Mary have this pathway. For other parents a living nightmare can develop particularly when a parent realises that their child is being bullied at school. It can be equally difficult if your child is accused of being a bully.
. How Big is Bullying?
Bullying is a major behavioural problem in Irish primary schools which affects the lives of thousands of school children and their families. The Anti-Bullying Research Centre, Trinity College, Dublin has documented bullying in 31% of Primary Students and 16% of Secondary Students have been bullied at some time. From approx 870,000 school going population, approximately 23% or 200,000 children are at risk of suffering the ill effects of bullying
Bullying occurs mostly where there is either inadequate or no adult supervision. In Primary schools in Ireland 74% of children who said they were bullied, reported that they were bullied in the playground. While 31% claimed that the bullying occurred in the classroom. 19% of primary school children who said they were bullied said that the incidents occurred going to or from school.
Some people hold the belief that the bullying behaviour will “harden up the child”. This belief is n error as bullying behaviour quickly causes pain and distress to its victims. Too often the bullying behaviour is left unchallenged until the problem is too big to ignore.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can take many forms including, verbal (sarcasm, teasing, put-downs, name calling, spreading rumours), physical (kicking, pushing, pinching, hitting, tripping, pulling hair), Emotional bullying (exclusion, tormenting, humiliation, extortion, e-bullying, and racial bullying (racial / ethnic slurs, making fun of customs/skin color/accent/food choices).
Why do people bully?
If aggressive behaviour is not challenged in childhood, there is a danger that it may become habitual. Indeed, there is research evidence, to indicate that bullying during childhood puts children at risk of criminal behaviour and domestic violence in adulthood. Factors which contribute to aggressive behaviour in the home are - Lack of love and care, excessive freedom, inconsistent discipline, permissive management of aggressive behaviour and excessive physical punishment
The impact of Bullying
Regardless of the types of bullying these can leave children feeling angry, frightened and powerless, if children are unable to share their feelings with someone else it can leave them emotionally bruised and exhausted.
Feelings: Fear, Loss of confidence, isolated, lonely, low self-esteem, humiliation, depression, powerlessness, stress, anxiety, panic
Thoughts: “I am useless”, “nobody likes me”
Behaviours: Absenteeism, poor or deteriorating schoolwork, illness, concentration, problems, lack of motivation, lack of appetite / comfort eating, aggressive behaviour, sleep problems - Nightmares, Bedwetting, stomach and bowl problems.
Parents need to watch out for:
Visible signs of anxiety or distress - refusal to say what is wrong
Unexplained mood swings or behaviour, withdrawn, clinging, attention seeking, aggressive behaviour
Educational impacts - Loss of concentration, Loss of interest in school
Increased requests for pocket money or stealing money
Unexplained sicknesses to miss school – tummy aches. headaches
A Clear Message --- To prevent the cycle of bullying, ADULTS must intervene. Failure to act gives a silent but powerful permission that aggressive behaviours are tolerated and acceptable.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO?
1.Tell -- Empower children to report incidents
...statements to children like ‘you shouldn’t tell tales’ and discouraging “whistleblowing” at a young age, can have detrimental repercussions when it comes to incidents of bullying. Always make it clear to your children that it is always right to tell when they see something wrong.
2.Discuss Bullying Behaviour with your children ...make them aware that bullying is not simply “physical” and discuss what kind of effects it can have.
3.Challenge every incident of Bullying Behaviour that is witnessed ...lead by example. Where you see negative behaviour highlight it.
4. Be aware of your own behaviour....don’t confuse your children by talking one way and acting another, avoid inconsistent discipline and power-assertive methods of discipline. Exercise democracy in your home, give the children responsibility. Promote confidence and enhance their self esteem.
WHAT TO TELL CHILDREN IF THEY ARE BEING BULLIED
1.What to Do: Act as confident as you can. Face them and tell them clearly to stop. Try and be calm and move away from them. Role playing can help the child build confidence to do this.
2.Tell Someone: If you’re being bullied, try and tell someone about it. Parent(s) / Teacher / Family Member. Tell them what has happened, who is doing it; How often it has happened; Did anyone see or hear what went on; What have you tried to do about it.
3.Don’t Hit Out: If someone is bullying you don’t try to hit/kick them. You may get badly hurt in a fight and even if you don’t, the bully can sometimes use how you hit them against you, and make it seem like you are the bully.
4.If They Call You Names: If they tease you or slag you off, try and laugh it off. Don’t let them see that they have hurt you. Bullies like to get a reaction, if they don’t get one there is no point in them bullying you.
5.Remember, It’s Not About You: Often people who bully other people do it to make themselves feel better, because they are unhappy, at school or at home. Remember that they have the problem not you. Don’t believe what they say to you, and don’t blame yourself.
6.Tell Your Friends//People You Can Trust In Class Tell them what is going on and how you feel. Ask them to come with you to tell a teacher if you are afraid. Ask them to stand up with you against the bully.
Dr. Eddie will explore Strategies for Schools in relation to bullying in an upcoming article.
As well as his counselling practice, Dr Eddie does talks, training and workshops for school, community, voluntary, sporting and work groups. Call 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie
Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychology and counselling practice in Portarlington, helping with panic attacks, anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, etc for children, adults and families. Call 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie
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