A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Some thoughts on bullying

by Fr Kevin Head sm

by Fr Kevin Head sm

A conversation I had recently with one of my nieces brought to mind my childhood and teenage experiences of being bullied. She told of how her teenaged daughter had been text-bullied. It is pretty clear that cyber-bullying can be even more vicious and pernicious than the kind of physical bullying that was part of life when I was growing up. Text message and cyber-bullying can be constant – any time of day and night, and from multiple sources.

My niece and her husband had no hesitation in dealing with what happened. They saw their duty to protect their daughter as far outweighing her right to privacy in her text messages.

I agree with my niece and her husband, and with Sean Plunkett, who wrote in The Dominion Post, “for all parents out there: please don’t feel guilty about checking your kids’ text messages or stalking them on Facebook. You aren’t spying on them; you are trying to keep them safe” (9 November 2013).

I suspect that most people in every generation were bullied at one time or another. In my generation that was true. In those days, we didn’t make much of it. There was no chance that I was going to report to my parents that I had been beaten up. I remember the names of the guilty parties, and imagining the stink of their spit on my face comes easily. The reason why I didn’t talk to my parents or teachers about what happened was simply that I felt so humiliated. I was reluctant to divulge to anyone how utterly powerless I felt.

The Bully Project* website points out that most children don’t tell anyone that they are being bullied, so it’s important for adults to know what the signs of bullying are.bullying

The signs include frequent headaches and stomach aches, personal belongings often being “lost”, avoiding playtime or school activities, and arriving at school very late or very early.

Those that bully have been bullied. Most often they’ve learned the behaviour at home.

The Bully Project advises, “Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, a sales clerk, another driver on the road, or even your child, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques. Don’t blow it by blowing your top! Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is OK”.

The Bully Project website provides information and guidance for children, parents, guardians and grandparents,
such as:

Talk with and listen to your kids – everyday.

If you think someone is being bullied at school, it is important to talk to the teacher, observe the child’s peer interactions, and speak directly to the child about what is happening at school (and outside school hours).

Spend time at school, especially during break times (because two thirds of bullying happens when there are no adults nearby). And always keep in mind that

“All forms of bullying are harmful to the perpetrator, the victim, and to witnesses, and the effects last well into adulthood (and can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, family violence, and criminal behaviour)”, as well as self-harm and suicide.

Bullying should not be a normal part of childhood. Believe it, and tell others.

* www.thebullyproject.com



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