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If your child suddenly dreads going to school, he may be a victim of bullying. Most of the parents will remember at least one incident of being bullied, and the trauma caused, during their school days. Your child may be facing a similar situation. Read the following and equip yourself to deal with "your child being bullied".

What is Bullying?

Bullying or victimization can generally be defined as: A student when exposed/ subjected to, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students.

What are the common ways of bullying?

Such negative actions include intentionally inflicting, or attempting to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another child. The action may be physical (eg hitting, kicking, pushing, choking), verbal (eg calling names, threatening, taunting, malicious teasing, spreading nasty rumors), or in other ways, such as making faces or obscene gestures, or intentional exclusion from a group.

How common is bullying?

Bullying among school children is a very old phenomenon. Some children are frequently and systematically harassed and attacked more than others, and many adults have personal experiences of it from their own school days. Almost 10% of school age children are the victims of a bully. Bullying is most common by the second standard and then supposedly declines by the high school years.

How do children react if bullied?

Being the victim of a bully can lead to your child avoiding school and developing fear and anxiety about going to school. It can also make your child feel insecure and have feelings of poor self-esteem and can ultimately lead to depression and/or violence, either against himself or against the bully. Victims of bullies are often smaller and/or weaker than other children of the same age and may come from an overprotective home. At times they are loners, have few friends. They usually react to bullying by crying or withdrawing. Rarely some victims may actually bring on the bullying attack by teasing or provoking a bully.

How do I find out if my child is being bullied?

School avoidance behaviors, especially constant nonspecific complaints such as headaches or stomachaches, or trouble sleeping; child afraid or anxious about going to school; a change in his personality or his behavior or a fall in his school performance, should make you consider that he may be a victim of a bully at school.

If you suspect that your child may be a victim of a bully, ask him if he is being teased at school, or ask more open questions, such as 'What do you do at recess?' or 'at lunchtime?'

How could bullying happen with so many students around?

Children are most often bullied at school, usually on the playground or at lunchtime when children have minimal supervision, or it may occur in the corridors between classes or in the school bus. In any situation, bullying is likely to occur if the children are supervised better.

How should I guide my child, if he is bullied?

Avoid teaching your child to fight back, since he may get hurt and it may also get him in trouble at school. But that doesn't mean that you can't teach your child to be assertive and to show self-confidence. You should teach your child either to walk away (but while staying calm and not running), tell the bully to stop and leave him alone, or to use humor and come up with a good comeback when a bully teases him. It will also help if your child has high self-esteem and if he has some strong friendships, so that he is less of a target. Teach your child the value of eye contact with others (especially the bully) and to talk with a strong voice, which always helps. Role playing situations where he is bullied may be helpful in teaching how to respond.

Should I make my child join Karate classes?

This is normal reaction. Parents often enroll their children in a martial arts class and this can be helpful to build his self-esteem and help him be more assertive; the aim of the classes should not be to teach him to fight back.

Should I involve his teachers?

It may help to talk with teachers/ officials about the problem (so that they can better supervise your child, observe the bully and intervene when necessary) and teach your child to not respond too strongly to the bully (either by crying or giving in to demands), because the bully is more likely to continue bullying your child if he knows that he will get a response. It may also help to schedule a meeting between the parents of the children involved and school officials.

Does this mean that bullying only involves boys?

No, not at all. Girls are also the victim of bullying and they may bully other children. This form of bullying is usually with gossip or isolating someone socially, instead of physical bullying. Bullying amongst girls bypasses physical pain and goes right into the soul. Bullying amongst girls is less concrete or visible.

We@growingwell thought of doing this article after receiving a cry of help from one of the mothers.

"My 14-year-old daughter is being tortured by girls of her class. They have stopped phoning her, do not even say hello when they meet, speak badly of her behind her back, always comment on and make fun of what she says, etc.

She has become an outcast, frozen out and completely isolated. As a mother, I have a great sense of grief and helplessness in the face of what my daughter has to go through.

Please help! I even tried talking to parents of those girls but to no avail."

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