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Life Skills Help Children Know How to Handle a Bully

Learning life skills will help stop bullying, but ingrained practices of thousands of years will not go away as long as humans interact with humans.


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James L Katzaman

a year ago | 6 min read

Technology and social media can be abused by bad actors

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Learning life skills will help stop bullying, but ingrained practices of thousands of years will not go away as long as humans are humans.

Yet, advocates such as Swaroop Rawal, Arpan and Cathy Carmody are helping people understand bullying as aggression, making a stand for children who are at greatest risk. During a Sayfty Twitter chat, they discussed child safety and anti-bullying.”

Rawal is a teacher, actor, artist and author. She believes that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them in my classroom.”

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Arpan is one of India’s largest non-governmental organizations working to address the issue of child sexual abuse. The group provides prevention and intervention services to children and adults.

Retired from working, Carmody focuses on ending the cycle of violence against women and girls.

“Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal or psychological ways,” Rawal said. “It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them.

“Then there’s relational bullying,” she said. “Exclusionary tactics involve deliberately preventing someone from joining or being part of a group — whether it’s at a lunch table, game, sport or social activity. It’s like treating the one child as if she were invisible.”

Cyberbullying is the latest development that worries Rawal.

“It uses technology — internet, email, cell phones, social media and pictures — to hurt or harm someone else,” she said.

Taunted for Speaking

Rawal heard one example of a child making progress in speech therapy only to have other kids bully him for his stammering and uncleared speech. In turn, the child has become aggressive and aloof, not talking to anyone.

“This problem is especially damaging to children,” Rawal said. “Bullying and abuse have long-term effects.

“Children who are bullied become sick more easily throughout their life due to compromised immune systems,” she said. “Chances are they’ll develop diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.”

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The Arpan representative broke the behavior down into its parts.

“Bullying is any act involving force, threat or intimidation to aggressively dominate a child with the intent of humiliation,” the representative said. “The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.”

Bullying typically has three key parties, all of whom will be negatively affected:

  • The bully
  • The one being bullied or victim
  • Bystanders who are aware of the bullying

The act hurts in many ways:

  • Physical. Hurting a person’s body or possessions
  • Verbal. Teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments
  • Social. Hurting someone’s reputation or spreading rumors about someone
  • Sexual. Making fun of private body parts or touching them

“Like other forms of abuse, people — adults — often don’t realize that verbal abuse is also harmful,” Carmody said. “It’s different for each person. In no case is it that person’s fault. No one deserves to be bullied.”

Actions are Complicated

While the harm bullies cause is real, their motivations are not so clear cut.

“Children bully for reasons that are complex and not always evident,” the Arpan representative said. “It stems from complex interactions between individuals and their environments. That includes family, peer, societal and cultural influences.

“Some bullies may have been bullied by others, while some may have witnessed violence and abuse at home,” the representative said. “Some may have been neglected and emotionally deprived. A child may also bully to establish social dominance.”

Whatever the reason, the representative said it is important for adults to take note, educate them and seek advice and help promptly whenever there is any concern.

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“Sometimes kids torment others because that’s the way they’ve been treated,” the representative said. “They think their behavior is normal because they come from families or settings where everyone regularly gets angry and calls each other names.”

Children learn bad behavior from all sorts of places every day.

“Kids observe examples of bullying through media, politics, TV reality shows, other kids at school and even family dynamics,” Rawal said. “They may not understand that such behaviors are not acceptable anywhere.

“People and kids bully for a mix of reasons,” she said. “Sometimes they pick on others because they need a victim — someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, or just acts or appears different. The bully wants to feel more important, popular or in control.”

Getting On Their Nerves

Whatever teachers and parents do has a major bearing on children.

“The best thing for a human nervous system is another human, but the worst thing for the human nervous system is another human,” Rowal said.

“It’s a matter of awakening and empowering today’s young people to name, to reflect, to imagine and to act with more and more concrete responsibility,” she said. “They have to do that in an increasingly multifarious world.”

Carmody sees bullying as “a cycle that we must educate and model our way out of. Learning the ‘naming’ and vocabulary is important for helping change the patterns — disrupting the cycle of violence.”

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Adults have the responsibility to not be bullies or watch in silence, which gives bullies tacit approval.

“Bullying prevention requires adult intervention,” the Arpan representative said. “It must have adult buy-in and emphasis.”

That includes these positive actions:

  • Foster positive adult and child communication.
  • Foster empathy and respect.
  • Be a role model.
  • Provide support.
  • Be willing to listen.

“Initiate discussions on personal safety, personal boundaries and bullying,” the representative said. “If your child is a victim, do not ignore what is happening. Comfort them. Teach them to be assertive and seek help.”

In Their Parents’ Eyes

Rawal concurred about listening calmly and offering comfort and support.

“Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying,” she said. “They feel embarrassed and ashamed that it’s happening. They might worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, angry or reactive.

“Scientists have found that children who have fiction read to them regularly find it easier to understand other people,” she said. “They show more empathy and the ability to understand that other people have different thoughts and feelings to us, which is essential for understanding.”

Rawal shared two books she has written on child rights — stories to empower children and give them an idea that they can stand up for themselves.

“If children have never seen positive relationships, they do what they know to get what they need,” Carmody said.

“Bullying is a sign of being out of control,” she said. “This is confusing to people to understand about exerting control because you don’t really have it.”

Adult Education

Arpan believes these are the most important issues in keeping children safe:

  • Keep children safe from many dangers and many forms of abuse. Our organization works on protecting children from sexual abuse.
  • Child sexual abuse can be prevented if adults educate themselves and children about personal safety.
  • Empower children to identify unsafe situations and seek help.

“It’s every child’s right not to be bullied,” Rawal said. “Children’s rights are designed for the safety of children and have to be provided for by adults and the government.”

She listed these essential rights:

  • Survival rights
  • Development rights
  • Protection rights
  • Participation rights

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Arpan cited resources and organizations that focus on child safety.

“We have interactive modules up on Arpanelearn,” the representative said. “You can also access Child Safety Week where we have curated age-appropriate resources on personal safety and online safety created by other organizations across the globe.

“The responsibility of keeping our children safe rests upon us adults,” the representative said. “We must educate ourselves first to help our children.”

Rawal tied back to physical interactions.

“We’re a social species, which can control each other’s nervous systems,” she said. “By the words I use, I can make your heart speed up or slow down. This is a huge problem if you’re spending all your time in an environment that’s socially harsh.”

Rawal recalled the words of neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett: “The emotional climate of a culture is something we should be having serious conversations about.”

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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James L Katzaman

Jim Katzaman is a charter member of the Tealfeed Creators' program, focusing on marketing and its benefits for companies and consumers. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as subscribing here on Tealfeed.


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