IS YOUR CHILD A BULLY?

Most of you would an­swer, ‘No’. Most of you need to recheck

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - City - - RELATIONSHIP - SONAL KALRA Sonal Kalra’s pre-schooler told her she got pushed in the park by another kid. Be­fore she could give them a lec­ture on bul­ly­ing, she saw that the kids were help­ing each other by ‘push­ing the swing’. Failed ac­tivism. Mail her at sonal.kalra@h

The num­bers speak for them­selves. One in ev­ery three school-go­ing chil­dren in our coun­try is be­lieved to have been ex­posed to bul­ly­ing by fel­low stu­dents. What’s re­ally alarm­ing, there­fore, is that two out ev­ery three kids are in­dulging in ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, or wit­ness­ing it with­out do­ing any­thing about it.

Last week, a friend for­warded me a chat in the What­sapp group of par­ents of ninth grade stu­dents in one of Delhi’s most pres­ti­gious schools. In that chat, a par­ent was re­call­ing de­tails of how her 13-year-old daugh­ter re­fuses to go to school be­cause of the bad be­hav­iour of her class­mates to­wards her. This is a school that par­ents would have given an arm and a leg for, to get their child ad­mit­ted in the first place. And all those par­ents could outdo each other in terms of how ed­u­cated, af­flu­ent, aware, pro­gres­sive they are. No wait, how aware they think they are. Be­cause if you are not aware of the be­hav­iour that your child dis­plays in school, there’s pre­cious lit­tle to gain even if your level of knowl­edge can make you write a the­sis on global eco­nomic poli­cies.

To their credit, all par­ents in that group seemed con­cerned about the trauma be­ing faced by this vic­tim, but most seemed to sug­gest that bring­ing it to the at­ten­tion of the class teacher would solve the prob­lem. Till the mom of the girl wrote that she has al­ready taken it up with the school au­thor­i­ties sev­eral times, and de­spite their ad­vice or coun­selling, the chil­dren just don’t care. They don’t care!!

So the prob­lem, peo­ple, is in ac­cept­ing in the first place — both by those stu­dents and their par­ents that their be­hav­iour amounts to bul­ly­ing, and that cor­rect­ing that be­hav­iour is not a choice. It HAS to be done. There’s even le­gal re­course with an anti-bul­ly­ing law, but it is ap­pli­ca­ble more to in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion, than schools. Pri­mar­ily be­cause it is as­sumed that school stu­dents are any­way bound strictly by the au­thor­ity of the man­age­ment. And that’s pre­cisely why schools can’t get away with say­ing that the stu­dents don’t care. But that’s also why the role of par­ents in un­der­stand­ing the sever­ity and ur­gency of the prob­lem is fore­most.

I dis­cussed this with some par­ents of pre-teens and teens, and sur­pris­ingly enough it turned out that a lot of them did not even con­sider what they called ‘nor­mal, mis­chievous be­hav­iour’ as ag­gres­sion or bul­ly­ing. So, let me put it here in the sim­plest terms. The most com­mon ways in which bul­ly­ing hap­pens in schools in­clude.

■ Con­stantly pok­ing fun at a par­tic­u­lar class­mate – es­pe­cially pick­ing on his/her phys­i­cal traits, man­ner­ism, or an in­abil­ity to dis­play con­fi­dence while speak­ing. I know of a kid who stam­mers out of ner­vous­ness when the teacher asks him to read out some­thing in the class, and a par­tic­u­lar bunch of kids al­ways laugh loudly when­ever his turn comes. If your kid is the one laugh­ing or mim­ick­ing, it’s not ‘sense of hu­mour’. Just clar­i­fy­ing.

■ Ex­clud­ing a par­tic­u­lar stu­dent from group ac­tiv­i­ties. Not let­ting them join in while hav­ing lunch, play­ing a game, do­ing a project, plan­ning par­ties, even while de­cid­ing seat­ing in the class. A sev­enth grader neigh­bour’s re­ply, when I asked her about why a cer­tain newly ad­mit­ted girl isn’t in­vited to her birth­day party, sim­ply said, “she’s not in our squad.” Then whose..umm..squad is she in? I asked. “No one’s,” she shrugged. Well.

■ Mock­ing a fel­low class­mate on so­cial me­dia plat­forms, such as What­sapp chat groups, In­sta­gram, Face­book and what not. ■ Spread­ing ru­mours about a cer­tain class­mate hav­ing a crush on, or propos­ing to another, de­spite knowl­edge that it makes them un­com­fort­able

■ And of course, phys­i­cally in­tim­i­dat­ing or hit­ting a fel­low kid

Let me ad­dress the last one first. Most of us would agree that it is un­ac­cept­able that one kid hits another. What we for­get is that when our child was three years old and had come back from school or the play­ground one day com­plain­ing that he was pushed by another tod­dler, a lot of us had replied – “Toh tum bhi usko push karo. Don’t be scared of him.”

The idea at that time was to pre­pare your child to face the world ‘bravely’, to not let him or her be dar­pok. I have seen par­ents proudly pro­claim – ‘Maine keh diya hai – rotey huye ghar nahi aana. Koi ek mare toh tum do maaro. That’s the only way to sur­vive in to­day’s world.’ And then the same peo­ple many years later shake their heads on read­ing news items about vi­o­lence in road rage in­ci­dents and say – ‘Ho kya raha hai duniya ko?’

Are you get­ting my point? The trolls that we see on so­cial me­dia to­day, the ha­tred that we see out on the roads, the neg­a­tiv­ity and vi­o­lence that we con­stantly crib about now, is not un­con­nected to how we may have — in­ten­tion­ally or oth­er­wise — let the seed of ag­gres­sion nur­ture in kids around us. Turn­ing our faces the other way when our own chil­dren bully oth­ers, and de­mand­ing the core values of com­pas­sion, po­lite­ness and good man­ners from adults around us is con­ve­nient, but hardly log­i­cal.

In a nutshell, if you are par­ent to a young, im­pres­sion­able child, do the fol­low­ing, if not more:

1 Ob­serve how your child be­haves with her friends. If she cracks a joke at another kid, see if that kid is laugh­ing at the joke or not. Even if the whole group is laugh­ing but the tar­get of the joke is sheep­ish and un­com­fort­able, it’s time for a chat, with your own.

2 If there’s a newly ad­mit­ted child in your ward’s class, ask your son/ daugh­ter to of­fer to be their friend. Your kid could be in that po­si­tion some­day.

3 If the school teacher or another par­ent com­plains about your kid be­ing a bully, never ever take it lightly. Not for them, but for your­self, your child, and the sake of a fu­ture so­ci­ety with well-be­haved, well-man­nered adults.

PHOTO: ISTOCK

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