In western countries like the UK and USA bullying in schools is taken very seriously and systems are in place to see to it that this menace is addressed properly. This is not the case in India where this problem is not addressed very actively even though it is much more rampant than perceived. Bullying among children in schools, though it may sound innocuous, is a very serious problem and needs to be addressed with care. It can lead to the maiming of a child for a lifetime and can lead to serious mental health problems. Sometimes when the bullying takes a physical form it can even lead to permanent injuries and serious physical health issues.
I have come across many reported cases of children committing suicide because of their inability to handle bullying. Let us go a little deeper into the psychological basis for the problem. First off, we have to understand the different forms that school bullying can take. Primarily there is the physical form where a child who is on the physically weaker side gets bullied because of his or her inability to stand up and put up a fight when he or she is bullied. Physical bullies are generally cowards. If it can be proved to them that they will be taken to task for their actions they naturally desist from bullying.
Physical bullying has a very harmless beginning. Usually the physically weaker child is patted mildly on the head or on the shoulder and it is not considered anything very serious. Soon the force exerted behind the pats on the shoulder and the taps on the head increase and so do the frequency with which this happens. Soon the number of children doing this also increases and pretty soon the bullied child is hit pretty powerfully and this is accompanied by derisive laughter on the part of the child’s peers.
The general problem is that if the bullied child takes up the matter with a grown up, it is most often dismissed as a part of growing up. The adults, especially the school authorities tend to ignore it. Pretty soon the bullying assumes mammoth proportions and sometimes it results in severe injuries like deafness, broken bones and so on. It is imperative on the part of the school authorities or the parents of the bullied child to sit up and and nip it in the bud when the child first brings it to their notice. If this is not done and ignorance is feigned under the pretext that things will work themselves out, it could lead to disastrous consequences.
Since the child who is subject to this form of bullying is incapable of defending himself or herself it is up to the school authorities to enforce a code of conduct in school premises. There should be strict rules that physical touch should not exceed certain limitations of force and anyone found to be exceeding this limit should be made an example of by punishment of some kind. This might sound a bit harsh but it is necessary. If the limits of force used in physical contact is allowed to exceed due to leniency, sooner or later it assumes monumental proportions and results in disastrous consequences.
Children should be warned and a strict lookout should be kept for any child being the odd man out in the class or during the physical training sessions and an eye should be kept on the physically weaker children to see that they don’t suffer. Physical bullying, though it is much more severe can be handled more easily: as it is only a matter of curbing the bullying tendencies of the strong against the weak.
The form of bullying that is more difficult to handle and control is the mental kind where an emotionally weaker child is harassed mentally by the child’s peers.
This form of bullying starts off with mild teasing. Most often children can take light banter in their stride and laugh it off. But there is the odd child who is emotional and extremely high strung and cannot take a little bit of teasing and tends to get hot under the collar and reduced to tears when the child’s peers indulge in it. When the other children see these signs, there is a tendency on their part to goad the emotionally weak one further and reduce him or her to tears time and again. The problem is magnified if the child has some physical peculiarity like being excessively fat or some thing similar that can be used as a means for teasing.
This form of bullying harasses the child mentally day-in and day-out. Once the child’s peers realize that he or she is reactionary and can be goaded into crying, there is no end to the bullying. Day in and day out the other children indulge in severe mental abuse and this has drastic consequences on the mental health of the bullied child. Catcalls, snide remarks and derisive and abusive comments; all result in severe mental trauma. I have seen occasions when bullied children beg their parents to change the school: not realizing that the problem is not the school and most likely they would face the same problem in a different school.
Here again it is up to the school authorities to keep a sharp lookout for any child being abused in this way. This kind of bullying is more difficult to handle, even if it is detected early. This is because it involves instilling proper behavior patterns in the school premises among all children as a general rule. A strict code of conduct would again go a long way in curbing this menace. There should be rules regarding what is allowed and what is not allowed for all children during school time.
Another problem in dealing with bullying in general is that the bullied child most often is not likely to go and complain to the school authorities or parents. This is mainly because of a sense of shame in having to admit to weakness and inability to handle the situation by themselves. Then again, there is the fear of backlash from their classmates that a complaint could result in. The best way to take bullying in schools head on is to have a strict anti-bullying policy in the school premises. The matter has to be taken very seriously because abuse and trauma faced during childhood could result in the adult life of a child being completely destroyed. It could even result in serious mental ailments as an adult and end up spoiling entire lifetimes.