Bullies spot victims who are vulnerable or stick out (because of the colour of their skin, the way they walk, their name, size, religion, spectacles, family, clothes...). Victims are often quiet, silent, passive, anxious, insecure and cautions children with low self-esteem. They have few friends who sometimes even stand up in their defence. They are often connected with their parents who can often (but not always) be described as over-protective.
We talk about peer bullying when one or more children deliberately and repeatedly disturb, attack, hurt or exclude from play and activity a child who cannot defend. Such abuse may have the form of threats, physical injuries, exclusion, mockery, teasing, gossiping, taking property, destroying property and is often followed by unpleasant comments about the child’s family or relatives (e.g. ‘Ivan does not have a daddy!’ ‘Your mum is fat!’).
Teaching child to protect himself
If your child has problems at school, if somebody is teasing, mocking, hitting, taking things, telling rude words, ridiculing her/him, there are things to teach your child to protect her/himself:
• Reassure your child in thinking that for some reason s/he deserves to be a victim ― s/he does not have to feel shame, bullies are the ones who have problems
• Teach him/her how to look the bully in the eye and how to strongly and clearly say STOP!
• Help your child in becoming aware of the fact that a bully cannot be changed. Show approval of the fact that your child confided in you and support her/him in letting the teacher, whom the child trusts, know what has been happening (if it is happening at school). Teach your child not to use violence against the bully.
• Teach your child to ask peers for help and support her/him in making and maintaining friendships.
• Foster the development of your child’s social skills (kindness, empathy, listening, non-violent conflict resolution, co-operability, expressing wishes and needs…)
• Encourage your child to tell you about other cases of abuse and to inform the school staff about it…
• If you find out that your child has been exposed to abuse, ask the school staff for help. Undertake the necessary steps together, aiming at the protection of your child from further victimisation.
Brothers, sisters and friends often find out about the threatening of your child much before you or the teachers do. They do not interfere because the victim has asked them not to, or because of the fear that they themselves might become the abuser’s target. If you suspect that your child has been exposed to threatening, besides talking to your child, talk to other children in the family, as well as to your child’s friends in order to explore the extent of the problem and help your child cope as soon as possible.