Bullying is one of the worst things that can happen to a child, for its effects run far deeper than a nasty scar from a playground squabble. While the world worries about how to put an end to bullying, it is hardly considered an issue in Pakistan. Mahrukh Nadeem writes why we need to wake and address this invisible disease.


Letter As soon Sara came back from school she locked herself up in room, skipped her meal and went to bed early without finishing her homework. She woke up with a complaint of having stomachache. Sara started missing her school frequently, she often felt sick in the morning and her mother was observing behavioral changes in her. She was no longer the talkative girl she was and her class performance was getting poor. Her mother decided to talk to her best friend. It was then when she got to know what was happening to Sara. Her physical and mental health was falling courtesy of some of her mean class fellows who mocked her for her stammering and called her by foul names”

Falling under the category of an antisocial behavior, bullying is aggressive and persistent display of power to hurt others; it may be verbal, physical or sexist.

School is usually all fun and a learning haven; all until some unfortunate child comes face to face with a bully. Bullying is never acceptable, it’s cruel, nasty and revolting. It terrifies children and makes them skip school, hurting their physical and mental health. Bullying in schools is one of the most concerning issues in an academic institute and one of the most researched topics all across the world. Falling under the category of an antisocial behavior, bullying is defined as an aggressive and persistent display of power to hurt others; it may be verbal, physical or sexist. Bullying involves two people, a ‘bully’ and a ‘victim’. According to Oxford dictionary a bully is defined as ‘a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable’. The victim of bullying is often a weak person who feels helpless to respond or retaliate. 

The Types 

Bullying behavior varies from case to case. The above scenario is an example of verbal bullying, and verbal bullying includes teasing, name calling, verbal abuses and giving remarks on race, cast, creed or any other social differences. The other types of bullying includes physical, social and cyber bullying. Physical bullying involves hitting, kicking, pushing or any kind of physical harm to the victim. Social bullying targets victim by defaming or spreading false rumors about the victim, deliberately damaging someone’s social reputation. Cyber bullying refers to the use of technology and social media to bully a person by sending threatening and intimidating messages. Deliberately excluding others on social media, posting abusive remarks, sending hurtful texts, pictures and videos are all examples of cyber bullying. 


The Effects 

Bullying scars the lives of a victim forever, sabotaging their mind and personalities. Students who experience bullying show many emotional problems, their learning and education gets affected , as does their mental health. Research to date indicates that bullying can seriously affect a child’s psychosocial functioning and academic performance. The victims of bullying are sometimes so afraid that they simply don’t want to go to school and if it continues to happen, it can seriously impact the future of the child and prevent them from becoming successful in life. Sometimes, a bullying behavior is apparent and easy to spot, but it is so subtle in a number of cases that you remain unaware that you are being bullied for a long time. Subtle or not, both kinds are hard for the victim to handle. It can scar the child’s mind and soul forever.

For a bullying-free school environment, teachers and administration must work hand in hand and take the initiative. Teachers, especially, should be vigilant in observing unusual behaviors.

If bullying is not stopped, a victim ends up in serious depression and may even end up taking his or her life. As a people, we need to come together and take a stand against bullying. Victims of bullying show a wide range of symptoms, most of them behavioral. Early identification of the signs can make a huge difference in overcoming the effects of bullying. 

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Looking For The Signs 

  • Loss of sleep and appetite
  • Feeling ill in the morning
  • Skipping school 
  • Frequent bouts of anger and crying
  • Becoming quiet and isolated
  • Low grades and poor academic performance 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Feeling of unworthiness
  • Depression 
For those who are victims of bullying, here is some advice on how to handle bullies and cope with bullying.

The 6-A Approach

  1. Avoidance

    is the key. It’s the first step one must take. Avoiding the bully is not a sign of weakness but a defense mechanism to not put yourself in the situation in the first place. Avoiding the bully saves you from picking up a fight or becoming an easy target for bullying. It also buys time for reporting and planning your action. 

  2. Accompanying

    yourself with a friend can save you from being attacked, as bullies do not attack or pick on people who are surrounded by friends. Always avoid being alone or going to places where there are no children or teachers. 

  3. Arming

    children with self-confidence can also make a child bully-proof and make him take control of a bullying situation and not fall for bully’s words or actions. Self-confidence is a key because studies have shown that a bully lacks confidence and deep down is an insecure person; thus a confident child can fight back confidently and stand up against a bully. Role playing the scenario at home or in classroom settings can boost the child’s confidence and make him defend himself in a bullying scenario in much better way. 

  4. Assisting

    the child in learning self-help skills can also support the child against bullying. Training children about social skills can also prevent social exclusion. 

  5. Assertiveness

    is the most important thing while encountering a bully, by being assertive one can retaliate and respond. Parents and teachers can help children by giving assertive training and making sure children know how to feel about the situation and speak for themselves. Assertiveness is an effective response to bullying. Some of the ways one can learn to be more assertive is by practicing responding in a firm tone, making and maintaining eye contact with the bully, a confident body language and clear and assertive message, practicing saying ‘no’ when someone forces you to do something you don’t feel like doing. 

  6. Asking

 for help is always helpful when going through bullying. Reporting to teachers and authorities can assist you in overcoming your situations and take action against a bully. To stop this cycle of bullying you need to stand up against bullying and never feel embarrassed to talk about your situation.


How Can Teachers And School Administration Help?

If the school environment is favorable for bullying, anyone can bully and take advantage of the victim. For a bullying-free school environment, teachers and administration must work hand in hand and take the initiative. Teachers should be vigilant in observing unusual behaviors. Most of the time, bullying takes place in classrooms, playgrounds or after school. Whenever a teacher observes bullying taking place, they must intervene and warn the bully and ask him to stop. Documenting the whole scenario is important for evidence and reporting to higher authorities. Teachers must address this issue in classrooms and execute role play scenarios so that children can identify and prevent bullying. Teachers must facilitate students who are facing problems in classroom, especially in making friends, because a lonely child is an easy prey for a bully. 

Schools administrations must make strict policies against the act of bullying and should have zero tolerance policies against physical torture, any kind of discrimination and harassment. Anti-bullying programs must be introduced through seminars so that students learn about bullying behavior and stand up against it. Together with the right kind of support and skills we can all stand against bullying.

Mahrukh Nadeem is a clinical psychologist. She can be reached at mahrukh.nadeem@gmail.com

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