How To Tell If Your Child Is A Victim Of Bullying
By: Frank McGinty
I just don't get it! Ken's always been mad about his gymnastics. He won't say what's happened, and he creates a fuss if we ask!'
You could almost feel the tension rising. This was the third time Ken had called off, and his Mom was at a loss - especially since a friend's Mom had called to arrange transport.
She soon found out, however, that Ken was being bullied.
A UK charity, ChildLine, claims that as many as 8 out of 10 kids have been bullied at some time. It's been going on for thousands of years, of course, and it's not only kids who are victims.
But let's concentrate on child bullying and how we can recognize the signs and symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF BULLYING
Probably the most common sign of bullying is a reluctance to go to a place or take part in an activity that previously was not a problem. This could be school or a social activity such as Ken's gymnastics class.
This reluctance - or even outright refusal - is often accompanied by signs of fear, like shaking and nervousness, aggressive language, or feeling ill.
There may also be an out-of-character moodiness and withdrawal, often with physical signs of unrest such as a pale complexion or fearful and drawn features.
You may even be aware of other outward signs, like torn clothes, unexplained injuries, and a run of losses involving items like iPods or cell phones.
Unusual demands for cash may be made, and you may even notice pilfering from your purse or wallet. This is to pay-off the bullies.
A decline in school performance is not uncommon, and there may also be a decline in sporting activities or a loss of interest in hobbies that were once all-consuming.
Any caring parent will become upset if they see a dramatic change for the worse in their normally friendly and relaxed child. It's not easy to watch your son or daughter sink into a depression and/or become angry, especially when they won't even tell you why.
UNDERSTANDING THESE CHANGES
All of the above symptoms are rooted in fear. This ranges from fear of embarrassment to fear for life itself. The child is trying at all costs to avoid the fear-inducing experience of bullying.
And top of the list is a conviction that telling anyone about it will make it worse. That's why there's a downward spiral, often leading to despair and depression - because the victim can see no escape.
Let's look at the different types of bullying to understand this more.
Physical, verbal and social: these are the three types of bullying according to psychologists - and they can all happen at once.
Physical bullying is usually characterized by punching and kicking, but there can also be slapping, hair-pulling and threats with weapons such as blades.
It's often accompanied by stealing or damaging the victim's personal property, such as money, sports equipment or musical instruments.
The next type, verbal bullying, is taunting and humiliating the victim, usually in a loud and aggressive way - and it can be every bit as devastating!
Social bullying is any of the above forms, but it is when a group picks on one or more victims. This is also known as relational bullying. It can be very harmful indeed when a group of kids decide to ignore or 'ostracize' one of their own.
You can help your child to overcome the torment of bullying and you'll find suggestions in a companion article.
This article is to raise the awareness of parents, as very often the signs of bullying are so obvious that we can easily be unaware of them.
How bad would you feel if Ken was being bullied, but as his parent you put it down to the onset of the terrible teens, or just a phase he's going through, or just a change of interest? (He's 'gone off' gymnastics.)
Even small changes in your child's behavior should be noted. Of course, we must avoid being over-attentive and intrusive, but we can safely monitor what's going on and help. It's amazing how many kids feel they are somehow to blame if they're being bullied!