Meena, Anu, and Ajay are in Class 7. Anu is the shortest in their class and Ajay is always making fun of her height. He calls her by nick names which draw attention to her size, and is constantly patting her on the head to show how short she is. Anu, already self conscious, feels hurt but she doesn’t say anything. Meena sometimes laughs with Ajay when he is mocking Anu but she also feels sorry for her.
Have you or someone you know ever been in a similar situation?
While growing up, it is common for children to tease each other. But when someone purposely makes fun of another or forces them to do things even if they make it clear they don’t want to, it is called bullying.
We like to have fun together with friends. Sometimes, we may even want to do somethings only because our friends are doing them, even if we know it will get us into trouble or is wrong. For example, Meena knows that Anu feels hurt when Ajay teases her. But she does not want to say anything because she is Ajay’s friend and does not want to upset him. Ajay knows that Anu is upset, but continues to bully her because it gives him a feeling of control. Also he enjoys the attention he is getting from others who laugh instead of telling him to stop.
But is making someone feel unhappy about themselves a sign of strength? Actually, children who bully others tend to have a low opinion about themselves. This means that there maybe things about themselves that they don’t like or feel ashamed about. They therefore want to humiliate or put another person down in order to feel better about who they are. They think they will fit in with the crowd if they show up another’s difference, even if it means picking on the other person.
Maybe Ajay is unhappy with his performance in the exams; maybe Meena doesn’t like her big ears and doesn’t want anyone to notice them. So, they turn their attention to Anu, who is quiet and doesn’t respond. Seeing her reactions to the way they treat her makes them feel better about their own problems.
Bullying needn’t always be violent like hitting someone or verbally abusing them. If a group of children always refuse to include a particular child in their games, that’s bullying too! Or if you spread stories about someone and it is causing them sadness. It’s quite simple – if, through your actions, you target someone repeatedly to hurt them, it is bullying. Ragging is another word for bullying.
Everyone usually knows who the bullies in a school, class, or neighbourhood are usually. They either avoid them out of fear or silently support them because they want to be part of the group. But it is important to know that our actions always have consequences.
Have you heard of the term ‘peer pressure’? Our peers are people like ourselves, usually by age or common interest. Your classmates and friends are your peers. Sometimes, you can find yourself disagreeing with something that everyone is doing but you also end up doing it because you don’t want to be the odd one out. It can be something silly like praising a movie everyone’s excited about but you’re not. Or it can be something more serious, like ragging another child as a group even if you don’t want to. There’s huge pressure to act like everyone else and you give in.
Have you ever bullied anyone? Has anyone bullied you?
Children who are bullied feel dejected and it’s easy to see why. Nobody likes to be singled out and insulted in front of others. They can lose their confidence, feel lonely and isolated.
Bullies often focus on their target’s appearance (“Why are you so fat?”), clothes (“Your clothes are always so loose!), abilities (“You can’t even throw a ball!”), and family or social circle (“Why do you spend so much time with those show-offs?”).
Sometimes, such comments can affect the bullied person so much that it can even have an effect on their health and their routine. They may not feel like eating, fall sick more often, get nightmares or find it difficult to fall asleep. Concentrating on their studies can be difficult. They can even get injured if the bully uses physical force on them.
Being bullied can also make them develop other problems with their own behaviour. They could become very withdrawn – stop talking with people around them or they could display extreme anger suddenly. Sometimes, a child who is bullied can end up bullying someone else just to feel better.
Is there something you can do to stop bullying ?
If you are being bullied or if you know someone who is getting bullied, the best way to stop it is to inform a responsible adult. This can be a parent, a teacher, or anyone who is in a position to do something about the problem. The adult can intervene and help the child who is bullying to reflect and understand their inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour.
Taking a stand is difficult and not all of us can do it. But you can speak to your peers about not supporting a bully. Because not participating in doing something wrong also matters. You can also show your support for the targeted person in small ways – include them in your games, share things with them, speak to them more, make them feel included.
The keyword to stopping bullying is empathy. Empathy means the ability to experience the feelings of a person in a situation, not as an onlooker, but as someone who is also experiencing the situation. The more you feel for others, the less you will want to bully.
Sometimes, children hesitate to speak up because of a sense of loyalty. Will complaining to an adult about peers who are bullying get them into trouble? For example, if Meena were to tell their teacher about what Ajay does to Anu, would it be wrong? Meena may feel that she will lose Ajay’s friendship but she will feel better by doing the right thing of standing up for Anu. It’s important to learn to distinguish between situations which require intervention and those that don’t. And remember, she will also be helping Ajay! It is not healthy growing up being a bully and Ajay, too, needs help.
Many schools and colleges and even work places have strict rules to prevent bullying but it can still happen. If you notice it taking place around you, make sure you report it so it is stopped. You would have then contributed to a safer and more peaceful world.
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-1 English Standard-7. This story is by Tulir - Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, Chennai. (pp. 75-78). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.