This is not the first time I speak about Bullying on this blog. I guess having children makes you paranoid. As we all know what they say: "children can be cruel". And most of the times, they not only can; they are.
I just cannot believe it took me that long to get to writing this article. I had promised a Dubai/UAE specific post back when I wrote the first piece on Bullying and although it took quite some time, here it finally is, with the kind help of Family and Relationship Coach, Maria Chatila.
Can you please introduce yourself and your credentials?
My name is Maria V. Chatila. My job title tells people that I am a Family and Relationship Coach. What this means is that I help couples, parents and children to communicate better and enjoy stronger quality relationships at home. I am a qualified and certified coach for both organisation and relationship systems coaching (ORSC-C & ILM). I am also a certified coach and member of the International Coach Federation (ACC). I am a co-leader for the Organisation and Relationship System Coaching (ORSC©) for Kids as well as the co-leader for the Coaching Networking Community in Dubai. I am an active member of coaching communities that support couples and families. I have been formally coaching since 2007 and previous to this I was teaching children and adults in both primary schools and adult centres. Combined, I have 16 years of developing and understanding human relationships.
That is quite an impressive track record. So it is safe to say you have an insight on Bullying that could help us understand this phenomenon a little more. How do education and psychology experts define this phenomenon? How does it differ from innocent pranks or jokes?
Bullying, according to ‘me’ is defined as when one person overpowers another using ‘fear tactics to serve the bully’s wants’. These ‘fear tactics’ can either be physical or emotional. In education, there are many schools of thought and I cannot speak for them all so again, I am referring to my own, (wearing my educator hat) definition of bullying. An innocent joke or prank is just that: ‘Innocent’.
Is bullying a phenomenon particular to children or does it spread over all age groups and even adults?
I believe that bullying is a wide spread phenomenon. As an educator, I have seen it in the classroom and on the playground; as a coach, I am seeing it in family relationships, as a person, I am seeing it at work organisations, and in community gatherings.
Is it considered a normal ‘conflict situation’ between the people who engage in such behaviour and their victims? Is bullying a natural or learned behaviour?
Remember, fear tactics that serve and individual’s sole benefit is not normal behaviour. Because bullying is a common phenomenon across countries and communities, I don’t believe that it makes it a ‘normal behaviour’. I believe that to some extent, bullying can be a learned behaviour but I also believe that there is a natural survival of the fittest nature to it.
In the case of children in particular, is it considered a standard phase children must go through in order to build their character and "grow up"? I mean, is there any positive outcome from Bullying and can Bullying ever be considered an experience that children learn from?
The whole process of family relationship; education systems; peer relationships are all part of the journey of character growth for children. However, fear of emotional or physical harm does not and should not be a required element for children’s growth.
|Image: R. Abouzeid|
In which instances does Bullying extend from childhood to adulthood and is it considered an issue with adults as well or does it just become an accepted personality trait for the adult bully?
Instances that I have noticed that may have extended from childhood to adulthood are emotional bullying. A child is bullied emotionally (no physical scars seen by the public), and this develops into an adult who uses bullying in the workplace with his/her subordinates or colleagues to the extent of making them fear that they may lose their employment. Physical bullying, I believe is seen prominently at home. We tend to call it ‘physical abuse’. Again, look at the basis of physical abuse; it entails using fear tactics to overpower and control another human being to serve an individual’s personal need or want.
If Bullying is an acquired behaviour, what are its origins? How, when and why can a child become a bully?
Remember, I believed that there is a little nature and nurture involved in bullying. Children are very curious by nature and so I believe it is a case of ‘I’ll try this to get what I want’. If an adult does not correct the unskilful behaviour, then the child will repeat it and continue to do so until they can. Children will also use models of behaviour that they have seen at home, at school, in books or on television.
If conflict is inevitable, how should the victim handle the situation?
Conflict, in my opinion, is not bad. In fact, in basic terms, conflict simply means differing points of view. Conflict can be the creator of wonderful changes that serve the greater good for mankind. It is when conflict creates fear tactics that lead to violence and creates unsafety for people that conflict is bad. Children/victims need tools and skills to resolve the conflict peacefully. Mostly, children, tweens and teens need support and understanding from parents, educators and school administrators.
What strategies can potential victims employ to avoid becoming a target?
This is a tricky one. Being a target is really only known to the bully. Sometimes the target can be the confident student or sometimes it can be the shy, quiet withdrawn student.
What is the role of those looking at the conflict from outside (friends, teachers, parents, etc.)?
Most importantly, their role is to understand what is going on. Their role is to stop, educate and support both the victim and the bully.
How do schools and education professionals deal with Bullying? Are there professionals available to help our children at the schools?
As I previously stated, schools vary on their dealings with bullying. Some schools have whole school policies and some do not. Qualified educators are trained to teach curriculum and some go onto professional development seminars to support them with issues such as bullying but this is not a requirement of all teachers in all schools. Most schools expect the teachers to handle student relationships and it falls under the heading of ‘classroom management’. There are professionals such as myself who are trained and experienced to help teach and support parents, teachers and students with skills and tools to resolve conflict peacefully.
How can we tell Bullying is occurring at the victim's side? Are there certain people who are more likely to be bullied?
Human relationships vary greatly so the symptoms of victims will vary as well. Some, but not all, symptoms that I have seen in young children are;
- fear of going to school
- severe stomach cramps before going to school
- fits of tears prior to going to school
- Silence when asked about school
- Grades have dropped severely
- Attitude at home has become aggressive
- Headaches and not wanting to go to school
- Stories of being alone on breaks at school and not having friends
Again, I do not believe that there is a ‘certain’ type of person who is more likely to be bullied.
|Image Source: Free Digital Photos|
How can we tell Bullying is occurring at the bully's side? Are there certain people who are more likely to bully?
It’s hard to tell if your child is the bully at school because sometimes/most times, our children act differently at school than they do at home. I would advise parents to pay attention to their relationships with peers; listen to their dialogue/conversations. Speak and model often to them about how they can be a peaceful and kind friend.
Why is it important to shed light on Bullying?
Bullying instils fear and unsafety in our children’s lives at school. On average, a child spends 7-8 hours a day at school. The consequences of bullying crossover from the playgrounds, to the classroom and then over into every other aspect of our children’s lives. With the risk of sounding corny, our children are the world’s future leaders. We must instil peaceful relationship skills and these begin at home and at school.
Since Bullying has always existed, does violence on TV, in the movies and in video games play a part? If yes, how?
This is the age-old blame it on the media tale. In a lump sum, society dictates what we see on television. If we allow our children to watch them and encourage networks to air them, then they will play a role in our children’s understanding of the world they live in. Parents and guardians are responsible for supporting their children’s understanding of ‘what is right’ and ‘what is wrong’.
How do you stop Bullying? Can parents, schools and the overall victim surrounding help and support the victim? Can parents and surroundings of bullies also have a role in help ending the Bullying behaviour?
I would advise parents and teachers to primarily set up a clear ‘no bullying policy’. Share it with the children. Stick to it. No exceptions. Clarify the behaviours that are acceptable and unacceptable. Children really need clear guidelines. Teachers and parent should be attentive. The biggest mistake adults make is when they push children who call out for help to the side. Bullies thrive on this attitude. My belief is to have a peaceful, caring and kind environment. Conflict is easily resolved once it is spotted early.
What is cyber-bullying?
I believe that cyber bullying is the same behaviour however it is done on-line using social networking sites. Which creates an even greater platform for fear as it feeds a much larger audience. Suddenly, the bully has the opportunity to hurt his/her victim by sharing the pain with an ever-growing audience. I also believe that this type of bullying is more dangerous because it feeds itself on a ground with no real rules. There are no school leaders or parents able to enforce the consequences of such terrible actions.
|Image Source: Free Digital Photos|
What can be done to avoid or end cyber-bullying?
My theory about children/tweens/teens using social networking sites is that they should only be allowed to use them when they have the maturity to understand the dangers of using them improperly. Parents should use caution and time when discussing the pros and cons with their children. Teach your children how to use them, and monitor their usage. I advise my clients that they agree with their child to have the passwords available in case they will need them. The clauses of using the password should be agreed between parents/children. I also recommend that parents become connected to their children on these sites. Stay alert to their worlds. Stay curious and stay there for support. Obviously, many teens may struggle to understand the value in this but TRUST is essential for this to work. Your children need to trust that you will not violate their privacy and the parents must trust that their children are mature enough to be sensible.
What are the dangers of continued Bullying and what happens if nothing is done?
A clear example of the extremities of bullying was recently seen in a little girl Lujain Hussain who lives in Abu Dhabi. She was bullied at school, physically bullied and ended up in the hospital. Psychologically, the impact of bullying can last with a child long into their school years and beyond. Relationships are built on relationships. A bullied child learns that the world accepts this type of behaviour and so the cycle begins....
|Lujain Hussain following her assault|
Photo: The National
Can people change?
Change can happen when skills and tools are learned. Expecting change to happen without education is like expecting a plant to grow without the sun or the water to feed it.
Is there some sort of existing legal frame for Bullying at the national (or each emirate) level? How do you think policies at a national level should work? What sort of policies should be implemented?
I am not aware of any legal frame for bullying. Legally, physical violence should be dealt with however; bullying does not just come in the form of physical violence. In Lugein’s case, a teacher in the Rosary School was quoted as saying that there has not been any physical violence in her school in the last 10 years. This is ridiculous! Bullying is not just about physical violence. At a national level, there should be a zero tolerance for bullying. There should be clear guidelines for what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Bullying should be discussed over and over again. Patterns of behaviour amongst children in schools should be assessed and schools should ‘listen and support’ the victims without dismissing their tales as false.
I have to end this post by thanking Maria Chatila for her time and assistance. Should you need her services or help, feel free to contact her on the following channels:
Maria V. Chatila
BA, PGCE, ILM, ACC, ORSC-C
Family and Relationship Coach
"I hope my answers are clear. Please remember that the answers are based on my beliefs and my experience as an educator and a coach. I am not a psychologist and I never claim to be one"
-- Maria V. Chatila
BE SAFE EVERYONE!
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