Bullying in Schoolyards

by Leila Youssef
(Costa del Sol)

Bullying at School

Bullying at School

The rise of reported bullying reflects the fact that our homes and our schools are somehow not providing our children with the basic human values that could prevent this negative phenomena. Consider these basic points about bullying.


Did you know that one in every 4 kids suffers from bullying during the school year? There has been an increase in reported cases in some schools for kids as young as 5 years of age. Frightening statistic, isn’t it?

Did you know that 12 to 15 of the shooting cases in schools in the 1990s where initiated by kids who have been bullied for a long time and turned later into bullies?

There are three types of Bullying :

1. Verbal bullying: It includes teasing aggressively, harassing, name calling, using very inappropriate sexual comments, threatening to cause harm and blackmailing. It also includes saying and/or writing mean things, like very harmful accusations and insults that deeply harm the victim.

2. Social bullying: For the purpose of destroying a child's reputation by defaming him/her. It is done with actions like:

- Excluding someone on purpose in specific social situations
- Embarrassing someone in public
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone

This can be more harmful than verbal bullying because it involves other people seeing the bullied one in humiliating and shameful situations that delivers deeper psychological harm. The person feels persecuted not only by the aggressor but by the whole environment as well.

3. Physical bullying: It involves hurting a child's body or possessions. It includes hitting/kicking/pinching, shoving, spitting/taking or breaking someone’s things/pushing and tripping. It also includes making mean and rude hand gestures to insult and demean someone.

Overall, bullying is both physical and emotional with a very clear intention to harm someone.

So where does bullying happen?

Bullying can take place literally anywhere; In the schoolyard, in the classroom, in the neighbourhood or via the internet and social media through cyber bullying.

Most parents worry about their kids being bullied but few are concerned that their own kids are the ones who bully. Caution is advised on both sides.

Here are some signs that may open your eyes about a potential bully at home:

Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age. If the normal early aggression of 2-year-olds isn't handled well, problems may develop later in life. This means that, as parents, you have a responsibility to be aware of how you yourself manage and deal with your own anger and how you manifest it with your children.

The good news is that you can learn and it is never too late. Feeling guilty now and worrying won’t solve the problem. Consider the following warning signs of a potential bully:

• If your child hurts his brother/sister at home on purpose and notice if this takes place specially when you or any other adult is not around.

• If she/he hits and threatens his friends sometime when they are playing at home with some exaggerated anger.

• If you notice that any of his brothers or sisters is afraid of him/her and tend to do what he or she demands.

• If your son or daughter teases other children about how they look repeatedly and for you it seems like he/she is being gracious and funny.

• If your child never admits that he is being wrong when he hurts his siblings and usually manipulates the situation to justify hitting or insulting them.

• If he/she has very strong uncontrollable anger fits that makes him ruin or destroy his brother’s / sister’s stuff.

• Harming little animals and finding pleasure in doing so.

Here are some signs that your child is a potential victim and target of bullying:

• Your child tends to be shy and quickly abides by your rules at home with some kind of fear of your authority.

• He/She has difficulties to socialize and tends to be retreat into isolation living in his/her own world.

• Your child is submissive to his older/stronger brother or sister and does what this one dictates.

• Your child feels helpless and you have dealt with it by forcing him/her to be strong and assertive or by denying or judging this helplessness. It requires lots of personal work on the part of the parent to handle it differently. This attitude usually creates the mistrust to find refuge in you when they are bullied at school.

• They tend to feel guilty very easily and have low self esteem no matter how many times you tell them they are great.

• They lack self confidence and communicate very little. Always find something wrong with themselves to downgrade themselves. This happens because he/she has been told these things repeatedly as a joke or with sarcasm until he/she internalized them. Be careful and be very aware about with what labels you tag them.

Targets and victims of bullying are made, not born, and it starts at an early if the authority of either parent is very strong. They sacrifice their need for assertiveness out of fear of losing the love if they don’t do what they are told and asked to do or be. This is how you plant the seed of being the target of bullying by creating a submissive personality.

Signs that your child is being bullied:

The easiest and most obvious one coming back home with some bruises on his/her body.
• Coming back home with missing things like a T-shirt, his phone, his watch, etc...telling you lies about how it came about.
• Sudden drop in scores at school.
• Unsual withdrawal.
• Somatic manifestations that keep him/her from going to school like stomach ache, continuous headaches or fever, etc.

If you are enduring a case of bullying the first and most important thing to do is:

1. To have empathy, be empathetic and don’t label your kid. The common denominator of all types of bullying is a lack of empathy. Empathy is a human capacity inherent to our humans that is partially absent in our modern modus vivendi where television, whatsapp, facebook, tablets and video consoles took over playing and interacting with each other on a more direct and human creative way.

2. Learn to listen to your child emotionally and learn about his/her emotional needs beyond your belief system and what you think is right or wrong for him/her. You will need to go beyond the set up image you created about how and who your child should be.

3. Learn to be their best friend. Be The One they would run to if they get in trouble. Enter their inner world to connect with them. They know when you do and they respond with so much ease when it is natural, genuine and spontaneous and they close up and ridicule you and become sarcastic when it is a pretence. So trust that the response you get from your child is your true barometer as to how true you are with yourself.

4. Create theatrical games where you recreate the bullying and if your child is the bullied one put him/her in the role of the bully to experience his strength and gain confidence in himself/herself. Do the opposite if your child is the bully; create a scene where he is bullied, this way he can experience the pain, anger, fear, shame and humilliation he inflicts on those he/she bullies.

5. Seek professional help if needed or read self help books to learn about emotions, limiting beliefs, repetitions of patterns learned in our childhood, the subconscious mind and its power over your life, etc. Let’s face it parents, teachers and children don’t have any emotional education or very little.

6. It is about time that this starts to be an important part of the learning process either at home or in schools.

Here are some of the skills that need to be developed by parents, teachers and children in order to prevent bullying in a profound long term way that eradicates the phenomena:

Self-awareness: identifying and recognizing emotions; recognizing personal strengths and weaknesses to create a healthy sense of Self, grounded in self-confidence and inner security.

Self-management: Regulating and expressing emotions appropriately. Learn to handle stress, control impulses, and be motivated by one’s own oneself to persevere in overcoming obstacles, setting and monitoring progress toward the achievement of personal and academic goals;

Social skills: Learn to empathize with others; feel secure and self confident as an individual who makes part of the group. Recognize and appreciate individual and group similarities and differences. Learning about healthy connected boundaries is essential for this set of skills.

Relationship skills: establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on empathy, cooperation, connectedness. This will result in building an ability of resistance to inappropriate social pressure, preventing, managing, and constructively resolving interpersonal conflict. It will also allow individuals to seek help when needed because they TRUST they will be heard and responded to.

Responsible decision-making: This comes as a result of emotional health as a nice body is a result of a healthy way of eating. To make decisions based on a consideration of all relevant factors after evaluation and reflection is being RESPONSIVE to situations versus the normal reactive way we are habituated to.

All these make part of an emotional education where parents, teachers and students get involved if we are determined to end with this plague.

This blog was prepared by Leila Youssef, a Relationship Coach for families on the Costa del Sol. For more advice on relationships, visit: The Marbella Family Relationships Blog

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