Psychologist Ma. Lourdes “Honey” Carandang observed that distressed parents usually offer any of four suggestions on how a bullied child should respond to a tormentor: fight back; don’t fight back; ignore the bully; or tell the authorities.
“There are very few occasions where any of these work,” she pointed out.
Carandang said parents of bullied children must first understand that bullying, rather than being an isolated instance, is a dynamic system that involves the bully, the bullied and the bystander.
“Bullying is all about power over another perceived to be weaker. It escalates when nobody tries to stop it,” she explained.
And because the bully is not open to altering the situation, any change in the dynamic will likely come from the bystander or the bullied child.
School authorities, in turn, must create an environment where it will be easy for the bullied or the bystander to report what is happening.
Bullying has become a buzzword lately, enough for the 15th Congress to enact a law against it. The problem exists in a lot of campuses, and there have been instances when parents get in the fray for lack of understanding on how to deal with it.
Carandang discourages parents of bullied children from talking directly to their tormentors.
Oftentimes, the bully retaliates after being confronted by the bullied child’s parent.
There is even a pending lawsuit in a Metro Manila court involving the parent of a bullied child who brandished a gun in front of the bully during what was supposed to be a peaceful mediation by school authorities.
Rather than let overly emotional adults take over, Carandang recommends that schools establish a system where a bullied child or a concerned bystander can easily and anonymously report what they suffered or witnessed on campus.
“It is the school that will talk to the bully, because somebody has to intervene,” she said. “If a bullied child tells his parents about it, the parents must talk to the school and report the bullying. The school has to be told, and the school must have a program that responds to the bullying.”
Carandang said it is important to let students, whether bullied or not, be aware that the school offers an avenue like the guidance office or a special unit handling these sensitive cases.
“A student has to know he or she can go to that office undetected by the bully,” she said. “In the case of the parent informed by a bullied child, the parent must alert the school and let the school handle the situation.”
More caring environment
Ideally, it is the school that mediates between the parents of the bully and the bullied.
“Everyone must be part of the milieu—the parents, the teachers, the students and the staff. All must be part of creating a more caring environment,” she said.
Carandang added that, rather than instigate a hostile confrontation, the parent of either party would do best to act as a resource person by providing necessary information about the child that could allow other grownups to further understand the situation or note breakthroughs that can lead to a solution.
It is not enough for a bully to be informed he or she is being watched.
“The bully must understand why he or she targets other children,” said Carandang. “This is where the guidance counselor can help.”
The psychologist pointed out that in some cases she has observed, either the parents or the school fails to recognize a bully’s untapped potential. It could be a range of interests, from sports to math. More often, this information would come from the parent talking as a resource person, Carandang said.
“If the school discovers something the bully excels in, the bully would have a different view of himself or herself and would no longer need to prove power over another,” she said. “The child’s self-concept would now center on basketball or another interest. The adults must develop this area of competence so the bully doesn’t feel competent only when bullying.”