There are three main categories of bullying, and in any given situation, a target of bullying may be experiencing only one or all three.
Direct Physical Bullying
This includes hitting, tripping, pushing etc. It also includes forcibly taking possessions or damaging property.
Direct Verbal Bullying
Includes name calling and offensive, threatening or insulting remarks directly to the person. Topics may include homophobic, sexist and racist remarks. It can also involve highlighting special needs, physical attributes, financial status, or physical disability, as well as general targeted abuse.
This is the most difficult to recognise and manage. It’s often secretive and subtle to others. It’s designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation. It can include lying to the target, spreading rumours or playing nasty jokes, all with the aim of embarrassment and humiliation. It also includes mimicking and social exclusion. In the modern world, it can also take the form of cyber-bullying or text bullying.
Targets of bullying need support, understanding and where necessary, protection. It’s this last one – protection - that can gain headlines in bullying situations. Children have the right to safety at school. As such, bullying cannot be swept under the carpet as simply ‘kids’ stuff’. In bullying situations, we need strategies to protect the target, and help the target protect themselves.
The first step in helping address this issue is to talk to the targeted child about it. They may be embarrassed and reluctant to talk but we need to find ways to put them at ease. They may also feel apprehensive about the possible action you want to take and its impact on them. Be accepting and understanding, and reassure them that you will only decide together how best to proceed.
In the final part of this four part series, Darren Stevenson will outline practical strategies to help targets of bullying.
Read the previous articles in our bullying series, Exploring the mind of a bully and The effects of bullying.
Darren Stevenson – founder and MD of Extend Before and After School Care – has 25 years of experience as an educator in Australia and the UK, having served in five schools.