By Wilma Bedford
How do you handle a bully?
Know your bully. A bully sees someone else as inferior, as a weakling, as vulnerable and a soft target, and therefore easy to intimidate, whether it be through direct violence or psychological bullying, and misuses power allocated to him psychologically and physically to intimidate.
A bully’s personality is a combination of the Dark Tetrad: the Machiavelli who calculatingly and coolly manipulates others for his own gain; the psychopath who has no empathy with others and takes risks at the expense of others; the sadist who gains pleasure from physical pain and harm he inflicts on others; and the most serious is the narcissist who feels superior, demands the constant admiration of others and feels entitled to superiority. The more narcissistic characteristics a person owns, the more he is inclined to be a bully. A narcissist will exploit any situation to feel special and superior and shows now empathy with the victim.
Bullies are motivated by fear and insecurity: fear that their insecurity will be exposed, and the more threatened they feel, the more they bully.
How do you react towards a bully?
Make sure you are safe and don’t get involved; the more you react, the more psychologically unsafe the bully feels and the more severe his attacks become.
Avoid the person as far as possible, set boundaries, block him on social media; in this way you give the person as little space as possible in your thoughts. Don’t take the conduct personally, you are just in the line of fire.
Document all unacceptable behaviour as proof and so that you don’t forget incidents for when you might need them. If you have to react, do so through a lawyer or through the human resources department at your work. As a last resort you could obtain an order of protection against the person from the magistrate’s office.
Is your child being bullied? What does bullying entail? If your child is constantly being subjected to physical, verbal attack or gestures from a person or a group of persons; your child’s property is intentionally damaged; your child is instilled with fear; he/she is attacked emotionally or his/her school activities are subverted in any way and his/her constitutional right to freedom and equality is restricted; or he/she is discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race or religion; or your child’s dignity, privacy and freedom are violated in any other way, you should intervene.
Depending on the bully’s age, he might be held accountable for a number of criminal offences, including assault, crimen injuria, intimidation and even culpable homicide.
How do I help my child?
Listen to what your child is telling you and repeat what he/she says to show you are listening and to really get to the heart of the matter. Ask your child what he/she would like you to do and discuss the possible solution. Your child is afraid, despondent and mortified and has mustered up the courage to talk to you, so don’t say he/she must sort out his/her own problems – especially if bullying is truly taking place.
Find out if bullying is really occurring and if a law is being transgressed.
Assure your child that he/she is not an inferior person and put it pertinently that bullies hurt others so that they can feel better about themselves.
Don’t encourage your child to get involved in the bullying behaviour by hitting back; it will only worsen matters. Your child should however tell the person/s to stop the behaviour.
Block all cyber contacts that will grant the bully and the bully group access to your child.
Help your child to acquire new skills, such as drama, art or even attending self-defence classes, and to socialise with friends with whom he/she can feel safe.
If the bullying continues, bring it to the attention of the school, where the necessary disciplinary steps will be taken and/or the bully’s parents will be informed. Document incidents: what, where, when and who saw it and include photos if physical violence occurred. Confronting the bully himself or approaching his parents is ineffective and will only exacerbate matters.
If your child is threatened or injured outside the school, you can obtain an order of protection and even lay a charge with the police.
With the new normal schooling where your child is compelled to communicate digitally, cyber bullying will occur. Warn your child not to publish photos or information about him/herself online and not to say anything that will incite provocation. The digital bully is anonymous and very difficult to trace and does not fear confrontation with the victim.
As parent you have to familiarise yourself with technology and know how to handle it, so that you can assist your child. Build a relationship of trust with your child so that you can help where necessary – but respect your child’s privacy.
Why It Seems Like Bullies Are Everywhere.
Bernstein, E. July 14, 2020. Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Restorative Justice http://www.justice.αov.za/rj/rj.html
Bullying at School
Western Cape Government 2018
Children’s Act 38 of 2005
Child’s Justice Act 75 of 2008
Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011