Fourways Review, 12 December 2008

Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist, Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre

The huge media response from parents in our Bryanston community regarding the issue of Bullying confirms that bullying is rife and not something new in our schools. Often parents and teachers minimise the problem either because they are not sure how to deal with this or they do not understand the severity of the impact this may have on a child. It is important to know that bullying is a deliberate act with the purpose of harming another. These acts can be identified as victimisation, using power to hurt or instil fear and harassment in the form of physical, psychological and/or verbal intimidation through the imbalance of power.

There are many reasons why bullying occurs. The value system of the society and culture we live in has a role to play in the manifestation of bullying. Resolving conflict in a violent, aggressive and unfair manner serves as a playground for bullying.  The family environment plays a major part in setting the tone for bullying. It could be learned behaviour, violence or smacking as a form of discipline, inconsistent parenting, lack of involvement from parents, lack of boundaries, high levels of aggression and lack of respect for family members or others outside of the family. The school environment may not have a protocol to address bullying or may subtly overlook bullying. Some children with a personality style which is defiant and antisocial are prone to be bullies or children who have a strong need to feel empowered as they lack confidence will overpower others.

The Bill of Rights condemns the act of bullying as it infringes on a child’s right to freedom, security and human dignity. So to curb bullying it is important to look out for that dynamic at home and in the school setting.

Children who are victims tend to be physically smaller, timid, lack confidence and insecure. Bullies tend to be intimidating, aggressive and oppositional who struggle to abide by the rules.

Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist from Psychmatters Family Therapy Centre suggests that when bullying is identified within the school system, it can be seen as an opportunity to realign the imbalance of power. Teaching children how to stand up for their rights; to be assertive rather than aggressive and to access their support through friends, teachers, parents and professional services is vital to address this problem. Should a child in your school be a victim or the bully, the PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre can be accessed to assist in empowering the child in a healthy manner.

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