herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Only one way to deal with bullies...that's to tackle them head on

I was talking to a taxi driver recently about childhood school memories and we got onto the subject of bullying.

He remembers that there wasn't necessarily bullying between the children, more that it came from a teacher who liked to pick on the vulnerable kids.

This taxi driver said that the bully knew exactly which boys to target. He himself used to stand up to him and talk back, so he would simply get a clatter and be left alone.

It was the young boys who were 'timid' and never opened their mouths.

These are the ones that bullies will pick on because they will stay quiet about what is happening to them.

complex

March is the ISPCC's anti-bullying month, which confronts a problem that is widespread and complex.

Their campaign will see them targeting schools and communities, tackling issues like: how to build resilience in children, what to do if you or your child is being bullied, how peers and bystanders can react and online bullying.

The peers and bystanders is an interesting area to address. I saw bullying taking place when I was a child in school. The bully was sort of a friend of mine and I knew to keep in with her or she would turn on me.

She was a tough girl who had issues at home. It came out in later years that she was abused by a member of her family. But before we knew this, we just knew her as an angry, threatening girl.

She always wanted to start a fight, a real fight. She would make a situation blow up and confront some poor young one with the words "see you in the cloak room after school for a fight".

If we, the peers and bystanders, had had the tools and the strength, we could have all got together and told this girl to back off.

If we had known that us as a group were stronger united than individually keeping our heads down, there would have been a lot less frightened children in that class.

Confronted

For some reason we were not taught as children to stand up for others and, as adults, many of us are still shy to jump in when someone is being taunted or bullied.

I wonder if anyone who saw the lesbian couple Roisin Prendergast and Ciara Murphy getting beaten up by two men in Limerick recently, walked away or turned a blind eye. I wonder if those two men are in relationships with someone who just keeps their head down.

Bullies need to be confronted and we all need to learn how to take them on. This is why the ISPCC anti-bullying week is invaluable.

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