Emotional bullying at school and psychological harassment at school is an unfortunately frequent phenomenon. Regardless of the objectives and number of participants involved, it has a two-fold negative impact: on one hand, the bullied child’s feelings toward school are negatively impacted. On the other hand, the effects of bullying impact the development of social relations in the entire school community. How to deal with bullies and emotional bullying, in particular, is a big challenge.
Leading child psychologists (myself included) believe that mobbing and bullying do not only set a precedent for communication challenges between the students involved but also indicate the strained social relationships of the entire class. The teacher is in a unique position to mitigate the effects of bullying at school. The teacher responsible for the class plays an instrumental role in preventing and overcoming this negative social phenomenon by creating a positive learning environment. Regardless of the types of bullying, the development of positive social relationships in the classroom depends on the teachers:
It is the teacher who can first notice the bullying at school by observing the negative trends in the relationship between students, stop them, and inform the parents quickest and most effective. Also, parents’ support and their interpersonal relationships with children create the foundation for the personal development of the child and prepare them for coping with various life situations, including potential harassment and emotional bullying at school.
There are several myths about teachers and the effects of bullying at school, including:
Studies have confirmed that mobbing and bullying at school can be found anywhere and in any class, even under the supervision of a good teacher whom children respect and listen to. Every instance of violence and emotional bullying must be addressed by school staff consistently, even in the case of a teacher who is universally respected and liked. No matter the individual personality of the teacher in question, appropriate actions should be taken and situations should not be ignored.
The second myth about bullying in the classroom is also very dangerous. It is well known that psychological abuse and emotional bullying, mainly through verbal aggression such as insults, ridiculing and obscene jokes, verbal provocations, name-calling, and also ostracism, can be the cause of teenage suicide. Therefore, all instances of harassment should be reported to teachers and different school specialists who can initiate preventative measures.
The number one rule for teachers: do not ignore even the smallest instances of bullying or mobbing in the classroom! No matter what the type of bullying is— physical or emotional bullying, the effects of bullying can be caustic. Do not think that children will settle the problem themselves— the teachers should intervene immediately. The students may not know how to deal with bullies, and therefore the teacher is needed to step in.
Teachers also should communicate clearly to the children that they should not try to resolve the situation on their own. This is because oftentimes, it is not possible to find a common language between the victim and the aggressor. In other words: bullies don’t always want to find a solution or change their behavior. There are many different types of bullying and frequently, the bullies don’t even know why they are picking on other children and are not fully aware of the psychological damage they are causing and the effects of bullying. It is better for children being bullied to talk to parents, teachers, or elders whom the child trusts and who know how to deal with bullies. In turn, is is better if an authority figure communicates with the bully and explains the effects of bullying, rather than the victim talking to the bully themselves.
With primary school-aged children dealing with bullying at school, the most effective methods to prevent and stop bullying are conversation and condemnation. Regardless of the type of bullying, the effects of bullying and how to deal with bullies needs to be discussed.
At this young age, students are still in the process of developing moral principles and children rely largely on the guidance of the teacher. The teacher is an exemplary authority figure for younger students, and it will be enough for them to simply have a conversation with all participants involved in the bullying. A simple confrontation can show the teacher’s own condemnation of bullying and the unacceptable nature of the aggressor’s behavior.
With older students, on the other hand, the negative influence of the aggressor’s behavior should be explained by a group of peers rather than the teacher. The teacher should involve the opinion of classmates in the discussion because the opinion of teachers is less important for children of that age.
It is very important to engage other authoritative adults, teachers, and psychologists whose opinion could be respected and valued by the kids both being bullied and doing the bullying.
During the conversation with children, occurrences should be called by their proper names: bullying, mobbing, violence, harassment. It can also be helpful to give examples of when aggressors themselves become victims of harassment to explain the effects of bullying. An effective method for how to deal with bullies is also to discuss with the class the rules and consequences for their misbehavior so that children themselves propose the rules on which they agree to live and communicate in school.
The involvement of a psychologist or counselor in group work helps to unite the class, as well as to provide effective psychological assistance not only to the victim but also to the aggressor, who often tries to attract the attention of adults through aggressive actions. Especially for emotional bullying at school, a school counselor can provide unique insight.
The teacher is obliged to inform the parents about the bullying situation, but the parents of the victim should be prohibited from punishing aggressors on their own or from punishing other children. The most constructive way out of this situation is to discuss the problem with the aggressor's parents.
The teacher should not pity the victim, present bullying as a personal problem of this child, or provoke retaliatory violence against the aggressor.
If the described methods do not help address the bullying at school, it is necessary to involve the school staff and administration of the school, who are obliged to demonstrate a rigid position regarding school violence, emotional bullying, and those students involved.
In exceptional cases of long-term bullying at school, it is recommended to remove the victim from class or the environment and help them to adapt to new conditions with the help of psychotherapy and counseling.
The first task for parents is to establish clear communication with their child to promptly recognize the bullying or harassment at school, which is, of course, easier said than done. It is worth paying attention to the following behaviors of the child because they can all be effects of bullying:
If he or she does not communicate with classmates outside of school and is not interested in the social class community
If the child is one of the last children to leave school (to possibly avoid being beaten up or harassed after school)
If the student does not want to go to school, has insomnia, depression, irritability, complaints of pain, reduced academic achievement
If he or she has frequent injuries, bruising, or school items being lost and broken
These behaviors can all occur regardless of the type of bullying, be it emotional bullying or physical. If there are fears regarding bullying or the fact of harassment is not in doubt - it is necessary to discuss the problem with teachers, parents of other children, and sometimes even to consult law enforcement authorities.
The task of the family is to emotionally support the child who is being bullied and to help them cope with the situation.
Show willingness to listen to the version of the situation without criticism; let your child cry or express feelings; share your experience in similar situations in childhood and how you dealt with bullying or witnessed it in your own school experiences. Make sure to inspire hope for a positive outcome and carefully plan actions both for parents and children to solve the problem.
Dealing with bullies and overcoming psychological abuse and emotional bullying in school requires the participation of all involved adults as well as building a close relationship with children at home and in school based upon rules, authority, and trust.