Warning Signs of Bullying: An Interview with Internationally Recognized Bullying Expert Michal Kolář
Dr. Michal Kolář is a psychotherapist who has been treating bullying for more than 30 years. He has created a special theory and methodology for the diagnosis and treatment of bullying at schools. He also works with the International and European Observatories on School Violence.
In my interview with Michal Kolář, he talked to me about the difficulty parents have when their children suffer from bullying. In his book, A New Way to Treat Bullying, Michal writes about the signals parents can look for if their child is a target of bullying. Michal says bullying signs can be difficult to detect and parents who notice that something is wrong with their child often find that it is very frustrating to get help from teachers and administrators.
Michal explains that when a parent tries to talk to teachers or administrators, they are quick to point fingers and tell them that their child provoked the situation or in some instances started it. It is common for a parent to hear there was not enough evidence, their child yelled or pushed the bully and no witnesses. Additionally, often times, when the target and the bully are both suspended and then come back to school, there are no consequences in place to protect the target from the bully or their friends.
If school polices are in place but do not provide teachers with specific consequences for bullying behavior, children are in jeopardy of being harmed. Many children, whether they have a good relationship with their parents or not have a difficult time admitting that other kids are mean to them or carrying out a campaign to ruin their reputations. A target of bullying often believes that somehow they caused the bullying or in some way deserved it. Michal says, “Admitting to an adult that other kids laugh, push or make fun of you can be a very shameful experience.” Making matters worse is a home environment where siblings or parents put down or ignore the child’s feelings, increasing their insecurities and low self-esteem.
Weekly, there are stories about parents who are shocked and saddened to learn that their child was a target of bullying. Their cries for help do not have to go unseen or undone by parents. In fact, “Individual signals do not necessarily denote bullying“, he explains. He places much more significance on the context of the situation, the repetition and frequency of symptoms. His work was written up for the Ministry of Education. (Guideline Minister of Education, Youth and Sports to prevent and address bullying among school pupils and school facilities)
Signs and Signals of Bullying
• The child does not have friends over or seems to have no friends.
• The child is subdued, sad and depressed.
• S/he suffers from poor sleep, sleep disorders and nightmares.
• They have a lack of interest in participating in sports, family dinners or events.
• Before going to school or after school, complains about headaches, stomach aches, etc.
• Many children visit a doctor or say they are sick before school to avoid bullies.
• Children may go to school or from school using detours.
• Students may come home with torn clothes, damaged or missing backpack & school aids.
• Make different excuses for losing lunch money and require more money.
• Children may be hungry after school even when snacks and lunch were provided at school. (Bully may have stolen lunch money.)
• Child cannot satisfactorily explain his injuries: a black eye, scrapes, bruises,
slight concussions, a broken or pulled bone, burns, etc.
• Sudden drop in grades and no interest in studying
• Threatens suicide or attempts it
”There are some children that do try to talk to their parents about their difficulties at school,” Kolář says. “In the beginning stages of bullying, there are cases when the child finds the strength and courage to talk to their parents. It is very important that when a child opens up about a humiliating experience that a parent should listen, show emotional support and take everything they say seriously. Unfortunately, many parents are act surprised when they first learn about the bullying. They often react inappropriately. The only right attitude is to stand firm in love for the child.”
Written by, Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies www.beyondbullies.org