Bullies and the Bullied

FIVE months. That’s how long the Shuqun Secondary School student endured the bullying from his classmate. It got so bad that he started going to school later than he would usually. He said he didn’t feel safe at school. His own mother became suspicious: “Last time when I woke up at 6.50am or 7am, I would have thought ‘Oh, my son went to school already’. Now when I wake up, I still see him at home.” However, the teenager didn’t tell his mother about the bullying; he didn’t think it would make a difference. After all, he had told his teacher about it, once – a few months ago, when the bully attacked him with a pen by jabbing it into his skin. Did that stop the bullying? No.

The teacher talked to him (the bully). Then after that the teacher said she will keep a look out for him. But in the end, he still jabbed me with the pen… like four to five times… He still continued jabbing me with the pen… He threatened me after I complained. http://themiddleground.sg/2015/09/23/tmg-exclusive-teacher-knew-about-the-bullying-teen-was-bullied-for-5-months-before-video-incident/

He told his teachers and they did nothing concrete about the bullying. After awhile, a bullied child will internalise that he is alone in his problems and that the school will do nothing other than send the bully to sit out a couple of hours in detention.

He may have internalised that complaining would simply get him into further trouble with the bully. And he was right. He did.

He may have internalised that he was not worthy enough in the eyes of his school teachers, to be warranted more concern, more care, more protection.

Ultimately, this case, as with most cases of bullying, abuse, and such, where they involve children, the ball falls on the adult stakeholders, that being the principal of Shuqun Secondary School, the teachers whom the boy sought help from, and the teachers who were aware of the bullying situation. And now, MOE  (The Ministry of Education).

The boy did everything right. He did not take matter into his own hands by fighting back, even though he could have. He did what should have been the proper procedure, he informed his teachers and they failed to protect him.

Being bullied, has traumatising effects on bullied children, long after the bullying ceases and often, the effects follow them into adulthood.

This is the time that our children are developing and learning to understand concepts of right and wrong, of trusting or mistrusting, of learning morals and values, etc. And these concepts and behaviours acquired will play pivotal roles in how the brain continues to develop.  Children’s experiences are major determinant in their brain development, for example, which part of the brain grows bigger, which part of the brain will not develop as well, what neurones become connected, what pathways will be strengthened and established, and what are pruned away.

In fact, much research has also shown that apart from the optimal periods of development where learning and experiences vastly affect how the brain develops during the early years, the teenage years are the second period of optimal brain development.

The school not only failed the bullied boy. It also failed the boy who was doing the bullying. The bully was given the message that he could bully, get detention class, and continue to bully again, with either little to no consequences. And he continued to not be able to change his behaviours or see any advantage or reason to changing his behaviours

I am not advocating the canning of the bully. Canning the bully will only perpetuate the idea in our children that while they cannot bully, the teachers/principal can, and therefore, might (as in authority) is right.

The boys who were bullied and the boy who was doing the bullying should have been given counselling from the get go. And we are not talking about detention class and one time-off counselling.

Schools, I am afraid, have become obsessed with compliance, as is our society. So, we dispense punishments, like detentions, and if they do not work, the punishments progress to canning our children, to later, maybe even leading to juvenile courts, where children are sentenced to a  juvenile detention facility, which is an euphemism for jail . However, do these measures really help our children change or do they simply make them more resentful, more angry, complying only because they are being forced to.

If we truly want to help both the bully and the bullied, get down to really fixing the school systems. Provide a series of counselling sessions that will help both adults and the children involved realise and understand the underlying reasons to the manifestation of these behaviours.  Involve families, do not keep them in the dark. Then provide avenues of support to both children.

Our schools have become a place where we expect children to acquire information (not even education) and to be able to regurgitate the information, during specific times. We are not building robots, we are shaping the generations to come.  How their brains when reaching full maturity eventually develop, will be one of the determining factors of how our society will become.