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In my essay I am going to discuss the factors that protect children and help them survive experiences of bullying. According to Sharp (1994, 1) "Bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour which is usually hurtful and deliberate; it is often persistent; sometimes continuing for weeks, months or even years and it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves." The individual characteristics of a child, their relationships at home and at school and cross cultural influences all impact the protection of a child form bullying.
A) There are a wide range of individual characteristics which help children survive experiences of bullying but one essential characteristic would be high self esteem of the child in context. According to the Oxford English dictionary (2010) self esteem is "favourable appreciation or opinion of oneself" and as we should be aware we need to fully appreciate and value ourselves before expecting others to have respect for us. According to Berk (1989, 450) regardless of age, sex, ses and ethnic groups individuals with the most positive self esteem profiles tend to be well adjusted, sociable and conscientious. Therefore this suggests that high self esteem does protect children from bullying incidents as they have more favourable peer relations than children with low self esteem. There are many other characteristics also which shelter children from bullying experiences. "Victims have certain characteristics in common including anxiety passivity, sensitivity, low self esteem or self-confidence, lack of humour, and comparative lack of friends" (Bee and Boyd, 2007: 268) so consequently children who do not portray these characteristics have a better chance of avoiding bullying incidents. O'Donnell (1995, 148) tells us that "it is easier to bully someone who is quiet as they don't make a noise which gets noticed and attended to." For this reason children need to be self assertive and able to stand up for themselves as a bully will always pick on an individual who they feel will be too anxious to tell someone who could possibly resolve the problem. Also a quiet child usually lacks self confidence and social skills which are characteristics of victims of bullying experiences.(Elliot, 2002) It is not just the quiet child who get bullied however. Children also need to avoid boasting or sneering which are usually traits of confident children as according to O'Donnell (1995,18) these are characteristics of children who suffer from bullying experiences. Children cannot seek to develop or avoid all of these characteristics alone however as they are influenced by relationships at home or at school which can promote or inhibit the child's individual characteristics.
B) The relationship a child has within the family reflects the individual characteristics of a child which are among the deciding factors of whether a child will survive experiences of bullying or not. Undoubtedly parents have a big influence in their children's lives and "the behaviour of one family member helps sustain a form of interaction in another that either promotes or undermines children's well being."(Berk, 2007: 278) The way parents behave over a wide range of situations has a direct influence in the protection of their chid from bullying. I agree with Berk (1989: 282) that the authoritative child rearing style is the most favourable as it develops the child in a way which helps them survive bullying experiences. The child will not withhold anything from his parents as this relationship is based on communication and it encourages the child to be open about his desires, thoughts and feelings. This type of parenting style promotes high self esteem and self control which as I noted earlier are necessary factors to protect children from bullying. Parents also teach their children life skills which are essential for survival. The attachments children make with their parents usually serve as models for relationships that children will make in school and hence the more positive the relationship the better chance of eliminating experiences of bullying. (Berk, 2007) However, parents are not the only influence on children in the family as sibling relationships also provide social competence, emotional support and allow for the development of quality relationships in school (Berk, 2007) which are important factors for protecting children. Families come in many different shapes and sizes but it is the relationships within them that count for child protection.
School relationships are also paramount for protecting children from bullying experiences especially the child's relationship with the teacher. The availability of a warm caring relationship is essential with the existence of high expectations as "through relationships that convey high expectations students learn to believe in themselves and in their futures, developing critical resilience traits of self esteem, self efficacy autonomy and optimism." (Bonnie, 1995) A teacher has to be compassionate to all children and realise that each child is doing the best that they can do for this is the best way to promote healthy learning and development in all children. Teachers can raise empathetic concern about bullying through curricular areas. It is up to the teacher to establish a no tolerance attitude in the class towards bullying as this is one of the best ways to protect all children from bullying experiences. Elliot (2002: 9) states that "lessons on co-operation and how to prevent bullying should be part of the primary school curriculum." Teachers also need to respond sensitively and effectively when students look for their help as it is important that the children know there is always someone who they can talk to privately about a situation and that the teacher will work to resolve the situation. (Elliot, 2002: 211). Pupils will also be more inclined to open up to the teacher if they know their complaint is taken seriously so it is the teachers duty to deal with all complaints efficiently as this is an important factor for helping children survive bullying experiences. Undoubtedly I agree with Elliot that "teachers have a major role to play in the prevention of bullying." (Elliot, 2002: 9)
C) As I discussed earlier parenting practices are very important for child development but they vary according to culture and social class. This has a direct influence on a child's behaviour. Some cultures, including Chinese parents, move away from the optimum authoritative style towards a less warm, more controlling style but this leaves their child "anxious, depressed and aggressive." (Berk, 2007: 290). Therefore this outcome shows that the authoritative is the most efficient in helping children survive bullying. Poverty is also an element which affects children's wellbeing as there is reduced parental involvement because parents have to work extra hours to pay for daily hassles. Children therefore have a "depleted home learning environment" (Berk, 2002: 290) which increases the possibility of negative individual characteristics in children which leads to them being victimised. This illustrates that child from higher social classes are better protected from bullying experiences.
A whole school anti-bullying policy is an essential systematic factor for providing a framework for bullying prevention in schools. According to Sharp (1994,27) there are five distinct stages in developing this policy:
Preparation of draft and transition to final policy
Communication and implementation
Maintenance and review
As researched by Olweus (1993 cited in Smith 1994, 61) "schools who implemented this kind of consistent whole school approach experienced marked reductions in levels of bullying behaviour and a general improvement in the social climate of the school." Of course there are difficulties in establishing a whole school policy as all people within the school have to work together but once it is implemented efficiently it is one of the best factors to protect children from bullying experiences.
In conclusion I hope you agree that with sustained effort at home and at school we can help children be protected from and survive bullying experiences.