LAST week, the nation woke up to disturbing news of a “Datuk Seri” who was allegedly involved in the assault on three Rela men. The incident occurred as they were asking him to move his Toyota Vellfire because it was obstructing traffic.

What’s our society turning into? This is neither the first nor probably the last case involving persons with honorific titles abusing other citizens. It seems that some people think it is ok to engage in bullying just because they think they’re invincible.

According to Dr Vanlal Thanzami, a psychologist at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, bullies typically exhibit repetitive aggressive behaviour with intention to cause harm. For them, it’s a display of power. It doesn’t matter if it’s done in front of an audience or in private.

As such, bullying is a serious societal concern that affects everyone’s lives, especially children. It affects those getting bullied, those committing the act, as well as those on the periphery. It is then further aggravated when bullies make use of their higher social status to exert power and hurt the victim.

Bullying among children used to only happen on school grounds. However, it seems that these days, especially with technology on the rise, cyberbullying has become a common problem.

EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN

So, what’s the right parenting style to adopt when it comes to educating young children to be more responsible?

Be fair but firm. To be fair is to not give in too much to your children’s wants. They need to learn the consequences of their actions. It also means that all situations that arise within the family are open for discussions, especially when it comes to rules set at home.

Rules and punishment have to be very clear and agreed on by both sides.

Children are also allowed to defend themselves before being punished. Sometimes, they’re genuinely unaware that what they did was wrong. As far as they’re concerned, it was all just harmless fun and games. If punishments need to be meted out, ensure that it’s carried out in a rational rather than emotional manner.

What about the victims? As psychologist Dr Vanlal suggests, it’s important for the child to confide in someone. It could be the parents, siblings or a teacher that the child is comfortable with.

Parents also need to be aware of behavioural changes in their child to know if their child is a victim of bullying or otherwise. They need to be able to make the distinction between regular growing-up angst and serious bullying.

Similarly, schools need to take pro-active steps to promote an environment that children can feel safe in. Effective measures need to be put in place to ensure teachers are equipped to identify potential cases and be able to take immediate remedial measures — from monitoring and counselling to being able to take corrective measures. There should also be avenues or platforms where children can report on bullying anonymously, concludes Dr Vanlal.

Whatever the reason, the bullied and the bullies both need help.

All parties, mainly the students, teachers, parents and the community, need to work closely together to curb this problem once and for all. If one party does not play its role, success will be hard to come by. Let’s work together to cure this epidemic that’s damaging our children’s future once and for all.

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