How to say 'no' to bullying

There is no escaping the pressure to be popular and to be liked. This phenomenon exists among adults too. But learn the difference between good and bad peer pressure, suggests Dr N N Prahllada.

SURVIVAL GUIDE: Resist bullying and speak up and let others know your stand.

Making decisions on your own is hard, but when other people get involved and try to pressure you one way or another, it can be even harder. And this does not stop after a certain age.

The influence of peers exists even if we do not realise it and there are lessons to take away from each of these experiences. And it needn’t be all bad. After all, it is only human nature to learn and adapt to what’s around you.

There is certainly a positive aspect to this phenomenon. Positive influence from friends can be a way to:

Know your limits

Improve your ability to take decisions

Understand your strong qualities and the ones that hold you back.

Learn new things and experiences

Meet positive and inspiring people

To be influenced by friends, is normal. But this, combined with the need to “fit in”, can push children to give into any crazy demands made by their friends. In order to avoid being kicked out or becoming an outsider, they become a soft target for bullying.

The whole process then takes a dreary turn when sincere suggestions and advice turn into coaxing, blackmailing, brainwashing, etc. Here are some examples of how children can stay away from being bullied into doing an act they do not agree with:

The most basic thing that one can do is to say, “No, I do not wish to do that,” or if you want to do it, say “Yes, give me a try.”

For example if your friend offers you a cigarette, you might say, “No, that does not interest me.”  But being able to say no may not be the problem. The real problem arises when your friends repeatedly ask you to do it.

And it is not so difficult to tell the difference between the good and the bad. Peer pressure can sneak in and start taking over your life choices. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

First, the desire to do the act must stem from within you. And this should be for reasons you know are good and will not hurt anyone.

Second, if you are not given the freedom to decide for yourself, then that is an act of bullying.
For example, some children in school might try to get others to skip classes with them, go to a movie, eat outside, etc.  This is where you have to make appropriate decisions.  

Why do we give in?

Everybody, no matter what age they are, is faced with an urge to feel ‘included’. In our teenage years, this urge is at its strongest. Some give into it because they enjoy the sense of acceptance. Others go along because they are curious to try something new. 

At adolescence, peer relations become the core of a person’s life. Teenagers want to socialise as much as they can and have fun with their peers, rather than spend time with their families. The result? Frequent conflicts and disagreements between the child and his/her parents. They tend to maintain a distance from their parents and eventually lose the emotional closeness and warmth that was once existed between them.

Useful with teachers?

Within a school management, benign peer pressure refers to a technique used to boost a teacher’s motivation level, proactiveness and self-goal settings.  It is a useful tool in instilling leadership skills. Instead of direct delegation of tasks and expecting results, teachers are encouraged towards self-propelled performance and innovation, by comparing feelings towards their peers.

It is also put into practice to achieve discipline within the classroom and self discipline. In order to teach students about how to prevent violence, promoting learning, order, and discipline, teachers may take the help of other kids in setting an example.    

Let’s overcome it

As a parent, do not treat this situation lightly. Being an authoritative parent will not help either. As kids grow older, they will find it increasingly difficult to confide in the parent. So, rather than being a bossy parent, try to become your child’s friend. Try not to order him around. Treat him like an adult, so that he doesn’t feel alienated from you. 

nLet your teenage son/daughter know the adverse effects that too much peer pressure can have on them. Read stories from magazines or newspapers or resort to the Internet.

nLet them know that you are not against them or their friends. This must happen just before your son or daughter enters adolescence.

nMake them understand that they have the right to say ‘no’ and that they need not do anything that they don’t like.

nDevelop self confidence in your child.  Treat your child with respect by giving him responsibilities around the house.  This will ensure that he does not suffer from low-esteem, which is usually one of the main reasons of teenagers succumbing to peer pressure.

Low esteem, lack of confidence, feeling isolated from the family, poor academic abilities or performance, fear of one’s peers, lack of strong ties to friends, close bond with  bullies, no personal interest exclusive of one’s peer group, a sense of insecurity are some of the ‘traits’ that are falling into the peer pressure  trap.

Remember to follow these few points to avoid being bullied:-

Be prepared to face uncomfortable situations.

Know where you stand on key issues like sex, drugs and alcohol and do not allow anybody to make you deviate from your position.

Speak up and let others know your stand. You may get teased at first but many will respect your stand. 

Never take part in any form of bullying.  Do not make other people feel bad or sad. 

Refuse firmly to take part in activities that cause harm or distress to another person and speak up if such a situation arises. 

Think of yourself as a leader and act accordingly. The more you see yourself in a leadership role, the more comfortable you will be.

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