How to Bully Proof Your Child

Bullying can affect the physical and emotional health of your child, both in the short term and later in life. Since there’s no school in Jordan that’s immune to the problem of bullying, we invited Kings Academy Dean of Middle School Reem Abu Rahmeh and Wellness & Advising Director, Nada Dakhil, to speak to parents at Ask Our Experts II*.

People tend to confuse normal peer conflict with bullying, so defining bullying is essential. Bullying entails three key elements, advise Abu Rahmeh

and Dakhil:

An intent to harm

A power imbalance

Repeated acts or threats of aggressive behaviour

Bullying prevention skills

Abu Rahmeh and Dakhil highlight all that can be done to circumvent bullying:

Helping children and teens learn how to express themselves and be heard

Nurturing communication so that children feel comfortable connecting with at least one adult

 Talking about values

Equipping children and teens with the tools to ask for help

Teaching assertiveness: eye contact, how to carry themselves – your child’s body language affects how others see and interact with them

Role playing: “We can’t tell children to stand up for themselves. We have to demonstrate it to them,” says Abu Rahmeh

Equipping kids with conflict resolution tools

Bystander vs upstander 

A bystander is someone who witnesses bullying but doesn’t get involved. An upstander knows that what’s happening is wrong and does something to help.

Abu Rahmeh and Dakhil work on teaching students how to advocate for their friends and how to report bullying when they see it.

Dakhil noted that her school has a peer counselling programme where students trained as peer counsellors to support other students. This which helps report and reduce bullying. And since victims of bullying tend to have fewer friends, Dakhil encourages parents to arrange playdates, teachers to foster friendships behind-the-scenes and students to reach out to people who seem lonely.

School policy

Every school should have a bullying policy in place since every school is affected, says Abu Rahmeh. “We can say we don’t have tolerance for bullying, regardless of who the child is. Our school is clear on this – it doesn’t matter who you are. If you are bullying, there are learning opportunities and there are consequences,” she adds.

Dakhil stresses that reporting is not just for the victim:   “it’s important for the culture of the school and for the bully too,” she says, noting that reporting “prevents escalation of the problem.” She notes that bullies tend to get vilified as the enemy, but it’s also important for schools to help the bully with emotional and social skills.

“A child’s behaviour tends to be a reflection of something happening in their life – a risk factor, a life event.” This is when a school may get involved, “conveying feedback to parents when we know what’s impacting the child.”

Takeaway message for parents: Dakhil suggests tackling “any topic that’s heavy or raises anxiety and fears from a growth mind-set. This means approaching every situation, every conflict, as a growth opportunity for individuals and communities.”

Abu Rahmeh says we think too much about children’s physical health and academic achievements, stressing that mental and emotional health is really important. “We need to think about wellbeing not just when a child is sick or failing in school but as a tool kit they need to be emotionally and mentally healthy,” she concludes.

Kings Academy’s Dean of Middle School, Reem Abu Rahmeh, is also a music teacher at the school. She has a Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Jordan, Yarmouk University’s Bachelor of Music through the music programme at the National Music Conservatory at Yarmouk University and a Master’s in educational leadership from Columbia University Teachers College.

Wellness & Advising Director Nada Dakhil oversees the counselling, health services and advisory programme at King’s Academy, a strategic partner of Al Marji’ Publications. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in clinical and pathological psychology and has worked as a school counsellor in Jordan and Lebanon, helping students experiencing developmental, academic and emotional difficulties.