The way a teacher handles the bullying can impact a child for life. According to statistics, most secondary school students believe that their teachers are not very interested to help them if they encounter bullying. This is quite interesting how it is switched to this as they have the perception, as primary school children, that their teachers will help them.
Some possible examples is that they have watched the way how the teachers deal with complaints, shows unequal concern for different students as well as inconsistency in advocating individual rights.
If you are being bullied at your workplace, will you confide in someone or share worth someone and hope things get better? If you don’t, do you expect your child to do the same?
Our students perceive the effectiveness of telling an adult or a figure of authority determines who they tell when bullied. However, many of them are under the perception that nothing can be done to improve the situation even after they tell someone.
Our students are perceptive enough to note 2 factors when they tell someone of a higher authority of their bullying: willingness and interest of adults to intervene on their behalf.
From the statistics, a good number believe that teachers are not all that ready to intervene on their behalf. Is that really true? We will be looking at that are in the next post.
You may have read this article or even heard of someone who has engaged in self-harm or also known as “non-suicidal self-injury” (NSSI). When I was teaching, self-harm was one of the top cases that our school counsellors and teachers often reported. In fact, it is actually a rising trend; it was reported in the local news in 2008, 2012 and just recently. This act is, indeed, very terrifying and it is worse if it happens to your child. However, while many of us are quick to dismiss it easily as a ‘cry for help‘ or ‘attention seeking‘, science explains why this act of self-harm actually causes feelings of pleasure in our children.
RELATED: Science Says Your Child’s Math Scores is Doing More Harm than Good
Acts of Self-Harm
Here, we defined self-harm as literally making small cuts on his or her body, usually the arms and legs. It is an act where the child injures themselves on purpose by making scratches or cuts on their body with a sharp object enough to break the skin and make it bleed . It seems as if your child is suicidal and honestly, its appearances will terrify any parent.
Some may cut themselves on their wrists, arms, legs, or bellies. Some people self-injure by burning their skin with the end of a cigarette or lighted match. When cuts or burns heal, they often leave scars or marks. People who injure themselves usually hide the cuts and marks and sometimes no one else knows.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Lower Your Child’s Anxiety
Who and Why They Self-Harm
It is easy to stereotype wile and rebellious teenagers as the ones who will engage in such acts but the truth is, there is a growing number of studious and quiet girls and boys who are engaging in this act. Self-harm is an act of control where victims feel gives them power over something. Reasons for making them feeling that they have lack of self-control ranges from struggling to live up to expectations and lack of warmth from family. Some may copy these acts from their friends and stick with it as they enjoy the pleasure of cutting. People usually start self-injuring in early adolescence, between the ages of 11 and 15 (though there are some cases where children as young as 5 start hitting themselves repeatedly as well) and most of them report that it calms them and brings a sense of relief. This is most likely to occur in those who have much trouble regulating their emotions.
Science Explains Why They Feel Good in Self-Harm
Researchers conducted a brain imaging study using pictures and temperature to invoke a warmth or heat-pain sensation (set at individual’s threshold) in their participants. Those who have issues coping with emotion have heightened activation of limbic circuitry in response. The limbic system, also known as the ‘emotional brain‘ as it contains the brain’s reward circuit, is a set of brain structures that supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, and long-term memory. When its response is heightened during the act, it means that the brain sense the ‘cutting’ as a reward for physical pain. The amygdala ,which is part of the limbic system, is also inhabited and thus, fear is also inhibited.
Thus, some people cut themselves to provide pain relief from emotional distress due to the inhibitions of some brain regions involved in emotions.
by Donna Cheng
You’ve heard the popular line from the TV series “Kids say the darndest things”. But I realised that many parents don’t say the smartest things either when it comes to building our children up daily.>
I am ashamed to admit this, but I am guilty of not affirming my boys as much as I want to. This is especially when I am on the “autopilot” mode, and with my younger boy who doesn’t always like to live by the rules.
I made this sad and rather disturbing discovery recently when I decided to monitor what I say to my boys. Don’t get me wrong. My boys and I have really interesting and engaging conversations, and we laugh often, many times daily.
But I realise when hard pressed for time, especially when I am hurried in the mornings – to get the boys to school on time (thankfully I do not need to prepare breakfast) and try to squeeze in a quick prayer followed by –
- Do you need to stay back in school for anything?
- Do you have anything for me to sign? Any forms, test papers, worksheets?
- Did you finish your homework? Why didn’t you bring back the papers for me to sign?
- Do you know your teacher sends out Whatsapp messages to all parents? I really don’t like it when I see your name on it. Please be more responsible.
Then when I near the school gate and get ready to drop them off, I suddenly switch modes, smile and say in a loving tone (because I suddenly realise I won’t get to see them till hours later):
- Ok, remember, be good. Have a good day in school. Have fun. Learn something. Love you.OR
- Enjoy your day, Baby / Darling. Be nice and take care ok? Love you.
With that, we end the morning conversation in the car. It’s off to school and I miss out on the opportunity to send them off for the day with their love tank full.
Yes, I ended with the niceties, and they kiss me before slamming the door shut, but it wasn’t much of a conversation that affirmed them. It was questions and lots more instructions.
I wish I could affirm them more often for something they did, and tell them something really great so they get that boost to take on all that they have to face in school. Occasionally I do, but not often enough.
After school, it gets harder. They are tired from school, and it’s the mad dash to make sure they get lunch, then off to after-school classes and homework. One of the first things I utter, after saying “Hi baby” is :
- How was school today? How was class?
- Did you get back your test papers today? (a standard question I ask couple of days after the test even though we never punish for poor results or hardly praise for good results. The praising happens when they put in effort prior to the test. So results are not all that important to us but it is a follow-up for closure, a reflex almost, that I ask about their results)
- How did you do? Do you know where you went wrong? Are you ok? It’s ok, we can work on the bits you don’t know but you need to know which ones you don’t understand.
- Do you have much homework today?
- How are you? (Usually this comes after the first few questions about school and school work)
As much as I try not to focus on the academics, the first few things I talk about immediately when I pick them up from school does revolve around school, specifically school work, tests, exams results and what they can do to do better or keep up their great results.
Once the “serious “ school talk gets out of the way, we talk about lunch, dinner plans, funny things that happen in school with their friends or they share with me incidents that took place in class.
I realise from my week-long observation of the things I say to my sons on weekdays is that I do not affirm them enough and I do not fill them with enough love and smiles after their long day in school.
I have decided to be more mindful about the first things I say, and to listen more to them talk instead of trying to offload all the “important” things they need to know to be responsible and to not get in trouble with their teachers.
I am thankful the boys know that their studies aren’t everything. They have a good mix of activities and school work is just part of their everyday lives. But I can certainly do more to talk more about these other things, and also look out for ways to affirm them.
Choose to be aware of the things your kids are doing right
For a start, I consciously decided to look out for one thing I can say to them that affirms their good behaviour or wise choices just before they leave for school. I started it with my younger one who gets the most “instructions” and pep talks from my husband and I because he often forgets to bring his forms home to sign, and does not hand in his homework even if he has done it!
Today, as we got into the lift to get to the carpark, I told him, “I am so proud of you for waking up early on your own, getting ready so quickly, and taking the initiative to bring the things daddy needs. It is so responsible and considerate of you.” He smiled, stood tall with his chest up and said, “Thanks mum.” It made my day, and his too I’m sure.
by Donna Cheng
I was driving back to my mum’s place with my kids in the backseat when my older boy, just 9 years old then, asked me, “Mum, when will I be able to do that?”
“Do what, Darling?” I asked.
He pointed to a group of junior college students walking along the pavement leading to a mall nearby. My son wanted to know when he can go out with his friends, on his own, after school.
On another occasion my son asked, “When will you allow me to have my iPhone? I will only use it after I finish my work, Mum. We can discuss the rules. Can I have it please?”
My husband and I had our reservations about giving my son a smartphone, let alone an expensive iPhone. It is true that we have to set boundaries when we decide he is ready, but the policing seems like a constant battle for many parents I have spoken with. There seems to be a constant negotiation between parent and child. So for a long time, the easier option was the status quo – no smartphone, no iPhone. Just use the phone in the school office if you need to reach us. But I knew we couldn’t continue to hide in our cave much longer, the boy was a pre-teen, we had to deal with this situation soon enough.
The First Step on a Wider Path of Decisions (us) and Choices (them)
We finally did, out of necessity. I was travelling for three weeks and wanted to be able to keep in touch with my sons daily, and for them to still “chat” with me like they do when I’m around. It’s been six months since both boys were given their smartphones. (Yes, the younger one got it when he was just 9 years old. Is there really a right age to give them a mobile phone? I am often asked this by friends)
He is already telling me about the complete freedom his friends have — they are allowed to use the phone late into the night, they can play games on it anytime, they can download games or any applications without needing to ask for permission! But he cleverly adds, “But I am not comparing. I am just saying.”
I may have crossed a small “milestone” in the life of every Singaporean parent — the giving of mobile phones to my sons, but I have yet to cross another. That is, when do I allow them to go out on their own with their friends? Or when will I allow them to play computer games at home. For now, we have not bought them an Xbox, PlayStation or a fancy laptop for gaming.
We take it a step at a time though I do admit we have had it easy so far. The boys have been raised to reason, and have not asked or pestered us for any of these, for now. They have, however, asked about going out with friends or hanging out in their homes. When do we let go? How much freedom should I give to my boys? These are questions every parent will ask, many times over as our children grow up. How do we navigate this? How do we negotiate with our children or should we even negotiate? Thankfully, I have had resources that help me make informed decisions (not perfect because every child is different) and I can learn from the experiences of other parents and experts who have spent time studying and working with children and teens.