#NoBulliesAllowed – Silent (Mis)Treatment


When Aristotle said “Man is by nature a social animal,” he certainly knew what he was talking about. Being included as part of a social group is far more important to us than we would care to admit. Nathan Dewall a psychologist from the University of Kentucky says that acceptance is absolutely fundamental for human beings and cites how everything around us in society right from school to jobs to reality shows are all about acceptance and rejection.

They say the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Feeling not wanted or in other words feeling isolated and cut off is the worst and yet one of the most familiar feelings for children and teenagers growing up in any society.

Rejection is probably the easiest weapon at the disposal of human beings and we use it unsparingly. As acceptance is at the core of human behaviour the need for it manifests itself early on in childhood. The tween and teen years when we begin having a significant social life outside the family is when the focus shifts to acceptance by peers. It is therefore not surprising that one of the most common forms of bullying is isolation. Excluding a child from the group, giving them the silent treatment, pretending not to notice them or hear them when they talk are all tricks that bullies frequently resort to. They are not pulled up for this behaviour simply because they are not physically violent. The scars of this kind of silent mistreatment are deeper. With the increase of social media, things like forming class WhatsApp groups and leaving out one child, or posting class photographs with one child conspicuously absent has become the new bullying weapon.

Another common trend is co-opting innocent children into becoming bullies. This means telling some children that they will gain acceptance to a group only if they agree to not befriend a particular child who is being targeted. Extending conditional friendships like “I will be your friend if you let me copy in the exam” or “I will invite you to a party if you do my assignment” are also forms of bullying. As proud parents we think that our kids are too smart to endure or too secure to perpetrate this kind of behaviour. You will be surprised.

Going back to Aristotle the bully is a social animal too and bullying is largely carried out as a group activity. Tim Lott a British journalist and a survivor of bullying in his formative years mentions this in his article “Why onlookers hold the key to standing up to bullies. He goes on to say that the only effective way of stopping bullying is peer pressure. He speaks of how there are stronger children who are non-bullies who do nothing and these children should be encouraged by school to name and shame bullies so that there is enough collective pressure to stop bullying.

Michele Borba the renowned educational psychologist in her book ‘The 6 Rs of Bullying Prevention’ mentions one of the techniques as ‘Respond’ where witnesses should be taught how to respond to bullying.

I agree with Rosalind Weisman an American Educator who said “Sometimes bullies are your friends and bullying prevention tips don’t tell you how to deal with that.” But while it is clear that silent treatment is a part of bullying being a silent onlooker is also mistreatment.

Photo Credits : Poster Art

Words By : Chandrika Rao

Chandrika Rao is a Psychologist and Development Sector Professional, passionate about children’s and women’s issues and mother to a teenage boy.


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