6-year-old child beaten to death in school: Are we teaching our kids to be bullies?

Published: February 28, 2014
Email

It is reported that this child wanted to leave the school for recess but the children who were appointed by their teachers as gatekeepers thrashed him and violently hit him with sticks. PHOTO: FILE

As a parent of a fairly young school-going child, you get a lot of feedback from friends, family, teachers, peers, experts, columnists, TV show ‘analysts’, blogs, books ad infinitum.

You get to see a lot of competitive parenting and then you hear of how you need to teach your child how to tie shoelaces, how they need to learn to be independent, how important it is for them to know their ABCs, have the right pencil holding position, etcetera. Lots of parents even brag about how creative a child gets when he or she has to fight another child for their favourite toy.

But then I read up on cases of peer pressurelynching and bullying, cyber and otherwise, in schools, and I ask myself what we’re doing that is creating such situations. A six-year-old boy recently passed away in Faisalabad as a result of bullying behaviour.

It is reported that this child wanted to leave the school for recess but the children who were appointed by their teachers as gatekeepers thrashed him and violently hit him with sticks. It is said that some students asked a school teacher to take action but she did not and the child passed away soon after.

Children are primal in nature. Bullying is a form of social pressure that human beings exert in order to gain superiority when they fear weakness. Bullying in children is thus both primal, antisocial behaviour that becomes a problem when parents and other social institutions (school, extended family, media) condone violence and allow aggressive behaviour to persist.

In 1971, Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment in Stanford University where he created a fake prison and observed how people would act if they were prison guards and prisoners. The results were shocking as to how human beings can, when put in positions of authority and submission, be brutal. The prisoners would readily accept abuse and the guards dispensed psychological torture on them and even more if they resisted.

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was killed and raped near her apartment in the presence of several witnesses. Psychologists called it diffusion of responsibility, where each individual assumes someone else would come for help but no one eventually does it.

As psychologists continue to debate over what behaviour is called what and what are the causes of such behaviours, our children continue to go to school and continue to be affected by the messages we regularly give them. The messages are of violence, competition and aggression. The Pakistani culture, specifically, glorifies men displaying machismo and bravado. Any man who wants to avoid a fight or not get into a fist match is considered effeminate.

And as we all know, being called effeminate is the worst thing to call a man.

Kyun roh rehe ho! Larki ho kia!?”

(Why are you crying? Are you a girl!?)

What an insult that is. We call them ‘mama’s boys’, sissies and ‘wusses’ if they are back away from a brawl.

Teaching children kindness and social responsibility is far more important than creating rats for a race.

Teaching them to have love and affection for their fellow human beings is imperative in a world that has turned the primal instincts of rage and aggression into sport and business – fighting championships and wars on terror dominate our screens and our discussions, do they not?

Teaching them the value of love and kindness is a duty every parent and every educator has and it is perhaps the most valuable yet undervalued duty of all.

You seldom hear of parents proudly telling other parents that their child is empathic, that their child is kind, honest and loving or that they are instilling these senses in their child. While parents correlate ‘mischief’ with ‘intelligence’ and place qualitative value on their child being able to snatch his favourite toy at a moment’s notice from the hands of another child, they forget the value of sharing, responsibility and anger management.

In the mad race of milestones that is filled with crawling, walking, talking, chewing the chocolate and biting the bubble gum, there is little or no discussion about what we need to teach our children about respect and humanity.

In this world filled with competition we are teaching our children to be brutal.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.