Bullying 101: We don’t need more angry, aggressive boys – we have enough already

Published: October 29, 2018
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The common behaviour exhibited by Ahmed in these videos includes tantrums and shouting due to his emotional distress when his bag or other possessions are taken away from him.

I had conflicted feelings the minute I saw him on screen, despite not being able to pinpoint the exact factors that made it unappealing for me. Even though I tried to watch the video after putting my therapist goggles aside, it still seemed problematic to me. However, as with most things online, I soon forgot about it and moved on.

But it did not stop with that single video. A while later, another video of the same child popped up in a similar school setting, with adults apparently enjoying the expression of emotional distress through the child’s tantrums.

Who was making these videos in a school setting? Who was uploading them on the internet? Why was this child coerced into abusive behaviour just for the sake of likes, views and short-lived fame for the adults related to him?

I did not know the answers to these questions, but they did bother me and my friends for quite a while, as others around us advised us not to take the matter so seriously. According to these people, this happens to a majority of kids in collectivist societies like ours. They also pointed out that it is not as if we are short of embarrassing childhood stories where our parents coerced us into dancing, singing or even reciting poems in front of strange uncles and aunties. These points were semi-convincing, so I brushed my concerns under the carpet and stayed mum.

However, things escalated quickly from there and soon this child, now identified as little Ahmed Shah, was called upon a popular morning show to exhibit the same defiant behaviour for our ‘entertainment’. This was a big red flag that somebody else’s narcissism was involved in displaying this child in such a manner. Otherwise, why would you want your child (of such a tender age) to behave like what can only be described as a bully, just for the entire nation’s entertainment? Had this been a developed country, I’d have registered a complaint with social services, and they would have taken the matter seriously as well.

From Sigmund Freud to Piaget, all child development theorists indicate that ages one to eight are formative and crucial for a child’s development. Erik Erikson’s theory of moral development indicates that after every couple of years, a child has to face a moral conflict, which is only adequately resolved with the right parenting and social environment. If these moral conflicts remain unresolved, the consequences become a stable part of a child’s adult life and create great difficulties in their relationships. In a patriarchal culture, this means that the male child will become an entitled and insensitive adult with little care for the rights and emotions of others.

The common behaviour exhibited by Ahmed in these videos includes tantrums and shouting due to his emotional distress when his bag or other possessions are taken away from him. As he screams in anger and frustration, the adults around him laugh and encourage him to continue his disturbing behaviour. They are utterly dismissive of his emotional frustration. Did the child consent to this? Can a child consent to this? Seeing his distress, it did not seem as if he enjoyed throwing the tantrums and was an equal participant in this madness.

The message this child is receiving through all this reinforcement – now on a national level – is that aggressive behaviour is superior, acceptable and is the best way to get things done. Especially when the child is called on TV and is encouraged to behave in these ways in exchange for laughs and attention. Television, theatrics and dramatics are known to have a lifelong influence on a child’s mind, and any behaviour or habit shaped by such magnitude of social attention is ultimately very difficult to break later on.

We are creating an illusion for this child – and other kids watching him – that being uncooperative, verbally abusive and aggressive is socially desirable. Imagine the sense of achievement this child must have felt when he was called upon multiple TV shows and treated like a prince, in exchange of behaviour that can be described as bullying. What did he really achieve by acting in a defiant and entitled manner? How would his parents or caretakers argue they are teaching him the right values required for becoming a decent citizen and human?

In one particular morning show, it was despicable and disheartening to witness the child be treated like a circus commodity, as the host irritatingly probed him just to get aggressive reactions out of him, and each time he reacted, the audience broke into applause. He was also encouraged to ‘teach’ other kids verbal and physical expressions of anger – bullying 101.

Instead of correcting Ahmed like a responsible adult, the host laughed generously when he turned verbally abusive towards her, not even considering her age, the platform they were on, and the fact that this was a practical demonstration that he hasn’t been taught the concept of respect at all.

The sole purpose and intent of inviting Ahmed to television shows is to capitalise on and mock his erroneous behaviour for ratings. This is expected of the media, but why are the adults in his family blind to this? How can they not see how damaging this is to their child? What we are ultimately witnessing is yet another caricature in the making, instead of what could have been a decent human being.

Zaofishan Qureshi

Zaofishan Qureshi

The author is a Clinical Psychologist and an Educationist based in Islamabad. She tweets @Zaofishan (twitter.com/Zaofishan)

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