It’s a normal part of growing part for children to experience disagreements, arguments and conflicts with other children. These interactions help children build social relationship skills as well as personal resilience, cognitive thinking, reasoning and negotiation skills.
Bullying is when these experiences become abusive behaviour involving a repetitive intention to cause harm to someone, resulting in distress, anxiety, and even physical, social or psychological trauma.
Bullying can take many forms – physical, emotional, verbal or sexual. And it’s not just confined to the school yard. More and more kids are experiencing cyber-bullying through mobile phones, social media, SMS, emails and blogs.
In a recent Whole Kids survey of almost 400 parents, we found that over one-third reported that their children experienced some form of “lunchbox bullying” at school.
Here’s a snapshot of what mums told us:
- “My daughter loves tuna sandwiches but gets teased by other kids that it ‘stinks’. She refuses to take them to school now”.
- “Kids bully my son because they want his food and call him a pig if he won’t share.”
- “My son has allergies and he gets picked on by other kids for why he can’t eat ‘normally’”.
- “I make home-made snacks for her lunchbox. She gets picked on for not having chips or biscuits. She gets hurt when other kids bully her about being poor and not being able to afford ‘proper snacks’”.
- “My child gets bullied because she takes wholesome foods to school. Other kids make fun of her because she doesn’t have lollies and chips.”
- “I cut sandwiches in the shape of dinosaurs for my 5 year old son and one day my son asked me to stop doing it because the other kids laughed at him”.
- “Kids are always comparing their lunchboxes. Their friends turn up with chocolate bars and other junk food. My kids are always asking for what their friends are eating so they don’t feel left out. Very frustrating”.
If you think your child may be experiencing bullying, here are some things to look out for:
- Being anxious, stressed or uptight
- Reluctant to go to school or joining in school activities
- Refusing to take foods to school that they previously enjoyed eating
- Moody or erratic behaviour
- Restless sleep patterns
- Withdrawing from others, including family and friends
- Being secretive with the use of mobile phones, computers and tablets
- Unexplained injuries, bruises and cuts
- Declining grades and results
Some kids who are bullied are reluctant to tell others because they may feel embarrassed, think it’s a sign of weakness or believe it may make the situation worse by aggravating the bully even more. It should be remembered that it is the bully that is the weak person, not the child being bullied.
For helpful advice on how to deal with bullying, visit the following websites:
- Bullying No Way
- Take a Stand Together
- Safe Schools Hub
- National Centre Against Bullying
- Bully Stoppers
Many of the organisations listed above have programmes for schools to help educate kids (and parents) about bullying and how to deal with it.
At UnjunkIt, we’re very concerned that the issue of Lunchbox Bullying is something that may not be getting the focus it needs – after all, one-third of parents in our survey mentioned that their kids had been bullied about the food or drinks they had brought to school. This can’t go on.
We believe it’s time to Unjunk the Lunchbox and find ways to stop kids being bullied for simply eating their lunch at school. Look out for our new UnjunkIt campaign in 2016.