When children are bullied for their parents’ fame

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 00:00 |
Bullied child. Photo/Courtesy

Being a celebrity doesn’t mean that everyone has to love you. You will get love and hate in equal measure.

And sometimes, this is extended to the children as famous Nollywood actress, Mercy Johnson Okojie found out.

Her eight-year-old daughter complained how a female teacher has been bullying her.

The mother of four, in a series of posts on her Instagram page, had bitterly narrated how her daughter had complained and “suffered” in the hands of the teacher who had said, “She doesn’t like Mercy Johnson and celebrity children are badly behaved.”

“A teacher at my child’s school has been bullying her constantly for two whole weeks.

She is not her class teacher, yet she shows up at her class every day to intimidate her.

Uses biros to flick her hair, tells her to her face that she hates her mother, that celebrity kids are badly behaved,” she stated on the post.

Mercy revealed that she noticed that her daughter, who loved going to school was now afraid to go and always told her about the teacher who was bullying her. 

“The last straw was yesterday when I came to pick my daughter up quietly like I usually do. 

I saw my daughter crying...she explained how she was disciplined alone by the same teacher…” she revealed.  

It’s scary

Closer home, Kenyan singer and businesswoman Esther Akoth alias Akothee while responding to Mercy’s post also said how her children suffered, especially when they were in high school.

The singer recalled how teachers used to bully, discriminate and throws false accusations at her children because they were children of a celebrity.

 “Fame is getting very scary for parents. My daughter, Fancy Makadia was accused of being illuminati and the teacher asked students to stay away from her.

Her performance dropped drastically and she would cry a lot when schools opened. I had to change her school,” Akothee wrote.

She further claimed that her other two daughters; Rue Baby and Vesha Okello also went through the same agony in school.

Though there are no valid reasons to bully a child no matter who their parent is, psychologist Elmard Reagan says it does occur. One of the reasons, he says, is social bias and prejudice.

“For instance, if I’m championing a cause such as abortion, and my daughter is in an institution that is faith based, the culture of the church might be against the cause I’m championing and I might be seen as wayward.

That might be passed onto my children as some teachers might feel that my child too is aligned to what I believe in,” he notes. 

Another reason for bullying is when the parent does something that the society deems unfit. “The child will either take the bashing or fellow children will be incited to bully the child by malicious teachers,” says Reagan.

Also, if the celeb didn’t do quite well academically or does not match up to the ‘expectations,’ they will be seen as a failure. Others do it out of outright jealousy.

How to discover bullying

He says while the bullying might not be obvious, it can take place in subtle ways to make the child feel like they are not wanted or are being punished for their parent’s mistakes. 

How do you know your child is being bullied? “If the child is usually spunky and always happy, but doesn’t want to go to school and they start talking about not having friends, or they don’t want to go to a certain class, sometimes they look shy or don’t want to talk with their parents or friends, then they are being bullied.

Boys express aggressive behaviour, especially when they don’t have an emotional outlet to express, their anger so they pick fights with their siblings more or use foul language.

Their grades also start to decline too,” Sharon Kahumbu, a psychologist and co-founder of Tatu, The Affordable Therapist Union. 

A parent needs to create a safe space to the child and help them know that they can be of assistance when they sense that there is something wrong. 

“If they open up, thank them for being open about it and make them feel that they are not crazy or sensitive by opening up.

Also, support their decision whether they want to address the bullying or not.

If there is fear for their safety, then address the matter to the relevant authority and make them aware of what is happening to your child and other students. 

Last but not least, approach the appropriate board of disciplinary action and do it with a sober mind since if you do it in a dramatic way the situation will not resolved, it leads to further bullying,” she continues. 

What to do

Sharon advises that the best thing a celebrity parent can do is to reinforce to the child, their own identity.

“When celebrities become parents, their children lose their identity and become the children of so and so and they stop being who they are as individuals.

However, famous parents can advise their children that they are their own being and they can do things separately from their parents.

They should also reinforce that they can do things wrong, but they don’t have to carry the fault of their parent.

Third, they should try and assist their children navigate the world of social media. We can always teach them to take positive criticism.

They need to know their self-worth and what and who they are. And nobody can teach that except their parents,” she adds. 

Reagan advises celebrity parents to understand that their number one role is to be a parent not a celebrity.

“Know that you are raising a child not a celebrity. You might have the status by default, but don’t ignore the role of being a parent.

Raise the child like a normal parent would. Be involved with your child’s welfare both in school and out.

Being a celebrity might be involving because of events, but ensure that you find time to attend the school meetings and don’t send representatives.

By doing this, you are creating a rapport with the school fraternity and administration and see you as a responsible parent.

The more you are involved in the child’s affairs, the more the school will cooperate with you,” he says in ending. 

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