Bullying: It can be unlearned
Family members (parents, siblings, grandparents), and close friends play a key role in facilitating the prevention of bullying. They also provide children and other youth with coping skills needed to minimize the severity of a bullying experience.
Bullying can take many forms, such as: violence (hitting or punching) teasing, name calling, intimidation through gestures or facial expressions, social exclusion and sending insulting messages or pictures by mobile phone or the internet (cyberbullying).
General advice for parents is to follow these steps:
- Brush up on the modern forms of bullying that your child may be subjected to at school, on the playground and other places in the community.
- Use strategies to try to prevent bullying and help children deal with bullying experiences.
- Go to your local library or search online for useful materials that you can use to assist children in your family, school and community.
What Can Parents Do?
When faced with a child who is displaying symptoms of being bullied, delicately ask about being picked on or teased before, during or after school. This child may have difficulty focusing on class work, be reluctant to attend school or have a variety of psychosomatic conditions. If you discover your child is being bullied, teach your child to remain calm and to have the courage to walk away from a fight. Talk to a teacher about the bully and encourage your child to develop strong friendships. Children with loyal friends are less likely to be bullied.
- Talk to your child frequently about what is going on at school. Chances are that your child will not come home and report that someone beat them up. They will be embarrassed and concerned about your reaction. It is up to you to find out what is happening in school.
- Do NOT punish a victim of bullying no matter what the circumstances. Leave the home a safe zone to discuss these problems.
- Do NOT contact the bully's parents. You may open the opportunity for bullying to take place between parents. Go to the school or program's authorities and let them take it from there.
- Do NOT allow excuses. Encourage kids to take responsibility for what their role was. Use "I" talk - "I felt angry when they said this or that..." "I pushed them when they hurt my feelings..." "I did this when he or she did that to me..."
- Identify the causes. If you know why kids are bullying (the bullies themselves), you may be able to stop the bullying. Bullying is a learned behavior. Make sure that you are not a role model for unacceptable behavior in school. Sometimes bullies are acting out for attention. Are you giving enough attention at home? Take a look at why your child is a bully and address it at the root cause. Get professional help if necessary.
- Enforce consequences. Stick to your principles. Tell your children what you expect from them and what is not to be tolerated at home or at school. Take away computer or cell phone privileges if you find that your child is using those means to bully other children. You are the parent, take charge!
Essential tips for parents (from commonsensemedia.org)
Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in another persons shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they are less likely to bully someone or passively witness others being bullied.
Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel, both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up without jumping to conclusions.
Make sure they talk to someone (even if it's not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in whether it's their school counselor, teacher or even the parent of a friend. Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.
Help your kid avoid being a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved and prevent more cruel behavior from happening.
Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle and, if anything does happen, save the evidence to provide to authorities.
As a parent, become aware of your children's school policy on bullying and whether the school staff takes a united stance against bullying. If you suspect that your child is being targeted by his or her peers, take an active role in addressing the current policy in place or request that the school district implements one. We would suggest that you try your best to work in collaboration with principals, teachers and other school staff. We at the Bullying Academy suggest that both parents and administrators work together because it is the responsibility of both to take care of the children.
For information on bullying policies as well as parents' rights regarding the well-being of their children at school, we recommend the following websites: