Talking to Kids About Bullying
Has your child been hurt or scared by another child on purpose? Indeed, times have changed drastically in regard to the severity of bullying. Imagine going to school fearful, dreading an encounter with someone who thrives on making your life miserable. Being picked on every day, humiliated in the hallways, perhaps physically (or even sexually) assaulted with or without weapons: such inhuman treatment has dire consequences for both the person being bullied, as well as for society at large. It happens on the playground, in classrooms, out in cyberspace. The consequences may be devastatingly traumatic and last the duration of one’s lifetime.
As a parent, what can you do to help prevent your child from such abusive treatment from classmates? In this article I will present tips for opening the lines of communication with your kids, as well as providing tips to begin to deal with bullying in a proactive manner.
According to Education.com “…the general consensus is that one out of three children are bullied at school, in the neighborhood, or online and that one out of three children bully others.” Such a widespread problem merits attention from everyone, parents, school administrators, and teachers. The sad reality is that adults do not usually witness a vast amount of the bullying while it occurs. In fact, as many as 160,000 students may stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied. (Pollack 1998) Teasing, ganging up, talking nasty about people, spreading nasty rumors, malicious texts and IMs, posting hurtful images—kids on the receiving end of such behavior are more likely to drop out, get in fights, and do drugs (Nansel et al, 2003). Thus, it becomes imperative to discuss this problem with your child.
Opening the Lines of Communication with Your Child
Foremost, children need to understand that they do not deserve to be bullied, nobody does. In addition, never encourage your child to bully back. One should be proactive in sticking up for oneself. Choosing silence plays into the bully’s hand. Thus, break your child’s silence. You must collect all the facts. Foster a dialogue with your child before taking action.
Your child should know that the bullies derive pleasure from disturbing others, generating unnecessary fear. Know that the bullies act so because they feel inadequate and sad. In addition, it is crucial to understand the context of the bullying.
Here are some questions to ask (prompts) for you to broach the subject of bullying with your child:
- What is happening to you?
- Is there a usual way (or pattern to how) the bullying begins?
- What other kid(s) are involved?
- Did anyone else witness this?
- Which of the child’s friends are aware of the problem?
- Has anyone, peers or adults, tried to intervene?
- Where does the bullying typically take place?
- Do the teachers, aides, or administrators know about this?
- Why do you think your being bullying?
- What kind of history do you have with the bully?
Now that you have collected the facts, there are a few things that need to be explained to your child. First, educated young people should take pride in the fact that they deserve more than being picked on for no reason. Bullying is the epitome of ignorance. A bully maintains unjustifiable power over the victim. Realize there is always a solution when the higher powers are informed, and understand that there are options. The right to protection is ultimately more powerful than a few bad apples. Turn to your real friends. Stand up for yourself as much as you can. Obtain a restraining order is schools do not take action. After all, schools are obligated to make you feel safe.
Here are some additional tips…
Tip 1: Your child should know and feel that they are not alone.
In talking to your child about their experiences with being bullied. They should know that the problem is not the person being bullied. This goes on in nearly every school. Up to nearly a quarter of all US students are bullied with some frequency (Nansel et al, 2001).
2) Become involved in your child’s school.
Too many schools are understaffed due to budgetary constraints and lack of additional funding. Hence, adults don’t witness most bullying. Greater parental involvement, through caring sensible adults, can make a huge overall difference in the school environment. If you can find the time, become a positive, preventative part of your school community.
3) Don’t reply to cyber bullying online.
It is no big secret that many children practically live online. Kids/parents must block threatening and disparaging Internet threats and solicitations. Print out the threats and nasty things. Keep all documentation. Organize all evidence in case the authorities require clear proof to intervene.
4) Encourage extracurricular activities that will build your child’s self-esteem.
I recommend the martial arts. In my case, it boosted my confidence. As a young man, the better I became at karate, the less kids started making fun of me. In sixth grade I broke a board with a chop during a lunch break. No bully messed with me since.
5) Teach assertiveness.
Kids can be cruel. Bullies may hit, kick, spit, pull guns, dump food on victims, humiliate peers verbally, use extortion, send threatening texts, spread vicious rumors, and even commit sexual bullying (more so in the case of females). In general, while girls may gang up on the person being bullied, boys are more apt to call someone out. While kids may dread such negative attention, there is something to be said about the perception of confidence. Most bullies tend to target weakness.
6) Set an example of levelheaded behavior in dealing with problems.
Teach children to be problem solvers who respond rather than react. This is especially true when dealing with bullies. Parents, you are your child’s greatest and most effective teacher. Bullying is a dire problem. If you the parent handle a crisis with nothing but exasperation, frustration, futility, or silence; then your child may emulate your example of problem solving methods when bullied.
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