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Recognizing and Addressing Bullying: A Guide for Parents
Bullying is a serious issue that affects children both in person and online. As parents, it’s essential to be vigilant and proactive in identifying whether your child is a child who was bullied or a child who was bullied and bullied others. This guide will draw insights from StopBullying.gov, the Child Mind Institute, and UNICEF to help you recognize and address bullying effectively.
Misconceptions about Bullying
- Bullying doesn’t mean your child is “bad.” Many children get involved in bullying for various reasons, like wanting to fit in or seeking attention.
- Children might not fully understand the impact of their actions. Those who experience bullying may resort to bullying as a coping mechanism.
- The terms, “bully” and “victim” tend to label youth, sending a message that a behavior cannot change. When we discuss bullying, it’s important to recognize that we’re discussing how to change behaviors.
- If your child engages in bullying, start with an open and direct conversation. Please encourage them to share what happened and their feelings. Seek assistance from a mental health professional if needed.
Understanding Bullying Characteristics
- Bullying involves intent, repetition, and power. It aims to cause harm and occurs repeatedly.
- Bullies often come from positions of perceived power or social status, but anyone can engage in bullying, or can become a child who was bullied.
- Vulnerable youth are more likely to be bullied in person and online.
Recognizing Signs of Bullying
Watch for signs like physical or behavioral changes in your student, including:
- A sudden fear of school or certain classes.
- A noticeable increase or decrease in your child’s internet usage.
- A decline in grades.
- Unexplainable injuries or lost and destroyed clothing.
The following lists and advice are direct quotes and references from Stop Bullying. We implore you to review their website for direction. Read below for actionable directions on how to work with your student, school administration, and supporting organizations to manage cases of bullying.
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about how to handle it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
- Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
- Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away.
If Your Child Is a Child Who Is/Was Bullied
To share StopBullying’s list of tips to support your child:
- Listen to your child openly and calmly, offering emotional support.
- Reassure your child that it’s not their fault and that you believe them.
- Communicate with the school or teacher to address the bullying issue. Be a support system for your child, ensuring they know they can talk to you anytime.
- Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
- Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if they provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
- Do not tell the child to fight back against the kid who is bullying physically. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
- Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. Schools or other officials can act as mediators between parents.
If Your Child Is/Has Bullied Others:
Recognize that parents, school staff, and organizations all have a role to play. Work through your school’s administrator to aid in bully intervention.
Here are tips that you can use as a parent:
- Make sure the child knows what the problem behavior is. Young people who bully must learn their behavior is wrong and harms others.
- Show kids that bullying is severe. Calmly tell the child that bullying will not be tolerated. Model respectful behavior when addressing the problem.
- Work with the child to understand why they felt the need to bully others.
- Sometimes, children bully to fit in. These kids can benefit from participating in positive activities. Involvement in sports and clubs can enable them to take leadership roles and make friends without feeling the need to bully.
- Other times, kids act out because something else is happening in their lives. They also may have been bullied. These kids may need additional support, such as mental health services.
- Avoid strategies that don’t work or have negative consequences.
- Zero tolerance or “three strikes, you’re out” strategies don’t work. Suspending or expelling students who bully does not reduce bullying behavior.
- Students may be less likely to report and address bullying if suspension or expulsion is the consequence.
- Conflict resolution and peer mediation don’t work for bullying. Bullying is not a conflict between people of equal power who share equal blame.
- Group treatment for students who bully doesn’t work. Group members tend to reinforce bullying behavior in each other.
How to Respond to Bullying:
To share StopBullying’s list on actionable and immediate responses to witnessing bullying:
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Separate the kids involved.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
- Don’t ignore it. Often, working out bullying will require adult intervention.
- Wait to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to state what they witnessed in public.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
How to Help your Child Build Resilience
To share StopBullying’s list to Building Resilience:
- Set family goals and have children play an essential role in working towards them. When your child is defensive or aggressive, help them reflect on the situation to understand
- what is causing their behavior. Children may lack the skills to handle what’s happening. They may need support. Help them build the skills they lack so they can respond better in the future.
- Practice role-playing on how to handle different problems.
- Model an attitude of grit and optimism in the face of family challenges.
- Teach your child how to manage stress. Participating in wellness activities together, like exercise or healthy cooking, can be helpful.
- Find someone (like a tutor, mentor, or school counselor) to help your child improve specific academic or life skills.
- Volunteer together to help others in need.
- Talk to your child about past challenges and how they helped you grow.
- Help your child find practical solutions to problems as they arise.
Bullying is a complex issue that demands active parental involvement and understanding. Hopefully, this article gives you valuable directions from trusted, data-backed sites that can protect your child from bullying and nurture them into respectful and compassionate individuals.