As parents, one big concern is how your child will handle bullying in school — not only how your child will react if he is bullied, but also what he will do if he sees another child being bullied. Even worse, what if you get word that your child is the bully? Jennifer Landis shares tips and resources to help you educated your child about both sides of the bully equation.
Anywhere from one in four to one in three students say they’ve been bullied at some point in their school career, which can also include cyberbullying. Being on the receiving end of bullying can result in depression, loneliness and anxiety. It can even decrease academic achievement and reduce standardized test scores. Bullied kids are more likely to miss school or even drop out.
Being the bully also has some detrimental effects, including the attitude following them into adulthood. Those who bully are more likely to get into fights, abuse alcohol and drugs, be abusive later in life and even drop out of school. If your child is simply a bystander, he or she may experience some of these effects to a lesser degree.
Knowing just how harmful bullying is on both an emotional and academic level, it’s important for parents to take the time to discuss this topic with their children.
Share a Story From Your Own Childhood
A great way to start the conversation about bullying is to share a story from your own childhood about someone being bullied. What happened? How did it make the other child, or you, feel? What are your own feelings about bullying?
It is even better if there was a resolution to the problem, such as the other children standing up for the child being bullied, school administration stepping in to stop the bullying or some other solution that helped everyone involved.
Ask if Your Child Has Witnessed Bullying
Ask your child if he has been the victim of a bully, has witnessed bullying or has even been a bully himself. Make it clear that bullying is unacceptable and that you plan to take action. If your child has been the victim, your first step is to contact the school about the issue and work with them toward a resolution.
If your child is the bully, there are many things you can do to help him overcome this tendency. A first step is to seek professional counseling. Bullies sometimes have low self-esteem, and this can be why they bully others, to try to make themselves feel better.
Make sure you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your child. All of us get into habits and patterns in our everyday lives and marriages that can set a bad example for our children. Each person on the planet can improve in some way, whether by standing up for yourself or modeling peaceful behavior.
Work With the School to Stop Bullying
Talk to the school about ways to stop bullying in the system as a whole. Not only should the school actively advocate against bullying, but it should also offer training and tools in good conflict resolution. This can come from a special speaker who is invited to talk to the students or through a series of short workshops that teach these skills.
The administration needs to work toward spotting and stopping bullying before it gets too serious. Most schools are aware bullying can be a problem and already have rules in place to handle these situations. The rules simply need to be enforced.
You can even design a playground in a way that minimizes bullying, since playgrounds are one of the high-risk areas where conflict occurs among children. First, the playground should be open and all areas easily observed by caregivers. This avoids a situation where a child can be surrounded and bullied. The overall design needs to go even deeper and offer a variety of skill areas so children aren’t singled out for not being able to do something.
You can also work with the PTO to educate teachers, parents and students about bullying, the effects of bullying and how to prevent bullying in a variety of situations.
Get to Know Your Child’s Friends
Take the time to go to a local pizza place or have a get-together for your child’s friends. If there is a bully in the group, you can easily spot the behaviors and address them with your child. Knowing the dynamics of the group allows you to have specific discussions with your child about what is and isn’t acceptable.
If your child is dealing with bullying and the other child is within the friend group, you can try having a discussion with the bully’s parents. Just be careful here, as some parents don’t want to believe their child has a bullying problem. It might be best to have the conversation with a neutral third party present, such as a guidance counselor at school, who can point out specific behaviors that have been a problem in the past. The goal is to get help for both children and not single anyone out, and a neutral party can keep the focus on that.
If you’ve tried everything else and your child is still being bullied, put some stopgap measures in place to end the bullying. If the bully is targeting your child for lunch money, write a check for school lunch in advance and stop sending cash. If it is about items your child has, leave those things at home.
If the bullying persists, have your child buddy up with another kid so he is never alone and at the mercy of the bully. Talk to others about the issues that are going on so teachers and other parents are aware of the bullying behavior and will help watch out for your child.
Bullying can lead to some serious consequences and destroy the self-esteem of everyone involved in the situation, even the bully himself. It is important to stop the issue as quickly and as peacefully as possible. Prevention is always that best course of action, but when that isn’t a possibility, then be as proactive as possible.
Jennifer Landis is the woman behind Mindfulness Mama, where you will find a combination of articles on all of the things I know and enjoy like healthy food, yoga, exercise, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and About.Me.