Bullying can be a real problem among kids of all ages. Sharon Peters, from Parents Helping Parents shares her top tips for handling the problem.
Bullying is sadly common. When children and/or families are facing ongoing stress young people often “take things out” on each other. Unfortunately there is often no way to resolve bullying quickly but here are some ideas that can help parents when their child is being targeted.
- Help Your Child Find Good Friends. Doing what you can to set up play dates and regular time to socialize with other children is important for lots of reasons but it also can help contain bullying. Bullies are less likely to bother a little one who is with others and children are usually better off if they have a group of good friends to turn to if and when they are being treated badly by some one else.
- Teach Your Child To Avoid or Ignore Teasing or Mean Behavior Whenever Possible. Bullies are often seeking attention or a feeling of power. They might have been overwhelmed or neglected in some way and are looking for an opportunity to have their turn to “be in charge.” If your young person can manage to avoid or walk away from a confrontation, that usually means that the bully will not get what he or she wants and might be less likely to try again. Of course, ignoring words or actions that are meant to “push someone else’s buttons” can be difficult to do. It can make it easier for your child to think on the spot if you can set aside time to help plan ahead, possibly making a list of people, places or activities that can be turned to when needed.
- Sometimes, Standing Up to a Bully Can Help. Dialogues or emotional reactions to a mean spirited act usually fuel a tormentor’s agenda, but in some circumstances it can help if the victim assumes a confident tone and stands up to the bully. If you think a response could be effective, it is important to teach your child to communicate firmly, briefly, and unemotionally. It can also be wise to leave the “scene” as soon as she or he is has delivered the message. Walking away quickly can increase the impact of your child’s efforts and decrease the likelihood of a wider confrontation. Such a clear and self-assured attitude, although often difficult to pull off, can sometimes make a difference.
- Ask For Help. It would be wonderful if the parent of a targeted little one could easily resolve the problem, but, oftentimes, adults who have ongoing contact with a bully, such as teachers and other school staff, are more likely to have access to multiple resources that can turn things around. It is understandable that persecuted children are sometimes too embarrassed or scared to let anyone outside of their home know what is happening, but even so parents need to find confidential and thoughtful ways to get the outside assistance they need. This of course can be a complicated process that takes time, care and patience but well thought out interventions with disruptive children and their families can produce solutions that work well for everyone.
Sharon C. Peters is the founder and director of Parents Helping Parents in Park Slope. Parents Helping Parents offers practical solutions to parents and parents and children through individual appointments arranged on an as needed basis. Topical workshops and ongoing groups also provide participants with opportunities to share their personal experiences and hear helpful perspectives. Sharon’s work is also published regularly in Brooklyn Family Magazine, blogs and at www.phponline.org.
She has an MA in Educational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and since 1995 has met with hundreds of individual families and led workshops for many schools and community organizations. As a step, birth, adoptive, married and single mother, Sharon has parented five children, several coping with special needs.