Nothing pulls at a parent’s heartstrings, in my experience, like discovering their child is being bullied. But bullying is a stressful and common problem for school children of all ages, gender, and social standing.
In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of the students enrolled in school today are victims of bullying, be it physical, verbal, psychological, or online.
School teachers and staff are not always equipped to handle this growing problem, and parents are often unaware that a student is being bullied.
Despite what some educators and parents believe, bullying does not go away on its own, and most children are not equipped to solve the problem without adult intervention.
This flies in the face of the current popular primary school approach of letting the children sort things out themselves by facilitating ‘friendship’ meetings.
Kids need boundaries and if the bullies are from homes where there are none, how can we expect them to understand the impact of their actions and why these are wrong? Further, how can we actually helpt the bullies who may be in need of support or victims themselves?
The following tips for parents and children offer a means by which bullying can be addressed and curtailed at school. Note that you must be prepared to speak up because this is not a problem that will go away on its own – depending on the severity of the bullying, that is.
Know the signs of bullying and be prepared to discuss bullying incidents with the child
Parents should suspect bullying when a student:
hesitates to go to school or ride the school bus
develops health-related problems, such as depression, not eating, or sleeplessness
begins performing poorly in school, or shows little interest in school activities
has few social contacts or friends
What you can do
Acknowledge the child’s feelings and reactions by maintaining open and supportive communication. Be sure to talk with the student every day to find out what is going on in his or her life.
Focus on offering comfort and support. Assure the child that he or she is not alone, and that everyone involved will work together to find an effective solution to the problem.
Always follow up with the child, constantly offering reassurance and support.
Help the student develop a resilient attitude toward bullying
Be a good example. Show kindness, compassion, respect, and empathy towards others, but be calmly assertive when necessary. Children will develop similar social skills, which reduces the chances of being bullied.
Acknowledge a child’s positive attributes, such as his or her strengths, skills, and talents. This can help him or her build self-confidence.
The stress of being a bully victim is greatly reduced when you praise the child for having the courage to talk about bullying problems rather than keeping them a secret.
Show your child how to avoid attracting bullies
Teach your kids to display effective body language by:
Walking and sitting with awareness, and a calm and self-confident attitude
Projecting a positive and assertive attitude.
Stepping aside to avoid a bully, and making sure not to acknowledge his or her presence.
Act unafraid. When confronted by a bully, teach your child to stand erect, put a hand up with the palm facing the bully, and say, “Stop!” using a calm but firm and clear voice, and then walk away.
Use the buddy system. Teach your child to stay around other students and avoid being alone in isolated areas.
Show children how to handle a bully, and develop appropriate responses
Do not confront the bully. Let the authorities (the school staff or police) handle him or her.
If the bullying is repeated, encourage the child to tell someone he or she trusts.
Let the child know it is okay to just walk away and ignore the bully. The bully wants attention.
If the student is being bullied online, it can help to change online profiles, block profiles from the bullies, ignore comments and do not respond to online insults, threats, and gossip.
It can also be necessary to report a cyber bully to the moderators of a forum or social networking site. It is very important that parents always monitor a child’s online presence to know what is going on, and help the child take any necessary steps to end the bullying.
Form an alliance with the school
At the first sign of trouble, share concerns with the school administrators. Learn about the school’s policies and procedures regarding bullying. Be prepared to follow the rules.
Volunteer to help with monitoring the playground, lunchroom, stairwells, or other areas where students mingle or bullying might be hidden.
Work with the school staff on ways and resources to promote a non-violent learning environment that will not tolerate bullying.
Help form a student-based school safety group to heighten awareness about bullying
It is difficult to find a student that has not been exposed to bullying, either as a victim or a witness. Bullying must be taken seriously. Such a stressor for students cannot be idly accepted or easily forgotten; the effects can be dangerous and damaging.
Collectively, parents, students, and school personnel can reduce the stress of school bullying by following some of the tips above, coupled with a commitment to having a “bully-free” learning environment.