What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Tommy comes home from school and tells you that he is having his lunch money stolen every day by a bigger kid in the next grade. Or, Mandy comes and tells you that the other girls are spreading rumours about her. What do you do as a parent?
Take the problem seriously, do not brush it off as simple ‘kids being kids’. Do not try to down play the situation as something that will just go away. And do not over react. Some parents will go to the other extreme and actually escalate the problem.
The first thing to do is to sit your child down and talk to them. Tell them that you are proud that they came forward and had the courage to tell you about the situation. Make sure that they understand that it is not their fault. They are not the ones that have the problem. Many children feel that they are somehow responsible in some way for being the victim. They feel that they have somehow provoked the attack or are not good enough in some way. Reassure your child that they worthy and special, and they are in no way to blame.Find out as much as you can about the situation. How long has it been going on? Where does it happen? How many children are involved? How often does it happen, what are the actual messages?
Find out what your child has done if anything to try and get the problem stopped. Did anyone see the incident? Try and assess how dangerous the situation is. Is your child in real physical danger? Write these things down.
Once you have as much information about the situation as you can get, you and your child can figure out the best way to handle the bully.
Verbal Skills: Teach your how to use humour to confront the bully. Exchanging insults will usually not end the situation and will often cause it to escalate. Talk directly to the bully. Make eye contact and use a clear voice. If you need to have your child practice in front of a mirror.
Positive Attitude and Manner: Bullies often target the children who look and act meek. Teach your child to walk with a confident stride, head up and shoulders back. Show them how body language sends a message to others. Standing off to the side with arms folded creates the impression of fear and insecurity. Show them how to create a confident attitude by standing with arms at their sides and their head up.
Talk to Teachers: Bring in a copy of your written information. Having documented incidents is a far better approach than simply trying to remember details. It also tells the teacher how seriously you are taking the situation.
Friends: Tell your child to stick with a buddy. Don’t get into isolated situations. Stay in crowded areas, on the streets and on the playground.
Also be sure that your child knows the things that they should not do. Retaliation is never acceptable, telling your child to stand up and hit the bully back is only helping to continue the cycle. And in some cases your child may become the one who is the bully.
Also make sure that your child knows that walking or running away if there is a real fear of physical harm is the right thing to do. And to go directly to an adult.
Approaching the other child’s parents may or may not have the desired effect. Many parents of bullies will deny, or downplay the situation. If the situation is serious enough you my want to have a meeting with the other parents at the school.
Remember bullying is not “just children playing” it can have very damaging long term effects to both the bully and the victim. Take action as soon as possible and stop the cycle.