Addressing a Bullying Problem
At its core, bullying is a real or perceived imbalance of power, usually between school aged children. Some examples of bullying behavior include physical or verbal attacks, deliberate social exclusion, spreading rumors and making threats. Many people view bullying as nothing more than a harmless and normal part of growing up, but statistics indicate that bullying often has long-term consequences for both the bully and the victim. Bullying is not something that adults should ignore. If your child is being bullied or is the bully, learn how to handle the situation in a way that benefits everybody.
How to Stop Your Child from Being Bullied
The first step towards helping your child deal with a bully is communication. Listen to your child and ask questions to get her talking about bullying even before it occurs. Talk to your child about what bullying is and what it looks like. Ask your child if she has experienced bullying or witnessed it. Explain how important it is to come to you or another adult for help if she is being bullied or witnessing another kid getting bullied. Look for signs of a bullying problem like sudden avoidance of school, unexplained injuries or personal items that keep getting lost or destroyed.
If you suspect that your child may be getting bullied, it might be tempting to directly confront the bully or her parents, but doing so may aggravate the problem even further. Instead, remain calm and take positive action. Talk to your child about your suspicions. Explain to her that bullying is an imbalance of power and that by not reacting to the bullying behavior, she can neutralize the bully’s power. Advise your child to immediately get away from the bully and seek help from a teacher or trusted adult. Contact your child’s school to advise of the problem and ask the administrators and teachers to closely monitor the situation.
Even if your child is not being directly bullied, you can help her stop bullying by encouraging her to not be a helpless bystander. Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if she sees others being bullied and to be friendly to kids who have been isolated by bullies.
How to Stop Your Child from Being a Bully
If your child is being a bully, the first thing to do is acknowledge the behavior and immediately address it with him. Remain calm and ask your child to explain why he is behaving in a manner that is negatively affecting others. It is important not to point fingers or make accusations. Instead, listen openly to your child’s version of the story and then ask him to consider how it might feel to be on the receiving end of that same behavior. Explain to him why it is important to respect others and treat them fairly. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to implement some meaningful consequences for your child’s behavior. For instance, if your child is bullying someone using his phone or computer, explain to him that phone or computer privileges may be lost if the bullying behavior continues. Always model respectful behavior for your child and offer suggestions for how he can better handle future situations in a more positive manner.
Keep in contact with your child’s school to make sure that the bullying behavior has been resolved. If your child continues to bully others after you have intervened, consider seeking professional help to address any underlying emotional issues that he may be dealing with.