Posted on April 5, 2017 by CHS
If your child has ever been bullied – name calling, intimidation, or physical harm— you understand the emotional damage it can cause. So how do you, as a parent, help to prevent bullying? And how can you prevent your own child from becoming a bully?
What is bullying?
A bully is a person who uses power to intentionally cause harm to another person, repeatedly targeting the same victim(s). Children may encounter four types of bullying:
- Verbal Bullying involves name-calling or teasing.
- Social Bullying involves spreading rumors, purposely leaving people out of activities, or breaking up friendships.
- Physical Bullying is when the bully hits, shoves, or kicks to impose his/her will on another.
- Cyber Bullying occurs when the bully uses the internet, a mobile phone, or other technology to intentionally cause harm to others.
Approximately 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association.
Signs of bullying include:
- Damage to clothing
- Withdrawing from others
- Change in eating habits
- Loss of personal items
- Unexplained injuries
- Reluctant to go to school
How to Prevent and Respond to Bullying
Building a strong relationship with your child early on, open communication, and discussing bullying before it happens are important preventative measures you can take now to help keep children safe.
1. Discuss Bullying
www.stopbullying.gov provides specific conversation starters you can use about bullying with your child, such as:
- What does “bullying” mean to you?
- Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
- Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying?
- Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not
Cyber-bullying is a more recent form of bullying, which requires additional discussion. Talk to your child about cyberbullying, make them aware of what it is and that it requires as much safety to know who‘s who and who they’re interacting with as in normal life circumstances. Guidelines: Don’t do or say anything online you wouldn’t in person, don’t reveal anything you wouldn’t’ tell a stranger, and don’t share passwords. Set rules for online use such as using computers in open spaces or setting rules for social networking sites. To learn more, click here.
2. Build Self-Esteem
According to PsychologyToday.com, bullies can’t exist without victims and they don't pick on just anyone – they tend to single out those who lack assertiveness and demonstrate fear. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/bullying)
You can build your child’s self-esteem by praising your child’s inner and outer qualities and encouraging hobbies they excel at. Encourage participation in activities and sports that include other students, as these naturally create social networks and supportive relationships.
3. Encourage Communication
Let your children know that you want them to talk to you if they feel they’re being bullied.
If your child is being bullied:
- Ask them what happened and make sure that you listen to them so they feel supported.
- Take notes so that you have detailed information to provide to school administrators.
- Partner with teachers, counselors, and school administrators. Figure out who at school can help and discuss bullying with them, ask what they can do to help.
- Create a Plan - Help your child come to come up with a plan for how to stop the bullying.
4. Set an Example
But what if it’s your child that is doing the bullying?
If your child is the one bullying others, then it is important to consider what is motivating that behavior. Consider any changes at home or with the family, and consult with teachers about any changes or events at school. A loss of control in one area of a child’s life may motivate them to be more aggressive in order to feel a sense of control. Another factor to consider is what kind of role models may be influencing your child. Family members, friends, people you interact with in your neighborhood, and people at your child’s school all play a part in shaping his concepts about what behaviors are socially appropriate. Encourage the people who have contact with your child to model the respect, behavior, and language you want to encourage, such as saying please, thank you, or offering to be helpful. You can also set clear expectations for your child and encourage him to discuss any problems he may be having with you so that you can work on a solution together.
5. Know the Risk Factors for Bullying
Studies done by researchers such as Dr. Bruce Perry have shown that there are some specific risk factors that can lead to bullying behaviors such as:
- Children who are victims of early childhood maltreatment can actually alter the development of a child’s brain and cause social and emotional deficits. These children may also be more likely to perceive a normal situation, of joking behavior, as hostile. These children need professional assistance in resolving these issues in order to stop negative perceptions and behaviors.
- Children who have a tendency to be concerned about their popularity, or demonstrate a need to be the person in charge during play.
- Children who are isolated from others, experience depression or anxiety, and do not seem able to recognize the feelings of others.
- Children who are overly aggressive or become easily frustrated.
- Children whose parents are not involved in their life, or having issues at home.
- Children who often think the worst of others and view violence as a positive thing.
- Children who have difficulty following rules.
- Children who are friends with a bully.
Developing a positive relationship with your child that includes opportunities for open and honest discussions about school, friends, and family can reduce the risk of your child being bullied, or becoming the person who is the bully.