I think most of us dads think of the “being bullied” as a right-of-passage for most children. It sets the kid up for the “real world” or otherwise teaches them important life coping skills. The flip-side of the argument points out that victims of bullies are more likely to suffer from depression and low self esteem, well into adulthood, and the bullies themselves are more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life.
Is there a effective way to prevent your child from being a victim? How do you draw the line between child or adolescent teasing and truly hurtful behavior? Will your kids be too ashamed or scared to tell you that they are being bullied?
The first thing you will need to do is talk with your kids and explain to them what bullying is;
verbal threats, name calling, racial slurs, insults;
demanding money, property, service; and
stabbing, choking, burning and shooting.
rejecting, excluding, isolating;
ranking or rating, humiliating;
manipulating friends and relationships;
writing hurtful or threatening e-mails and postings on web sites; and
blackmailing, terrorizing, and proposing dangerous dares.
Let them know that if someone any of these things - that it is bullying. Now that they know what it is you need to empower them with healthy tactics to avoid or confront the bullies.
Teach your child what they should say if someone starts teasing them. Give them phrases like, “Stop teasing me!” or simply “Leave me alone,” to use when bullying happens. With the young ones we’ve taught them to say things like, “I don’t like it when you do that that,” which has effectively left the kid stunned.
Let them know there are times to be silent and just walk away. Let them know that if any bullying happens they need to find an adult and tell them. Chances are if they confide in you chances are it is bugging them pretty bad. They also need to tell you right right away and with this comes a very important distinction between tattling (telling on someone for the sake of getting them in trouble) and telling on them (when they have actually done something wrong).
With the boys, we stress that they “use their words” and not their fists to confront their bullies and use their brain and not their emotions when someone is picking on them, but I will point out these lessons are ongoing. The idea is to make sure things don’t escalate and nobody gets hurts.
Stay in contact with their school, their teacher’s and if necessary their bus driver. As the kids get older this type of intervention is debatable (ultimately, you want them to be able to take care of it themselves) but as the parent or guardian it is your job to make those preemptive efforts.
For every victim there is a bully, and if you are contacted from your child’s school that your kid has been bullying - take it seriously. Most bullies are unhappy, depressed or frustrated kids. They need to understand the impact of their actions and the implications of their behavior (now and in the future).
Encourage your kids to tell you, a teacher, or another adult when they’re having a problem. It’s important for them to let someone know early, before the situation escalates.
Explain the difference between tattling and telling. Tattling is when you report something just to get someone in trouble. Telling is when you report that you or someone else is in danger.
Insist on the buddy system to and from school and in the neighborhood. Children give each other support, and a child who has friends is less of a target. There is safety in numbers.
Consider enrolling your child in a self-defense course. It will boost their self-confidence and give them the strength to try and dissuade their assailant.
Turn off the TV. Too many shows reinforce the idea that aggression is the only way to deal with conflicts. Do no promote any aggressive behavior at home. The last thing you want to get is a call from the school that you son or daughter has been bullying others.
Let your school know your safety worries. Find out the school policies, supervision in place to prevent bullying on school ground and voice your concerns. Your kids have the right to feel safe at school, so find out what your school’s policies on bullies are.
Ask the school or PTA to sponsor safety training workshops and to initiate a peer mediation program, in which staff and students are trained in nonviolent conflict resolution. For more information, the National School Safety Center. They have very helpful resources for kids, parents and educators.
Studies have shown that children are also bullied online, via instant messaging or email. Parents are often unaware of this problem, since many children do not report it to their parents. Bullies may find the anonymous nature of email and instant messaging an attractive means of threatening their victims.To help your child avoid cyber-bullying, monitor his Internet use by keeping the computer in the family room, or another common room in your house, and teach your child never to open email or accept instant messages from an unknown sender. If your child does receive a harassing message, teach him not to reply and to let you know right away. You can contact your Internet Service Provider to block the sender from your email (if the bully is a minor) to contact their parent or guardian, or use the “block” or “ban” feature on your instant messaging program to deter the cyber bully.