Bullying may seem rather funny when we see it in the movies. Biff tormenting George McFly in Back to the Future, master manipulator Regina George in Mean Girls, or Buzz McCallister picking on little brother Kevin in Home Alone. Remember Lucy from Peanuts fame? She bullied the crap out of Charlie Brown on a regular basis and we all laughed hilariously. But the sad truth is, that was fiction. When it happens in real life, it’s not funny at all. Especially when it involves someone you love. So, we decided to take a moment away from our usual tongue-in-cheek and get into a subject that we feel needs a lot more talking about, even if it’s not the most comfortable.
When it comes to schoolyard bullying, the jury is in! And the statistics are startling, to say the least. According to stopbullying.gov, approximately 28% of U.S. students in grades 6-12 experienced some form of bullying. 70.6% of young people have personally seen bullying in their schools. And although most bullying takes place in school, on school property or on the school bus, it can happen anywhere that children gather. This is especially true in the age of social media. Kids are attached to their devices almost 24/7, so even when their tormentors aren’t physically near them, the harassment can easily continue, via mobile devices and online.
Bullying can include physical intimidation, emotional intimidation and social exclusion, among other hurtful behaviors. It can be anything, such as name-calling, hitting or spreading of false or nasty stories, etc. and all are malicious behaviors that can be devastating to the wellbeing of any person, least of all a child. That’s why it is vitally important to teach your child from a young age not to bully and, if safe to do so, to stand up for others they see being bullied.
Kids bully for many different reasons. They may feel insecure and think it will make them more popular among their peers, they may be doing it because they see their friends bullying, or they may have anger issues they need to learn to deal with in a more appropriate and mature manner. If you see your child acting aggressively towards others or bullying another child, take it seriously! It’s your job as a parent to teach your child to treat everyone with kindness and respect. Communicating with your child about the importance of not bullying and talking to them openly about the harm caused by bullying is important to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of other children is an essential building block for them becoming a productive member of society, as well as a good person in general.
Tips to Prevent Bullying:
- Teach your child the importance of self-respect and respect for others.
- Establish rules about bullying. Let your child know that bullying will not be tolerated and there will be serious consequences if they bully another child.
- Discuss the importance of acceptance for those who are different from us. Teach your child not to make fun of other children because of their appearance, race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status or anything other differences they may notice. Instead, encourage them to appreciate and respect those differences.
- Teach your child to speak up if they see someone being bullied at school. Encourage them to tell the bully to stop and to go to a teacher or another adult to report the bullying.
- Build a trusting relationship with your children and let them know they can come to you for help with anything at all. When they do come to you with problems, try to handle things calmly. If you overreact, they are more apt to become secretive about problems down the line. It’s imperative that your children know they can count on you for support, no matter what the issue may be.
- If your child seems to be exhibiting anger or aggressive behavior, seek the assistance of teachers and school guidance counselors to help remedy the behavior.
- If you suspect your child is being bullied, contact school administrators, teachers and guidance counselors, so they are aware of the situation and can keep an eye out for problems during school hours.
- Reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in deterring bullying. When your child stands up for another or goes to an adult to report bullying, be sure he or she is rewarded for this behavior.
- Most importantly, teach your children by example. Your children see and hear more than you may think. When you show others respect, are polite and show a true compassion for others, your children will follow your example. Steer clear of criticism, name-calling, negative comments and physical anger in your home as all of these can and will be replicated by your child later on.
What is Cyberbullying?
You may be thinking, “Whatever. I was bullied in school, just like everyone and I turned out just fine!” That may be true, but chances are if you have children of a certain age now, you likely grew up at a time before cell phones and computers were commonplace. In other words, your bullying stopped once you got home. Today’s youth aren’t always so lucky, they can be cyberbullied as well. Cyberbullying refers to harassment that takes place over digital media, in the form of texts, social media posts, instant messaging, etc. It can be public or private. Statistics show that females are twice as likely to be the victims of cyberbullying than their male counterparts. Cyberbullying can cause much more severe emotional harm because it can follow a child wherever they go. It’s right there on their mobile phone or computer, 24/7, so there’s sadly no real escape for the victims. Mean or threatening comments on social media, spreading rumors or embarrassing photos are all too common forms of cyberbullying.
What can you do as a parent? Teach your child about responsible online behavior as soon as they start using mobile devices. Keep your home computer in a common area where you can easily monitor your children’s usage. Monitor your children’s social media pages as well. Remind your children (especially teens) to avoid sending or posting any information or comments they would not want to be made public. Encourage them to tell you immediately if someone is bullying them online or if they see someone else being bullied online.
Ten Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied:
- Unexplained injuries, such as cuts, bruises or scratches
- Damaged or missing clothing, school supplies, and other belongings
- Declining grades/school performance
- Trouble sleeping
- Withdrawal from peers
- Loss of friends
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in school and other activities
- Complaints of illnesses becoming common, as an excuse to stay home from school
- Moodiness, depression or otherwise change in personality
Yikes! My Child is the Bully!
You got the dreaded call from school, it’s your kid who is doing the bullying! It’s important to remember that bullying (in some milder forms) is a part of growing up. As many will point up out, it happened when we were children and it still happens today. That being said, as a parent, you really can’t afford to brush this off as “a rite of passage.” You need to take it seriously and address the problem immediately. You can teach your children from an early age to be kind to others. Keep in mind that if your child is acting like a bully, they may need help. There is a reason they are engaging in that type of aggressive behavior. They may not even realize their behavior is bullying and that they are causing harm to others. Try to find the source of your child’s anger. Is there a problem at home or at school? Are they simply trying to impress their friends or follow the “in crowd.” Determining the cause of your child’s anger is an important first step in correcting the overall problem. You also need to make it clear to your child that their words or actions are harming another child. Teach them the importance of empathy and help them to understand how hurtful they are being and how they would feel if this was happening to them. Finally, really listen to your child and be patient. If you feel they need more professional help, seek it out. Don’t be embarrassed, be proactive! The stigma around mental health issues is ridiculous and you’ll need to move past that to really help your child should they require such help. Communicate with your child’s school, learn more about their social life and reinforce good behavior. Be sure to talk to your child in depth each day, asking about school, lunchtime, what happened on the bus, and their overall day in general. As parents, we aren’t always perfect and we don’t have all the answers. We do the best we can. It’s up to us to be good role models for our children each and every day. And although, in today’s world, where political leaders can seemingly say whatever they please and bullying feels like the new way to get things done, it’s imperative we don’t sit back and allow it! Together, we can help put an end to harassment and bullying!
For more information on bullying, including training materials, state laws and policies, visit www.stopbullying.gov.