Bullying is one of those things that you desperately don’t want your child to be involved with. Whether your child is being bullied, or they are the bully, it is an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. Schools are now making strides to prevent bullying, and implementing new anti-bullying policies is slowly reducing the problem. However, if you do find your child in this situation, having the right knowledge and resources to cope will make you more confident when dealing with the issue.
1. Know the stages
Children are often great at deflecting or denying when they are involved in a bullying situation at school. Whether they are the bully, are being bullied, or are observing it, there are things you as a parent can do to help. Educating yourself on the various stages and situations of bullying can help you to help your child.
Children struggle to understand what counts as bullying. Sometimes a child might say something that they don’t mean to be hurtful, and this can lead to the tricky outcome of the other child being upset. Teaching your child about tone and manner can make a significant difference. For example, telling your child, “Can you please pass me that ball?” in a polite tone, instead of saying, “Quick, pass me the ball!” in a rushed tone, can be the difference between hurting someone’s feeling or not. Simple tricks like this will help your child with manners, as well as deflecting possible sticky situations.
This is the stage when children start to get mobile phones, and cyber bullying is now another aspect to think about. “I didn’t know!” is no excuse. Children might experiment with saying mean things online on purpose, and it’s important they learn such behaviour is not acceptable. Photos and videos taken in secret may accompany hurtful words. Before this happens, when you give your child a digital device, let them know this is unacceptable behaviour and if you catch them doing this they will have the device taken off them.
Cyber-bullying might become sexually flavoured, often bordering on sexual harassment. If you believe that something your child sends crosses this border, it may be worth contacting a sexual harassment attorney (click here) for legal advice since sexual harassment is a very serious issue. Photoshopped images may be used to belittle teenagers who are considered popular or successful. Having an open conversation with your child, as they are now old enough to understand the consequences, is the most popular choice for dealing the situation. Often talking with your teen about these issues is a terrific way for them to learn and become open with you about the topic. The hope is that if they become involved in a bullying altercation, they are comfortable enough to come to you about the issue.
2. Do your research
Knowledge is power, and when it comes to bullying, it’s no different. Doing your own research surrounding bullying will make a major difference to how you as a parent can handle the situation. Also, calling your child to the computer while you are doing some reading up isn’t a bad idea. Children can then see you are involved and take this seriously.
For older children
- thelowdown.co.nz and bethechange.co.nz: You will find great testimonials, surveys, and challenges for kids to implement change in their own school.
- bullybust.org/students/upstander offers “10 Ways to Be An Upstander” and “Empowering a Bystander”
- togetheragainstbullying.org/becoming-an-upstander has practical tips and suggestions.
For younger children
- superteacherworksheets.com/anti-bullying.html has free worksheets providing stories, poems, and scenarios.
3. Know the signs
Knowing the signs of your child being bullied is crucial to helping them. Sometimes children don’t want to come forward and say they are being bullied, as this may be embarrassing for them. More likely than not, children also won’t come forward to admit that they themselves are they bully. This may be because they know they will get in trouble, or they sometimes may not realise they are the bully.
Signs your child is being bullied
If your child’s confidence is decreasing and their self-esteem is being affected adversely.
- If the teasing becomes more and more personal and severe.
- If the person teasing becomes bolder and more confident they’ll get away with their behaviour.
- If the person teasing gathers more children for impact.
- If your child starts to show signs of bullying behaviour with their siblings that is out of character.
- If threats of any kind are involved.
- If physical violence occurs.
If you know your child has a strong personality, or can often become irritated and heated in situations, you may need to speak to them about bullying. Of course, just because your child is bolder than others doesn’t mean they are going to be a bully. However, if they are loud and overbearing in heated situations, other children can find this intimidating. Explain to your child how they can handle situations better through removing themselves if needed, using a calm tone, and using their manners.
4. Have family rules around technology
Nowadays almost every preteen has a digital device, which unfortunately serves as a convenient gateway to bullying via technology. It’s a tough spot for parents to be in, as your child naturally wants to be online and connected to their peers, but this very connectedness gives kids an easy way to make hurtful remarks while hiding behind the keyboard. It’s crucial that your family has its own set of rules surrounding technology use. If your child wants to be online with their peers and included in social networking, that’s fine ? but you get all the passwords and 24/7 access to all of their accounts. This allows you the control to see what is happening within your child’s cyber-life, without being overbearing or literally looking over their shoulder as they type. Explain to your child that you trust them enough to have their own social media accounts, but you still want to be in the loop and see if there is any bullying going on. Your child needs to be taught that writing comments online does have major consequences and can really affect the child on the receiving end of these hurtful words.
5. Know what to do about violence
Even if you have a child who doesn’t resort to physical violence, this is still a good tip to know, as children can always get hot-headed and change in the heat of the moment. Knowing strategies for what to do when this happens is a game changer.
- Enforce logical consequences. If your toddler hits someone with a wooden block, for example, take him out of the play area straight away. Sit down together and watch the other children. Point out that everybody is playing without hitting, and tell your child he’s welcome to join in when he’s ready.
- Understand the limitations. If you want to ask how he would feel if somebody had hit him on the head, for example, by all means do so. Just remember that a toddler’s brain is not yet developed enough to handle the task of imagining what other people may be feeling (although it’s never too early to start role-modelling empathy). Young toddlers can’t yet understand verbal reasoning; however, they can learn to understand consequences.
- Make sure the message you send is the same every time. Respond immediately and with consistent consequences to undesirable behaviour. Don’t wait until your child pushes her friend for the third time. Your toddler should learn that hitting, pinching, biting, pushing, or yelling is wrong the first time around, every time.